PROJECT RECIPE: Curried Corn and Cheddar Chowder

Curried Corn and Cheddar Chowder. Say that three times fast.

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I’m pretty sure I was browsin’ Pinterest when I stumbled on this Curried Corn and Cheddar Chowder recipe. It sounded yummy, plus I had everything needed to make it. I love it when that happens. It’s almost like it was meant to be. Meant to be in my belly, that is.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: The Hubs summed it up best. He texted me at lunch when he was eating this soup, and said “Holy sh*t. This soup will change your life.” So, yeah. It’s a keeper.

How I changed the recipe: Instead of hot water, I used 4 cups of corn stock. Corn stock is so easy to make and freeze, and when you use it in soups or risotto, it just ups the flavor like using chicken stock or something. I also didn’t add the roux at the end. And I shredded the cheddar as opposed to cutting it into cubes. I figured it’d melt faster. Also, 1 1/2 pounds of frozen corn kernels turned out to be about 4 cups.

I had all the stuff to make this because I froze some corn (and corn stock) that I bought right around the last few days the farmers market was open last October. I love corn chowder, and I have a really good recipe, but it calls for bacon. Sadly, my bacon supplier is out of commission. Sandy Creek Farms had a fire in their smokehouse this spring, and is currently not producing any bacon. I have been in serious withdrawal since I ran out this winter. I hope they reopen sometime soon. My corn and corn stock was just patiently waiting it out in my freezer, and this recipe helped me get a few more containers out to make room for summer vegetables. And this vegetarian version of corn chowder just knocked off my go-to recipe with bacon. I’ll definitely be making this again when corn comes back in season in a couple months.

Seriously, you should click through the link to the recipe above or find it on pinterest and make this soup. It will probably change your life.

PROJECT RECIPE: Kale and Ricotta Pasta

Anytime I see kale in a recipe, I’m in. It’s my favorite vegetable. I’d had this recipe printed for quite sometime, but just had never gotten around to making it. I’m not making much progress in that big binder of recipes I find on food blogs, because for each one I make, I find three more. And now there’s Pinterest. I have so many good recipes I want to make. Someday.

I found this recipe for Kale and Ricotta Pasta on one of the blogs I follow regularly, Baked Bree. I met Bree at Mixed Con a few years ago, and learned a ton in her photography session. Her attention to detail comes through in her beautiful pictures. I’d encourage you to visit her blog for that alone, even if you aren’t interested in the recipes themselves.

Of course, mine isn’t nearly as pretty as hers. But it was so yummy.

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PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper! I want to make it again, but differently. I need to tweak a couple things, that I changed when I made it. The lemon is what really makes this dish. Without it, it would be just ho-hum, but it gives it a little zing.

How I changed the recipe: I didn’t have penne. I had half a pound of ziti, but the recipe calls for a whole pound of pasta. I should have used the half pound of ziti. A whole pound of macaroni makes a lot of pasta. Too much pasta. Also, I used a lemon that I had scraped a couple teaspoons of zest from for another recipe. I would definitely use more zest next time I make this. I also didn’t have pistachios, so I omitted them. I might try that next time.

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My favorite breakfast smoothies

At the start of the year, the Hubs and I pledged to eat fewer simple starches (i.e. flour, potatoes, sugar) just to kick start the annual post-holidays diet clean-up. That lasted about 10 days, and really, we didn’t intend to do it forever (I like potatoes and pasta too much).

But one thing that did stick was smoothies for breakfast. Before, I was baking something on Sunday evening for breakfast all week. Things like quick bread, scones or muffins that are easy to grab as your running out the door with a cup of coffee. I was never on the smoothie kick. They seemed too fussy. And I was convinced I’d be hungry in an hour after I had one.

