April 9, 2011
It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve changed. I need more.
I was trying to figure out how to break out of the rut we’ve been in for the past few months. I know we’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship, and took a full break for a year or two, but this time, I think this is it.
I’m ready to move on now. I hate to admit it–I know this might hurt–but I’ve decided to start working with your competitor, Blogger. We’ve flirted a little behind your back, and I was always so jealous of how Blogger was treating all my friends, how they were looking so good together, and I finally decided just to take the leap.
Good luck, WordPress. You’ve got a lot going for you. But we’re just not good together anymore.
PS: If any of my four or five faithful followers wishes to check out the new look or keep on following me, you can find the new and improved Robin’s Song at robinbl.blogspot.com. Please change your bookmarks accordingly!
April 8, 2011
Although you wouldn’t know it from the weather (we just woke up to three inches of snow this morning), Spring is (technically) here, and, of course, Easter isn’t far behind. I haven’t been much in the mood for cooking lately, or for posting recipes, since I kinda-sorta took the month of March off from dieting. I managed to maintain, but boy, I was just sick of Atkins for a while. I’m hopping back on the bandwagon again, though, for April, and the numbers on the scale are moving downwards once more. However, I think I’ll try blogging about things other than food once again, like the good ol’ days, just cuz I’m kind of in that sort of a mood.
Also, I have been madly obsessed with decorating my house lately. I think I can attribute that to the weather as well. Not only am I sick of the brownish rolling hills behind my house, and the yellowish grass, and the dull brown sapling trees in my neighborhood, but the walls in my new house are painted brown from head to toe, and I have absolutely no curtains up anywhere, and all my ten-year-old furniture is looking more faded and dull every day. I am longing for COLOR! I find myself fantasizing about it. I have subscribed to about fifteen new home decor blogs in the past week which share a common theme of being bright and cheerful and filled with a rainbow of hues. Therefore, in honor of my current obsession, and in hopes that Spring will finally decide to get cooking, I will now present to you a bunch of BEAUTIFUL ideas for decorating Easter eggs. If the weather won’t oblige and you have no money for new furniture, some bright colorful eggs are a great cheap way to brighten your home and your day. (FYI–all of these are from Martha Stewart, who I don’t like much personally, but she sure does some beautiful crafts).
A side note on this: I am a terrible mother. I hate doing crafts with my children. The reason for this is that I am too much of an artistic perfectionist. I have a hard time relinquishing control over the end product and just letting them make a mess and have fun. If you are like me, then maybe you could let the kids do their own thing, and then have your own station set aside for the stuff you want to display. Just an idea.
P.S. Eggs are great for Atkins!
I LOVE LOVE LOVE these eggs! You just take craft paper punches of different sizes and shapes and punch out several colors of tissue paper. Then you paint a thin film of decoupage gel, or Mod Podge, on a boiled or blown-out egg (if you’re the kind of person who has the patience to blow out eggs), or you could probably get some wooden eggs and paint them white. Pick up a tissue flower with your paintbrush, and paint over it with the gel. Sooooo bright and cheerful and cute!
See video here. (The egg part starts at about 5:15).
Martha also did some decoupage eggs using paper napkins with a beautiful cherry blossom design. She just cut out the flowers and painted over them, letting them dry between each piece. She got the napkins from a specialty store online (see here for details). I ADORE these eggs (and by the way, that’s totally the color scheme I want to use on my new kitchen).
Most of us have probably used tape, stickers, or rubber bands to create interesting designs on eggs at some point in our lives. However, you can use this masking technique to get a nice print of a leaf or blossom on your egg as well.
Use a small paintbrush to paint egg white on the back of the leaf or whatever and adhere it to your egg. Cut up a pair of old pantyhose into four-inch squares, lay the egg in the center of the square and pull the nylon taut around the egg, securing the extra fabric with string or an elastic. Again, dye the eggs for ten to fifteen minutes to achieve a high contrast image. Remove egg from dye and blot with a paper towel. Snip the string or elastic to remove the nylon and peel the leaf off. Dry on a rack.
I am including this one because it looks great, but it seems like kind of an expensive project. Who just has tons of silk scraps lying around their house? But watch the video, just so you can say, “Wow, that’s cool!”
I love the delicate, intricate patterns you can get using this method! It’s so easy and yields beautiful results!
