Monday, October 20, 2008

Scalloped Potatoes

These are deliciously creamy!

1 cup chopped onion (1 large onion)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 1/2 cups milk
8 cups thinkly sliced potatoes (red, white, or yellow) - about 2 1/2 lbs

For the sauce, in a med. saucepan cook onion in hot butter until tender. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir over med heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; set aside. Place half the sliced potatoes in a greasted 3-qt rectangular baking dish. Top with half the sauce. Repeat the layers.

Bake, uncovered, in a 350* oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40-50 more minutes or until potatoes are tender. Let stand, uncovered, for 10 minutes before serving.

You can add 1 1/2 cups grated cheese (chedder, gruyere, swiss) to the thickened sauce, stirring until the cheese melts if you'd like cheese scalloped potatoes.

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The Sunday Roast Menu Plan - Week 2

The Sunday Roast Menu Plan - Week 2

Well, the first week of my Sunday Roast Menu Plan went really well - except that I discovered I realy have to have 2 roast chickens to feed my family of five for most of the week. We homeschool and my husband works from home, so we at home A LOT.

Sunday - Roast Chicken, Herbed Roasted Potatoes, Green Salad with apples and raisins

Monday - Chicken Divan over Rice - this calls for cream of broccoli soup. Instead, I'm going to try using the milk and flour combination for making a cream sauce to use in this dish. (It was used in last week's Chicken and Biscuit recipe.)
An easy one-dish meal using some breast and thigh meat.

Tuesday - Chicken and Gravy, Baked Winter Squash and Apples (the original recipe calls for butternut squash, but I'm going to also use acorn squash), Corn Pudding
Using breast and thigh meat and pan drippings saved from roasting pan. Use carcasses to make broth. Freeze whatever is not used.

Wednesday - White Chili & Corn Bread (possibly the Broa)
Use some of broth and rest of meat.
Thursday - Scalloped Potatoes, Roasted Carrots, Apple salad
If there is more meat leftover, I might serve it re-warmed with this meal. Or I might make chicken salad for tomorrow's lunch.
Friday - Homemade Pizza

Saturday - Hubby's Night to Make Dinner! Don't you love that?
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Monday, October 13, 2008

The Sunday Roast Menu Plan - Week 1

The Sunday Roast Menu Plan - Week 1

I'm starting an experiment: a menu plan based on the old-fashioned Sunday Roast. For the next few weeks, I'll cook a roast chicken on Sunday and use the leftovers to make meals for the rest of the week. This should make menu planning and cooking easier...and more frugal!

Sunday - Brined & Roasted Whole Chicken, Sauteed Broccoli

Monday - Pasta al Forno with Chicken
Slice off some of the chicken breast and thighs for the casserole.

Tuesday - Chicken and Biscuits, Sweet Potato Fries
Slice off rest of breast and thigh meat for tomorrow's meal, pull off all the last bits of meat for the Pot Pie, make broth and use for tonight's pot pie and tomorrow's soup.

Wednesday - Crockpot Italian Wedding Soup, Bread
Use broth and rest of the chicken breast and thigh for the soup. If I have plenty of meat, I'm going to make a double batch of this. Instead of meatballs, I'm probably going to cook up some breakfast sausage links that I already have on hand and cut them into bite-sized pieces.

Thursday - Leftovers "Buffet"

Friday - Homemade Pizza

Saturday - Hubby's Night to Make Dinner! Don't you love that?

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Pasta al Forno with Chicken

This is pretty quick and easy to assemble; makes good leftovers; and freezes well. You could easily make a double-batch to share or put in your freezer (freeze it before baking). This could also be made without the chicken or with ground beef.

1/2-1 lb chopped cooked chicken
8 ounces small shaped pasta
1 (25 ounce) jar marinara sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained or frozen broccoli
1 cup ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon oil

Preheat oven to 375°. Coat 2 1/2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Cook pasta; drain; rinse with cold water.

In bowl, combine marinara, mozzarella, spinach or broccoli, cottage cheese or ricotta, 6 T Parmesan, salt and pepper. Stir in pasta and chopped, cooked chicken (or ground beef); transfer to baking dish.

Stir together bread crumbs, Parmesan and oil; sprinkle over pasta. Bake until hot, 25-30 minutes.

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Chicken and Biscuits

Seriously good comfort food and a wonderful one-dish meal.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, 1 tsp dried
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of milk whisked with
3 Tbsp sifted flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook until just softened and transluscent. Now add carrots and cook until the carrot is just starting to cook. Add the parsley, broth, peas, cooked chicken and salt/pepper. Bring it all to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Whisk flour and milk together (you can strain it if it is lumpy) and add to the pot. Bring back to a low boil, then simmer until it is thickened.

