Monthly Archives: December 2013

Freeze or eat your choice

Sometimes I am hard pressed for time to cook a yummy meal during the week!  I also on occasion find it a pain in the butt to cook and I need a break; mostly on Friday nights.  So when I am in the cooking mood, I tend to take a few minutes before I go shopping to gather some ideas for dinners; I do ask the guys what they would like for dinners/ lunches; sometimes I regret this decision; This week they asked for Spaghetti, Chicken Divan, Beef Stew and Homemade ravioli.

Here are a few things I do in large quantities so we can eat some now and I freeze the rest for a later date. Meatballs for spaghetti or they are also great for grinders and I also make Swedish meatballs.  When I do make them I usually double the batch and freeze the leftovers on a sheet pan; once frozen I put them in a ziploc baggie and grab as needed.  While I do love meatballs; I do not like meatloaf; which also freezes very well.  Some will argue that they are basically the same thing but this is a childhood table drama and meatloaf will never be on my menu.  Though I have made it for my husband; probably only 5 or 6 times in the 29 years we have been together.  Wow that actually sounds pretty terrible now that I see it in writing.  You would think I could make it for him at least once a year.  I will consider making a couple for him next weekend; only because his birthday is coming up.

Meatballs

1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 pound ground hamburger
5 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 whole egg
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup bread crumbs, divided
Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork, lamb, beef, spinach, cheese, egg, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs. Using your hands, mix all ingredients until well incorporated. Use immediately or place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup of bread crumbs into a small bowl. Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds,  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Double this and freeze what you don’t use.

I also do this with Lasagna.  It is kind of a pain to get all the ingredients out and make the sauce and assemble etc. So when I make lasagna I usually make 3 or 4 and freeze the balance.   A few blogs ago I gave out a 4 bean chili recipe that freezes very well.  My family especially loves this chili on omelets for breakfast or dinner so I tend to pack them up for the freezer in smaller serving containers.

For those who do not have a ton of freezer space I love to cook a roaster or two if I am feeding several people for Sunday dinner; one for dinner and the other for meals during the week.  The breast meat is wonderful alongside some rice and your favorite veggie later in the week.  I tend to like the dark meat in soups/stews as it will stand up to the cooking process better than breast meat which tends to get stringy and dried out; though you can get by this by adding the chicken once your are done cooking the soup/stew as all it needs is to be heated up.  I always make chicken stock from the bones and either use it immediately for soup or end up freezing it.  A super easy meal is the One Pot Pasta that I also posted in a previous blog and you could use the chicken stock you made on Sunday.

Image

One Pot Pasta

Happy Healthy New Year!

Christmas Boneless Rib Eye Roast Beef

Since we are only going to be 7 for Christmas dinner this year I purchased a 10lb boneless Rib Eye Roast.  My son wanted me to pick up the 14 pounder. He loves leftovers; I think he will have PLENTY of leftovers.

Image

I had to recently replace my leave in meat thermometer as the one I had was possessed; it worked perfectly fine the first 2 or 3 years. but the last couple it would beep whenever it felt like it; it wouldn’t let me choose the temperature I wanted, It shut off whenever it felt like it. Completely useless! I have no idea why it took me so long but I finally after Thanksgiving this year chucked it in the trash.  I did pick up another leave in; while I do have an instant meat thermometer and I use it fairly often;  when I have a house full of people and many side disehes that i am working on. There are so many distractions, I tend to not pay attention to the oven as I should. I have to have a leave in or I will surely overcook something and that would be a tragedy. Not really a tragedy but I feel really bad serving people dried out overcooked meat.  And to be perfectly honest, I hate eating them.

I do tend to cook everything to medium or medium rare; for those who like it cooked longer, I almost always make a gravy or an au jus and I just take a few slices of whatever and put them in the gravy so I can cook them to their liking.  It also helps flavor the gravy even more.  So win win in my book.

A few weeks ago my husband wanted a roast so I thought it would be a good time to test what I was thinking of doing for Christmas. While at the time my local market only had bone in and I was not planning on buying bone in for the big day.  It all works out in the end.  It was funny I thought it was taking forever to cook and since my last thermometer was possessed I was a little worried. But alas it came out prefectly!

Image

Cooked at 350′ uncovered

3 lb Rib Eye Roast

6 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped

3-4 sprigs of fresh Thyme chopped

3-4 Tbs Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

I took the 6 cloves of garlic and some Kosher salt and made a paste by smearing them together over and over again with the edge of my knife until they made a nice paste.  I added some olive oil, fresh thyme and Kosher Salt and Fresh cracked Black Pepper.  I smeared this yummy concoction all over the beef and placed it in my cast iron fry pan and into the oven.  It was very flavorful and had a wonderful crust it was cooked to medium rare perfection. My new leave in timer worked perfectly!

Image

I wish you all a very Happy Holiday Season!

Pomegranate easy peasy!

