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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Nothing Like a Home Cooked Meal

It’s Saturday and we had several inches of snow here, so there’s not much going on today. It is a good day for some home cooking, and a really good day for some home cooking classic comfort food. Today was Michelle’s choice on the menu, so we are having Chicken Parmesan with Pasta and steamed mixed vegetables. I am also going to make some Italian Sausage and Peppers with rice, well, because I have the ingredients and I really like it :).

I am pretty sure everyone has made Chicken Parmesan at some point. It’s relatively easy to make and doesn’t really take much time to cook. I use a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network. Hey, if anyone knows how to cook Italian, it’s Giada, right? I’ll be using the leftover tomato sauce from the spaghetti meatballs earlier in the week (and I used some for the pizza last night too, that’s great!) so there’s really not much to this meal. This is a good recipe to get the assembly going if you have some helpers in the kitchen.

Chicken Parmesan

1 1/2 cups bread crumbs ( I am using my own, but you could use panko or other store-bought if you like)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for serving

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

3 large egg whites

1 tablespoon water

Cooking spray

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat and sliced into cutlets

2 cups Simple Tomato Sauce (see Monday’s blog for this recipe, or click here https://onedadskitchen.com/2012/01/16/enter-the-meal-plan/)

3/4 cup shredded mozzarella

1 teaspoon minced fresh basil

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees F. Combine the bread crumbs and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and cool slightly; when cool, stir in the Parmesan. In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together. In a third shallow dish, whisk the egg whites and water together.

On a rimmed baking sheet with a rack (or casserole or baking pan), spray with cooking spray. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the cutlets in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg whites, and finally coat with the bread crumbs. Press on the bread crumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the chicken on the wire rack (or in the pan). Bake until the meat is no longer pink in the center and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven. Spoon the sauce over and around each cutlet and top the sauce with the mozzarella. Return the chicken to the oven and continue to bake until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and serve, passing the remaining sauce and Parmesan separately.

We’ll be serving the chicken with pasta tonight. Nothing special, just basic spaghetti. As I said earlier in the week when we made just spaghetti and meatballs, I think just about everyone can make spaghetti or has the own way of making it, so I will leave that to you (if you’re using boxed spaghetti and feel really lost, follow the directions on the box).

I am also making simple steamed vegetables tonight. I have a scattering of different vegetables available right now, so we are having, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower. As I wrote earlier in the week, I do use a steaming basket in my dutch oven to do this, Placing the basket in with water just to the bottom of it, bringing the water to a boil and then adding the vegetables. Steam the vegetables for about 5 to 7 minutes until you get the bright colors you want and the vegetables are tender. Add some more water if you find that the water is boiling away before the vegetables are done.

Lastly today, I have decided today to add in some sausage and peppers to make. I have some extra Italian sausage in the freezer, so why not?

Italian Sausage, Peppers and Onions

1 pound fresh Italian sausage links, sweet or hot

2 cups sliced onions

2-3 bell peppers of any color, cored, seeded and cut into strips

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Prick the sausage in a few places with a fork to allow excess fat to escape and turn the sausage frequently (if you want to slice the sausage into chunks before cooking, which I often do, it’s much easier to do while the sausage is a little frozen still.) Cook until nicely browned all over. Total cooking time will depend on the thickness of the sausages; the best way to see this (if you haven’t cut them into chunks) is to cut into one- when barest trace of pink remains, they are done. Drain the sausages on a paper towel and cover.

Place the onions in the same skillet you used for the sausage over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes, undisturbed, until softening. Add the peppers and salt and pepper to taste.Cook, stirring frequently, until the peppers have softened, about 8 minutes. Return the sausage to the pan and mix with the vegetables, about 1 minute. Serve on a roll or bun or with pasta (it’s also good over white rice, too).

Wow, we actually did a whole week’s worth of meals and not a lot of work had to be put into it. Not too shabby at all. Tomorrow is Sunday, the one day of the week I usually try to do an elaborate meal, but we are going out tomorrow to my in-laws to celebrate a birthday (Happy Birthday Cathy!) so there’s no cooking this week. Instead, tomorrow I will write about the meal plan for next week (Here’s the planner if you want to use it:family_meal_planner) and I may throw in some lunchbox ideas for the kids (or adults) to use. Stay warm and enjoy your Saturday night; make some popcorn and watch a movie. That reminds me, that will be a good thing to write about, snacks to make for movie watching, I’ll have to remember that! Do you have any suggestions for good movie snacks? Pass them along!

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Pork, Poultry, Sauce, Vegetables

 

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It’s Friday, it Must be Pizza!

Today is Friday, and I think for a lot of family, Friday is often a pizza night. It’s the end of the week, you don’t really feel much like cooking, and just getting a pizza and relaxing is very easy. We get pizza about once a month. We all love the pizza from Kinchley’s Tavern in Ramsey, NJ. It’s great thin crust pizza that you could eat a whole pie of yourself> Here is there Facebook page if you want to check them out: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kinchleys-Pizza/148265588527562?sk=info. If we are getting pizza locally, we do often get it now from Marina’s Pizza here in Harriman, NY. I like their pizza; it’s not greasy, tastes fresh and they have good toppings available for a decent price. if you want to check out their Facebook page, it’s here:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marinas-PIzza-Restaurant/111556995541047?sk=wall. Of course, there is always the alternative of making your own pizza. We do this about once a month as well. I have to admit, I don’t make my own pizza crust. I probably should, but I just don’t have the counter space for rolling and kneading dough. I do buy pre-made dough and make it that way and we also have used Boboli crust to make large pizzas and mini-pizzas (they sell the small, individual crusts for Boboli). I personally don’t have a problem using either one of those as a good option to make your own pizza. Once you have the dough or the crust, the rest is, well as easy as pie :). I do have a recipe for a basic pizza dough, and if anyone wants it I will be happy to post it here, or if anyone has one of their own and would like to share, please let me know or share a comment so we can all have it.