Well, I can tell you that I was proven wrong on both counts. These couldn’t be much easier (actually, if someone would just wash my blender every day, that would be awesome). They are pretty quick to make if you have all your ingredients handy. And I really don’t get hungry all morning. The key to that is making sure there’s plenty of protein in them. That’s where I had the hardest time finding recipes. I wanted smoothie recipes that didn’t require me to buy a lot of produce out of season. A lot of the recipes I found called for spinach or greens, green apples, or something that I didn’t have in the freezer or isn’t available in the winter except from the grocery store. I didn’t want to be spending a lot of money on produce that comes from the southern hemisphere in January.

I just tweaked a few recipes I found on Pinterest and made up my own creation. Actually, two creations. I hope you’ll find these as easy to incorporate into your breakfast rotation as I have.

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PB&J Smoothie (makes 2 servings)

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 Tb ground flax seeds
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • 1/3 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 1 Tb natural peanut butter
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • a little water to thin it out after you blend it (maybe 1/4 cup)

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend for a few minutes. I add them in this order. I think it makes it less likely to cake up around the bottom and on the sides. If it is the consistency of pudding (mine usually is) add a little bit of water and blend again until it’s the consistency of a thick milkshake. You should be able to pour it out of the blender. Also, after adding water and blending, you should have about 32 ounces. Divide between two glasses and drink immediately.

Nutrition Info (according to my Lose It! app): Fat 14.3 g (37%); Carbohydrates 27.6 g (including 17.8 g of sugars and 3.3 g of fiber) (31%); Protein 28.4 g (32%)

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I don’t know the brand of protein powder I use. I hate to admit this, but it expired in 2010. We’ve been eating it for three months and haven’t died yet, so I’m gonna finish it up. I guess that’s the pitfall of buying a gallon-sized container of it. About 12 years ago, I used to follow the Body for Life diet, which was easy and successful. But, there’s no full-fat dairy on it. Or bacon. Or hardly any beef. I abandoned it when I switched to a whole foods natural diet, which I can whole-heartedly endorse. One of the holdovers from that diet were the two huge containers of protein powder that had been overlooked in the little-used cabinet over my fridge since who knows when. So, I’m getting my money’s worth out of them instead of throwing them out. I would not recommend this. Actually, this is the kind of protein power I’m going to buy once I use up all I have leftover.

The flax seed bumps up the protein in these smoothies. You can find it in the natural foods section at the grocery store. So does the cottage cheese. In case you’re wondering, you can’t taste it at all, and if you blend this up well, you don’t even see the curds at all. You could swap in greek yogurt if you don’t want to use cottage cheese.

I had a couple one-gallon bags of frozen blueberries that I picked from my mom’s blueberry bushes last summer, so using them in smoothies was a no-brainer. You could also sub blackberries in this recipe, if you don’t mind the seeds. Although, I’m not sure you’d notice the seeds much since the ground flax seed in these is a little grainy. The texture doesn’t bother me, though.

Banana Mocha Smoothie (makes 2 servings)

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 Tb ground flax seeds
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 2/3 cup plain 0% fat greek yogurt
  • 1 medium or large banana sliced
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder (you can sub 1 Tb instant coffee)
  • a few ice cubes (if your banana is fresh. You can also freeze the banana slices and omit the ice)

Place all the ingredients in the blender in this order. Blend for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth. Pour into two glasses and serve immediately.

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Nutrition Info (according to my Lose It! app): Fat 8.3 g (26%); Carbohydrates 27.7 g (including 17.7 g of sugars and 2.3 g of fiber) (38%); Protein 25.9 g (36%)

While these smoothies aren’t “low carb”, they are very high in protein, which makes them a little better than eating something like muffins or scones that wouldn’t have very much protein in them. Eating protein along with carbs helps us digest carbs more slowly, stabilizing blood sugar spikes and the production of glucose, allowing the body to use the food more efficiently. What this all really means is eating protein with carbs means you won’t be hungry as quickly, and the food will be less likely stored as fat. (Here’s my source for that.) That’s a win-win in my book.