Biscuits (*as a short cut, you can use Bisquick and their biscuit recipe on the side of the box)
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold butter or margarine cut into small chunks
3/4 cup cold milk

Stir the dry ingredients together and cut in the butter (you are going for coarse crumbs). Stir the milk in just until the whole thing is moistened. Knead it very lightly 2 or 3 times.

Pour the hot chicken into a casserole. Drop pieces of the biscuits on top of the stew. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the biscuits are just starting to brown on top.

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Crockpot Italian Wedding Soup

This is a new recipe for me (from - it sounds wonderful, I'll let you know how it turns out!

16 1/2 ounces meatballs (you could make these while you are making the meatballs and tomato sauce from last week and just freeze them. I'd suggest making bite-sized meat balls for this dish or quartering regular-sized ones)
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 (8 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (or fresh if you have it)
garlic salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1/4 cup romano cheese
1/4 cup acini di pepe pasta (small pasta)

Combine all the ingredients except pasta in crock pot and cook all day on low (7-8 hrs). Add the pasta during the last hour of cooking. Serve with an awesome crusty bread.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Brine your Bird

Ever heard of brining your bird? Soaking your bird (chicken or turkey) in a simple brine before roasting really does result in a delicious roast. I highly recommend it!!

Here's a recipe that I use to brine chicken or turkey - it can also be used for pork roast, although I've never tried that. It comes from Chez Panisse. Use a whole recipe for a turkey, half for a chicken. Also, this recipe calls for juniper berries. You can find them at specialty cooking stores or World Market. If you can't find them, just skip it...I've made it a number of times without the berries and it was wonderful.

If you make the whole recipe, it makes a LOT of brine, so you'll need a big pot in which to submerge the roast. Also, you'll have to plan ahead for soaking time - a day for poultry, 3 days for pork - and they must be fully plan accordingly!

Chez Panisse Brine
2 1/2 gal. of cold water
2 c kosher salt (table salt works well, too)
1 c sugar
2 bay leaves, torn into pieces
1 bunch fresh thyme, or 4 T dried thyme
1 whole head of garlic, peeled
5 whole allspice berries, crushed
4 juniper berries, crushed

Prepare the brine and soak: place the water in a large pot that can easily hold the liquid and the meat you intend to brine. Add all the ingredients and stir for a minute or so until the sugar and salt to dissolve. Refrigerate poultry in brine for 24 hours; pork for 3 days. If the meat floats to the top, use a plate or other weight to keep it completely submerged in the brine.

To roast: Poultry - stuff cavity with desired herbs (chicken: onions, lemon wedges, herbs such as thyme, parsley, rosemary/ turkey: lemons, herbs, onions as desired). Rub the skin with oil to help browning; sprinkle with fresh pepper - salt is not needed due to the salt in the brine. Cook uncovered in a 400-degree oven until done (about 1 hr 15 min for a 3-4 lb chicken or 12-15 minutes per pound for a turkey). Boneless pork roast: Sprinkle the roast with pepper and herbs such as sage, thyme or tarragon,if desired. Roast uncovered in a 400-degree oven for about 12-15 minutes per pound.

I think you'll find that even the leftovers stay wonderfully moist!

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Friday, October 10, 2008

The Sunday Roast Menu Plan

There is a very old-fashioned way to cook frugally that I want to give a try: The Sunday Roast. Many of our mothers probably grew up in families where their mothers cooked a big Sunday Roast of some sort and then created a variety of meals from that roast the rest of the week. What a wise, simple, frugal and sustainable way to cook!

I'm going to give it a try, want to come along?

For the next couple of weeks, I'll post my Sunday Roast Menu Plan using my weekly Sunday roast as the base for as many meals as I can the rest of the week. I'll post recipes, too. Let's see how this little experiment goes!

Tomorrow, I'll start by posting a favorite recipe of mine: a Brine for a Roast. Then come back on Monday when I post my menu plan for the week. I'll try to add recipes on Monday or during the week.

Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss the menu ideas! (Subscribe via email or RSS.) And let me know what you think of the meal ideas...and if you have some of your own, let me know!!!

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Ceci (Chick Peas) and Tagliatelle Soup

Oh, I meant to post this earlier. It was REALLY good. I kind of made this up after seeing a similar recipe on Lidia's Kitchen (PBS TV show - Italian cooking).