Classic Cheese Pizza

1 recipe of basic pizza dough (or store-bought dough, which is what I am using)

1 recipe Quick Pizza Sauce (recipe to follow, but hey, remember the spaghetti and meatballs we made on Monday? I am using the sauce from that for the pizza)

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Olive Oil

2 tablespoons torn fresh basil

Flour for the counter (if you need it for your own dough)

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a  pizza stone or baking stone on the rack, and heat to 500 degrees F. Let the stone heat for at least 30 minutes. (Don’t have a pizza stone or baking stone? No problem. You can bake the pizza on a rimless or upside-down baking sheet that has been preheated like a stone.)

If you’re using store-bought dough, like I am, stretch and shape the dough into a 12-inch round on a piece of parchment paper. I do this by flattening the dough ball into a disk. Using my fingertips, I press the disk until it is about a 1/2 inch thick. Then, holding the center in place, I stretch the dough outward. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and stretch again. i repeat this until the dough reaches a diameter of about 12 inches (of course I eyeball this, I don’t sit there with a ruler!). I then use my palms to flatten the thick edge of the dough.

Spread 1 cup of sauce over the dough. leaving a 1/2-inch edge of dough uncovered. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan cheese. Lightly brush the edge of the dough with oil. Slide the parchment paper and pizza onto a rimless baking sheet, then slide it onto the hot baking stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden in spots, 8 to 13 minutes. (If you’re making more than 1 pizza, now is a good time to start the next one).

Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, discarding the parchment paper. Sprinkle with the fresh basil and cut the pizza into 6 wedges. Let the stone re-heat for 5 minutes before you start the next pizza.

Quick Pizza Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the garlic is sizzling, about 90 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can literally put just about anything on pizza. We are using this meal as our meatless one this week, so it’s just plain cheese for us, but remember those leftover meatballs from Monday (we just used the sauce)? Slice them up and put them right on the pizza before you heat it.  Some of my favorite toppings are Italian sausage (I take it out of the casing, crumble it and saute it before using it on the pie), sautéed onions, sliced black olives, mushrooms and even some buffalo chicken (I plan on using this one as one of my meals later on down the road). Let me know what your favorite toppings are or what you think would be great on a pie.

Now, every meal we have has to have a vegetable in it, and much to Sean’s chagrin, tonight is salad. He doesn’t like salad, so I still have some leftover broccoli and carrots that he will have instead. I am using simple greens tonight; just a spring mix of greens I bought that has spinach in it as well. We’ll add some cucumber ( I prefer the English cucumber) and some shaved carrots, and maybe a hard-boiled egg white, and that’s it. Feel free to add whatever you like to the salad. I sometimes use red onion, artichoke hearts, scallions, black olives, peppers, toasted nuts, cherry tomatoes, and some crumbled bacon. I’ll be making a warm chicken salad for a meal next week, so we’ll see more things in the salad then. As for dressing, i find that it’s a personal thing. Everyone has their own tastes of what they like and don’t, which store-bought brands taste better, etc. We always have a couple of store-bought dressings on hand, usually ranch and thousand island, but tonight I am making a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

3/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons minced shallot or red onion

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional)

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, dill, basil or oregano (whatever you feel like, I am using oregano, it goes better with balsamic)

1/2  garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Shake all the ingredients together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 7 days; bring to room temperature, then shake vigorously to re-combine before using. if you don’t want to use balsamic, you can substitute red or white wine vinegar.

A very easy dressing to make with ingredients you almost always have around the house. That’s the meal for today. Nothing fancy, and you can use some of the leftovers from earlier in the week if you want. Tomorrow is Michelle’s choice, and we are having Chicken Parmesan with Pasta and cauliflower for a vegetable. I’ll also be letting you know what the meal plan is for next week if you want to shop along, and I think we are going to make some soup tomorrow as well since the impending snow here will have us housebound. Enjoy the Friday night!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Salad, Sauce

 

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The Other White Meat

It’s Thursday, and I’ve actually been doing this for a whole week now and it’s still going. I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am. Today’s menu involves a little more work than the previous ones, but it’s not so labor intensive that you couldn’t do it on a weeknight, you just need a little time to do it. It might be better suited for a Saturday or Sunday meal, but since I have the time today to do it, we are going to give it a shot. Today I am making Pork Chops with Butternut Squash and Apple Stuffing, Roasted Potatoes, and Swiss Chard with Garlic and Shallots. It sounds fancy, but it’s pretty easy to make. There are a few ingredients that you may not have around the house for this one, so you may have to do some shopping. It’s one of the things I use the family meal planner for at the beginning of the week:family_meal_planner.

There are a lot of different variations of pork chops available for use with this recipe. The only thing to keep in mind is that you want chops large enough for you to stuff. Whether you choose them on the bone or not is up to you. Today, I am using some large boneless chops I found at the store this week that were on sale. Bone-in chops work really well this recipe also. I also bought butternut squash that was already peeled and diced to make things a little easier for me, but you could easily do it yourself.

Pork Chops with Butternut Squash and Apple Stuffing

1 1/2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced Granny Smith apple (or any apple you prefer)

6 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 large shallot, diced

1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (about 1/2 this if using dried)

1 1/4 cups bread crumbs

4 pork loin chops (bone in if you choose; I am actually using boneless center cut chops this time)

1 onion, diced

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups water

3 teaspoons chicken stock

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, stir together the butternut squash, celery, apple and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a large pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 seconds. Add the squash mixture and cook until just softened, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the heat and let cool. Stir in the bread crumbs.

Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Insert a sharp knife into the side of the chop (opposite the bone if you are using bone-in) making a long slit all the way down. Wiggle the knife to form a large pocket. Repeat with the remaining chops. Stuff each chop with 1/2 cup stuffing, packing it into the pocket with your fingers.

Set a pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Brown the chops, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the stuffing reads 160 degrees F, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chops to a platter. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Strain any juices into a smaller bowl; set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion and apple and cook, stirring, until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water, chicken stock, and reserved pan juices and bring to a simmer. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken, 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in the vinegar. Using an immersion blender (or blender, or food processor) puree the sauce until smooth. Place the pork chops on individual plates and drizzle with the sauce.

Not too bad, right? A little more work and a little more equipment used in this one, but it’s still not a tough one to do. I have extra butternut squash from the package I bought, so I can use that either for a side dish for another meal or get a little more squash and make some soup with it later on in the week. I don’t use a lot of apple cider vinegar, but I do have a small bottle on hand to use. You just have to watch the expiration date if you don’t use it often.

The roasted potatoes are fairly easy, they just take a little time to cook. I am using fingerling potatoes, but you could use red potatoes, or new potatoes, or really any potato you like to use and have on hand. Roasted sweet potatoes are great. It’s very simple and straightforward.

Roasted Potatoes

2 pounds fingerling potatoes (or any potato you like), quartered

1/4 cup olive oil (or less, I usually just eyeball this)

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (1/2 this if using dried)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a bowl combine the potatoes, oil, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to coat the potatoes evenly. Transfer to a baking pan or rimmed baking sheet and roast until the potatoes are tender, golden brown and crisp, about 45 minutes.

A very easy dish to complete, I think. Now on to the Swiss chard. It’s not something I make very often. As a matter of fact, I don’t think Sean has ever had it. Chard is a bitter, leafy vegetable with colorful stems. It is a member of the beet family and is highly nutritious. It’s used a lot in Mediterranean cooking and I thought it might be something different to try. When sautéed, it’s a lot like spinach and a lot of the bitterness cooks out. if you’re wary of trying it, you could easily substitute spinach into this recipe and it would work fine. I have leftover broccoli from earlier dinners this week on standby in case Sean won’t eat this.

Swiss Chard with Garlic and Shallots

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, I am leaving them out because I want Sean to at least try it)

3 bunches Swiss chard, stems and ribs removed, leaves cut into 1/2-inch strips

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes (if using) and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the chard to the pan in batches, about one-third at a time, waiting until each batch wilts slightly before adding more (it cooks down quite a bit and quickly, like spinach). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

If your family won’t go for the Swiss chard or spinach, you could substitute any vegetable you feel like having for the evening. Just about anything will go well with the pork chops and potatoes. And I am sure you could add in some applesauce, if you desire.

So another recipe is in the books for the day. Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions you may have. Tomorrow night is the non-meat night of the week, and Sean has chosen, what else, but pizza for the dinner. We’ll actually be making our own, so check in for that one and I would love everyone’s suggestions for pizza night. I think lots of people make some great and interesting pizzas. We’ll be having salad along with it, because every meal needs a vegetable, so I am going to try to find a good dressing for the salad as well. Pass along any suggestions you might have for that as well. I’ll also print out the meal planner for next week and start filling that in. I’ll let you know what everyone picks, and if you have ideas of what you might like to see, pass them along!

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Pork, Potatoes, Produce, Vegetables

 

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Under the Sea (Scallops)

After a morning at the dentist, it’s time to get down to some writing. Today’s dinner is an easy recipe and a very tasty one. Today I am making pan-seared sea scallops with lemon and shallots, roasted broccoli and carrots, and white rice. It’s nothing difficult to make and the whole meal itself only takes about 35 minutes total, so it’s easy to do during the week,

In my opinion, there is really only one type of scallop worth buying, and that is sea scallops. Bay scallops or Calico scallops are much smaller and tend to be rubbery, so I opt for the sea scallops. They do cost more, and many of them are dipped in preservatives to help extend their shelf life. These are generally called wet scallops. If you can find dry scallops, or scallops labeled chemical-free, opt for those. You’ll be able to tell the difference even if they aren’t labeled, as wet scallops are bright white in color and, well, they’re wet with a milky liquid. Dry scallops range from an ivory color to a pale pinkish orange, and look dry. Most places will label them, and dry scallops in this area tend to be quite expensive, around $18 a pound. They do taste better and are worth the splurge. We only cook them about every 6 weeks or so and it is a seafood the whole family enjoys.

Now on to the recipe. This one is pretty easy and shouldn’t take long at all. i would recommend using the largest skillet you have for this, or do the scallops in batches so they aren’t bunched together and end up steaming instead of getting the nice pan sear on them. Also, you could add capers into this recipe if you like. Capers are basically unripened flower buds that are often pickled and are about the size of a small pea to a small olive. They can be rather salty, but also can add a nice flavor to meats, sauces, dressings and vegetables. My family doesn’t really like them, so I eliminate them, but if you like them, go for it.

Pan-Seared Scallops With Lemon and Shallots

1 1/2 pounds large sea scallops

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons butter

1 shallot, minced

1 cup dry white wine or vermouth (or just use water if you don’t want the alcohol)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and minced (optional)

Pat the scallops dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Gently lay the scallops in the pan and cook until well browned, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip the scallops over and cook until the sides of the scallop are firm but the center remains very soft, about 30 seconds. Transfer the scallops to a plate and tent with foil.

Pour off all the fat left in the skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and melt over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the wine (or vermouth, or water) and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened and reduced, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining butter, the parsley, lemon juice, capers (if using) and any accumulated scallop juice. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Add the scallops to the sauce and let warm through before serving, about 1 minute.

