Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chow Mein Trauma


I just had real chicken chow mein for the first time in my life. I bet you're wondering how a foodie like myself, at 40 years old could ever have gotten away with that. Well, it starts with the trauma I endured as a child. Yes; trauma. Everyone's mom did it, so I know I'm not alone here and I hope that we can share our traumatic memories and help one another through this.

Mom was wonderful in the 70's, wasn't she? Making sure we were clothed, shoed, well-fed and educated. The caring didn't end there - oh, no - there was the spotless house (brought to us by Heloise), the car pooling to little league games, the plastic covered furniture, Sunday School and family dinners. Ah, yes, family dinners provided by the other Mrs. ; Mrs. Paul, Mrs. Butterworth, Mrs. Smith and so on.

Not that mom didn't cook, she did - at least my mom did - but with so many shortcuts available of the canned/frozen/packaged variety, who could blame dear old mum for making use of them? One thing that my own mother served fairly frequently was canned chow mein. Now, I'm not sure about the rest of you, but that particular foodstuff doesn't conjure up any fond memories for me. No, that's where the trauma starts.

The can says chicken, beef, shrimp - but you know darn well that there was only about half an ounce of that per can - the rest was a gelatinous goo covered mass of celery, onion and carrot chunks interspersed with the occasional red pepper sliver. Mom would dutifully separate the cans; gelatinous goo on the bottom and chow mein noodles on the top - and then heat up the goo in one pan, make Minute Rice in another, and there was dinner. The only part of the meal that I even found remotely edible was the rice. The noodles were edible, but the aftertaste was a bit like a cardboard toilet paper roll. Not pleasant.

So, who can blame me for not ever ordering chow mein when we got Chinese takeout? I envisioned the kitchen prep crew separating cans, tossing the chow mein noodles into the garbage and emptying the contents of the goo into large vats, ready to be heated up and passed off as food.

And now? Well, now I know better. It only took me 30 or so years to realize that there's no possible way that chow mein from Tasty Garden would ever be the same as it is from La Choy, but I did figure it out.

The only question that remains is whether or not what I had is considered 'authentic' or not. I mean, American Chinese food is NOT authentic Chinese food at all - if you don't believe me, just check out The Fortune Cookie Chronicles (next up on my bedside reading table) for verification.

I know this for sure - the two-canned wonder sitting on my grocer's shelf isn't the real deal. I may still shudder and shield my eyes as I pass by it at the market, but I'm no longer gagging at the sight of the printed word on my favorite take-out menu.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Review: Table Talk


Every so often a cookbook comes along that captures my attention, keeps me reading until the very last page and leaves me feeling as though the author were a close friend. Table Talk by Carol McManus, owner of Espresso Love on Martha's Vineyard, is one such cookbook.

Once I picked this book up I was not able to put it down until I read it from cover to cover. I holed myself up in a comfortable spot and devoured it in a single hour. I was up and making Presidential Muffins before the book was fully closed and thinking about our next meal together as a family. I was inspired to do exactly what this book intends to inspire: sit us all down at table and enjoy one another without feeling like I needed a rest after making dinner.

The recipes in this book range from special to everyday and each one is something even a novice cook can pull off. The best part is that each recipe is tried and true and designed to make a parent's life in the kitchen easier so that more time can be spent with their family. Being a mother to 5 children and a grandmother to boot, Carol McManus knows what she's talking about. She urges us all to slow down and spend some time at the dinner table with our respective families. I can personally attest to the fact that eating together bonds people like no other activity. Children do better in every aspect of their lives and we as parents are afforded the chance to do something we feel rewarded in accomplishing. It really takes far less effort than you think and Table Talk is a most wonderful tool to help us

Broken down into six delicious chapters and eighty glorious recipes, this is a book you will turn to again and again. You can buy your copy of Table Talk at TableTalkCookbook.com and Amazon.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Foodbuzz 24,24,24: There's No Place Like Home

What's the number one thing kids miss while away from home at college? The food. My oldest daughter, in her second year at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, can attest to that and tells me so often. Many times she calls home to find that we're having one of her favorite foods for dinner and she'll say, “I want to come home!”