All you do is get a wide strip of lace long enough to wrap around the egg with a couple of inches left over. Wrap the lace around the egg and twist the ends until tight, then secure with a small rubber band. Leave eggs in dye (which according to Martha, should be warm) for ten to fifteen minutes in order to create the greatest amount of contrast. After removing the eggs from the dye, blot gently with a paper towel and dry on a rack.
March 2, 2011
Have you heard the saying that “The most simple solution is usually the best?” Well, the same applies to cooking. I enjoy watching the food channels from time to time, but when you get these Iron Chef guys who have all these outlandish ingredients nobody’s ever heard of, and they need a large team of assistant chefs and a roomful of specialized equipment to create their signature dishes with foreign-sounding names, it can make cooking look rather intimidating. I have found that the recipes I keep coming back to time and again have a very, very short list of ingredients and steps. Once the list starts topping five or six, I start to sweat a little bit. If it hits ten or more, unless it’s all spices I can find in my cupboard that I can dump into a bowl, I skip it entirely. Who needs the stress and the lengthy shopping list?
Besides, I’m not sure that making things more complicated actually makes them taste any better. I already told you about my love for the sheer simplicity that is creme brulee. Vanilla ice cream is really almost the exact same thing, except frozen instead of cooked. So here I have a couple of recipes to share with you today that are the height of simplicity. Very little preparation time, short ingredient list. When you’re leading a busy life, that’s the way to go.
This basic Hawaiian shredded pork recipe is versatile and delicious. You can put it on a roll with some BBQ sauce, throw it in a salad with some beans and red onions, add it to your favorite chow mein recipe, or just eat it all by its juicy self.
1 pork picnic roast (*see note below)
Sea salt, if you have it, if not, regular salt will do
Liquid Smoke, hickory flavor(**see note)
1. Trim the rind off the top of the roast with a very sharp knife, leaving a small amount of fat. Rinse roast in water and pat dry with paper towels. With your very sharp knife, score the surface of the roast in criss-cross lines (i.e. cut very shallowly, 1/8-1/4 of an inch deep). This allows the flavoring to seep into the middle of the meat.
2. Sprinkle a very generous amount of salt all over the roast and rub it into the flesh as well as you can. Pour the liquid smoke over the entire roast and also rub it in well. Put roast in a large plastic zipper bag and let it marinate in the fridge for at least half an hour, up to 24 hours.
3. Heat oven to 450F. Remove roast from bag and place in a large roasting pan. Cook under this high heat for maybe 45 minutes to get a nice brown sear on the roast. Then turn the heat down to 325F and continue cooking for another
3 to 3 1/2 hours. Because you left that nice little bit of fat on the roast, it will self-baste itself as it melts, making the meat deliciously moist and flavorful.
4. When your cooking time is up (you may want to use a meat thermometer, but I never do), remove the roast from the oven and cover it with a large piece of tin foil, folded in half. Let the roast rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting to let the juices solidify a little bit. Otherwise, when you cut into the meat, all the tasty juices will come running out onto your cutting board instead of staying in the meat where you want them. When the meat is done resting, cut it off of the bone in small chunks. It should be very tender and easy to remove. If desired, take two forks and pull apart the smaller sections of meat to shred it for sandwiches and salads. Yum, yum, yum!
*If you are confused about meat cuts, join the club. It’s worth doing a little research to figure out which cut is right for the dish you have in mind. The main thing to know in this case is that you want to look for a “shoulder roast”. This means the meat that comes from the top part of the pig’s hind leg (the next time you look at a pig, notice how much chunkier their back legs are compared to their front legs–that’s where the good meat is!). The shoulder is generally divided up into two kinds of roasts–the butt roast (snicker, snicker) and the picnic roast. The butt roast is usually bigger, about 6-8 lbs, while the picnic roast is generally smaller (5-6 lbs) and usually is left with the rind (the skin) intact. Both cuts will work well for a shredded pork recipe, but the picnic is generally preferred because of the additional fat provided by the rind.
** Liquid Smoke is an awesome condiment that you can usually find near the BBQ sauce or flavored marinades section. It is basically what it says it is–wood-smoked flavor without the wood or the smoke. I’ve seen it come in both mesquite and hickory, but the bottle says there might be even more flavors out there somewhere. This stuff is great in marinades, soups and sauces. I highly recommend keeping a bottle on hand.