Pretty easy, huh? The thing with seafood and shellfish is that it generally doesn’t need a long time to cook, just minutes at the most, unless you’re steaming shellfish like lobster, crab or clams, or cooking thick flesh seafood steaks, and even then seafood steaks don’t take too long. A lot of people tend to overcook seafood, leaving it unflavored, tough and rubbery. Just a few minutes is all it takes for some really tasty seafood.

For tonight’s vegetable, I decided to roast broccoli and carrots. Broccoli and carrots are both favorites in our house (I can’t think of a vegetable we won’t eat actually, even Sean is really good about veggies). In this recipe, if you want a little bit of a spicy kick, add some crushed red pepper flakes towards the end. I love roasted vegetables; they tend to taste sweeter than steamed and the flavor is more concentrated.

Roasted Broccoli and Carrots

1 1/2 pound broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Zest of 1 lemon (I use whatever I didn’t from the scallops recipe)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional, Michelle and Sean do like it on their portions)

Position 1 rack in the middle and 1 rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (you’re roasting, it should be very hot). Divide the broccoli and carrots evenly among 2 baking sheets. Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil a 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Toss well, then spread the vegetables out in an even layer. Transfer to the oven and roast until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the vegetables evenly with the garlic, red pepper flakes(if using), lemon zest and cheese (if using). Continue roasting for 2 minutes more. Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl and serve.

Another easy side dish done. Lastly, for this meal is the rice. I personally prefer long-grain white rice, just a personal preference of mine. Use whatever rice you like the best. Cooking rice on the stovetop is very easy and pretty foolproof. I use a 2 to 1 ratio in cooking, so if I make 1 cup of rice, I use 2 cups of water. One cup is more than enough for the three of us and we generally have leftovers that can be used for other meals. Just bring the water up to a boil on the stove, add in the rice and a teaspoon or two of salt (or not, if you’re cutting back) and return the pot to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender, generally about 12 to 15 minutes for 1 cup of rice.

Brown rice and wild rice tend to take longer. Long grain brown rice takes about 25-30 minutes, while wild rice can take about 35-40 minutes, so if you want to use those, budget your time accordingly. I like both of those, but for a quick, weeknight meal the white rice fits better.

So that’s another day down in this week’s meal plan. If you have suggestions, questions, or any input at all, please feel free to leave a comment here. I am willing to respond, good, bad or indifferent. Tomorrow’s dinner is also my choice, and we will be having pork chops with butternut squash and apple stuffing, roasted potatoes,and Swiss chard with garlic and shallots. Until then, enjoy your day and your time in the kitchen!

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Rice, Seafood, Vegetables

 

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Some Quiet Time to Read a Good Book

Sean and Michelle went to a fundraiser dinner tonight, so there’s no cooking tonight, just leftovers for me. I’ll be having some of the leftover Chicken and Dumplings I made on Sunday. I am sure I’ll put the recipe up here one day since it turned out pretty well. I know, I know, you’re saying, geez, we’re only a few days into this and we’ve only had one day of recipes. I promise, I am cooking the rest of the week so there will be stuff on here. For today, I thought I would just take a few minutes and let you know where I get a lot of my recipes from in case you want to check out these books or websites.

One cookbook that I use very often is “The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.” This cookbook covers just about everything you could ever want to know. They cover all the basics of cooking, techniques, ingredients, what works and what doesn’t, and they make lots of recommendations of brands for all kinds of different equipment and ingredients. If you want just one cookbook to start with, I would recommend this one to use. A lot of the recipes I use come from this book. The America’s Test Kitchen website has a lot of the recipes on it as well, but you have to pay to subscribe to the website (www.americastestkitchen.com), so you might as well use that money to buy the book yourself. It is available from Amazon here:http://www.amazon.com/Americas-Test-Kitchen-Family-Cookbook/dp/1933615486/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326843698&sr=8-1

Another cookbook I use a lot is Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything.” Whatever America’s Test Kitchen doesn’t cover, this one sure does. It’s a thick book that really does seem to cover everything. He also goes over lots of techniques as well as covers lots of recipes, and the newer version of the book does cover more vegetarian dishes. There are lots of variations on recipes also so you can change things up on classic recipes you have used for a while. There are over 2,000 recipes in this book, so you can find a recipe for just about any ingredient you would want to use. This book is also available on Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Cook-Everything-Completely-Revised-Anniversary/dp/0764578650/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326844032&sr=1-1. I also follow Mark Bittman on Facebook, where he also posts some recipes, along with other articles he writes:https://www.facebook.com/MarkBittman

Those are the two main cookbooks I use, but I also use a magazine to get recipes and ideas. We have been subscribing to Bon Appetit for years, and I have gotten lots of good recipes from them. Of course, the pictures they have look a lot nicer than what I have been able to turn out, but this magazine has dozens of recipes every month and also gives great tips for shopping, on particular techniques, wines and spirits to buy, and also where some of the best places to eat are in many different cities all over. You don’t have to subscribe to the magazine; you could also visit their website, http://www.bonappetit.com/, where they have quite a cache of recipes and articles for you to look through.

There are two other websites that I frequent to get recipes from. One is http://www.williams-sonoma.com/. I love to shop at the store and online, even if some of their prices are high. They have some great recipes on their website, but you have to keep in mind that this is also their retail website, so they include items that you can but directly from them to use in the recipes they list, They also have some recipes that are very specific to ingredients that they sell, so you have to keep an out when scanning through the recipes to make sure they aren’t using something you won’t have around. The other website I use a lot is http://www.foodnetwork.com/. They also have a very large cache of recipes from all their shows and from other sources. You can just type an item into their search box and it will pull up recipes for that item. You can then sort them based on what show they came from, how other users have rated the recipes, the method used, and even watch videos of the recipe. It’s a fantastic source of recipes. I personally use several recipes used by Ina Garten, Anne Burrell, Giada De Laurentiis and Tyler Florence. You can pretty much find a recipe for anything you want, and then read reviews of it by other everyday users to see how they liked the recipe, what worked and what didn’t. I find it a very useful website.