Cassidy is one of my biggest fans, and as such she talks to her friends about my blog and my work quite often. She told me that her friends wanted to come home with her and have dinner. I wanted to do just that for quite some time and when it came time to submit a proposal for the January Foodbuzz 24,24,24 Event, I decided that a dinner based on comfort foods stepped-up a bit would be just the thing. We were all excited when I found my proposal was accepted!

I had Cassidy ask her friends ahead of time what their favorite comfort foods were and also which food they missed the most while away from home. There were the expected answers; mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and meatloaf, but I didn't want these kids to come here for the same-old-same-old, whether it was comforting or not, so I did things a little differently than usual and planned my menu around their favorites, but all with a twist

The Guests: L to R - Jamie, Chase, Jillian, Julianne, Artie, Shauna and Cassidy. Aren't they the best looking bunch of kids ever? I highly suspect those two handsome boys were the source of all the laughter.


The guest list was all sophomores – six from my daughter's college and one from another:
  • Cassidy (my daughter) is a Pre-Med major originally from Bethlehem, Pa and her favorite comfort food is meatloaf.
  • Jamie Volansky is a Communication Design major originally from Hunterdon County, New Jersey and her favorite comfort food is chocolate.
  • Chase Armand is a Communication Design major originally from Malvern, Pa and his favorite comfort food is chicken pot pie.
  • Jillian Mirenzi is a Theater major originally from Wilkes-Barre, Pa and her favorite comfort food is pierogies.
  • Julianne Spadine is an Elementary Education major at West Chester University and she is originally from Springville, Pa.
  • Artie Dowdy is a Special Education major who 'hails from Landenberg, Pa'.
  • Shauna Kane is a Biology major originally from Tamaqua and her favorite comfort food is macaroni and cheese.


View Larger Map

We covered eastern Pa and a little bit of New Jersey fairly well.


There are two guests I didn't have favorites for simply because they were late additions, or stand-ins, rather. They turned out to be great substitutes, though and I'm very glad they both came.

The night started with my 'servers' (a.k.a. Declan and Erin, two of my kids) seating everyone and getting drink orders. They took orders all night, making sure we weren't sending out food that anyone didn't want, and the smaller children even entertained from time-to-time. Dinner and a floor show, what more could you ask for?

The first course was two different appetizers, Halushki Pierogi and Macaroni and Cheese Soufflés with Bacon. The pierogi were made for Jillian, with a filling closer to Halushki (cabbage and noodles) than the traditional filling as one of Jillian's most-missed foods was Halushki.


Jillian with the Halushki Pierogi and Macaroni and Cheese Souffle with Bacon

The Macaroni and Cheese Soufflés with Bacon were something I devised completely on my own. Shawna's favorite is mac and cheese and I wanted to do something a little more than just plain old mac and cheese, so I thought a soufflé would be good. I was dead-on, I'm told – that particular dish was an overall favorite for the evening.

Next up was the soup which was a Roasted Red Pepper and Cheddar with simple rolls. I didn't get much back when the dishes returned, and Artie said it was one of his favorites.

Shauna with Roasted Red Pepper and Cheddar Soup

The salad for the evening was based on one of the guests who was not able to come. He said his favorite comfort food was macaroni salad, so I served Pasta with Pesto, Green Beans and Fresh Mozzarella. That was one of Jamie's favorites for the night.

Julianne and Pasta with Pesto, Green Beans and Fresh Mozzarella

Then we served Triple Berry Sorbet. Yes, real sorbet. I know it's not considered a comfort food, but I also know these particular guests were looking for a little more than just home-cooking. I added this in and everyone liked it. The servers were back in the kitchen asking for their own, so I knew it was good.

Triple Berry Sorbet

The entreé was rather large; Panko and Romano Crusted Chicken Filets, Mini-Meatloaves Stuffed with Spinach and Mozzarella, Chicken Pot Pies with Puff Pastry, Mashed Golden Baby Potatoes, Roasted Baby Vegetables and Chile Relleno Corn Pudding. I think by this point the guests were all a little full, but as far as I could tell – between them and my own family – the chicken and meatloaves were the stand-out here. My second-oldest daughter, Megan, was playing the tri-role of server, photographer and guest – covering the empty spot left by the 8th guest – and she was in the kitchen asking me to send her entreé out with smaller portions because she was so stuffed at that moment.