Simple Tuna Salad
I got the main idea for this salad from a cookbook by Giada de Laurentiis. It is perfect for a one or two person light lunch. Make sure you look for the “special” tuna—the kind that comes marinated in OLIVE oil, not soybean or vegetable oil. It will say olive oil specifically. Sometimes it has additional seasoning, such as lemon and dill, included. They all work with this recipe! It is very flexible. I have included the ingredients I usually throw in, but I have mixed and matched different stuff, depending on what I have on hand. Try different cheeses as well. I like feta best, but you can also use parmesan or mozzarella! I also don’t have exact measurements for this salad because, well, I don’t measure salads! Just put in as much as you want!
Chopped romaine lettuce, or your favorite kind of greens. (I usually chop up a whole head or two of lettuce and keep it in a large container in the fridge. Then I can just grab a handful or two out of it for lunch, or stick it on the table with dinner for a quick side salad)
Red Onions, sliced very thinly
Carrots, cut up however you like them
Cucumbers, also cut up
Your favorite kind of tomatoes (my suggestion–grape tomatoes–they’re my favorite!)
Crumbled feta cheese
White northern beans (I usually cook up a half bag at a time and keep them in the fridge, but you can also use canned)
One small can of tuna, packed in olive oil
Red wine vinegar
1. Put all the veggies on your plate.
2. Sprinkle with cheese.
3. Dump the tuna, undrained, onto the top. (Make sure you don’t drain it because you want to use all that tasty olive oil as part of your dressing). If it’s a little too dry for your taste on its own, mix some mayonnaise into the tuna before adding it to the salad.
4. Sprinkle with red vinegar to taste.
5. Toss well. Salt and pepper to taste.
February 15, 2011
Andrew likes to make fun of me, but I find that my eating preferences are very much season oriented. Despite the fact that ice cream is my favorite dessert of all (well, up there with creme brulee, anyway), I really have very little inclination to eat it in the middle of winter, unless it is accompanied by a nice warm pie or a brownie and hot fudge. I also tend to avoid salads in the winter. I really have to talk myself into chomping down on cold crispy vegetables when there’s six inches of snow outside my window. Doesn’t that image just make you shiver a little? Brrrr!
So, my problem this time of year is finding a way to get all my veggies in each day. I buy produce and it will often go bad before I can convince myself to chop it up and toss it with ranch dressing. Remember, those of you still holding onto an anti-low-carb bias, a good low-carb diet does not just consist of steak and bacon and eggs every day. You gotta get those veggies in! They fill you up, they give you fiber and vitamins, and most importantly, they give your meal the flavor and texture that satisfies your tastebuds. So, if you fall into the same sort of winter-time produce avoidance trap, my suggestion is simple: soup.
If your only acquaintance with soup is the stuff that comes out of a can, you have not yet lived, my friend. I love me some soup in the winter! In fact, my family complains sometimes because there have been times when I will make soup three or four nights a week! And then we end up with a bunch of soup leftovers, which nobody but me ever eats, and then we have to have a soup smorgasborg (sp?) night to get rid of it all. Once you have made soup from scratch, you will never go back.
Here is the recipe I just stumbled upon yesterday from Allrecipes.com. It is AWESOME! Andrew said that it tasted just like the kind you get at Olive Garden. Flavorful, hearty, nutritious, and even three out of four kids ate most or all of their serving! (That last one, it doesn’t matter what you give her, she won’t eat it)
Italian Sausage Soup
- 1 pound Italian sausage (Italian sausage comes in sweet or hot varieties. I used the sweet, which really isn’t sweet, but it’s still got a good spicy flavor to it without being overbearingly hot.)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 (14 ounce) cans beef broth (or one big carton)
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup cubed carrots
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can great Northern beans, undrained (about 1 1/2 cups if you cook them out of the bag)
- 2 small zucchini, cubed
- 1 package frozen chopped spinach
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat, then add sausage and garlic. You can usually find ground italian sausage in the meat area near the ground beef, but if not, look over by the hot dogs. If you find it in rolled sausage form, that’s fine. Just cut the sausages in half and squeeze the insides out of the casings into your pan. I used Johnsonville Sweet Italian sausages last night. Stir occasionally until sausage is browned.
