Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Coconut Sweet Potato Fries with Sweet Curry Dip

Whoaa Nellie! Hold everything. This is two posts in one day for me. I wish I could say it's because I have extra time on my hands, but alas the truth is a little more centered on reality. My kind of reality, in the form of Procrastination with a capital P. Today is the final day to enter the blogger recipe contest for North Carolina Sweet Potatoes. I got busy creating an afternoon snack that will wake up those drowsy mid day taste buds. North Carolina sweet potatoes are tossed with a bit of chipotle, garlic, and a pinch of curry and coconut. After a hot roast in the oven, they're plunked into a sweet curry dipping sauce that is completely addictive. These fries are guilt free so go get yourself some North Carolina Sweet Potatoes and give them a roast and a dunk! I'm going to go grab somemore myself.

Coconut Sweet Potato Fries with Sweet Curry Dipping Sauce
Estimated Cost: $3.00
1 large North Carolina Sweet Potato, peeled and cut for thick french fries
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/3 cup sweetened coconut
For Sauce:
1/3 cup whole milk plain yogurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, combine North Carolina sweet potatoes with oil, curry powder, garlic powder, chipotle chili powder and salt and pepper. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place fries on cookie sheet. Bake fries for 20 minutes, stir coconut into fries. Bake ten to twenty minutes longer, or until tender. Place fries with coconut on plate, arranging coconut on top of fries if desired. Meanwhile, combine yogurt, mustard, curry powder, and brown sugar for sauce.

Up Next:Coconut Chicken Curry

See below for Tuesdays with Dorie!

Toasted Coconut and Lime Shortbread Bars

Why, it was just last week that I wrote that there always seemed to be a reason to celebrate around Tuesday. It feels like harmony in the universe when I'm baking for a real reason, besides my passionate devotion to sugar, and Tuesdays with Dorie of course, my weekly baking club.

But today, and it's Monday as I write this, I have a legitimate reason for merriment. My little sister brought a brand new baby girl into the world this afternoon. A pink and perfect little baby to add to her pink and perfect collection of three at home. I've only called the hospital a grand total of 36.5 times (.5 because I don't really count the time I called and hung up.) I'm an Aunt. I know it's kind of old news, since I've been an Aunt since I was eight years old and I currently have more than forty nieces and nephews, but it will never go out of style with me. I'm proud to be an Aunt and delighted to be a part of a large and loving family. So celebrate with me this time, if you're looking for a reason. If you're not, then this cookie ought to be reason enough. They were fantastic; I mean really truly phenomenally delicious. I made my husband hide the last one away, but like an addict, I was searching the cupboards and finally crawled back and asked him where it was. But he had already eaten it. Wise and good quiet man, couldn't you have saved the last one for me? But I can't be ruffled on a day like today. The happiest days are when babies are born.
Money Saving Tips:
I left out the macadamia nuts on this one; they still rank as a luxury nut in my book, so I never have them in the cupboard. This cookie uses both the zest and juice of a lime-perfect money saving tactic. I leave my coconut on top of the cookie, where it gets the most bang for the coconut lovers, and where I can leave it off for the coconut nay sayers. I toast my coconut in the microwave on a paper towel; the process takes about 1 minute. Stop the microwave every 10-15 seconds and stir the coconut; repeat until toasted.
Toasted Coconut and Lime Shortbread Cookies
Estimated Cost: $1.75 for a bitty batch
Notes: I've changed this recipe up a bit, so I'm sharing my tweakings.
1/2 cup softened salted butter
1/3 cup sugar
zest of one lime
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
dash of salt
juice of one lime
1/2 cup powdered sugar, more or less
1/2 cup toasted coconut
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a loaf pan with buttered tin foil. In a small bowl, cream butter, sugar and lime zest until nice and fluffy. Add flour and just a dash of salt. Pat into prepared pan and bake for about 20-30 minutes (or longer; watch for the entire surface to be bubbly-not just the edges.) Cool on counter. Prepare glaze by combining powdered sugar and lime juice until smooth. Pour over cooled cookies and sprinkle with coconut. Yum!
Up Next:
Coconut Chicken Curry

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sure Fire Salsa and Seventh Graders