Cassidy and a little bit of everything!


Chase really likes pot pie

Full or not, there was dessert to be had, so without delay the dessert tray of Chocolate-Crusted Chocolate Tarts, Chocolate Covered Cheesecakes and Carrot Cakes was set out for everyone to choose from. As can be expected, the two chocolate desserts were the hits and at that point I suspect everyone was ready to burst.

Jamie and the triple-threat

I didn't make my way out of the kitchen all too often; both from wanting the guests to be able to enjoy themselves without 'mom' checking on them and also the fact that I'd just rather stay in the background and watch everyone have a good time. From what I could tell (lots of hysterical laughter going on), I think they did.

I told them I'd have a dinner party a week if I could afford it and I do hope to do this again sometime soon for the kids who missed out this time. I really enjoyed meeting Cassidy's friends, and being able to feed people, no matter who they are, is always fun for me, so for all of your thank-yous, kids – I must say, Thank You, back.

A couple other Thank Yous go to all of my children for being a part of this and helping out with things; to my mother-in-law, Pat for loaning us several very necessary items without which the night would have been a disaster (read, tablecloth, napkins, chairs and sorbet cups) and several of my friends who answered polls for me, helping to set the menu.

I also have to thank my husband who – at great physical pain and his insistence that he help regardless of it – did nearly all of the cleaning necessary for this and shuttled kids to and from where they needed to be. For many of you reading here for the first time, you won't understand the significance of this; nearly 18 months ago my husband was injured very severely. He hasn't been able to work yet and feels like he isn't able to do enough for us here at home. He was very excited to be able to be a part of this and I have to say, it wouldn't have been possible without him.


The Recipes
------------------
One thing you know if you read here often is that I am a non-recipe type cook. I have them and I post them, but I rarely ever actually use them. So, when it comes time to share with others what I've created in my kitchen, sitting down to type it all out can be painstaking.

I've linked recipes that I've already posted or gotten from elsewhere (some have slight changes made that I'm hoping are obvious: the carrot cakes were done in large muffin tins, the pot pie has a puff pastry top-crust etc.) but here are the rest. For the roasted baby vegetables, that was a simple toss with olive oil, garlic and rosemary before being baked until done. The chicken was simple filets in a basic breading using equal parts panko and grated Romano cheese. I've done my very best to get it all down, but if you have questions, please don't be afraid to ask.
-------------------

Halushki Pierogies
Makes 24
Printable Recipe

Pierogi Dough

2 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup water

Make a well in the center of the flour. Add eggs, water and salt into well. Mix together from the outside in and knead until smooth. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
Divide dough into workable pieces and roll thinly with a rolling pin or pasta machine. Cut with a 3” biscuit cutter and fill each with desired filling before folding in half and pinching edges to seal. Drop into boiling salted water and cook until they float. Fry in butter or serve as-is.

Halushki Filling

½ head cabbage - sliced thinly
1 large onion - sliced thinly
½ stick butter
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups seasoned mashed potatoes

Heat butter in a heavy skillet and add onion and cabbage. Cook until soft and golden and all liquid has evaporated. Season with salt. Combine mashed potatoes and cabbage mixture until well blended. Use to stuff pierogi skins.

Mini Meatloaves Stuffed with Spinach and Mozzarella
Serves 12
Printable Recipe

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground pork
1 package stuffing mix
2 eggs
½ cup milk
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
12 large spinach leaves
½ cup marinara sauce
Mix together ground meats, stuffing mix, eggs and milk. Grease 12 large muffin cups. Press half of the meatloaf mixture into each muffin cup. Top each with a spinach leaf and mozzarella. Top with remaining meatloaf mixture and back in a 350 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes. Spread each meatloaf with marinara sauce and bake for another 5 minutes.