- Stir in broth, tomatoes, and carrots, and season with salt and pepper. Don’t add too much salt at first because the sausage and the broth are both already pretty salty. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Stir in beans with liquid, if canned, and zucchini. Cover, and simmer another 15 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.
- Run frozen spaghetti under warm water to thaw it out. You could just add it frozen, but it would cool the whole pot down and take longer to heat it all back up. Add the spinach to the pot and simmer an additional five minutes. You can also use fresh chopped spinach, just wash it thoroughly and toss it into the hot pot with the heat off for five minutes. I also added a handful of fresh chopped parsley just because I had it on hand. Serve in large bowls!
This soup is so warm and cozy and filling, you might even be able to convince yourself to serve a salad on the side! Good eating!
February 3, 2011
I’m pretty sure there is a scripture somewhere that says “Man shall not live on meat and veggies alone.” If not, there should be. While completely going off of sweets and other carbs is great for the first two weeks, eventually your craving for something dessert-like is going to kick in, and you will need some alternatives that you can eat and still stick to your diet plan. So, today you get two recipes for the price of one!
Muffin in a Minute
I think the thing I miss more than anything else on this diet is bread. This recipe, which is straight off the Atkin’s site, is great for filling that bread craving. It uses ground flax meal instead of flour, which is supposed to be super duper good for you, and is very low in carbs. Plus, you can mix it up and cook it in the microwave in a minute and a half, so it’s almost instant gratification! You can find flax meal either in the cooking aisle or the health food section.
- ¼ cup flax meal
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 packet (about 2 tsp.) Splenda, or your favorite no-calorie sweetener
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon sour cream
Stir the dry ingredients together in a large mug (you can use a small bowl, but the mug gives it the most muffin-like appearance). Stir in the wet ingredients. Your mixture will look gloppy and extremely unappealing. Cook in the microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes (mine takes 1:30). Make sure you put a plate underneath the mug because it almost always spills over the top (my mugs are kind of small, I guess). When you take it out of the microwave, it will look disgusting. Try not to judge it just yet. Turn the mug over and carefully tip the muffin out onto a plate and let some of the steam escape. Don’t worry, it still won’t look very appetizing. Now, cut it into three slices, and all of a sudden, it actually does look kind of like a sliced muffin.
This is great just with some butter spread on it. It kind of tastes like a bran muffin to me. Plus, it has a good amount of protein in it, so it’s pretty filling. I’ve heard of other people using different flavorings in it, but I haven’t gotten around to that yet.
OK, first off, I LOVE creme brulee. I think it has to be my favorite dessert of all time. So simple, and yet so amazing. (By the way, my birthday is coming up, and I would really love one of those kitchen torches….). The great thing about this dessert is that it is basically just eggs and cream, which are both Atkins-friendly (in moderation, cream does have a few carbs in it). All you have to do is substitute a low-carb sweetener for the sugar. This recipe makes 5-6 servings, depending on how big your dishes are.
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup Splenda, depending on taste
Preheat oven to 350*. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, cook cream in the microwave for two minutes, just long enough to warm it up. There should be a few little bubbles, but don’t boil it. Separate your eggs and keep the egg whites for an omelette or something if you want. Beat the egg yolks in a good-sized bowl with a whisk or hand mixer until well blended. Add the vanilla and Splenda and beat until fluffly and lemon colored. Gradually pour in the cream while still beating, just a little bit at first so that the hot cream won’t curdle the eggs. This is called tempering the eggs. When all the cream is added, beat for just another minute to make sure it is thoroughly combined.
Pour egg mixture into six ramekins (the cute little dessert dishes in the picture above) or small oven-proof bowls. Put the bowls in a large pan, like a 13X9″ casserole dish. Put the whole pan in the oven, leaving the oven rack partially extended for a minute. Pour about two cups of hot water in the bottom of the pan, being careful not to get any water in the bowls. The water should come a third of the way up the sides of the bowls, about an inch. Carefully slide the rack into place without spilling the water and cook for thirty minutes. The custard will still be a little jiggly looking but if you stick a knife in the middle it should come out clean. Take the custard out of the oven and let cool just until you can stand to touch, then eat it while it’s still warm! YUM!
