Tomato Soup

It’s Easter Sunday. We are done with the lunch and egg hunt that we attend every year at the Thomas Hub (which is what I think I will call our Aunt Judy’s house from now on).  Naturally stuffed on ham and other goodies, and completely exhausted from the day’s activities, we got home and wondered what we would do about dinner.  We wanted something simple and not too filling, mostly something to keep us from going to bed hungry.  So Aaron and I decided that grilled cheese sandwiches were the easiest answer.

We almost always have tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.  I didn’t understand this when I met my husband, but I certainly do now.  In fact, that’s just about the only time I eat tomato soup.  Sadly, we didn’t have any in the house (we usually get Campbell’s Select Harvest) but we did have a can of tomato paste.  So I decided it was time to experiment.

I used one can (six ounces) of tomato paste.  I added two tablespoons of butter, a teaspoon or two of both garlic and onion powder, and some basil paste I had in the fridge that I need to use up.  Now, if you were being a good little cook and not lazy like I am, you would saute one or two cloves of garlic with somewhere between a quarter and a half of a small onion.  When the onions were soft you would then add the tomato paste.  You would also use fresh basil chopped finely, and not paste out of a tube like I used.  But like I said, I’m a lazy cook.  I then added a few shakes of the Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste.  When everything was mixed well I added three cups of milk and kept it on medium high until it just started to boil.  At that point I turned the heat down just a touch and let it simmer for a bit, maybe another ten minutes.  Be sure to check and taste it from time to time to make sure you don’t need to add any salt, pepper, or other seasonings.

The kids dipped their sandwiches in it without too much argument.  I enjoyed it.  Aaron declared that we were never going to buy soup in a can again.  I guess that means he liked it.


Easter Cookies

It’s time to stuff baskets with goodies, and I wanted to treat my kids with something a little more special than the standard store bought stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, I bought candy, but that’s not all that’s in their baskets.

I went looking for a sugar cookie recipe (so I could make shapes, obviously) and went to my usual go-to resource for All Things Food.  When I did a search for sugar cookies on The Pioneer Woman’s blog, This Recipe   popped up.  The fact that they were decorated with a glaze instead of being covered in frosting appealed to me.  So, using the only spring themed cookie cutter that I own (a flower, which can also double as a snow flake) I baked a batch of lovely easter cookies.

I used blue and yellow for the glaze, mostly because those were the only colors I found in the pantry that were not green (Who said I was good at planning?)  I also did not have shortening, so I used butter.  Shortening would have probably made them a touch softer, but they are a rather pleasant texture with butter.  And I didn’t use the egg whites in the frosting.  If I were serving them today, or only eating them myself, I might have.  But the Idea of using raw egg on cookies that aren’t going to be eaten until Sunday made me feel icky.  A note on the frosting – if you’re going to forgo the egg white (I have no idea how it alters the frosting) be sure to let the frosting begin to set up just a bit.  I made mine a tiny bit too runny, and some of the flowers look like they are… um… pollenating vigorously.

But otherwise, aren’t they pretty?

Have a lovely week, whatever you celebrate.

-Angela


Warm Pudding

I was in a bad mood yesterday.  I wanted chocolate, and thought that I wanted to bake, but decided against it for laziness reasons.  So, for kicks, I pulled out my pudding recipe and added cocoa to it.

First, the basic vanilla version…

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups milk, divided

Pinch salt

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Directions

Place 2 cups milk and salt in a saucepan. Sprinkle sugar on milk.  Let them sit for a minute without stirring for at least a few minutes; heat over medium-high. Quickly combine cornstarch with remaining milk; add egg yolks and mix well. When milk comes to a full boil, remove saucepan from the heat and stir in cornstarch mixture (I always temper the egg/cornstarch mixture first).  Return to the heat and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla and butter. Pour into individual dishes. Serve warm.

Now I took this recipe and added 1/2 cup of cocoa powder to the egg mixture.  It was tasty, but extremely rich.  I would recommend starting with 1/4 cup of cocoa for a less intense flavor.

Also note, this recipe is meant to be served warm.  If you chill  it before eating, it will start to get a bit gloopy.  It still tastes wonderful, it’s just not as smooth and pretty as it is when it’s warm.