Macaroni and Cheese Soufflés
Serves 8
Printable Recipe

3 eggs – separated
½ cup cooked acini di pepe
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
2 slices bacon – cooked crisp and crumbled

Heat butter in a saucepan until melted. Add flour and mix well. Pour in milk slowly, whisking all the while. Blend egg yolks well and temper with the milk mixture. Once yolks are tempered, add back into the remainder of the milk and whisk well until thickened. Remove from heat and add salt and cheese. Cool to room temperature. Once cooled, whip egg whites until stiff. Stir bacon bits and acini pasta into the cheese sauce. Fold egg whites carefully into pasta and cheese. Pour into well-greased ½ cup capacity soufflé dishes. Set filled dishes into a cake pan and add water to the pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the soufflés. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30-40 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Chile Relleno Corn Pudding
Serves 8
Printable Recipe

1 stick butter - melted
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
2 cups corn kernels
2 cups creamed corn
1 box corn muffin mix
1 small can diced green chiles - drained
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Combine all and pour into a greased casserole dish. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden on top.

Triple Berry Sorbet

Makes 6 cups
Printable Recipe

3 cups frozen mixed blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
2 cups water
2/3 cup sugar

Blend everything until smooth. Strain to remove any seeds. Put into a 9x13 cake pan and freeze. Scrape with a spoon and put into small dishes for serving.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chocolate-Crusted Chocolate Tarts


Chocolate Crusted Chocolate Tarts
Chocolate Crusted Chocolate Tarts
We had these for dessert last night and they were spectacular. I didn't have everything on-hand so I improvised, but the result was so good there's no way you'd know they weren't supposed to be that way.

The recipe is from the Better Homes & Gardens 2003 cookbook - you can find it HERE. I've added the changes I made in blue.


Chocolate-Crusted Chocolate Tarts
Makes: 8 servings
Prep: 25 minutes
Bake: 25 minutes
Cool: 30 minutes
Stand: 30 minutes
Printable Recipe

Ingredients


* 1 recipe Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart Shells (see recipe below)
* 10 to 10-1/2 ounces 85-percent-cocoa chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (1 12- ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips)
* 3/4 cup whipping cream (I only had milk on-hand and used 1 cup in lieu of cream and milk)
* 1/2 cup milk
* 3 tablespoons flavored honey (raspberry, cinnamon, or ginger)(omitted)
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* Halved or chopped hazelnuts (filberts) (optional)(almonds)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degree F. Prepare Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart Shells; set aside.

2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl combine chocolate, cream, and milk. Microwave, uncovered, on 100 percent power (high) for 3 to 4 minutes or until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, stirring once each minutes. Stir in honey. ( Or, place chocolate in a medium-bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan combine cream and milk. Bring to boiling. Pour over chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted. Stir in honey.)

3. Place egg in another medium bowl. Gradually stir hot chocolate mixture into beaten egg. Pour into tart shells.

4. Bake 25 minutes. Cool slightly on wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm. If desired, garnish with coarsely chopped hazelnuts (filberts). Makes 12 servings.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Crust

Preheat oven to 375 degree F. 
Lightly coat 12 - 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. 
In a medium bowl stir together 
1/2 cup melted butter, 
2 tablespoons sugar (omitted), 
1-3/4 cup crushed chocolate wafer crumbs (about 32 cookies)(I used Oreos with the filling), and 
2/3 cup ground hazelnuts (I had almonds on-hand and used those). 

Press into the bottom and sides of prepared muffin cups. Bake for 5 minutes. Using the bottom of a 1/4 or 1/3 cup dry measuring cup, lightly press down bottoms of crusts. Set aside while making filling.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Share Our Strength - Operation No Kid Hungry



Share Our Strength has launched a brand new campaign to raise funds to help end childhood hunger. "Operation No Kid Hungry" responds to President-elect Obama's call to action to end childhood hunger by 2015.

Share Our Strength has partnered with AT&T to offer two great ways that you can support and participate in "Operation No Kid Hungry":

1. Donate by text: Text "SHARE" to 20222 on your mobile device to donate $5. AT&T will match all text donations up to $100,000. Help us meet this challenge grant! Find out more at http://strength.org/get_involved/text_donation/

2. Hold a food drive: Beginning January 19th, a national day of community service, help feed those in need by holding your own community food drive. Visit http://Strength.org to find a food bank and a list of the most needed nutritious foods.