What a blast we had yet again at our holiday party!  I am so happy I started throwing this party on Friday night.  Getting ready for the party is a lot of work and it being on Friday it makes it feel like I get 2 Sunday’s and boy are they needed after having 50+ people in and out of the house. The dining room table was overflowing with food; I made some but everyone brings a little something to share.  The kitchen seemed to have never ending bottles of wine; not sure we even opened the ones we bought.  The living room had my friend’s piano, him playing and many singers standing over his shoulder trying to read the words, a few made up their own words; which I love.

My “second” Sunday the house is thoroughly cleaned and all the bedding is washed and bed’s re-made.  Also there’s a little time to relax and watch some football.

My “first” Sunday we pick up where needed and since we have several friend s and family members staying over; breakfast is kind of a big deal; it’s much quieter thankfully but I am generally not in any state of mind to make breakfast for so many.  This year there were 15 of us. I do prepare most of it the night before; it makes it So much easier after staying up half the night singing.

In my last post I mentioned that I make Sausage Strata and a Hashbrown casserole the day before; which I did again this year.  There were also bagels, and some other bread options that people brought to share; which was very appreciated. This year I did make a fruit plate on the morning of; so it was fresh with Oranges, Ruby Red Grapefruit both segmented and some Pomegranate seeds.  Everyone liked that I served pomegranate but were very interested in how I got all the seeds out.  After my 4th time explaining it I started telling them that I may have to charge them my typical class fee.

Pomegranate Fruits. Español: Una granada, frut...

Pomegranate Fruits (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pomegranate

Medium bowl – large enough for the fruit and your hands to be under water

Strainer

Water

Fill the bowl with cool water, slice open the pomegranate and then you basically just turn the fruit inside out and the seeds will all fall to the bottom of the bowl.  You do have to work at it a little but there is hardly any mess and they basically all just fall out. Strain the seeds from the water and enjoy. I bet I had most all the seeds out in less than 5 minutes.  I always liked pomegranate but never bought them because they were such a pain and so messy.  Now I will be buying them whenever I see them in the store. I have a feeling that everyone at breakfast might be doing the same thing.  My mother who missed this years party called to see how everything went, I shared this with her also.  She was also excited to try it – too funny!!!

California Rolls in Cancun

So my husband and I spent 5 wonderful days in Cancun for my birthday and our 25th wedding anniversary this last week.  We love heading south whenever we can; Mexico is not usually on our radar ever since our first visit in 1989; however a couple of years ago we were desperate to get away and money was tight. We don’t usually look for all-inclusive resorts either but we wanted something simple and inexpensive.  We found Live Aqua an adult only all-inclusive with great reviews.  We decided to try it out; it was WELL worth the trip.  The place is very clean, the staff if very nice, and the food was excellent.  This trip was no exception; we will definitely go back again.  We did notice s few differences this trip from last; they have more options of places to eat and we loved them all and there were definitely a lot more people this time around; I think the word has leaked out!

I came back to our room with this written on our bed in red colored rice. a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberry's.  He is so sweet!

I came back to our room with this written on our bed in red colored rice. a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberry’s. He is so sweet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My hesitation with Mexico was because in the late 80’s you couldn’t walk off your resort property without being harassed by very persistent people trying to sell timeshares.   I was also 3 months pregnant with my first; so that might have had a little to do with my dislike.  They were also still recovering from hurricane Gilbert that hit in 1988.  The beaches were pretty much non-existent in 1989. We were supposed to go to Cancun for our honeymoon but Gilbert put a kibosh on those plans; we ended up in Barbados – which is one of my top 5 islands to visit.  On our 2011 trip I do recall asking my husband while walking on the beach “was it this nice last time we were here”? They have come a long way and have converted my opinion.

I never in a million years thought that I would be able to take a sushi class while in Mexico.  We were sitting out by the pool and the one of the activity staff was asking if anyone wanted to learn how to make sushi; I signed up immediately.  I have been asked to have a sushi class; my daughter is living in Japan and I made a vow to try to learn to like sushi.  Here was my first chance; and I was excited to try.

Cancun 2013 040

The rice was beyond sticky; I couldn’t get it off of my hands to save my life. It was relatively easy to make; I will definitely need to practice the rolling technique but I think it is attainable. I know that California rolls are not a raw fish variety of sushi; but you’ve got to start somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

California Roll

1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces
4 sheets nori
1/2 batch sushi rice, recipe follows
1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into matchstick-size pieces
4 crabsticks, torn into pieces
Pickled ginger, for serving
Wasabi, for serving
Soy sauce, for serving

Cover a bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap. Cut nori sheets in half crosswise. Lay 1 sheet of nori, shiny side down, on the plastic covered mat. Wet your fingers with water and spread about 1/2 cup of the rice evenly onto the nori. Turn the sheet of nori over so that the rice side is down. Place 1/8 of the cucumber, avocado and crab sticks in the center of the sheet. Grab the edge of the mat closest to you, keeping the fillings in place with your fingers, and roll it into a tight cylinder, using the mat to shape the cylinder. Pull away the mat and set aside.  Cut each roll into 6 pieces. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce.

