sauces & condiments

Too Much Planning

Planning a weekly menu can help you control your budget. When you’ve got specific meals in mind, you can draw up a grocery list that is limited to ingredients that you will need. You may pick up a few extra things at the store, but overall it should be easier to focus on finding the products that you will be sure to use. The shopping trip should be shorter, and you should be more satisfied than exhausted when you come home, unload the groceries, and see your sufficiently-stocked pantry and refrigerator.

But then come the variables. You bought lovely, fresh fruit and vegetables. Now you’re afraid you might have overdone it. What if all four avocados ripen at the same rate? Will you be able to eat all five pounds of russet potatoes before they sprout eyes? Is the huge bush of cilantro going to turn black and yellow before you have time to chop it? Are the bananas going to end up so soft that you have to freeze them for a future banana bread?

Just looking at the beautiful bounty makes you too tired to cook! Will someone please take you out for dinner. Nevermind that the ingredients might be at their peak right now.

If you think that cooking is only a science, you’ll probably go crazy. You’ll be happier if not only have the formulas memorized but  also understand the rules. When your life doesn’t go according to plan you’ll know which rules can be broken without ruining everything.

bbq sauce sweet then heat

“Sweet Then Heat” from Mission BBQ is highly recommended.

Perhaps you have pulled pork stuck in the sandwich category of your brain.  Maybe you think it should only be served plated with a side of cornbread, a dollop of creamy coleslaw, oven-roasted potatoes, and a juicy pickle.

You served that on Thursday evening and now, Friday, there is a little bit of meat left over, but it doesn’t look like enough for a meal two adults. And, oh, the last of those four avocados you bought last Saturday is feeling quite soft! Do you lay out a haphazard buffet of plastic containers full of leftovers you’ve colletcted over the course of the week, or is there a possibility of fusing the ingredients into a “proper” meal that you both can enjoy?

bbq-pork-taco-potato-onion-avocado.jpg

Considering someone else’s ideas can be liberating.  I wasn’t so sure that fresh avocado would pair with sweet bbq sauce and pulled pork, but I listened to my husband’s suggestion. The corn tortillas, chopped onion, sliced avocado, diced potatoes, and shredded pork were quite a nice combination.

So. Do plan. Do make lists. But also be happy when creativity can rearrange your plans into a differently shaped success.

 

 

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Categories: Food and drink, Pork, sauces & condiments, Shopping | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shakshuka

Tomato Poached Eggs Feta Cilantro

We finished off the last 3/4 cup of oatmeal that was in the kitchen cupboard for breakfast this morning, so it was okay to have eggs for lunch.

One of our grocery stores has a magazine with coupons and recipe ideas. The January 2018 issue had several realistic recipes that I tore out to try later. Last week I made simple pork chops with a orange marmalade (which is still burnt onto my non-stick baking sheet). Today, I decided to try my hand at poaching eggs in a crushed tomato sauce.

Giant is trying to get us to purchase extra ingredients, or at least to buy them from their store. However, I stopped at three other stores to get the more unusual ingredients.  Aldi for feta: Since I had planned to purchase feta for a salad, it wasn’t an extra expense. Plus, Aldi’s has good cheeses at affordable prices.  Wegman’s for cilantro: Last weekend Giant was out of cilantro by the time I went shopping. Rather than taking the risk again, I ran to Wegman’s produce department while we were in the neighborhood. Although the bunch cost $1.99, it is as big as a bush and will fit into various menu items this week. ACME for roasted red peppers: They were having their buck-a-bag sale on salad spinach, green onions, iceberg lettuce, potatoes, etc. So it was worth going there to purchase the rest of the items on my grocery list.

Savory magazine noted that their recipe was inspired by a dish called shakshuka. If you look it up, the internet will tell you that it is popular in the Middle East and North Africa.

It could easily become popular in our apartment, too. Except that if you are used to bacon or sausage and hashbrowns with your eggs, the shakshuka and ciabatta might not be quite as filling.

Tomato-Poached Eggs with Feta

Ingredients

  • 1 shallot
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 oz jar roasted red peppers
  • 1 (15 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ loaf ciabatta bread
  • fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta

Directions

  1. Peel, finely slice, then chop the shallot. Mince the garlic. Drain the roasted red peppers and chop them into small pieces. Puree the diced tomatoes in a food processor until just crushed. You want the texture to be somewhat chunky rather than a uniformly liquid sauce or paste.
  2.  In a large frying pan, sautee the shallot and garlic in the olive oil for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt. Continue cooking the mixture, adjusting the heat to allow the vegetables to simmer.
  4. Using a spoon, make 4 wells in the sauce. Crack one egg into each well. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook 6 min., until egg whites have set.  “Watch them like a hawk or they’ll turn into hard rubberies”. Remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Meanwhile, slice the bread and chop the cilantro. Garnish eggs with cilantro and feta. Serve with bread.

 

Categories: Breakfast, Cheese, Food and drink, sauces & condiments | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asparagus NOT With Ham

We like ham. We like asparagus. We even like ham and asparagus together. However, we’d already eaten a lot of ham with crackers and cheese over the weekend, ham with scrambled eggs for breakfast, and ham in the bean soup I packed for lunch. The asparagus I purchased on Saturday wasn’t getting any younger, although the spears were still standing pretty tall in the mug in the refrigerator, so Monday night was the right time to make use of the fresh, green vegetable.

Did you know that chicken is more pleasant to eat if you only cook it until it is just no longer pink? Until I watched an old Julia Child video about chicken, I hadn’t really considered that chicken might get tough if you cooked it too long or over too high of heat.

Usually, we like to broil the asparagus sprinkled with Parmesean and olive oil, but I decided to try a stove-top recipe with a balsamic-honey-dijon vinaigrette this time.

I thought that I might be able to guage the texture of the chicken better if I could watch it, rather than have to guess what was happening in the oven or under the broiler.

The chicken and the sauce did turn out nicely, and it paired well with the noodles that my husband prepared. However, we probably prefer broiled Parmesean and asparagus.

 

noodles chicken asparagus tomatoes balsamicIngredients

  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • about 6 chicken breast tenders (You may want to cut them into smaller chunks.)
  •  salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • handful of asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off, remainder cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tomato, cut into about 8 pieces

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and continue whisking until the mixture is well combined. Set it aside.
  2. Over medium heat, heat remaining oil in a medium-sized frying pan. Add the chicken, season it with salt and pepper, and sear until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Remove it from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add  just enough hot water to the pan that you can simmer the asparagus. Cook it until the asparagus is bright green. Add the tomatoes, season with more salt and pepper, and  continue to cook the vegetables until the tomatoes are slightly wilted.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan and pour in the vinaigrette. Toss the vegetables and chicken together and continue to cook the mixture until the chicken is heated through and the vinaigrette thickens.
Categories: Chicken, Food and drink, pasta, sauces & condiments, Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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