Easy Fried Rice
How I concocted last weekend’s Turkey Spinach Artichoke Chowder - definitely a rough draft (speaking as a writer), but it was delicious (husband raved) and I will be making a final version the next time I have turkey gravy (may be a while):
I wasn’t paying attention to amounts (I rarely do), but the base of this soup was leftover turkey gravy (from Christmas dinner) and chicken broth.
I made the meatballs out of ground turkey, frozen chopped spinach (defrosted in the microwave), parmesan (the canned stuff, I admit it), garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and - here’s the weird part - cream cheese. Next time I would soften the cream cheese and thoroughly mix it with the seasonings before adding it to the meat, but this time I got away with putting it in the mixture in random chunks (I tried to distribute evenly) and letting them melt into the soup.
So basically, I brought the base (gravy/broth) to a boil, added in roasted red potatoes I had frozen (you could use fresh, but just cook longer), reboiled, lowered to simmering, and added the meatballs (making them as I went - plop, plop, plop).
Then I added some quartered (or maybe it was halved) canned artichoke hearts (that I had frozen, but I don’t think that matters).
After ten minutes or so, I thickened it by adding potato starch and sour cream (next time I will dissolve the potato starch into the sour cream - or a cupful of soup - to avoid glops).
Cooked for another five minutes and it was done.
The Dip that Launched a Thousand Ships
A long while ago, although perhaps not quite as far back as ancient Greece (despite the title), I discovered a unique dip recipe on food.com. I made it, tweaked it to my taste/texture preferences, and brought it to a party. It got so many compliments that I started to taking it to all the parties. And when I say parties, I mean church potlucks, moms night outs, baby showers, etc. Despite being an introvert, I am, as it turns out, a total partier, in the best sense of the word. I love food and I like people. Sometimes. The people always want to know WHAT IS IN THIS DIP? Before trying it, they are wary of the bright yellow color ("Is it French's mustard?" Heck no, but that has its place, like on a hot dog). I tell them the key ingredients and they either eagerly take the plunge or move right along. Once they've tasted it, they want the full recipe for this magical concoction that sweeps you away to the terrace of a villa overlooking the serene, sparkling Mediterranean sea, with all those pretty, deep blue-domed white buildings and pastel cottages decorating the coastline.
Curry Garlic Feta Dip
4 oz feta cheese
4 oz cottage cheese
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 C sour cream
1/4 C mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves
1 t yellow curry powder
1/2 t dried dill weed
1/4 t dried oregano (optional)
1/8 t ground black pepper (optional)
Blend all ingredients in a food processor (I like the Ninja) or blender until smooth. Taste and see if it needs any more curry or dill. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Serve with crackers, veggies, sweet potato fritters (that was an accidental discovery at a party - love it when two potluck dishes find each other and fall in love!), whatever you like...
I'm not much of a breakfast person, unless it's savory (eggs, bacon, etc.), but as a child, one of my favorite treats was going to my grandparents' house and having my Jewish grandpa make his famous cottage cheese pancakes. I still remember the ritual of my grandma getting out my vinyl Mickey Mouse bib, him mixing jam with sour cream (topping), and setting a plate of heaven in front of me. I've recreated his recipe many times over, but recently having discovered the goodness of gluten-free flour as well as my new favorite tool - the Ninja (blender) - I've been experimenting again. The other day I came up with what I think (and the rest of the family agrees) is the best recipe yet, so enjoy...
2 cups cottage cheese (small curd, 4%)
1/2 cup gluten-free flour (tapioca, potato, rice blend)
1/2 cup almond meal (from Trader Joe's)
1 T baking powder
vanilla extract, to taste
coconut oil (for frying)
1. Put all ingredients in your blender and whizz. Adjust amounts of flour (they're approximate) to get a thick, moist, pourable consistency.
2. Cook by the heaping tablespoon over medium heat with a tablespoon of oil per batch (I used a non-stick pan, so I reduced the oil and the heat with each batch).
Joy of Cooking apple crisp recipe but unpeeled apples and sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar before adding topping. Served with Trader Joe's caramel sauce and cookie butter ice cream.
Potato Spinach Sausage Soup
It rained for an hour this afternoon and that was all it took to put me in the mood for soup. I was on the countdown with the spinach from Costco (today is the "best use by" date) and my red potatoes have seen better days, so what better to marry them then a rich broth made from spicy sausage and cream (actually half and half)?
Potato Spinach Sausage Soup
1 T butter (I actually used bacon fat from pastured pigs)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 stalks celery, finely chopped (I used my mini-chopper)
1 1/2-2 lbs small red potatoes, quartered
4-6 cups spinach
1.5 pounds spicy sausage (or add spices to ground pork - I did a mixture of both, from pastured pigs)
4 cups water
1/2-1 cup half and half
1. Saute onion and celery in butter (or bacon fat) for five minutes in a stock pot.
2. Stir in garlic and saute for one minute.
3. Pour in water and add about a teaspoon of sea salt (or to taste).
4. Turn up the heat to high, add potatoes, seasonings (to taste) and bring to a boil.
5. Turn to down to a simmer, form the sausage into meatballs (about 1" in diameter), and drop them into the broth, one by one (or all at once, if you read this and decided to make the meatballs in advance, and then let them cook for a few minutes).