PROJECT RECIPE: Steak Sandwiches

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This meal is a byproduct  of my continued freezer clean-out. Of the half a beef we bought last fall, we have eaten most of the stew meat and a good bit of the steaks. We have plenty of hamburger left (which I’ll use more of this summer), but we have a ton of packages of cube steak left. I have made chicken-fried steak twice, but that’s getting old.  I needed something else to make using cube steak. That’s the beauty of the internet, and particularly Pinterest. Searching for cube steak recipes on Pinterest didn’t take long until I found one I had everything I needed to make. And that wasn’t chicken-fried steak. (Seems that is the most popular thing to do with this humble cut.)

For those following along a home, cube steak is usually top round steaks that have been tenderized. It’s an economical cut of meat, and cooks quickly–making it perfect for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.

I found this recipe on Pinterest for Cheese Steak Sandwiches. It’s from the LOL Foodie blog, which I think is no longer active, but nonetheless, there are some really tasty looking recipes on it. This is not an authentic Philly cheesesteak. I’ve made those before. But this is a pretty bangin steak sandwich with cheese, and a good way to use cube steak.

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PROJECT RECIPE verdict: The Hubs says keeper. I was more ambivalent. It was really quick and easy, and tasty–for that matter. And I got half a package of mozzarella cheese, some hoagie buns and a package of cube steak out of the freezer. The worcestershire sauce was a nice touch, but go easy on salting the meat, as the sauce does add some saltiness.

How I changed the recipe: I used 2 Tb of butter plus 1 Tb extra virgin olive oil, because 4 Tb of butter seemed like a lot. This was plenty. I also had slices of mozzarella cheese. Fresh mozzarella (sold in a ball) would have been better as it does melt better and is creamier, I think. But like I said, I was using up what I had on hand.

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We added some hot peppers I canned in tomato sauce–the perfect topper for this sandwich.

Coffee Snobs

Things that will instantly put me in a good mood: Cole Haan sales, free yoga classes, and piping hot cups of coffee made from premium dark roasted beans.

I’ve been a coffee lover since I was a teenager; maybe 14 or 15. My parents are coffee drinkers, and I guess it was just natural that I turned to the black liquid gold on lazy weekend mornings. I’ve gone through all the phases–the flavored coffee creamers phase, a phase of ordering real cappuccino at restaurants, and, I’m not proud to admit it, but even the International Coffee phase. You remember, those tins of basically sugar and some instant coffee?

Over the past few years, I’ve been on a dark roast phase. With just a little bit of half and half. Real half and half.

It’s nice to go to a local coffee house and order sometimes (and it’s basically a necessity to find a Starbucks when I am travelling), but I really love to make coffee at home, where I can read the paper and have a muffin and take my time enjoying it. We have both a Keurig and a regular coffee pot. I use the Keurig on weekday mornings a lot, and we make a whole pot on the weekends.

When we were registering for wedding gifts (feels like 100 years ago), one thing I really wanted was an espresso machine. Target carries a fairly inexpensive model, and I got one for a wedding gift. I use it also about every weekend, but I’ve discovered it’s limitations over the past year or so, and I really want to upgrade it to a more expensive model.

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I recently watched an episode of Good Eats all about making espresso, and I learned a few things that I was doing wrong. First, you need to make sure you really pack the coffee grounds into the basket. I mean really pack them in. I found a small jar that fits the basket and I’ve been using that to form a nice tight little “puck” of coffee grounds. Second, be patient in frothing the milk. It takes five minutes or more. This is why it feels like it takes forever when you order a cappuccino or latte at a coffee house. Alton suggested using a meat thermometer slid through a binder clip on the edge of the frothing pitcher for the milk to make sure you get it hot enough. I used to heat the milk in the microwave before frothing it because it never got hot enough. There’s nothing worse that going to the trouble to make espresso for a latte, then pouring cold or luke warm milk into it. You have to be patient. It take sometimes five minutes or more to get the milk warm enough. I usually try to get it up to between 90 and 100 degrees .