I would have taken a picture, but I devoured all of it before I thought about it.




Palak Paneer (sort of)

There is a dish that I would love to learn how to make properly.  It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re getting closer!  Tonight I made lentils and rice (rice cooker, one cup lentils, one cup rice, some turmeric, salt, and if you like, a little ground cumin) and the desire struck me to have something green and vegetable like on the table.  I went and looked up various recipes for Palak Paneer, and sort of winged it.

I have always been under the impression that this dish required yogurt, but none of the recipes I found listed it.  One called for sour cream, which I just found weird.  One called for heavy cream which sounded fine, but I didn’t have any and wound up adding whole milk.  I was also out of paneer cheese, seeing as how I still haven’t learned how to make it (must correct this soon) and I have yet to find a store near me that sells it.

I don’t have any idea how much of anything I used.  When I finally get the blasted dish right, then I’ll worry about measuring and writing down what I’ve done.  I know this doesn’t make sense, but it’s how I work.  I grabbed some garlic and put it through the press because it’s easier than chopping, and tossed it into some olive oil and cooked it a bit.  I also tossed in some chopped onion, ginger, ground coriander, cumin seeds, turmeric, and a touch of red pepper (I don’t know, it’s the stuff in my husband’s special Indian food spice kit).  When the onions looked clear I added all of the spinach I could find in my fridge and cooked it down until it just looked like I had hardly any spinach at all.  At this point I added a tablespoon or two of tomato paste.

I took everything out of the pan and put it into a food processor.  I poured in a bit more olive oil and hit the button.  After a few seconds I grabbed the milk and added a little at a time, pulsing the mix in between pours.  When it was just a little too thin I pulled it out and put it in a small pan to simmer for a bit.  When it had the right consistency (and a pretty close flavor) I pulled it off to let it cool for a bit.

Like I said before, I didn’t have any paneer cheese, so I used what was in the fridge.  What was in the fridge happened to be goat cheese.  I think this is where things when horribly wrong.  The goat cheese melted into the palak way too easily.  It also had such an overpowering flavor that it took over the whole dish.  Since I think goat cheese is wonderful and can do no wrong, this wasn’t entirely a problem for me, but it just wasn’t… right.

I still have not mastered this dish, but believe me, when I do, you’ll know!


Chilli

So!

Remember when I said we were going to do chicken strips and a steak and all that? Well…things happened. School, my kid getting sick and the metroplex I live in becoming covered in a sea of ice. When it came down to it I could write both of those posts right now, but without pictures it kind of feels..pointless, and last night, when the world was frozen and shivering and everyone in my life was teeth chattering cold, I decided to knock out one of my major monthly contributions to our house’s dinner rotations and make a big batch of chilli.

Now before I begin, I want to state that even if I live in Texas, I do not make Texas Chilli. Texas Chilli does not have beans, and there’s a whole bunch of other rules to it and frankly while I enjoy it when I eat it, I live with northerners and I enjoy beans in mine. So if you’re gonna complain about it, then take them out in your mind. Just imagine my household living in a lovely bean free state and all will be well.

So basically, like most of my recipes there’s no real measurements I can provide you..unfortunately I cook by feel, which I think is perhaps the best way to do things like this but I could be wrong. However, my advice is simple, start with a little, and add more. Of everything. Start with a little, taste, and taste, and taste as you go and soon you’ll start to get a ‘feel’ for things.

Right! So with all that said lets begin!

First I take two pounds of ground pork, and two pounds of ground beef and toss it into the pot I’m going to make the chilli in. I brown the whole mess while covering it with a whole slew of things.

3-4 tablespoons of garlic Depending on your love of garlic

1ish tablespoon of Cumin, Oregano, Chilli Powder and whatever strikes your fancy. Cilantro is a good one too.

Then a couple teaspoons of salt and pepper.

 

When the meat is all browned and good, I drain it thoroughly and put it back in the pan. I then add two big cans of crushed tomatoes, and two big cans of tomato sauce. Then a large can of tomato paste and three drained cans of red kidney beans (though I’m dying to try some other beans, like black or the like) and then add a couple more table spoons of garlic, more cumin and oregano and chilli powder and salt and pepper..