6. Pour the spinach on top, spreading it out across the pot, then gently stirring it (it's okay if the meatballs break up a little, or even if they totally crumble).
7. Simmer until meat is fully cooked and spinach is nicely wilted.
8. Stir in the half and half and simmer until heated through.
9. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese, black pepper, and red pepper flakes at the table.
Souped Up Tomato Soup
In an effort to cut back on carbs - especially refined grains - I am trying to find tasty, workable substitutes for crackers, chips, basically anything crunchy or doughy (just typing that gives me cravings). Arriving home from homeschool park day around 3pm, my snack brain turned on and I started thinking out of the (bread) box as I contemplated my options, not wanting to repeat anything I had already eaten today, which meant no eggs, cheese, nuts, or fruit.
When I went to the pantry to get a bottle of apple cider vinegar (for mixing with garlic olive oil to dip carrots), I noticed a can of skipjack tuna from Trader Joe's. I always buy the wild albacore tuna from Costco, but something about that name just made me want to try it, even though it's chunk light. I knew that I still wanted protein, and near the can of tuna was a jar of sliced dill pickles (also from TJ's) - the kind I usually chop and put in tuna salad.
It occurred to me that the pickles were the right shape for rolling, and then I realized that other tuna salad mix-ins could also work, like pickled jalapeno peppers and pepperoncini. So I mixed the tuna with a little mayo (just enough to moisten it), and voila, inside out tuna rolls! I did add a little chopped onion after the first taste, because you know, onions and pickles...
The only one not pictured is the artichoke heart. It was okay, but it needed something, so I dropped it in the leftover vinaigrette dip from my carrot snack and let it marinate for a few minutes. Then when I topped it with the tuna, it was delightful. My favorite, though, was the stuffed pepperoncini.
I didn't use celery because I had already had that earlier in the day with cream cheese and lox - if you add capers, it's a grown-up version of ants on a log...or you could do dill for termites :)
Another low-carb way I sometimes eat canned tuna is mixed with cottage cheese and salsa. Next time, I'm going to try it with Sriracha mayo on a cucumber slice...mmm...
Enter the Buffet Lunch
Decided to make it easier on myself and give the children a self-serve lunch - cold cuts, cheeses, crackers, fruits, and nuts. They thought it was glorious. Not sure why it took me this long to come up with such a basic idea!
It was gratifying to see them consider one another, asking if they could take the last piece and graciously assenting to each other.
They tried more foods than usual - my 8 yr-old even said "salami tastes better than I thought it would" and my son took tangerine (not his favorite) because of the creativity that buffet style eating sparked.
They didn't have to keep asking for seconds, thirds, etc., yet they seemed to know when to stop eating.
The next step is getting them to assemble the buffet...judging from my track record, that will happen by the time they're teens ;)
When I got out the red onions at at 1pm to make egg salad (my 3rd attempt), I noticed they were going moldy...so I consulted the slow cooker French onion soup recipe I had pinned to Pinterest, sliced the onions (4) and put them in the crockpot with 1/4 cup butter, 4 cups beef broth, and a splash of worcestershire sauce. Then we had to leave for piano lessons, so I (yet again) didn't have time to make the egg salad (I need the colored eggshells for a mosaic project - also from Pinterest - I'm leading in our co-op art class next week. I also need to use up the lox from Costco whose expiration date was last week).
When we got back home, I thought my husband must have made something really savory for lunch (he had come home right when we were leaving) until I remembered I was cooking soup. About four o'clock it occurred to me to beef it up - literally - with that leftover uncooked slab of pot roast I had saved in the freezer. So I defrosted the meat in the microwave, put it in the soup, and turned it up to high. At 6:15, I pulled the meat out, cut it into smaller pieces, and put it back in. I tasted the broth and decided it needed more flavor, so I added a half cup of red wine and another cup of beef broth, as well as more worcestershire and a good shake of granulated garlic (it's my go-to ingredient). I turned it back down to low.
No gruyere in the house (never is) nor any oven safe soup bowls (been meaning to get some for over a decade), so I got the sliced sourdough out of the freezer, defrosted four large slices in the microwave, meanwhile grated sharp white cheddar and mozzarella (in the form of multiple string cheese sticks) into a gallon ziploc bag (yet another Pinterest find, but I think it may have originated with Cooks Illustrated - it all blurs together after the last million websites or so). I lined a cookie sheet with foil, put the bread (each slice cut in half) on it, and sprinkled the cheese evenly on all the pieces. I stuck it in the broiler and then grated a bunch more cheese which I put at the bottom of each soup bowl. When the cheese toast was done, I ladled the soup into the bowls, floated a toast in each bowl, and topped with the rest of the grated cheese.
With freshly ground pepper, a glass of the aforementioned wine (the soup gave me an excuse to open the bottle), and the oohs and ahs of the whole family (at least in the beginning until my picky ten year-old began to complain of soggy bread), including raves from my husband who deemed it restaurant quality (he used to work in some posh ones), I sat down to a very enjoyable dinner I hadn't expected to make. And that is why I will never be someone who menu plans ;)
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