Or, if you want the full creme brulee experience, you can make the caramelized sugar topping. This works best if the custard is refrigerated first. Preheat your ovens broiler. Sprinkle a layer of real sugar (white is great, but try brown too for a more caramel-y taste) on top of the cooled custard (Yeah, I know. But there is no substitute for real sugar in this case. Besides, it’s just a teeny little bit, and if you’re being good with everything else, you can still get away with it). Place the custard cups back on their tray (no water this time) and broil for like three to five minutes. Keep a close eye on it because it will burn quickly. You want the sugar to melt into a golden-brown hard candy topping. As soon as it turns brown, take it out. (If you’re lucky enough to have one of those nifty torches, you just melt the sugar with that). There is nothing like breaking through that sweet crisp topping and taking that first bite of creamy vanilla custard. Heaven!
January 25, 2011
Well, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I’m doing with this blog. What is my purpose? Am I trying to actually teach people how to cook? Or am I just telling you all what I had for dinner last night, mainly in order to give you new ideas? Are you all just wondering what you CAN eat on the Atkins diet? Should I be posting once a day? A couple of times a week? Should I post full recipes and instructions, or just a basic summary? I’m still working these issues out, so please give me your feedback. I got a lot of views on my first post, and only two (!) on my second, so I guess I just want to make sure that if I’m just posting for Liz and Shannon, I at least know my audience!
I didn’t post anything about last night, because Andrew was working late and not eating with us, and I tend to go really simple when he’s not around. So, we had skillet-cooked brats and steamed cauliflower. I have to admit, though, a plain brat with nothing on it is just a little unsatisfying.
Tonight I made chicken cacciatore from a recipe I found on the Atkins site. I have made chicken cacciatore many times before, but I thought I’d try the Atkins way just to see how it was. If you are not familiar with the dish, it’s basically an italian chicken stew with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and garlic. You brown the chicken in a skillet, then remove it while you saute all the veggies except the tomatoes. Deglaze it with a little white wine or chicken broth (that means put a little bit of liquid in the pan to soften the leftover brown pieces of meat that are stuck to the bottom of the pan and to infuse the sauce with their flavor), and add a couple cans of tomatoes. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for ten to fifteen minutes until all the veggies are cooked down and the mixture is kind of soupy. Return the meat to the pan, cover, and let simmer until the meat is cooked through (ten minutes for boneless pieces, twenty or so for bone-in pieces). Serve by itself if on Atkins, or over rice or pasta if not.
While not awful, this didn’t turn out as good as I had hoped. The main problem, I think was that the Atkins recipe said to add rosemary with the veggies, and I think that it just didn’t go with the dish. Also, I realized too late that instead of regular diced plum tomatoes, I only had “italian style” stewed tomatoes, that had their own set of spices in them already that didn’t really go with the rosemary. After eating the meal, I also felt like it was way too sweet. I looked at the ingredients on the can, and lo and behold, they had added to sugar to it! You never know where you’re going to find sugar, people! They’re so sneaky! I know that they add sugar to spaghetti sauce a lot, which I don’t understand. I don’t like sweet spaghetti sauce. Isn’t there enough flavor without it? Anyway, it was edible, but not great. Andrew really doesn’t like the taste of rosemary, and while I like it in some things, it just did not work here.
I also made some roasted asparagus. I just trimmed the tough ends off the asparagus so that they were about 5 or 6 inches long. Then I put them in a shallow baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and garlic powder, and cook them at 450* (does anybody know how to type a degrees symbol on here?) for about fifteen to twenty minutes until tender. Sometimes this turns out really well, and sometime it’s not quite right. I think I should have added some lemon zest or something this time. The Food Network suggests adding chopped pine nuts and chopped parsley. Mmmm, that would have been tasty! I love me some pine nuts!
Grade for tonight’s meal: B-
January 23, 2011
A lot of my cooking creativity comes from being at the end of my grocery week and having one or two ingredients that really need to be used up immediately, and very little else left in my pantry! I usually do a recipe search online with the two ingredients, which often don’t intuitively go together, to see if I can find something palatable. This week I had no meat left in my fridge except for a bunch of rather low-quality sliced ham that Andrew picked up from the store, and a bag of frozen salmon fillets. The ham sounded very unappetizing (especially since I’ve had it for lunch like three days in a row), so it was salmon night at our house. I paired it up with a bunch of fresh spinach left over from last week’s produce co-op basket which needed to be used soon, and headed off to Google. I found this recipe for Salmon with Spinach Sauce on Allrecipes.com, which is my favorite recipe site.