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Our newest coffee-making fancy is a french press. Some friends made coffee in their french press when we visited last fall, and it was amazing. I’d never had coffee made in a french press before, or new anybody who had one, for that matter. Someone brought one into the Hubs’s office a few weeks back and they tried it out. He even took in a bag of whole bean coffee to use in the press. “You have a coffee grinder at your office?” I asked, skeptically. Apparently, it’s like a full-on coffeehouse there now, with their coffee grinder, french press and whole bean coffee. It puts my office’s Folgers in a Bunn coffeemaker to shame. A couple weeks ago, we finally bought a french press of our own, and I have to say that it does make superb coffee. You can beat how easy it is to make, either. I’m considering getting one for my office now, too.

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I recently read that k-cups, the plastic one-serving coffee pods made for Keurigs and other similar single-serve coffeemakers are becoming a huge problem. First, all of the k-cups sold in 2013 would wrap around the world 10.5 times.  That’s a lot of little plastic cups that wind up in landfills. Secondly, I’ve often wondered about BPA in the plastic itself. As someone who makes a conscious effort to avoid it, I sure do drink a lot of k-cups. When we first got our Keurig, I tried to recycle all the plastic cups. But we drink coffee faster than I was taking the time to empty them out and recycle them, and used k-cups piled up on my counter until I had time to empty them out. Those things don’t come apart super easily either. And, they’re expensive! Luckily, there always seem to be coupons for them, and I buy whatever is on sale at the grocery store with coupons. If I get them for 50 cents per k-cup or less, I consider that a good deal, but compare that to what a pot of coffee in a traditional coffee pot costs. Pennies. I bought a refillable k-cup when we first got our Keurig, but I didn’t use it much because it wasn’t as handy as grabbing a new k-cup and popping it in. There was an outer casing and an inner basket that came out, and you had to remove the part of the coffee pot that you put a k-cup in. And it was made out of plastic. Uh-oh. So, last year, I upgraded to this one from Amazon.

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Forgive the crappy quality.

Pricey? Yes. But I waited for it to go on sale. And most of it is metal, not plastic. Supposedly, the plastic parts are BPA-free. (Who knows what other nasties BPA-free plastics contain?) You don’t have to remove anything from your Keurig, and it’s pretty easy to make coffee. A scoop and a half and bam. One less k-cup in the trash. I still buy k-cups, but this is my go-to a lot of the time.

The next coffee apparatus I really want to try is a Chemex. They are almost prohibitively expensive for such a simple contraption, and I don’t want to sink that much money into something that I’m not sure how much better the coffee might be. Everyone I’ve ever heard of having one says its the best coffee they’ve ever tasted. If I ever find one second hand, I’ll buy it in a heartbeat. But I’ve never seen one being sold second hand, so maybe that should say something right there.

PROJECT RECIPE: Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash

Have you ever been to Food52? You should bookmark it if you don’t have it already. Or better yet, subscribe and you get a weekly email. It’s pretty much a genius concept. Each week, the lovelies who run the website ask readers to submit their best recipes based on a featured seasonal ingredient. They try the ones they really like and select a winner. And you can go onto the website and get the winning recipe with notes from Amanda and Merrill.  Sorta like my PROJECT RECIPE idea. The website is so popular, it has grown to include a shop for cooks and foodies, a weekly column, guest posts and tons of tips and advice for home cooks. If I ever need inspiration for an ingredient that I find myself with and I just don’t know what to do with it, I always go there. Tons of ideas. Just search by your ingredient.

I found this recipe for Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash on the website a while back and it just called me in like a dinner bell. What’s not to love? A hearty one pot dish for a chilly night’s dinner. Winter squash. Lamb. I’m in.

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Project Recipe Verdict: Keeper. This recipe did not disappoint, obviously. Lamb gives it a bit of an unexpected twist. This lamb stew meat was luscious with just the right amount of fat marbled through it. I figured the stew would be bland as the recipe doesn’t call for much spice or seasoning, but is was dynamite. The lamb and tomato flavors don’t need much here because they marry so well.