For more information about "Operation No Kid Hungry" and how you can help end childhood hunger, visit Share Our Strength's website: http://strength.org.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Budget Meal Planning

A budget favorite: Grandma's Buttermilk Pie

In these tough economic times, what's a person to do when it comes to eating? Budgeting for food is one thing, but being able to actually spend that money wisely so that you can feed your family is a completely different matter. I am going to share with you how I feed our family of 9* on a budget of $150 or less per week. It really is doable and we don't eat beans every night. In fact, beans rarely make it into our menu.

I've already written about how I plan and the lists I make, and I'll elaborate on that below, but I think the best way to show how I'm accomplishing this seemingly impossible feat is to share with you what we eat. Let's start with recent weeks, for instance.

Our budget the past few weeks was $60 less than usual and the cupboards after the holidays were nearly bare, so it was even more of a challenge than usual. We haven't been eating like kings, but nobody is starving and I've even had requests for seconds on several of these meals.

In no particular order, our dinner menus for 8 of those days were:

  • Italian Eggs and turkey bacon
  • Burgers in gravy with rice and fresh green beans
  • Turkey Sliders and Baked Parmesan potato wedges
  • Chili and corn chips (one pot with beans and one without)
  • Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and sweet corn
  • Chuck Roast with potatoes, carrots, salad and rolls
  • Spaghetti and meat sauce with garlic cheese rolls
  • French toast and turkey bacon

Total cost for all of these meals was less than $70 - about $10 per meal, less than $1 per person.

The best part is the extras from leftovers. The Potato and Ham Chowder from A Thousand Soups was made of leftover potatoes from Sunday's dinner; we had a vegetable beef soup that was made from leftover potatoes, carrots, chuck roast and green beans from two dinners; lunch one day was a soup thrown together from leftover chili.

It doesn't matter what my culinary aspirations are, when it comes to keeping my family fed, I go with what works and what I know they will eat. Some of what you read below is from my Dinner Menus page on my site.


A couple tips that help me to keep costs down :

Make a list! This is where the whole list of menus on my website came from. I find that if I figure out what we will eat and make a list to stick to that my bill is lower.

Make another list! I know, some of you just aren't list makers but this one has really helped me; I go through my cupboards and refrigerator/freezer and make a list of everything I have (not spices, etc.) and take a look at that first before I make my shopping list. This has saved me from buying multiples because I wasn't sure if I had the item on hand or not. I am also sometimes able to make full meal plans from what I already have on hand and buy less for that week because of it.

Be flexible! For instance, if I make my list up and get to the store to find that one thing is on sale or just far cheaper that week than another then I try to adapt and plans change a bit. I do try to keep the main dishes the same and make sure that I check the ads FIRST so I know what is on sale or not.

Check the "dented cans" section. Many times I have checked here to find items that were completely fine (and not dented at all!) but were there because the store was phasing them out. I've gotten many things from beans to holiday coffees and candies etc. in this section at a mere fraction of the price, most often as little as 30% of the original. If I don't use the item that week because it wasn't "planned" it simply goes onto the "have-on-hand" list the next week and usually gets used then.

Buying in bulk doesn't always work. Say you're down to the last $5 of your budget and you still need potatoes. There's a large 50 pound bag available for $10 - which is far cheaper than the $4 for 10 pounds you were looking at. Well, if all you have is $5 you go with the smaller package, even if it costs more per pound. Keep in mind that you need adequate storage space for bulk items and that some things can spoil before you're able to use them.

Cooking ahead saves time and money.
Not everyone has the time to do full-blown Once A Month Cooking excursions, but often times a little planning ahead for leftovers can save money. Buying a large roast with the plan to get a second meal from it is a good idea. When there were just 7 of us, I did a whole month of food for less than $200 - that would translate to about $400 right now, but that's still a considerable savings over the usual budget.

Think seasonal!
Anything bought within season is generally better and cheaper than when purchased off-season. With shipping the way it is nowadays, you can certainly get almost any food at any time, but you're still paying more than if you were to pick it up when it's at its peak.

Don't throw it away! Before you think that a half cup of vegetables won't amount to anything, consider the fact that several of those half cups can be added to soup or stew, tossed into an omelet or frittata or added to a casserole. I keep bacon grease on-hand in the freezer along with bread heels, nuts, stock, gravy, leftover soup and anything else I have that isn't enough to serve as-is.