Is it possible to feel old and young in the same moment? When I gave my cooking presentation to this group of 60 seventh graders, I felt infantile enough to wish that my mother was there with me. Or at least a really cool uncle with a motorcycle. But, I also felt ancient, since I was the only person in the room with wrinkles, love handles, and clothing items that were bought more than six months ago. (I wore my black beaded mini cardigan that I've had for more than a decade. I'll probably wear it to my own funeral.) I brought my own two charges, since they are homeschooled and must go whereever Professor Pennywise goes, whether it be Target, the DMV, or a junior high home ec class. My Sailor girl picked out some pretty seventh graders and quickly made friends, but my little cowboy West hid behind an overhead projector for most of the time. That didn't stop some of the extroverted boys from offering him some high fives, which he greatly appreciated, because even when hiding behind an overhead projector, it's nice to be greeted by others.
Are seventh graders nicer now than I remember? Because everyone was attentive, interested, quiet, and sometimes even laughed at my corny jokes. I don't remember being that nice, especially when there were sixty people around to talk to. For my cooking demonstration, I made my super fast blender salsa. Whenever I teach a cooking class, I almost always start off with this salsa recipe because it's fast, healthy, cheap, and infinitely useable. Plus, it's popular, and that's important in junior high. I promised the seventh graders that I would post the recipe on my blog, so maybe a couple of them will wander over and get another glimpse at the recipe. And for all of you older kids, from ages seventh grade to ninety-two, if you haven't made this one yet, make it today. It'll make you feel younger instantly.

Money Saving Tips:
Buy up cases of tomatoes when they go on sale. If you can't find cheap tomatoes with jalapenos, buy a jalapeno separately and use plain diced tomatoes. A lemon can swap in for the lime also. Use up some of the tender cilantro stems to save extra money here.
Super Fast Blender Salsa
Estimated Cost: $$1.50
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 white onion, chopped
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes with jalapenos, undrained
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, with some tender stems
juice of 1 lime
salt, to taste
Combine ingredients in the blender in the order listed. Puree until smooth, or leave a little chunky, if desired.
NextUp:
Coconut Lime Short Bread Cookies

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Patty Melts with Honey Balsamic Onions

My mother made a nice dinner every night-just about. If we had a friend that had come over to play, we could invite them for dinner without informing my mother. She would have expected it. After all, when you're feeding ten children, what's one or two more, give or take? But one night, my older sister had a boy over after school. A boy, like a boyfriend kind of boy. We younger kids trailed them around the yard (jumping on his back and asking for piggy back rides) until they told us to scram, and then we went into the house, huddled around the window, and watched them shoot basketball. It's pretty exciting to watch your older tomboy sister slaughter a potential suitor at the hoop. After the game, my sister invited her new friend to stay to dinner. I remember the night so distinctly. Normally, before dinner the table was a lively, boisterous place where we exchanged the goings-on of the day while Dad quizzed us on our gleanings from public education. But this night, it was different. We sat quietly, almost reverently, not having anything to say. Maybe it was because the boyfriend looked painfully shy, staring up from his plate, akwardly folding his arms to give one of the world's shortest and quietest prayers. (You better believe my dad asked HIM to offer the prayer. Clever man.) My mom went into the kitchen and brought in a tray of Patty Melts for dinner. They looked so delicious, meaty patties covered with caramelized onions and gobs of melted cheese. I remember counting them silently, wondering if there was enough for seconds-and what if the visitor wanted seconds too? Did a friend that was a boy have patty melt priority? Not in my ten year old mind (or thirty something year old mind either). And suddenly things were back to ear-piercing normal. Thankfully, once we started eating, we remembered all of the daily minutia that we had to fight, between mouthfuls, for a chance to share. Dinner was unforgettable. I can't make a Patty Melt without thinking of that night, the only time that a boy friend got a moment of quiet at our dinner table. PS The names of the innocent have been protected in this story. My sister would kill me if I mentioned her name, but if you want a hint, its the same sister that curses the existence of bananas.
Money Saving Tips:Have you got any rye bread left over from St. Patrick's Day? It'll be great here-even if it's a little stale. Catch your ground beef on sale to keep the cost of this sandwich down. Any bread can be substituted for rye with good results. Use yellow or white onions if you don't have a red one on hand.
Patty Melts
Estimated Cost: $6.50 for four
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
a few drops of tabasco
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or balsamic
1 tablespoon honey
8 slices rye bread, toasted and lightly buttered
shredded cheddar cheese, about 1 cup
Combine ground beef with garlic powder, worcestershire, tabasco and about 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Shape into patties. Heat non stick skillet over medium high heat. Cook patties for about 6 minutes per side, or until desired doneness. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over high heat. Add oil and warm through. Add onions and cook for about 2 minutees, or until just browned. Reduce heat and cook until softened, about three more minutes. Add vinegar and honey; cook just until syruppy. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat broiler. Arrange half of toasted bread on foil lined cookie sheet. Top each with a patty, some onions, and some shredded cheese. Broil just until cheese melts. Top with remaining toasted bread.
Up Next:
Coconut Curry Chicken