Of course, I was missing a few things, namely lemons and lemon pepper seasoning, and a pressure cooker. So, I just sprinkled the salmon with salt and pepper and a little garlic powder before sauteeing it in olive oil and butter for three minutes or so on each side. I substituted a little white cooking wine for the lemon juice (it wasn’t cooked off, but I’m sure the little bit in such a large amount of sauce is not going to hurt anybody), and I used whole-grain mustard instead of dijon, even though I had some dijon on hand, just because I love whole grain mustard and use it at every opportunity!
After the salmon was done, I put it on a my lovely new Chilean pewter platter (thank you, Liz), covered it with tin foil to keep it warm, and poured about half a can of chicken broth in the same pan I cooked the fish in. I scraped up all the yummy little brown bits on the bottom and brought the broth to a boil, then I stirred in about 3/4 cup of couscous, put a lid on, and turned off the heat.
The result: it was pretty good, I think. Even Andrew, who is not a big salmon eater, liked it. I think the fish and the sauce turned out okay–it probably would have been better with the lemon juice–but the thing that really pulled it all together for me, surprisingly, was the couscous! Unfortunately, I’m not supposed to eat couscous right now, which is sad, because I love it. So, I just sneaked a couple of spoonfuls of it and sprinkled them on top of my fish. But, oh, wow, somehow that couscous raised the dish from a B to an A!
In case you’re curious, on the side we had steamed broccoli with butter and garlic powder, and boiled cabbage with butter (I made a lot of veggies because I was afraid I didn’t have enough salmon to go around).
Oh, and for dessert, I made a sugar-free version of Christmas jell-o, the lazy version. I used red and green sugar-free jell-o, with a layer of whipped cream cheese, a little sour cream, and some Splenda in between. The jell-o part was good, but the cream cheese part tasted a little too fake sugar-y. I will have to experiment with different no-calorie sweeteners. Suggestions?
Afterthought: If you have never liked salmon, I would suggest it’s because you’ve been eating the wrong kind! Most of the salmon you find in supermarkets today is farm-raised. I have never had good farm-raised salmon. If you see wild-caught salmon in your butcher’s case for a decent price, snap it up! The taste is completely different! I don’t what it is about swimming wild and free, but it sure makes those fish taste better! If it’s not available fresh, or if the fresh is just too pricey for you, you can get it frozen. I think I got a 2 pound bag for $10 at Smith’s, which had four generously sized portions in it. The only drawback is that it didn’t have the skin on, which I think makes a difference in the flavor. The fillets thaw in the microwave in two minutes and take about five minutes to cook, which makes for a great quick and healthy lunch. Also, it’s really easy to overcook salmon. Salmon is like steak–it’s best when it’s left slightly rare inside. Saute it only long enough to get a good sear on both sides, and leave the inside slightly pink. Otherwise you will have a mouthful of dry, tough fish leather that nobody will want to eat!
January 22, 2011
If you are an old reader of my blog (which means you are probably related to me in some way), thank you for coming back. If you are a new reader, welcome. I used to use this blog as an outlet to express my frustrations, share something I was excited about, and, let’s admit it, try to impress people with my wit and deep thinking. I might still do that on occasion, but I am just going to keep things simple for right now.
My new blog concept, inspired by my sister-in-law, is just to share with you what I make for dinner. I believe that, despite the popularity of cooking channels, real cooking is becoming a lost art. I cook home-made, from-scratch meals almost every single night for my family, and I often feel a little embarrassed to admit this because people look at me kind of funny when I do. The main reason for this choice is that once I started really cooking, I think I began to spoil my tastebuds. I simply can no longer tolerate frozen, canned, or packaged dinners anymore because they just taste awful to me. I don’t mean to sound like a food snob, but I truly think that if you cook from scratch, it tastes better, it’s better for you, and most of the time, it’s not a lot harder than than opening a bag of something frozen and sticking it in the microwave.
I also have joined my husband this month on starting a low carb diet. We are following phase 1 on the Atkins diet, which restricts us from pretty much anything with carbs in it: bread, fruit, pasta, rice, cereal, starchy veggies like squash and potatoes, and, of course, sugar. As we progress towards our weight loss goal, we will be able to add some of these items back in moderation, but for now, most of the recipes I will be posting will be Atkins friendly.
So, enough said. Here is my first contribution.
Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions
I love caramelized onions. What could be easier? Or cheaper? This recipe would actually work well with any cut of meat, such as chicken or steak, but I love it with pork chops. In fact, this recipe is so easy, I’m not even going to include an ingredient list.
Prep Time: Five minutes
Active Cooking Time ( the time you actually have to stand at the stove doing something): maybe ten minutes
Inactive Cooking Time (when it’s cooking all by itself): twenty minutes
Get as many pork chops as you need to feed your family. Rinse them in water and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Sometimes I also use a meat seasoning mixture as well, whatever your favorite is.
Place a large skillet over MEDIUM-HIGH heat (use one that has a lid). Add a little olive oil and butter to the pan (the butter makes the meat brown very nicely, but you need the olive oil to keep the butter from burning). When the butter has melted, brown the pork chops for about two or three minutes per side.
In the meantime, slice an onion or two (depending on how many of your children you can get to eat onions). When the pork chops have been browned, scatter the sliced onions on the top of them. It may look like a whole lot of onions, but as they cook down, they will reduce in size and get very sweet. Pour a cup or so of water in the pan, put on the lid, and reduce the heat to LOW. Set the timer for 20 minutes and walk away to do something else. (FYI–cooking something in a covered pan at low temperatures with a little bit of liquid is called braising, and results in fork tender, delicious meat).
When the timer goes off, come back and remove the meat from the pan and place on a serving platter. Turn the heat in the pan up to HIGH and boil off any remaining liquid until it’s thick and saucy. Dump the onions on top of the pork chops (or in a side dish, if you have picky kids) and serve.
Caramelized onions also are great on green beans, so they make a great side dish with this meal!
June 24, 2009
You gotta love the life of a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes there is time–too much time–for introspection and reflection on the deeper things of life, and there is time to write long, deep-thinking posts about these things. Other times, all you can think about is “What can I do to keep these kids busy and out of my hair long enough for me to take a shower?” If you haven’t guessed, summer vacation is upon us, and I definitely fall into the latter category right now. I have felt guilty for being unable to post very often lately (although I do have time to check in on Facebook a couple of times a day–that takes a lot less effort! So, if you miss me, you can find me there!), so I thought I’d take just a second to share with you all one method of keeping the kids busy.
My mom used to make homemade playdough for us pretty frequently, but it was always full of salt and consequently very rough and scratchy. Plus, it dried out and got crumbly very quickly. Store-bought play-doh isn’t much better. Happily for me, I found this awesome recipe online somewhere. It is smooth, easy to kead and mold, and doesn’t dry for days! We left a whole pile out overnight without a cover, and the next day the top was kind of dry, but we kneaded it up a bit and it was just fine again. This stuff kept all three of my kids occupied for three days solid–even the ten-year-old! We made it like two weeks ago and it is still sitting in my fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap. We haven’t pulled it out in a few days, but it still feels fairly soft to the touch. I’m not sure if playdough can spoil–it never usually lasts long enough to find out! Anyway, great stuff, give it a try, then sneak off and take a really long shower.
In a large saucepan, mix together
3 cups Flour
1 1/2 cups Salt
3 cups Water
2 TB vegetable oil (I used canola, I’m sure it doesn’t matter)
1 TB Cream of Tartar
Food coloring or unsweetened Kool-Aid pkg for color.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and gets too thick to stir (about 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool until it can be handled. Place on counter or wax paper and knead several times until smooth. Store in an air-tight container.
I haven’t tried cooking this yet, but if you try it, let me know how it works!
June 5, 2009
My favorite OTC candy (that is, candy that you can buy at the grocery store and don’t have to go to a specialty gourmet store for) is Dove chocolate. Mmmmm, that’s good stuff. Dark or Milk chocolate, sometimes it’s the only thing that will satisfy me when I need a real chocolate fix. Imagine my joy and surprise when I found out today that Mars Co., the makers of Dove, is giving out coupons for FREE CHOCOLATE! They are using this campaign to promote the fact that they, unlike Hershey’s and several other chocolate manufacturers, refuse to compromise on their ingredients despite the recession, and continue to offer products made only with with real cocoa butter. Some of you might remember how I blogged about this particular outrage several months ago. Anyway, I would like to commend Mars on the quality of their products and thank them for becoming enablers in helping to “feed” my habit!