Stir it up thoroughly, and taste. It will be a touch..strong here or should be but not too spicy and overwhelming. Bring to a good bubbling simmer and leave on low heat for at least three hours. Tasting throughout and adding whatever you feel is lacking.

I then make cornbread to go with it and serve it with Cornbread which can be eaten on the side, or crumbled up and mixed in. I also give cheese and sourcream and if we’re having company some chips.

I purposefully make a big pot of it when I make it so that we can put into freezer bags in dinner sized portions and thaw it out and reheat it for lunches or dinner as we see fit. It’s a great way to have something on hand that everyone enjoys!

I hope you all enjoy!!

Mmm Chilli.


Coming attractions

I fear that this little bit of quiet is coming at the end of a little bit of nasty fall, and some more settling into routines. However, I still have ideas and things to post on here! I was thinking of doing a a steak broiling tutorial, and we recently made home made chicken strips here that were awesome and I wanted to share them so there is content waiting to make it’s appearance on this stage!

 

I will try to get the tutorial for making a steak up on here this afternoon, but I make no promises. I have a lab exam to study for. Hopefully my lovely assistants will be posting something soon as well!

 

-Jess


Adaptable Handful Dinner Bowls

As the only singleton in this motley crew of kitchen witches, you’d think I would be either subsisting on Cheerios and takeout all the time, or I would be obsessed with preparing the most elaborate dishes I could afford.

…well, I DO like Cheerios…

In all seriousness, my schtick is to cook things that are simple, but not easy, and yet still yummy. It curbs my urge to dirty up all the dishes I own, see, but doesn’t produce anything inedible.

My favorite thing to do lately has hinged on the fact that I’ve begun keeping two sealed bowls in the refrigerator – one full of brown rice and one full of shredded Brussels sprouts. Using these two things plus a small array of other ingredients, I can produce a delicious, filling, and I think even semi-nutritious meal in about twenty minutes. Here’s what happened with my latest one – and I am sorry I have no photos, but it was eaten much too quickly.

I sweated a small handful of chopped onion in some olive oil until it got a bit translucent, then added a tablespoon of minced garlic. Yes, I can and do chop my own garlic, but I don’t have anything against the jarred stuff, and that’s what I used here.

Once the garlic smelled fantastic, I tossed in a handful (see where I got the name?) of pre-cooked chicken breast pieces and a handful of snow peas. Those got stirred around until the peapods were a really bright green.

This is when I threw in some of the rice, a generous splash of soy sauce, and an egg. I was going for something akin to fried rice, and I wanted some serious protein because I started ballet class this week and I was feeling it.

Maybe next time I will put the rice in with the chicken and leave the peapods for a little later, because the peapods were a little limp by the time I was sure the egg was cooked.  I don’t mind limp peapods, but I know it isn’t optimal.

At any rate, I stirred the whole thing around until the egg was cooked, and then I tossed in a little more soy sauce and a handful of sprouts. The sprouts don’t need long – you don’t want them to get overcooked and vile-smelling. Really, two or three minutes should do it. You want them bright, a little crisp, and warmed through.

When you are as done as you want to be, scoop some out into a nice deep bowl and store the rest for lunch the next day. Eat like it is going out of style.

The great thing is that this is so adaptable. Use quinoa instead of brown rice. If you’re wimpy about sprouts, choose another hardy green, like bok choy or chard or cabbage. Instead of peapods, use asparagus spears or broccoli pieces or none of these things. I’m toying with the idea of toasting some pine nuts and throwing them in, if I can bring myself to buy them (are they made of gold? sheesh). I have often had my handful bowl without any meat in it at all, and most days I don’t use egg, either.

The idea is to experiment until you find what you like, and the key to all of it is to have at least two bowls of ingredient – one whole grain and one hardy, leafy green – on hand at all times. I do my prep on these Sunday afternoon while watching TV or listening to music. It takes maybe a half hour of my time to do it, and I find it is actually pretty soothing and it makes me feel good to have taken a firm hand in knowing what I am eating.

Which, all in all, is not a bad thing to do.


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