Sushi Rice

2 cups sushi or short grain rice
2 cups water, plus extra for rinsing rice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Place the rice into a mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Swirl the rice in the water, pour off and repeat 2 to 3 times or until the water is clear.

Place the rice and 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi.

Yield: 4 cups

We had some very good friends of ours were staying down the road with a bunch of their friends; totally unplanned;  we all met up for a very nice dinner at La Cappilla which was in the Marriott Hotel about halfway between our hotel and theirs.  We were one of 6 couples and 5 couples ordered the same meal Chateaubriand for two.  I just had to show you the pictures; it was simply AMAZING

Cancun 2013 056

Chateaubriand for two –
Center cut tenderloin 22 oz. for $690 peso’s
There was barely enough room for all the platters.

There were two of these on the platter.  Shear garlic heaven.

There were two of these on the platter. Shear garlic heaven.

Christmas Party Prep – Strata & Hashbrown Casserole

We have an annual Christmas party usually the 2nd Friday of December.  It is generally an eclectic group of friends.  Some years we have 20 people coming and going other years 50+ I think last year was well over 50 people I serioulsy stopped counting.  We have a good friend that comes dressed as Santa most years – he has a wicked side so he tends to brings nips for the adults, thankfully there are not many kids that come but if they do, Santa is always a huge hit and plays nice with the kids and takes pictures.  It is super cute.

christmas 2012 011

My house tends to be pretty crazy with people coming and going all night but it is always fun.  Last year we had 13 people stay over; there were makeshift beds and bodies everywhere I swear. Breakfast was for 18; my in-laws live next door and housed some other party goers. Thankfully for the following 2 breakfast casserole dishes that I make up the day before; my husband was able to make breakfast for everyone, I was a little under the weather – if you know what I mean.  I also make some sort of bread or muffin the day before.  Just in case….

Strata:

4 Slices of white bread

3 breakfast sausage crumbled and cooked

1 pint of egg beaters + 2 eggs – mixed

1 1/2 Cups milk – mix with above eggs

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 Scallions or Several chives

1-2 tsp thyme

Kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper

Spray a 9/13 pan with cooking spray, rip the bread in pieces and fill the bottom of the dish. Cover with cheese and the cooked sausage.  Slowly poor the egg & milk mixture over the bread and sausage; sprinkle with thyme, scallions, salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and let set overnight.  Next morning; take out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter while the oven pre-heats to 350’ remove plastic and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

Hashbrown Casserole:

3-4 pieces of your favorite breakfast sausage crumbled and browned

Bag of hashbrown (frozen section)

1 medium onion diced

2 Tbs butter

2-3 Tbs flour

1 cup milk

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

Crumble and brown the breakfast sausage; remove from the pan (leaving the grease) and set aside.  Add hashbrowns a little at time – I like to make sure they are a little browned and crunchy.  Remove potatoes and set aside.  Add and melt the butter add the onion and cook till softened.  Add the flour to make a roux – should be consistency of wet sand. Cook for about 3-4 minutes; add the milk all at once; stir and cook till thickened approx. 8 minutes.  You are going to want to mix sausage, potatoes, onions and roux well and put in a 9×13 pan and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Again I like them pretty browned.

One of our very good friends comes and plays the piano, we start out with all the Christmas carols we know and love. We hand out homemade booklets with all the words to the carols. One of my favorite quotes from one of my guests was “why is there a piano over there? I am NOT singing Christmas carols!  By the end of the night, he was not only requesting songs, he was actually singing solos – LOVE IT!!!!  We always save the best song for last The 12 Days of Christmas, we assign; actually by this time people are volunteering to be a certain day. Rich and his crew are always 5 golden rings. Quite comical since this is the only song my husband sings.  But he does it with such panache let me tell you arms open wide and there is no mistaken what they are singing!!!

christmas 2012 031

After caroling we break out the old standards.  Elton John, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Abba and whatever show tunes we think we can sing.  Last year was the first year we were able to belt out Bohemian Rhapsody in its entirety.  I may have had my cocktail hearing aids on (remember above me being slighlty under the weather the next morning) but we sounded AMAZING!

I am so looking forward to this year’s party – every year we talk about finding words to songs and displaying them on the flat screen, we find reading over the “Piano Man’s” (as we have dubbed him) shoulder at those tiny little words is just damn near impossible these days.  It stinks having older eyes. Maybe I will spend some quality time between now and then to see if I could do something about it.  If anyone has any ideas, please share how to make this happen.

I do have another unconventional way of getting ready for the Holiday’s – we on occasion spend a few days after Thanksgiving in the Caribbean somewhere.  This being my husband and my 25th Wedding Anniversary we are currently in Cancun enjoying some rest, relaxation, sun and a massage or two.

Cancun 2011 532

Cancun 2011 518

Cancun 2011 581

Happy Holidays!!!!