2-3 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
dash of salt
1 lg carrot, sliced
1 lg stalk of celery, chopped (with leafy tops)
2 cans chick peas (Ceci or garbanzo beans), drained, but not rinsed
8 c. chicken broth
1 - 2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 pkg tagliatelle noodles

In large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-high flame. Add onions and sprinkle with dash of salt. Saute until they are transluscent. Add carrot and celery and continue sauteing until all the veggies are tender. Add chick peas and toss to coat. Allow the chick peas to warm up a bit, then add the chicken broth. Add the thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Let the whole thing simmer for at least 20 minutes. You can let it simmer longer at a lower heat for a more flavorful soup. This is what I prefer! Just make sure your herbs are well softened and the soup has good flavor. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

Just before serving, bring the soup to a gentle boil and drop in the noodles (breaking them up a bit on the way into the pot). Cook them for the length of time recommended on the package (mine were done in 4 minutes). Reduce the heat and serve!

I recommend a good hearty bread - or some homemade croutons, too!

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Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

In the past I've made these in the oven and that is a very easy and good way to make them (and a slightly different recipe). But, if you have the time I highly recommend using the stove top method - and this recipe (adapted from a recipe in Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Here it is:

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1/2 c bread crumbs
1 T onion, chopped very finely
1 T parsley, chopped
1 egg
1 T EV olive oil
3 T grated parmesan cheese
dash of ground nutmeg
dashes of salt and pepper
more oil for sauteing
1 can Italian plum tomatoes, chopped up, with their juice

In a large bowl, mix the ground meat, bread crumbs, oniob, parsley, edd, 1 T olive oil, parmesan chese, nutmet, and salt and pepper well. Use your hands or a sturdy spoon - but don't squeeze the meat.

When well mixed, gently shape into balls about 1 in in diameter. You can roll them in more bread crumbs, if you wish. I skip this, though.

In a large saute pan, heat enough oil to come up 1/4 of an inch on the sides - on a med. high heat. When the oil is hot, gently place the meatballs in the oil one at a time. Be careful not to splash the oil. Brown them on all sides (turkey will not "brown", it will get a little golden) - but turn them carefully so they don't break apart.

When done, remove the pan from the heat and tip it slightly. With a spoon, remove as much of the oil as you can. Return the pan to the heat (medium heat) and add the chopped tomatoes - give the pan a pinch salt and a grinding or two of pepper. Gently turn the meatballs to coat them in the sauce. Cover the pan and cook at a very gentle simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Serve alone, over rice or pasta (our preferred way).

These are excellent made ahead of time and then reheated before serving. They also make a great freezer meal.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Hi! I'm so glad you stopped by! If you've visited here before, you know that I am a seasonal cook...with some local and organic, as I am able. I've found that cooking with my local seasons keeps my menus from getting "stale" and makes it much easier to cook with really fresh ingredients. If you are considering going "local", but are daunted by the challenge I encourage you to make the seasonal switch first. Get used to cooking within nature's cycle...which will make local food all that much easier to find!

I am in the Southeast of the US, where we are blessed with a nice long growing season. But our mid-atlantic climate gives us a similar harvest schedule to many other places in the US.

So, what is in season this week:

Chicken is still coming from the Chicken Club, so that is wonderful! We'll get two more harvests and then be done for the season. Since hubby is still not interested in eating beef or pork, I'm going to stock up on organic chicken in my freezer. Still looking for a local farmer who can supply me with about 10 at a time for my freezer.

My local supermarket has started carrying a few truly local items. I say truly because last year they did this and "local" was two or more states away. Not so local. But not they have a mile-based system (I can't remember what it is, but I think it was within 150 miles or so). They had fantastic looking sweet potatoes, so I stocked up on those!

Celery is still coming in strong from our vegetable co-op. I'm using some for kids' snacks, the Ceci & Tagliatelle soup, and a celery risotto. Celery risotto may sound a little plain, but I have it on good authority that it is quite delicious and elegant. I'll let you know!

Broccoli - a little early for us, but my co-op has some, so I'm enjoying it.

Here is this week's menu:
"Emergency" Take out

Supremes a La Milanese (Chicken Breast rolled in parmesan and sauteed in butter), Sweet Potato Chips, steamed broccoli

Ceci (Chick Peas - pronounced: Chay-Chi) & Tagliatelle Soup, Homemade Semolina Bread
I use canned, but you could use dried and just soak and cook them before making the soup.

Meatballs & Tomatoes over pasta
Using good canned italian tomatoes. I know, I know - entirely not local...and canned! Someday I'll grow and can these myself, but until I do, these are the BEST tasting, so I use them without guilt!

Homemade dough, bottled Marinara, mozzerella cheese - none of it particularly seasonal nor local

Succotash, Corn bread, hard boiled eggs
This is just simple, plain, good fare.

Roast Chicken, Squash &Apples, Celery Risotto
I have a brine I'm going to use with this chicken. I'll post the recipe in the next day or two. The squash and apples are so good. Don't tell you kids that it has squash in it and I promise they'll gobble it up!

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