Keep coupons to a minimum. I don't mean don't use them, but don't buy an item just because you have a coupon for it. I have gotten some great deals in the past using coupons like getting items completely free or at a very large savings, but in general I don't save enough on a national brand to make it cheaper than what I get at ALDI.

So, where do I shop that allows me to keep within my budget? Here in the Lehigh Valley, I shop primarily at:

ALDI
Giant
Valley Farm Market
Price Rite

I get out to Wegmans occasionally for items I'm not able to find at my regular stores and I also like Elias Market for things like bulk beans, nuts, seeds, Middle Eastern foods and very affordable produce.

About ALDI - I did a post at Family.com about ALDI that got a bit of interest. ALDI seems to be a love-it or hat-it affair, but I can honestly say there is nothing to hate. Please keep in mind that I have a culinary education and have cooked and eaten some of the finest food there is. ALDI really does compare well to other stores and save a very few items, everything is as good as or better than other brands. ALDI's packaging is often far larger than national brands, making the savings even greater. I would say I get at least 85% of my shopping done at ALDI, and sometimes more.

I'm hoping this information helps someone and if you have any other questions, please feel free to email me at irishones7 (at) juno (dot) com.

*This was written in 2009 and a few things have changed since then. The amount of people I now cook for is 7 most days (divorce and one kid living elsewhere), but the budget is still relatively the same. I shop more often at Price Rite for the time being, but I will always recommend ALDI!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What's Goin' On?

I may be MIA from my blog here, but I'm not lazing around off screen. I'm working on some posts for this blog and work and A Thousand Soups as well as being interviewed for a local paper.

With the economy in a bind, I've decided to start sharing how we eat here for about $150 a week. It's nothing fabulous, but worth sharing. After all, I began this blog with the idea that I would journal our family recipes so the kids would have something to look back on. Our normal every day food isn't all gourmet, just like any large family, and I'd like to share a little more of that.

I won't pass completely on fabulous culinary creations, but the general gist needs to be toned down a little in light of the fact that we aren't well-to-do.

So, if you want to stick around for some good old 'normal' food, please do so and know that I'll have posts up really soon.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Italian Eggs

What makes these eggs "Italian"? A movie! Moonstruck, to be exact. There is a scene in Moonstruck where Cher's character is making breakfast and she hollows out a slice of bread, tosses it in a frying pan and adds an egg to the hollowed out center. From the time I first saw that movie (long time ago!) I've been making this particular variation of those eggs.



Start with a nice large loaf of Italian bread and cut into thick slices.


Hollow out the center of each slice. Heat some oil in a heavy frying pan and add the bread.


Add an egg to the center of each slice of bread. Do this slowly so the egg begins to set and doesn't flow out from underneath the bread. Cook until the bottom of the egg is well set.


Flip once and allow to cook for a few minutes longer.


Top with mozzarella cheese and lid the pan for a few minutes until the cheese melts.


Voila! I sometimes add Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb to the top of the eggs for extra flavor.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sunday Dinner: Chuck Roast

Chuck Roast
Chuck Roast
Chuck Roast
Potatoes
Carrots
Gravy
Green Salad with Tri-Colored Peppers
Dinner Rolls


I do believe chuck roast is one of the finest foods known to man. It fits my new 'slow' outlook on life and is well worth the wait. It absolutely takes me home - simple, delicious and hearty. I was able to pick up a boneless chuck pot roast for $1.99 a pound yesterday. That's a huge savings over what they normally cost, and right now I was very grateful for that find.

Chuck comes from the shoulder area of a steer and gets more exercise than the nether regions of the animal, so it can be tough if not cooked properly. Chuck benefits from a long slow roast in liquid, also known as braising. Add vegetables toward the end of cooking time for a one-pot meal you can't go wrong making.

Chuck Roast and Vegetables

Serves 8
Printable Recipes

One 4-pound boneless chuck pot roast
2 tablespoons oil
6 cloves garlic - chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon large grind pepper
herbs such as thyme or rosemary - as desired
8 large potatoes
1 pound bag peeled baby carrots
flour

In a large roasting pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the roast and brown on all sides. This really only ensures flavor - it's been found that it does nothing to seal in juices. Top with salt, pepper, garlic and herbs. Add enough liquid to come about 1/3 of the way up the side of the roast. This can be beef stock or just plain water. I also sometimes add a tablespoon or so of tomato paste for extra flavor.