Do you have any particular books or websites that you like to use often? I would love to hear about them. I am always looking for new ideas and new sources of information. Please pass them along so we can all check them out.

That’s about all I have for today. It will be back to cooking tomorrow night and tomorrow night was my choice, so we are making seafood for dinner. We’ll be having sea scallops, rice, and roasted vegetables so check in tomorrow to see the recipes. Enjoy your evening!

 

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Cookbooks, Cooking Websites

 

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Enter The Meal Plan…

It’s Monday and it’s time to start off the week with a meal plan. My family meal plan started a while ago, and it worked well while we stuck to it, but then we kind of drifted away from it and things got a little out of hand again. By out of hand I mean we didn’t plan ahead on any meals. which led to a lot of meals thrown together at the last-minute or just getting take-out or eating out. In the long run, it wasn’t benefiting us as far as our health and being together as a family, so I decided we needed to get back to the meal plan.

Here is how our meal plan works. We, as a family, decide on the meals each week. While it sounds like a challenge right away by letting kids choose meals (who wants chicken nuggets or pizza every day?) I have tried to make it so that, since there are 3 of us, we each pick 2 meals for the week and the extra day we eat leftovers. Once a month we take the extra day and either go out or get take out. The stipulations on the meals are this: the week’s meals have to be one night of red meat, two nights of poultry, one night of seafood, one night of pasta/grain/vegetarian, and two nights using whatever we have as leftovers to make a meal. I also had to add in that we couldn’t pick the same meal on consecutive weeks, otherwise Sean would have us eating burgers and pizza every week. Each meal has to have some type of vegetable and some type of protein. The protein doesn’t have to be meat, but there has to be one there somewhere. Once the meals have been picked out, we go through and which one fits best on which day of the week for that week. Like any family, some weeks for us can get a little hectic and some nights are better suited to leftovers than others, so we try to work with that. Once that is done, I do the shopping list of the supplies we need for the week to make the meals, we outline the everyone’s duties for the week as far as the meals go and then we move ahead with the week. Here is the print out I use for our meal planning. I have found it a big help for planning and for shopping because I tend to stick closely to it and shop only for the things that we really need for the meals that week so we can stay on budget a little better:  family_meal_planner.

Now that the basics are laid out, we can talk about today’s dinner plan. Today is pretty simple. Sean picked today’s meal and since he is off from school today, he gets to help cook it too. It’s straightforward, spaghetti and meatballs. He chose broccoli as his vegetable for the day and we’re going to make some garlic bread as well. I don’t make my own bread, so we’ll cheat a little there and buy a loaf and make it garlic bread, but if you make your own, it will probably be very tasty.

The spaghetti itself is pretty easy and painless. I don’t eat pasta, I never have. I just don’t like the texture of the store-bought pasta. I think if I had the counter space to make my own pasta, I would probably eat it because I think the taste of fresh pasta would be much better. But hey, just because I don’t eat doesn’t mean I won’t cook it (and if you cook it and I am invited over, you can be sure I’ll eat it, no questions asked. My momma raised me right :)).Tonight, it’s just plain spaghetti (I am eating white rice) and I think most people can handle cooking it, so I am not going to spend time on it. Instead, I’ll focus on the sauce, meatballs and garlic bread.

There are lots of sauces available right out of the jar or can, and some of them taste good. They are quick and easy to use and make our lives simple, but personally, if I have the time to make sauce, I am going to make it. It doesn’t have to be labor intensive and take all day. As a matter of fact, I find that sauce cooked too long tends to lose some of its flavor (this is for a sauce with no meat in it). In a perfect world, I would use fresh tomatoes, but, as I discussed previously, the tomatoes available here in the stores are generally pretty flavorless and not ripe. I have found that using diced and crushed tomatoes for sauce works just fine for me. This is a simple sauce recipe. It’s quick, it’s easy, has few ingredients, and tastes good:

Simple Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons minced fresh basil (if you’re using dried basil, cut this in at least half)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Salt

Cook the oil and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes (don’t scorch the garlic, it tastes pretty bad when you do. As soon as you can smell it, you’re ready for the next step). Stir in the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and sugar. Season with salt to taste.

You can easily double this recipe to make more sauce, just add about another 10 minutes of cooking time. Freeze extra so you have it on hand at a moment’s notice for a quick meal.

On to the meatballs. There are several brands of frozen meatballs that are good, and we usually have some in the freezer to use for quick meals or as appetizers when people are over. Like the sauce, if I have the time, i want to make my own. Sean likes the frozen ones better, and since it’s his choice tonight, we’ll probably use them, but I am going to give my recipe for meatballs anyway. You don’t have to use the beef, pork, veal mix that I do (I use the same mix for meatloaf and you can find it in most supermarkets). Chicken or turkey works just as well if that’s what you prefer. You also don’t have to use your own bread, but I find it tastes and binds better with fresh bread instead of dried breadcrumbs. Just my personal choice.

Meatballs

2 slices of white sandwich bread (I prefer Pepperidge Farm, it works well for me)

1/3 cup milk (whatever type you have will work here)

1 pound beef, pork, veal mixture

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 egg yolk

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper

Vegetable oil

Remove and discard the crusts from the bread then tear the bread into small pieces. Use a fork to mash the bread pieces and milk to a smooth paste in a large bowl. Add the beef, pork and veal mixture, Parmesan, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, a dash of pepper (or more if you like) to the mashed bread. Stir the mixture gently until combined and uniform (I always use my hands – it gets messy but it mixes better. Take your rings off before you do this). Form the mixture into 1 1/2 inch round meatballs (about 12 meatballs if make them this big, if you want smaller, go for it and you’ll get more).