How I changed the recipe: I didn’t have any butternut, but I did have a gigantic hubbard squash in the garage that I had been storing since last October. They will store in the right conditions for seemingly forever. I figured I better not push my luck too much with it though since the weather (hopefully) will be getting warm soon. It tastes almost like butternut. Maybe not as sweet, and definitely harder, so I braised it longer. About an hour total with the squash, and it was nice a soft. I checked the lamb after about an hour, and it seemed like it was close to done, so I added the squash then and gave it another hour. It’s really hard to overcook something like this. I also used vegetable stock instead of beef because I didn’t have any beef stock.

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The key here is to get a nice brown crust on the meat before you add all the rest of the ingredients. It really brings up the flavor and protects the meat from just becoming gray mush when you braise it. Don’t be afraid to turn the heat up high and really get it sizzling. If it sticks a little, no worry. You end up scraping up all the browned bits with the stock anyway, which helps build the flavor.

This was an easy (but not fast) one-pot meal. Definitely nice for a Sunday evening, since you can put it in the oven on a late afternoon while you do other things around the house. Since the hubbard I cut up to use for this has yielded about two and a half gallon bags of squash, which I’ll put in the freezer, I’ll definitely have to make it again.

Fancy Beef Noodle Soup

I love making soup. I love eating soup, for that matter. I especially love bringing it in my lunch to work.

There aren’t a lot of options for buying lunch where I work. And, hello? That’s one of the first things in all the articles about personal finance that is recommended–brown bagging it. It saves a pile of money.

Besides, who would want to buy lunch from the nearest fast food joint, when you can have a warm hearty bowl of this?

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I used to work at an office that was right beside of a bar. The bar had pretty good food, and did a pretty steady take-out operation for lunch. They had the best beef noodle soup. It was pretty simple, too. I’ve made my own version a few times with deer meat that we’ve canned. Canned deer meat is good for soups because canning it actually cooks the meat, and sometimes it can be a little chewy. The Hubs isn’t real big on soup for lunch like I am though. And he especially isn’t big on the “beef” noodle soup that I make. So this time I decided to spiff it up a little. A little something extra never hurts.

White wine and fresh rosemary kick this soup up a notch or two on the fancy meter.

Fancy “Beef” Noodle Soup (makes 7 generous servings)

  • 2 + 2 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tb flour
  • 1 lb. beef or venison stew meat
  • 1 quart + 1 pint beef or venison stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tb. steak seasoning
  • 3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 Tb fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • about 3 handfuls dry egg noodles

Heat 2 Tb. of the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and carrots. Turn heat to low and put a lid on the pot. Let the vegetables sweat about 10 minutes, checking occasionally.  Once the vegetables are soft, take the lid off and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring often, until they begin to turn golden brown–about 4 minutes. Add the garlic when the onions and carrots are starting to get a little bit of golden brown to them. Don’t let this burn! Add the other 2 Tb. of oil and sprinkle the 3 Tb. of flour over the vegetables. Stir well until they are all coated with the flour. Add the beef/venison.  (If it is uncooked, turn the heat down a bit and cook it for a few minutes until it begins to brown on all sides. Make sure to stir often so the vegetables don’t burn) Stir well and add the stock and wine. Add about another 3/4 to 1 quart of water. Add the mushrooms. Cover the pot and bring it up to a boil. Turn it down to low and let it simmer with the lid on for about 25 or 30 minutes–enough time for all the flavors to get together and for the alcohol to cook out of the wine. Bring the pot back up to a boil and add the egg noodles. This is the tricky part–getting the noodles to just the right doneness without overcooking them. You want to err on the side of slightly undercooked noodles, as they will continue to cook as a the soup cools. I boiled the soup about 5 minutes and tested the noodles. Slightly underdone-perfect! Remove the pot from the burner and serve immediately. As soon as the pot cools enough to put it in the fridge, do so to keep the noodles from getting too mushy. I waited about 30 minutes.