Roast, covered, in a 300 degree F oven for 2 1/2 hours. After that time, add the potatoes and carrots, recover and put back into the oven for another 1 1/2 hours - 4 hours total time. Remove from the oven and let stand, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove roast and vegetables and heat remaining liquid over high heat. Thicken with flour and water as necessary, adjust seasonings and serve with roast.

Your roast should be fork-tender and very easy to serve. There's no cutting involved, simply dole out large forkfuls of this along with the roasted veggies and plenty of gravy.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Get the Vote Out for Illick's Mill!


This has nothing to do with food, but is dear to my heart, so here it is. This is a grant that my daughter, Megan has written for a local organization. They need your help to be in the top 15. The voting ends on January 9th, so there is a little time left still. Please read this and vote if you feel led to. Thank you!

*****************************************
I am part of the Illick's Mill Project. In October, I wrote a grant for $10,000. Tons of people applied for this grant. How it works is:

1. 30 finalists are chosen from the all of the applications,
2. People vote for which two teams they like the best everyday through December,
3. The 15 most voted for all win $10,000.

The Illick's Mill Project was chosen as one of the 30 finalists. We could really, really use the extra $10,000. So, I'm asking you to help us by voting for us.

How to Vote:

Either-
A. Go to www.genv.net/bestbuy and choose the Illick's Mill Project and one other team to vote for (you must choose two teams!),

OR

B. Text BBYV4 to 32075.

YOU CAN DO BOTH! You can vote once a day, but it will be exactly 24 hours before you can vote again.

Tell everyone you know and vote every day. The money would be a huge help to us. I worked really hard on this grant and I would hate to see us not win because not enough people knew to vote.

Thanks!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Slowing it Down

I think this world is spinning faster than most of us can hold on and that's a stressful way to live. I'm a firm believer that stress will cause more damage to one's health than anything else. 2008 went by so quickly that I can barely recall what went on. The funny thing is, the faster things go, the less I seem to get done.

I don't think I or my blog could be considered as the 'fast food' type, but just in case, I'm declaring this space a Slow-er Food spot - at least for this year. I'm not going 'whole hog' here, because we are a large family and sometimes convenience is just more ... well ... convenient, but I am all for rolling the clock back on our food choices and taking the time to really notice what we're eating, how it's being prepared and what it actually tastes like. There's nothing worse than finishing a meal without having tasted it because you're too busy to notice. Slow food is also usually more budget friendly and that suits my Scot spirit just fine.

2009 is a time to put on the brakes and do the Sunday drive. I expect my food posts to reflect that and am starting with this one.

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The other day we all took turns making butter. I've done it lots before, but it's more fun to do it with other people. My mom can recall her grandfather sitting on his porch in a rocking chair, rocking away and shaking a big jar filled with cream - helping grandma to get her butter made.

If you've never made butter, it's the simplest of foods to make. All you need is a large jar and some heavy cream. I poured a single cup of heavy cream into a one-quart glass jar, tightened down the lid and passed it around for everyone to shake. You need room for the cream to move, so make sure your jar is at least twice the volume of the cream you're adding.

It really doesn't matter how you shake it; back and forth, up and down, around in circles if you want - just shake it for a while and soon enough you'll get butter. If you've ever been told not to beat heavy cream for too long, this is the reason why. The next step after whipped cream is butter.

Shake the jar until a lump of butter forms; this took us about 25 minutes with everyone pausing while passing the jar. Make sure the cream is good and cold and once there is a firm ball of butter in the jar, pour out the contents into a large bowl.

Look closely and you'll see the lump of butter in there.



Butter in whey. (Why, yes - those are chocolate chip cookies in the background.)


Rinse the whey from the butter and continue rinsing while you knead the butter. The water needs to be very cold for this part.

Changing over to a large bowl to rinse and knead.


Once the water runs clear, add salt if you like and you're done! We got just over a half cup of butter from one cup of cream.


My daughter Megan said it was the best butter she's ever had. I do believe she's right.