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mini Blueberrry Cakes and Good News

Oh, ain't life grand? I've got a little spring in my step since I had a spot of good news this week. I've been invited to participate in the National Cornbread Cooking Festival in Tennessee next month. Do any of you live near South Pittsburg, TN? I'd love to see you there. I'll be making an Italian Four Cheese and Sausage Lover's Pie and hoping to impress the judges for a crack at the $5000 prize. I doubt I have much of a chance since I know a few of the other competitors, and they are seriously talented cooks. Still, I'm honored to even be invited, to be able to attend the fun festival and hopefully meet one or two of you. Good news calls for a sweet celebration of sorts, like this homey little blueberry cake. How convenient that I always need to celebrate just in time for my baking assignment with Tuesdays with Dorie. Greenspan doesn't specifically classify this charmer as a coffee cake, but it has brunchish leanings. Still, we gobbled it for dessert and would have been very pleased to have it for breakfast also. Had there been any leftovers, that is. I made a half batch (using half whole wheat, too) and it fit perfectly in three little 10 ounce ramekins. The warm cakes emerged moist and tender, polka dotted with blueberries. Mine were frozen blueberries, and they worked out beautifully. Feeling frugal still, I traded the walnuts in the topping with oatmeal. The buttery crumb topping makes these little blueberry cakes extra special. This is one I'll be making again, whether I need a reason to celebrate or not!
For the recipe, head over to Sihan's fun and pretty blog. You'll be able to turn out a half batch for around $3.00.Up Next:
20 minute Dinner: Patty Melts with Honey Balsamic Onions

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Last month, I spoke to a group of teenage girls at a goal setting kick-off activity at church. The name of the activity is New Beginnings-which I love. I need a new beginning quite often, and frankly January first doesn't come often enough. I also love setting goals, which in my opinion is quite different than actually reaching goals, which makes me tired because it sounds like a lot of hard work. Anyway, the theme for the evening was Recipe for Success, and I spoke about the metaphoric connection between creating a recipe and making a success of yourself. People who are much more creative and talented than I am made these adorable little recipe books to hand out. Each girl in attendance created one of her favorite recipes which were printed on little cards and passed out to include in the recipe books. Instead of concentrating on making an intelligent presentation, I started leafing my way through the recipes. This one-Jeni's roasted vegetable lasagna" caught my eye, and not just because it was on flourescent orange paper.

Roasted vegetables, lasagna noodles, homemade tomato sauce, lots of mozzarella--hey wait a minute!-there was no ricotta in this recipe. No bechamel sauce either. I knew I had to try it. It was easy, but time consuming, just like all properly made lasagnas; the silver lining is that it can all be made ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to bake. If the only thing the girls got out of New Beginnings was this fantastic lasagna recipe, I'd say they got the recipe for success. My talk was fine, but the lasagna is truly divine.
Money Saving Tips:
Only use vegetables that are in season to keep the price down. Asparagus could easily be switched for the zuchinni if you can find some on sale. Chopped, bottled artichokes would also work well without any roasting at all. I also reduced the amount of cheese by 2 cups for health and pecuniary sensibility. Stock up on mozzarella when you catch it on sale; it keeps for a good long time. If you don't have time for homemade sauce, Barilla's tomato basil sauce is nice. You can also use the no boil noodles, but you'll have to cover the lasagna with foil and increase the bake time to 1 hour. This makes a huge lasagna, so either invite friends for dinner or pack up the leftovers for lunch.
Jeni's Roasted Vegetable Lasagna for 12
Estimated Cost: $15.00
Notes: Make a double batch of sauce for spaghetti on another night.
For Tomato Sauce:
cooking spray
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes, undrained
6 tablespoons each chopped fresh basil and oregano
(or subsitute 2 tablespoons each dried)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
For Lasagna:
10 lasagna noodles
1 medium bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 small zuchinni, sliced (I left these out)
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (I used 4 cups)
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Coat non stick pot with cooking spray. Cook garlic and onion over medium high heat for two minutes, stirring often. Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, boil the water and cook the noodles. Preheat oven to 450. Coat foil lined cookie sheet with no stick cooking spray. Place pepper, onion, zuchinni, and mushrooms on cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper and coat with spray. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Reduce oven temperature to 400 if you are planning to bake your lasagna right away. Coat a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Spread some of tomato sauce on the bottom; top with three noodles, more sauce, vegetables and cheese. Repeat layering two more times. (Can be made up to two days and kept covered and refrigerated until baking time.) Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes.
Up Next:
Tuesdays with Dorie
Blueberry Crumb Mini Cakes