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Speaking of soups and bone broth, this couldn’t have been more timely. I wrote most of this post Sunday evening, but this week, my friend Jodie, shared an article on Facebook from Dr. Mercola about the benefits of bone broth, that I wanted to pass along. It really is an unsung superfood. Got a touch of the sniffles? Reach for bone broth instead of the cold meds. It really is truwhat they say about chicken soup when you’re sick–but only if it’s made with real bone broth, not the stuff that comes from a can.

Here is the link to the article on Dr. Mercola’s site. The compounds and minerals present in bones are anti-inflammatory. It’s important to eat foods with anti-inflammatory properties because so much of the Western Diet is made up of food that CAUSE continuous low-grade inflammation throughout our body. Over the years, this chronic low-grade inflammation leads to common diseases and afflictions that we suffer from today like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. One thing I didn’t know about bone broth that I learned Dr. Mercola’s article, is how beneficial bone broth is for your gut. Even more of a reason to get this superfood into your diet, since the health of your digestive system has a ripple effect through the rest of your body.

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Bone broth is so easy to make, and if you make a lot of soup like I do, you’ll want to have plenty of it on hand. I started  making my own for economic reasons. Ever had a chicken or turkey carcass leftover that you just threw out? That’s all you need to get started (well, and maybe some aromatics). Toss those leftover bones (you can do this with just about any kind of bones, beef, chicken, turkey, deer, even fish, but that’s a different post…) in the crockpot and add a splash of white wine (or red if you’re making beef broth). The acid in wine is necessary to extract some of those beneficial minerals out of the bones. If you don’t have wine, you can use a little cider vinegar.  Add some aromatics like carrots, onions and celery. I keep a gallon ziplock bag in my freezer of vegetable scraps like carrot peelings, stems of kale, root ends of onions, etc. So I just toss in some of that. (when the gallon bag is full, I use that to make vegetable stock–another money saver). Add a little salt and pepper, or spices like thyme or rosemary. Fill the crockpot to just below the top with water and cook on high for at least 12 hours. I usually have to add some water. The longer you cook it, the more of the minerals that will break down in the broth. I’ve cooked it on low in my crockpot for over 2 days before! I usually break a turkey carcass in half and cook each half separately since my crockpot isn’t that big. This will yield about 4-5 quarts of stock. It freezes beautifully, and you’re always ready to make your next batch of soup!

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Duck, duck, goo… er, Tikka Masala!

I mentioned earlier this week that I was making dinners based on what I had in the freezer that needed to move.  A couple of the Hubs’s coworkers are avid duck hunters, and sent us several packages of duck breast from their last hunt of the year. I was tickled to death that they thought of us when they were thinking about  who might like some of the meat from the ducks they’d brought home.

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There are a handful of packages, each with one or two breasts in them. Skinned. Most recipes for duck hinge on duck breast with skin still on, showcasing that delicious crispy, fatty, beautiful thing that is duck skin. But my Afield cookbook has a number of recipes for duck breast without the skin. Seriously, that cookbook is quickly becoming indispensable to me. I’ve used it a lot since I used it the first time last spring.  Any by the way, look how beautiful these cuts of meat are. Gorgeous.

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Okay, maybe I’m the only person who thinks that uncooked duck breasts lying on a cutting board a gorgeous. But they are.

I’ve mentioned before, that we’re fans of Indian food. There are a couple good places to eat here in town that we like to visit, but I also make it at home frequently.  So, the Duck Tikka Masala recipe was a no-brainer for me when I was searching for duck recipes.  This recipe was a little strange in that, it said to marinate the meat overnight (ok, no prob) then, broil it on a sheet pan for about 8 minutes under the broiler (hmmm… odd, but I’ll try it). You made the tikka masala sauce separately in a skillet, and added the broiled duck meat after it was done and beginning to brown. This worked okay, actually. The meat got a little browned and a nice crust on some of the pieces. We tried one as we took the pan out of the oven. A little gamey, but really delicious–there’s not really another type of meat to compare it to.