Pour the oil into a 12 inch skillet and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and discard any oil left in the skillet.

Place the skillet back over medium heat and add the tomato sauce, Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and add the meatballs. Continue to simmer, turning the meatballs occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Okay, now you have your pasta, your sauce, and your meatballs. Our vegetable of choice today is broccoli, although we’ll be having salad along with it too (which Sean won’t eat, hence the broccoli). There are lots of ways to cook broccoli (steaming, roasting, braising, sauteing) and Sean prefers simple steaming, so that’s how we’re going with it today. Later on in the week I’ll be roasting some and I have the recipe for that for you. I do use a steaming basket in my dutch oven to do this, Placing the basket in with water just to the bottom of it, bringing the water to a boil and then adding the vegetables. Steam the broccoli for about 4 to 6 minutes until bright green and tender. Add some more water if you find that the water is boiling away before the broccoli is done.

Garlic bread itself is a pretty simple endeavor:

1 loaf Italian bread

4 tablespoons butter, softened (use less if you like, I often do)

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or other cheese of your liking, or no cheese at all, it’s optional)

Preheat the broiler. Cut the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. In a small bowl, mix the butter, oil, garlic and oregano. Spread the mixture evenly on the bread. On a baking sheet, place the bread under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until slightly browned. Check frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from the broiler and serve, or, if using the cheese, sprinkle cheese over the bread and place under the broiler for another 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly brown.

That’s it, you have our first meal plan. We usually only do dessert about once a week, and usually on the weekends so you’ve done it! Clean up for this one should be relatively easy, and I try to clean up as I go along to make things easier. If you have any suggestions or variations for this meal, please feel free to add them. I am always looking to try something new. Have fun cooking tonight and I’ll see you tomorrow. Tomorrow night Sean and Michelle are out for the night at a fundraiser, so I’ll be cooking for one (which makes tomorrow a leftovers night this week), so I’ll have to come up for a topic for tomorrow. Any suggestions?

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Produce, Sauce, Vegetables

 

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Garam Masala? Isn’t He a Jazz Musician?

No, he’s not a jazz musician, but I hope it got your attention. You probably don’t need to have garam masala in your pantry (unless of course you make a lot of Indian or Asian food, in which case you might), but there are lots of other things that I think would go very well in your pantry. I am going to name a few things that I use on a regular basis that help me tremendously in the kitchen. Most of them you probably have around all the time, and if you do, it can help you create a meal on the fly for a quick weeknight dinner when you don’t want to put a lot of effort in, or for when you have unexpected guests drop by and need something quick to throw together. When it comes to items in your pantry, brand is a personal choice. Use what you and your family like best and has the best flavor for you. There are a few brands I will recommend that I really like using, but do what fits your taste and budget the best.

Everyone has their own list of things they like to keep around in the pantry based on what their family likes best. There are basics like flour, salt, sugar, pepper, butter and milk that most people have around in one variation or another, depending on what you like and what your dietary restrictions may be.These are a few things I always have in the house:

Rice – I always have whole grain rice, sometimes brown rice, but always whole grain. It doesn’t take long to cook and to me tastes better than any quick rice or minute rice.

Eggs – We always have a dozen eggs on head and use them for baking, breakfast, hard boiling to have for lunches or appetizers, or when we have “breakfast for dinner.”

Pasta – While I personally don’t eat it, we always have it in the house, usually in a couple of varieties. If I had the counter space, I would like to make my own, but since our kitchen is the size of a closet, we make do. If you have pasta around, you always have a meal. There are dozens of quick sauces to throw together, or just saute or roast some vegetables to go with it, and you’re done.

Oil – I always have vegetable oil on hand as well as olive oil. I probably use the vegetable oil more, but the olive oil is good for making dressings and sauces. I also keep some cooking spray on hand to use to keep things from sticking.

Vinegar – again, it’s good to have on hand for dressings for salad, and I usually keep white, red wine, balsamic and apple cider vinegar to use with various recipes.

Herbs & Spices – There are hundreds of different herbs and spices you could get (like garam masala), but I have found that I really only use about ten or so regularly. I try to use fresh parsley, thyme and basil, as there is a real taste difference over the dried versions. For dried spices, I use oregano, bay leaves, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, chili powder and cumin. I have others, but rarely use them. Check you dried spices after about 6 months because they tend to lose their potency by then.

Tomatoes – Sadly, fresh tomatoes available in stores here in New York have been bad, to say the least. Unless you grow your own around here, I have found that the canned tomatoes are better. I buy diced tomatoes often to use for things like chili, and keep a couple of jars of crushed tomatoes around for sauce. I do love fresh tomatoes, and ripe ones give great flavor, we just haven’t had good ones in a while.

Broth – I make my own broths now.It may sound like a lot of work, but it really isn’t and it is so worth it. Homemade chicken stock tastes 100 times better than anything in a box or can and is very easy to make. The same goes for beef, fish or vegetable broth and you can freeze them to use whenever you need them (I plan to use a day of blogging to talk about stocks). If you don’t have the time to make your own, I have found that Swanson’s seems to taste the best among the chicken and beef broths available.

Beans – We always have some kind of beans on hand, either dried or canned. They are a great source of protein and can be used in a lot of side dishes, soups, stews and chili. I almost always have red kidney beans, white beans or black beans around to use.

Produce- If you are going to have produce around, you should always have carrots, celery and onions. Use those three and you can pretty much make anything. They are a great base for most sauces, soups, and stews or great for roasting with meat or poultry.I also regularly have white potatoes and garlic on hand to use as well. I try to use fresh produce for our vegetables every day, and when I can’t I do buy some frozen items to have on hand. I am not a fan of canned vegetables – they have a metallic taste to me, usually have too much salt in them to preserve them, and don’t seem to taste as good once cooked. I also always have some kind of fresh fruit on hand, depending on the season. Fresh fruit can be a simple and quick dessert anytime, a nice addition to breakfast, or a great afterschool snack.