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Springtime Strawberry Belgian Waffles

I hadn't really noticed that spring was springing up on me. Yesterday I took my two charges to the park, bundled up in hooded sweatshirts and thick wooly knee socks. It turned out to be 80 degrees. The other park children, the ones with sensible mothers, were running around in tshirts, shorts, and sockless flip flop feet, covered in a prudent layer of sunscreen. I wore a turquoise cardigan, jeans and my newish hot pink trench coat that I bought at tar-jay and just love to pieces. Not many minutes had passed before I was forced to strip down the layers, even my newish hot pink trench coat that I love to pieces, and put on my sunglasses, roll up my jeans, take off my shoes and socks. And it struck me that spring has really sprung. It's really official on Friday, the proper first day of spring. It makes me want to climb up an apple tree, fly a kite, plant some seeds, and roll around in the grass-or at the very least watch my charges do these things. Spring is the most lighthearted but fleeting of all the seasons, so why not celebrate its arrival with a happy-go-lucky breakfast of strawberry belgian waffles? And I'm not packing up my newish trench coat just yet; the weather is dipping back down on Sunday. All the more reason to enjoy the strawberry flavor of spring sunshine while it lasts!

Money Saving Tips: Skip going out for breakfast and save money by making this inexpensive breakfast at home. Waffles are made from inexpensive basics, like flour, eggs, and of course some butter for nice crispy edges. If you're short on time, you could always whip up a waffle mix and I'm sure no one will complain. Shop around for strawberries on sale. I paid 1.99 and it was worth every penny.
Strawberry Belgian Waffles
Estimated Cost: $6.00 for about 6 waffles and strawberries
Notes: It isn't absolutely necessary to separate the eggs and beat the whites, but the waffles will be extra light and crispy if you do.
1 and 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk or milk
strawberries, maple or pancake syrup, whipped cream for serving
In a medium bowl. combine flour, powder, soda, sugar and salt. In a separage bowl, combine egg yolks, butter, and milk. Beat egg whites until stiff. Add butter mixture very gently to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Add egg whites and very very very gently stir into mixture. (It's Ok to have a few white streaks in the batter.) Cook according to the directions on your waffle maker. Serve with strawberries, syrup and whipped cream.
Next Up:
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Irish Oatmeal Cupcakes with Broiled Brown Sugar Frosting

Top of the morning to you! Happy St. Patrick's Day. I wish I could just lean through the screen and give you all a pinch. I really don't care if you are wearing green or not. I would just pretend that I hadn't seen it yet. To me, March 17th is my big chance to pinch everyone; those who are wearing emerald hues are not exempt! Especially those lucky people, like my sister Michelle, who feel that they are above wearing green just because they happened to be born with gorgeous green eyes. Ha Ha, I'm coming to get you guys especially. So be on the lookout and be on the run. And looking cute and festive won't help you either. I would even pinch these guys.If you want to avoid my yearly squeeze, you'll have to be on the run so you may need a few extra grams of energy in the form of calories. These cupcakes, faith and begorra, they are so delicious, especially the crackly brown sugar icing. And while they aren't exactly Irish, they do have oatmeal, and oatmeal is Irish; so if A=B than the compound B will still retain the Irish qualities of A. So let it be written. Happy St. Patrick's Day and don't say I didn't warn you...
Money Saving Tips:

These cupcakes are simply a scaled down version of an oatmeal sheetcake with a broiled brown sugar frosting. They are made from inexpensive and common pantry ingredients, so you should have everything on hand, hopefully including some sale priced butter. If you've got a cup and a quarter of leftover prepared oatmeal in the pot, you can use that here.
Irish Oatmeal Cupcakes with Broiled Brown Sugar Frosting
Estimated Cost: $3.00 for 24 cupcakes
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 and 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 and 1/3 cup flour (I used half whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Brown Sugar Broiled Icing:
1 cup brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons cream or milk
pinch of salt and cinnamon
Combine oats and boiling water in a small bowl. Let rest for twenty minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners. In a large bowl, cream butters and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Gently stir in flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir in oatmeal mixture and combine gently. Pour a scant 1/4 cup into each of 24 muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until top springs back and toothpick is clean. The tops will be flat and slightly bubbly looking. Let cool for about five minutes. Preheat broiler. In a small bowl, combine all of the icing ingredients. spread cupcakes with icing. Broil, WATCHING CLOSELY, until icing bubbles.
Today was also Tuesdays with Dorie and we made this.
But, we really didn't care for it very much and it didn't have any Irish oatmeal in it. Enough said.
Up Next:
Belgian Waffles with Whipped Cream and Strawberries for the First Day of Spring

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Corned Beef Grilled Cheese on Rye

It is very important to watch at least two movies for St. Patrick's Day, so you might want to start early. The first is "Darby O'Gill and the Little People." This Disney live-action favorite tells the story of the old Irishman Darby and his relationships with the leprechauns, featuring a close encounter with the King of the Little People, a frightful screamin' banshee, and among other things, a young singing Sean Connery. The little people at your house will be sure to love it, and I can testify that one big person, namely me, loves it well. I defy anyone not to giggle till his side aches when you see King Brian dance an Irish jig. It makes me right jolly just thinking about it.

The second movie is one of my favorites the whole year through, but it's particularly fun to watch for St. Pat's day. If you've never seen "The Quiet Man," with its gorgeous rolling green hills, thatched roof cottages, and the charming stone walled country side of Ireland, you've been missing out.John Wayne plays not a cowboy, but a tortured prizefighter, who swears off boxing after accidently killing his oponent. When he returns to the Irish town of his birth, he finds happiness when he falls in love with the fiery Mary Kate. Though he is sorely tempted to pick up the gloves against her brother, the town bully, the Quiet Man is determined not to use his fists. (I plagiarized those three sentences from the back of the DVD, which also notes that the film won two Oscars.) The fight scene, (of course you know they have to fight!) the longest in cinema history, is not to be missed. And here's a little Prudy family trivia for you: my youngest sister is named Mary Kate because of the gorgeous Maureen O'Hara in this movie. Our Mary Kate is pretty fiery too, but only if you don't feed her properly. And of course, my loyal readers will recognize the nickname for my own Mr. Prudy-The Quiet Man. He's no prizefighter, but he's every bit as noble, cryptic and quiet as the hero of the movie. Don't even bother renting this movie; go out and buy it today.
And if you're beginning to feel peckish after these movie reviews, fear not. I've got a delicious little twist on Irish corned beef in the form a lovely grilled cheese sandwich. It will come together in ten minutes with a lovely combination of rye bread, dijon mustard, garlicky butter, smooth melted cheddar, and peppery corned beef. I don't necessarily think of rye as being Irish, but look what was on the bread this week.
Thanks, and same to you!
Money Saving Tips:
Stay home and have these sandwiches for at least 50 percent cheaper than at the deli. Your best bet is to shop your grocery circulars to see who has corned beef and deli sliced cheese on sale. Pastrami is an excellent substitute for corned beef, since they are essentially the same cut of meat with a slightly different preparation.
Corned Beef Grilled Cheese on Rye
Estimated Cost: $10.00 for 4 large sandwiches
1/2 lb. deli corned beef or pastrami, thinly sliced
8 slices rye bread (my favorite is Orowheat Dilly Rye)
8 ounces thinly sliced cheddar cheese
1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
dill pickle slices
Heat medium non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add corned beef and cook until browned in places, stirring often, about five minutes. Meanwhile, heat another skillet over medium high heat. Spread dijon mustard thinly on insides of bread slices. Layer with cheese and pastrami and form sandwiches. Combine butter and garlic and spread on outsides of bread. Place sandwiches in preheated skillet and cook until bread is toasted and cheese is melted, lowering heat to medium low if needed. Remove sandwiches from skillet, open and add pickle slices if desired.
Up Next:
Irish Oatmeal Cupcakes with Broiled Brown Sugar Frosting