One thing that I’ll likely do differently next time is use less cayenne. The recipe called for 2 teaspoons, in addition to the garam masala (which I made myself–it’s easy). It was a little on the hot side. I like my food a little spicy, but this was a bit much.

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I have another recipe–Duck Yakitori– from this cookbook flagged for later this month as I continue to work my way through some of the packages from the freezer. I can’t wait to try that one.

Cleaning Out the Freezer and Saving Some Dough

A few weeks back, I was looking for something in our deep freezer, and I kept coming across packages of long-forgotten frozen food think “Oh, I need to make this soon…” I guess I have a tendency to put stuff in there and forget about it. And one thing that would absolutely kill me is to waste food. I would hate to have to throw it out because it was in the freezer too long.

About the same time, the Hubs and I were talking about vacation plans for this summer. We need to start saving up some money for whatever we decide to do, and I got an idea. I would spend as little as possible at the grocery store for a month, which would force me to clean out that freezer for planning meals. It would be a win-win since it’s time to start cleaning it out anyway to make room for for this seasons spring and summer bounty to put away. And I could put into our savings account the money I would have spent on groceries.

 

Just look how much I had to work with.

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It’s ridiculous. So much meat. Beef, deer, pike the Hubs brought back from Canada. Pureed winter squash. Blueberries. And stock. So much stock.

Don’t get me wrong, I count myself lucky. It’s nice to have a big deep freezer to fill up with so much good food.

So far, this month, I’ve made a good bit of progress. Of course, I can’t skip buying stuff like coffee and yogurt at the grocery store. But the grocery bill was lower for my first trip (I try to only make two big trips per month). Another month of doing this, and I should have made a good bit of progress getting stuff out of the freezer from last summer and fall, and hopefully have a nice little chunk of change for vacay.

A couple nights ago, I was planning to make Duck Tikka Masala (for a later post), but I realized I needed to marinate the meat overnight. I didn’t have something lined up for Plan B, so I peeked in the freezer, and found a cup of arugula pesto I’d frozen after the ridiculous explosion of arugula in my garden late last spring. I seriously had so much I didn’t know what to do with it. An easy way to use up a bunch of any green or herb is to make pesto. You can make it with mint, kale, chard, arugula or whatever you have on hand–in addition to the classic, made with basil. It freezes well, and is perfect to bring a burst of warm summer evenings to a cool night dinner in late winter.

My no-fail, favorite cookbook, The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper, has a a great recipe for pesto risotto. Dinner was done and in a bowl in about 30 minutes. And another two containers were out of the freezer–(one for pesto and one for turkey stock).

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The deliciousness will continue all month long, I’m sure. It’s hard to tell what kind of goodies I’ll find when I start digging out the freezer.

Signs of Life

I’d like to deeply apologize. This blog has had to take a backseat to my “real” job for the last few weeks. You know, the one that pays the bills? The one that I’ve spent between fifty and sixty hours a week at for the last seven weeks? I’ve had little time to do much else than come home from work each night, have a  glass of wine for dinner and collapse into bed only to do it all over again the next day.

And, it seems like winter is never going to end. We had a nice little teaser of temperatures in the 60s a couple weekends back, but pretty much the rest of the time it’s been snowy and icy and in the high 20s. Since November, I think.

So, when I did get those two glorious unseasonably warm days a couple weekends back, I couldn’t stay away from my backyard. And looking at my garden.

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I was thrilled to see something green coming in under a nice warm layer of leaves in my vegetable garden. It is the garlic I planted last fall. I actually thought the Hubs weed-eated it the last time he did yard work last fall.

I hope it won’t be long before spring comes back. I’m really getting antsy. More so this year than ever before. Time to get my hands in the dirt!