Beyond that, there are things I buy from week to week, varying on what our meal plan for that week is going to be. I’ll get more into the meal plan itself tomorrow when I start writing about what’s cooking for the week, but the plan itself basically maps out my shopping list for the week so I know what I am going to buy. I try not to stray beyond that list, with the exceptions of items that may be household necessities that week (i.e. toilet paper, garbage bags, paper towels, Sean’s lunch snacks, etc.). It helps me budget our food shopping for the week and keeps me from buying empty calorie foods we don’t need or shouldn’t have.

So tomorrow we get started on the meal plan. I can tell you, tomorrow’s dinner is nothing fancy, it’s pretty straightforward and easy, but I think that works for a lot of weeknight meals. We don’t often have time for an elaborate meal during the week, so I do try to keep things simple. Get your equipment ready and your pantry set, and we’ll hit the kitchen tomorrow!

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, Pasta, Produce, Soups & Stews, Spices

 

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Kitchen Prep 101

So you’re back for day two, which makes me glad to know that I am not just writing for myself. Before I get into meal plans and what’s cooking, I thought today I would take some time to mention a few things that I think are important to have to make your life cooking a little easier. With some items I may recommend specific brands that I have used with some good success in the past, but please feel free to use what’s best for you and your budget. If you think you have a better idea on something, I encourage you to pass it along here so we can all use it.

There are a few essential pieces of equipment I think everyone needs to have in order help make your cooking experiences better, easier and more successful. For me, everything starts with having three good knives: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife. I use my chef’s knife all the time, and you can use it for just about everything from chopping and dicing to carving. My personal chef’s knife of choice is a Wusthof Classic 7″ chef’s knife. It’s available on the web, many cooking stores or department stores. Wusthof knives are great, but the can be a little expensive and there are cheaper, good alternatives. Victorinox (the maker’s of the Swiss Army Knife) has some great knives at really affordable prices, like this 8 inch chef’s knife that gets good recommendations and is only $26.00 :http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-40520-Fibrox-8-Inch-Chefs/dp/B000638D32. They also make inexpensive paring knives and serrated knives, so you could round out your knife set for under $60 just using their three. The paring knife is great for the small jobs that a chef’s knife may be just a little large for, like slicing garlic. The serrated knife is necessary for bread slicing. Whatever you choose to get, make sure the knife feels good in your hand and is comfortable for you. I recommend getting a knife sharpener or steel to sharpen your knives and sharpen them often to keep them in good shape. And don’t use your essential knives for things like screwdrivers or pry bars; Chances are you’ll just break the blade or ruin it and the five minutes it would have taken you to find the right tool for the job just cost you money.

Once you have your knives, you need a cutting board (no sense ruining those counter and table tops). I personally prefer wood, but I have plastic as well. The plastic is great because they are dishwasher safe and easier to clean. The wood needs a little more care (I oil mine once a week with mineral oil to keep it from drying and cracking) and has to be hand washed, but I feel I get better and more controlled cutting using a wood board. You don’t need a huge, heavy board for every day use. The one I use every day is an 11″ square butcher block and it works great and doesn’t take up a lot of space. I leave it on the counter every day because it’s used constantly. I do have a large plastic board for carving larger birds and roasts. Again, you can spend a little or a lot, depending on your budget, but I recommend having one to provide you with necessary workspace.

Okay, you have your knives and your board, now how about some pots and pans. While there are dozens of sizes and types, I have found you really only need to use 4 or 5 to do the job. In my opinion, instead of spending $100, $200, or more on a set of pots that won’t last long and you won’t use half of them, buy yourself 3 or 4 really good pots that you will use all the time and will last. First, you need a skillet, and you need a large one, I would say 12 inches. I have two – one nonstick and one stainless steel. The nonstick is great for foods that regularly stick and is super easy to clean (just make sure you don’t use metal utensils on it, it will scrape off the surface), but the stainless steel is great for searing, browning and pan-frying and you can throw it in the oven as well. Having several sizes of skillets to me doesn’t make much sense. You won’t use them much and they just take up space. Get 1 or two big skillets and you’ll be fine.

Next is the dutch oven. I probably use mine just as much as I use the skillet, if not more since we make a lot of soups and stews. They are ideal for soups and stews, perfect for boiling pasta, searing meat, or braising. Again, I would make sure to get an all metal one that you can throw in the oven. After that, all you really need are 2 or 3 saucepans, a large (4 quart), a medium (3 quart) and a small (2 quart) to help out with smaller cooking projects like sauces and gravies. Saucepans can also be expensive or inexpensive, depending on what you choose and can budget for, but there are several moderately priced brands that work very well.

After these items, a couple of rimmed baking sheets are probably used the most in my house. They are very versatile, great for roasting meats or vegetables. if you can get one with a rack in it, even better, because this is great for things like draining fried chicken or making a meat loaf, allowing the fat to drip off and not have the meat sitting in it. (Sean will also tell you they are essential for french fries and tater tots). There are 3 other types of pans I use: a baking dish, a roasting pan and pie plates. A baking dish can be used for just about anything you would need to put in the oven, from vegetables, to casseroles, to small poultry or meat. A 9″x13″ seems to work best for me, giving me enough room to do what I want. I have a large roasting pan with a rack for larger birds or meats. It’s great because it allows for drippings to collect for gravy or sauce, or you can place vegetables around for roasting. Also, in the long run I think it’s cheaper than buying all those foil roasting pans you buy for the holidays. Pie plates, of course are great for pies (one of the few things I actually bake, but that’s for a later post). I actually use pie plates more for breading stations for chicken or fish than anything else, and the glass ones work great because you can use them for warming by just throwing them in the oven (and they’re relatively inexpensive too.)

There are a few other things I find essential as well, such as:

Dry measuring cups

Liquid measuring cups

Measuring spoons

An instant read thermometer (essential for meats and chickens)

A whisk (I prefer metal)

Wooden spoons (Get them at the dollar store)

Rubber spatula

Tongs

A box grater

A colander

A vegetable peeler

Some small glass bowls – great for holding prep work

Parchment paper – I find myself using this more lately, it’s great for lining and seems impervious to grease and moisture.

There are lots of other things that you may not use as often (Like a potato ricer, loaf pans, etc.) they are not as essential, to me, as the things I listed. I also didn’t list any small appliances, but we do get a lot of use out of our food processor (great for making bread crumbs, pureeing soups and sauces) and standing mixer (a Kitchen Aid for baking). I am not a big fan of the microwave, although I do use it to cook bacon and to melt things like butter or chocolate. other than that, I find they dry things out too much and don’t cook evenly. Now if you have any suggestions of things you need for the kitchen, let me know! I may find that I need them too. Tomorrow, I am going to talk about some pantry items I use a lot and then Monday we can get down to some cooking!

 

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Cooking, Equipment, Pantry

 

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Come On In, Have a Cup of Coffee, Relax and Read

Welcome to my first of what hopefully will be many posts. I have been mulling around the idea of blogging for a while now, and really just needed to find the time and inspiration to do it. I wanted to write about something that I enjoy and feel passionate about. I have a long history with writing and also write some fiction (that’s another blog, still to come) but this particular blog will be more about “real life,” more specifically my real life in the kitchen. Hopefully, you’ll be able to pick up some tips, tricks and recipes along the way that you enjoy and I hope you’ll feel free to share with me as well. That’s half the fun of the blog, isn’t it?

A little about me – I’m 44, been married for almost 19 years now, and we have an 11 year old son. I spent many years working in the retail field, including managing a small shop for several years. It was a lot of fun and a lot hard work, but I enjoyed it immensely. In 2008, some family circumstances came up and after discussions with my amazing wife Michelle, we decided I should leave my job and take care of them. I became a part time worker from home and a full time, stay at home dad. In 2009, I contracted an illness that left me hospitalized and in a coma for 6 months. It was a horrendous experience (what I remember of it, anyway), I spent many months doing physical, occupational, speech and breathing therapies, and have mostly recovered by this point. The illness has left me with some small disabilities as far as walking and breathing, but thanks to the love and support of my family and friends and some hard work, I have mostly been able to work through them. I still work part time, from home, as a freelance proofreader/editor for some web media companies, take care of our son Sean every day, and also watch my one year old nephew Liam 4 days a week. It seems pretty busy some days (throw in that we have a puppy as well), but I enjoy every minute of it.

Anyway, enough about me. my circumstances have afforded me the opportunity to be home every day, take care of my family, and it gives me the opportunity to do something I really love – cook. By no means do I consider myself anywhere near being a professional cook, I just really like to do it and I am sure there are many other people who feel the same as I do. It’s a chance that not many dads get to have, and maybe some would rather not have, but hey, it’s not for everybody. My dad was a great guy, worked hard, provided well for us, but to be honest, he couldn’t cook a lick. He never had to since my mom took care of it most of the time, but beyond pancakes and occasional attempt at the barbecue, dad stayed away from cooking. I, on the other hand, have embraced my chance and love to do it.

I’ll be honest, I don’t cook every day. Like anybody else, there are days when after working, chores, homework, puppy and infant duty, that it’s too late in the day and I have no energy left to do anything. But I am trying to minimize days like that now, and I think this blog will help me do that. I’ve decided to try and schedule things out a little better, cook some things on the weekend for the whole week, use leftovers more effectively (or just plain use them! What’s the point of putting it in the fridge if you’re going to throw it away in 2 days?) and get the family more involved in choosing our meals for the week.

And that’s the point of this blog. I’ll let you in on our meal plan, post what we’re having and the recipes I am using, and give you some of the hints, tips and tricks I use to help out in the kitchen. Hopefully, you’ll do the same for me and let me know if you have ideas that work better, recipes to use or just what works best or doesn’t for you. I’ve been posting on Facebook for years about things I cook (you can see my Facebook page by following the link on this page) and have had friends suggest that I should post something regular, so here’s the chance to do it. A few words of caution – I don’t eat pasta or cheese, but I do use it for cooking things for the rest of the family. I modify recipes sometimes to eliminate the cheese, but that’s just a personal preference. Secondly, I have a number of friends who follow gluten-free or vegetarian diets. I’ll try to make suggestions on modifications to the recipes to adapt to this, but those of you that follow these eating plans may have better ideas or suggestions to use. I encourage you to add them so we all can benefit from your expertise.

I am going to take the first couple of posts I do to give some advice and input into things I feel are a big help to me in the kitchen (utensils, equipment, pantry items – there are some great items that won’t break the bank that are good to have or use) and some websites and cookbooks that I use on a fairly regular basis for ideas and inspiration (I have already put links to some of them on this page). After that, starting on Monday, January 16th, I’ll start posting my meal ideas for the day. Like I said before, some days I don’t cook, but on those days where I don’t, I am still going to post something – ideas, tips or just some random thoughts about cooking, family and friends.

When I was growing up, the kitchen was always the most social room in the house. Everyone seemed to congregate and chat in there while the cooking went on, whether we were at home, my grandparents’ home, or my aunts and uncles’ homes. The room was filled with lots of talk, laughter and plenty of cooking, and that’s how I want this blog to be. So come in, sit and relax, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea (and let me know what your favorite is, I love coffee!) and take a few minutes to enjoy our little “kitchen” on the web.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Cooking

 

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