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Creamy Potato Soup for St. Patrick's Day

On St. Patrick's Day in first grade, my teacher Mrs. Hiatt told our class about going to Ireland and kissing the Blarney stone. I was enthralled. It seemed miraculous to me that the kissing of a cold old stone could procure the gift of gab. At age six, I made up my mind that I would someday go to Ireland, smooch that Blarney stone and secure the golden tongue for myself. (Although, I'm sure if you would have asked Mrs. Hiatt, she would have said I already had the gift of gab in spades. I was forever in trouble for my motor mouth, as she called it. The gift of gab sounds so much dearer than the gift of the motor mouth.) At age 23, I planned a trip through the UK with a friend. We tromped through England, Wales, Scotland...and then political trouble kept us out of Ireland. I've always felt cheated out of my first grade dream, plus I sort of forgot about it for about a decade, in pursuit of other dreams for other grades. (I think it's been revived by all the cheap travel offers that keep finding their way into my inbox.) So, I've started saving. I have exactly $432.78, about 1/20th of what I need to get my family of four to the Emerald Isle. It's further motivation to keep the grocery bill down, since the savings go straight towards my dream fund.
In the meantime, here's a taste of Ireland that anyone can afford. This luxurious soup is a little on the creamy and indulgent side, but it makes a delicious St. Paddy's day lunch or dinner. Especially with a corned beef grilled cheese on the side-see you Sunday with the recipe.
Money Saving Tips: Use homemade chicken stock, canned broth or bouillon cubes in this soup. Buy the 5 lb. bag of potatoes, since you'll use half of it here. You can swap out the half and half for canned evaporated milk.
Creamy Potato Soup
Estimated Cost: $6.00 for 6 servings
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 medium potatoes, (about 3 pounds), peeled and roughly chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
5 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup half and half
about 1 teaspoon lemon juice
a few drops of tabasco
In a large stock pot, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add onion and cook until softened about five minutes. Add potatoes, carrots and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until vegetables are softened. Using potato masher, roughly mash vegetables in pot, not into a puree, but into small pieces. In a small bowl, combine remaining 3 tablespoons butter and flour into a smooth paste. Stir into soup. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly and cook for about three minutes, or until soup thickens. Stir in half and half; reduce heat and do not return soup to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a bit of tabasco. Garnish soup with chives.
Up Next:
Corned Beef Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Grapefruit Custard Cups with Ruby Red Compote

I got a call this week from a junior high Home Ec teacher, asking if I would come and talk to her classes. I've seen that Seinfeld episode when Jerry goes back for career day at junior high and none of his jokes went over. It turned out to be a disaster and now that disaster could be me. What would I talk about to fill 8 whole 55 minute classes that could possibly inspire the young and the restless to get cooking? Then again, I remember my junior high Home Ec class when I learned to roll refrigerated biscuits into long twists smothered with melted butter and sprinkled with poppy seeds, under the direction of Mrs. Imogene Wicker. I'd still rather make rolled refrigerated biscuits then solve algebra equations anyday. Besides, it was my signature dish for many happy, pre-pubescent years.

