Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pantry Staples

Years ago, Cooking Light ran an article about "The Well-Stocked Pantry."  I still remember this article well, and learned a lot about keeping certain foods on hand.  Most nights, your dinner is only as good as your stocked pantry.  Because, who wants to start EVERY meal with a trip to the grocery store?

Here are a few staples in our house: 

Canned Tomatoes.  I try to have several cans of tomatoes, all different kinds.  Stewed, crushed, diced....and sometimes I get them with the spices mixed in.  A can of diced tomato with green chiles added to sliced kielbasa, onion and peppers made a speedy dinner over rice tonight.  And there's leftovers for tomorrow!  Canned tomatoes also make a quick pasta sauce or chili base too.

Chicken Broth.  LOTS of recipes need chicken broth, sometimes even just a couple of spoonfuls to moisten something.  It makes for a quick soup base too, though I don't cook soup a whole lot.

Dried Pasta and frozen meatballs.  Need I say more?  This is a go-to dinner whenever we have NO idea what to cook!

Soy sauce and jarred minced ginger.  When the mood for Asian inspired cuisine hits.  I absolutely abhor peeling fresh ginger, plus I never seem to use up what I buy.  This helps me waste a lot less. 

What are some go-to ingredients that you always have on hand?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Leftover City!

Apparently, as far as leftovers are concerned around here, it's feast or famine.

Last week was really meager, nothing much to take for lunch at work.  I'm not a sandwich fan, so it's usually whatever we had the night before.  I ate out twice last week, which I try hard not to do.  This week?  It's Sunday night, and here's what's in the fridge:

Chicken Cacciatore (from the crockpot)
Steak Fajitas
a pan of lasagna
a couple of slices of pizza from Thursday Night Dinner with our friends
a big tub of white rice
a big bag of rolls

The chicken cacciatore and lasagna are from Will's family birthday party yesterday.  (p.s.  he didn't have any of either, preferring to eat a cereal bar and then birthday cake instead)  When making the lasagna for my guests, I realized that I had waaay more meat mixture and ricotta mixture than could possibly fit in the 9x13 pan!  On a whim I quickly grabbed a second smaller pan and made a mini version.  I tried to send some home with people but my parents forgot it in the fridge, along with a little bag of rolls I had packed for them.  Oops.  Now I'm wondering...can you freeze lasagna?  (Not that I'm really good at eating frozen stuff from the freezer like that.  I recently found blueberries from February in there!)

So it's good eating in our house this week.  Hope I don't have to throw away too much of it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Frying Chicken

Fried it!  It's one of those things that I don't make very often AT ALL because it's so bad for you.  Apparently though, I need a refresher class.   I don't own a deep fryer because honestly, I'd get such little use out of it that it's not worth it.  So we pan-fry.   Last time, the chicken was reallllly dark on the outside, and raw on the inside so it was an IPN.  (Instant Pizza Night)  Tonight, the outside was done but Brian put it back into the oil because it had a big pink spot in the middle.   That, and it just lacked flavor.  A big case of the Blahs..... Perhaps someone has some tips or a source to share for fried chicken help?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Surprise Party

Last night was my Dad's surprise 60th birthday party.  Our family got there early to help out.  Guess what......Dad was already there!!  He had come home early from a trip and found Mom making lasagna.  "Oh!  Is that for me??"  Then, looking around the room, "Wow, there's a lot of food in here.  What's going on?"  He was truly surprised.  :)

The lasagna was excellent as always, and my brother and his wife brought fresh Porutguese rolls...they were incredible!  Mom also made a Rachael Ray pasta dish that she called "Chicken Riggies."  It was peppers, onions, tomato, spice, chicken, and of course, rigatoni.  I had a big ol' plate of those and was sure to bring home leftovers!  There was also an awesome dessert buffet with carrot cake whoopie pies, apple crisp, brownies and much more.  We contributed by making a Warm Pumpkin Pudding Cake, and a layered taco dip.  The dip, as always, went really fast!  The dessert was a really easy cake to make, and it makes your house smell so incredible, the cake almost didn't make it to the party!

One of the surprises of the evening was how much Will pigged out!  Cheese, crackers, banana, Portuguese roll, three mini-cupcakes, a little vanilla ice cream olives.  Yes....very surprising!  Kim and I made up the salad and I put the black olives in a little dish on the side.  My mother, who adores black olives, asked why they weren't in the salad.  I told her it was because not everyone likes them, and this way people can add them if they like them.  Black olives are on the short list of things I'm not crazy about.  Actually, I'm not a fan of olives, period.  If they're sliced over a pizza, I'll just perservere instead of taking them off.  Anyway, Will grabbed a couple out of the bowl and stuffed them into his mouth.  He made a bitter face and I stuck out my napkin and told him that it was ok to spit them out.  His answer??  "NO, Mommy, I love them!"  Case closed.  I find that he's very adventurous at parties, and luckily, we have a lot of celebrations to attend!

All in all, it was a very successful party.  Happy 60th, Dad!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Weeknight Stir-fry

I don't know why we don't eat more stir-fry.  They're quick and easy to make and they're pretty versatile.  Last night's Chicken and Spinach Stir-fry was out of this world!  Chicken breast, spinach, sliced onion, fresh garlic, ginger, soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds....all of it came together nicely over a bed of white rice.  I'm only sad that there's no leftovers for lunch today!

You don't really need a recipe for a stir-fry per se, but this recipe came from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything."  This is a great cookbook if you like simple, delicious food.  I don't use it too much because I tend to forget that we have it!