So, dear readers, do you think I should accept?
Onto the sweeter subject: Today's recipe is a Tuesdays with Dorie "Lemon Cup Custard." (Click Here for the recipe.)It's a homey little baked custard, simple to prepare, and fairly healthful as far as desserts go. It's about as inexpensive (maybe $2) as you could hope, since you'll only need the zest of citrus fruit, eggs, milk (I used 2 percent) and sugar. I made my custard cups with a ruby red grapefruit, and topped with them some grapefruit sections tossed with a bit of brown sugar. It gave the cups a little bite and delightful syruppy zing. The cups need to bake for about 40 minutes, so why not double up on oven time and throw in a few baked potatoes for dinner? Next Up:
Creamy Potato Soup for St. Patrick's Day

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cranberry-Raisin Whole Grain Breakfast Cookies

My mother has several quirky, endearing habits. For one, she uses a toothbrush as book marker. Second, she always asks people what they had for dinner last night, almost as often as regular folk ask "How are you?" But third and best of all, when she comes for a visit, she will want a cookie. Don't bother offering her anything else; I've tried and nothing but a cookie will do. Not a cracker, certainly not a piece of fruit, and not even a scoop of ice cream will do the trick. And this particular quirk, I'm afraid, is multi generational. I've got it and the two little charges do too. Come to think of it, maybe it's actually contagious, since the Quiet Man seems to be a cookie junkie now too. For our family, nuclear and extended, the cookie craving cannot be kept at bay. I've been fiddling around, seeing how much good stuff I can pack into a cookie and I think I've really got something here. Make yourself a batch of my less-guilty, whole grain cookie that's healthful enough to qualify for breakfast, but tasty enough to please my mother, my Quiet Man, my little charges, and me. So pop on by anytime, Mom. The cookie jar will always be full for you. Money Saving Tips: A box of breakfast cookies can cost you $5 for a dozen, plus they are filled with preservatives. These are easy enough to make at home, and much cheaper. Pop any extra cookies into zip top baggies and freeze. (Leave some on the counter top to defrost before you go to bed.) Any dried fruit will work well in this cookie, as long as it is finely chopped. If you don't have quick cooking oats, give your old fashioned oats a whir in the blender to make oat flour. (Reduce the amount of oats in the recipe to 1 and 1/4 cup.) If you don't have wheat germ, just use the same amount of wheat flour.Whole Grain Breakfast Cookies

Estimated Cost: $3.00 for about 30
5 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I prefer dark, but light works well also)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup combination of cranberries and raisins, minced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter and sugars in medium bowl, creaming until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs. Stir in salt, cinnamon, powder, and soda. Stir in wheat flour, then oats, and then wheat germ. Stir in cranberries and raisins. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheets with at least two inches of space between them. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Don't let them get too brown, unless you like them crunchy. I under bake mine a bit and take them out as they are just barely showing signs of browning. Cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes before transferring cookies to the rack.
Next Up:
Grapefruit Custard Cups

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Quickest Weeknight Tomato and Basil Pasta

Yesterday was March Fourth. March Fourth. There's something about the sound of March Fourth that makes you want to March Forth and get something done. Like write a letter to your old friend Tricia Shaw, or clean out the toy closet, or study your new Humanities textbook, or run a few miles on the treadmill, or teach a history lesson on Flanders Field, or paint your toenails, or make a quick and healthy pasta dinner for your family. And because it was March Fourth yesterday, I did March Forth and do all of the above things. But now that it's March Fifth, I think I'll take it easy again. March Fourth, I wish you would come more often. I need you at least once a week.

Here's my quickest weeknight tomato and basil pasta. It takes about 15 minutes, from start to finish, plus a little time to boil some water, if you count that. (Add some grilled sausages or chicken on the side for a heartier offering.) If you've got a couple of cans of tomatoes and a box of pasta, then March Forth and make some dinner.
Money Saving Tips:
I hope you've got lots of pasta and canned tomatoes as part of your food storage and pantry supplies. I buy canned tomatoes when they go on sale for about 50 cents a can, especially if you can get a nice brand like S and W or Hunts. Pasta can be purchased for about $1 a lb. You'll have to pay a little extra for the whole grain pasta, but I think it's worth it in the long run for your overall health.
Quickest Weeknight Tomato and Basil Pasta
Estimated Cost: $3.50
1/2 lb. whole grain angel hair pasta (I like Barilla)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon dried or 1/2 chopped cup fresh basil
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (plus more for passing)
Bring large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook until dente. Drain pasta in colander and let it rest there for now. To the same cooking pot, add butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add dried basil (add fresh basil at the end), crushed red pepper flakes, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes with juices. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. (Add fresh basil now if using.) Add pasta back to pot and toss to coat. Stir in parmesan. Pass more parmesan at the table.
Up Next: Cranberry-Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies