Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Sunday January 24, 2010

Carole’s Concoctions:
The Organized Cook - Must Haves in your Pantry, Spice Cabinet and Fridge/Freezer

I realize that sometimes the obvious is not so obvious.  And for me, it is very obvious to keep certain items on hand at all times in my kitchen so I can whip up breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I also have a very organized mind when it comes to cooking and menu planning.  While I do enjoy grocery shopping, I know it is chore for some. So I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on weekly menu planning and then provide a list of items to keep in your larder.

I generally do my shopping on Saturday morning.  The first thing I do is look in my pantry, fridge, and spice cabinets for items that I am "out" of that I need to replenish.  Then I think about meals for the next 6-7 days. What did we eat last week?  Will I be traveling this week and need to make extra so there are plenty of leftovers for Jim?  I like to eat a balance of meat, poultry, fish, pork and lamb with leafy greens and vegetables. I decide that we'll eat lamb, shrimp and chicken this week.  Then I think about how I might want to prepare them.  Right now it's winter and I love to make stews and braises.  Lamb works up nicely in a stew.  Shrimp would be perfect cooked in a risotto and chicken breasts can be done several ways but I know I don't need to decide.  If you can tell, these three meats will probably provide six nights of dinner.  My shopping list has the three meats, any vegetables that accompany the main meals - for the lamb stew - potatoes and green salad; for the risotto, broccoli or spinach; for the chicken, a green vegetable or two, some root vegetables etc.  To then re-invent the left-overs, I would make polenta with the lamb stew night two; I might add some asparagus to the risotto for night two; and with the chicken, I might turn it into a stir-fry - onions, garlic, peppers, diced chicken and rice.  My shopping list grows out of my menu.  But I don't need to buy everything because I already have many of the building blocks.

Here's the list of must-haves for every organized cook:


Spice Cabinet
Salt ( regular, kosher and sea salts)
Pepper (ground and pepper corns)
Nutmeg
Cinnamon (ground and sticks)
Crushed Red Pepper
Cayenne
Cumin
Bay Leaves
Tarragon
Thyme
Curry Powder
Chile Powder
Cardamon
Coriander (ground and seeds)
Paprika (smoked, spicy, plain)
Vanilla (extract and beans)
Sage
Marjoram
Ground Ginger
Cloves (ground and whole)
Molasses
Honey
Cocoa



Pantry
Flour
Sugars ( granulated, light and dark brown)
Powdered Sugar
Oats
Cornmeal
Pasta
Rice (white, brown, risotto)
Canned Tomatoes
Canned Beans (chick peas, cannellini, red kidney)
Lentils and Split Peas
Chicken Broth and Bullion Cubes
Bread Crumbs
Mustard
Vinegars ( red wine, cider, rice wine, tarragon, champagne)
Oils (olive, canola, sesame)
Shortening (I found some non-transfat organic)
Raisins
Chocolate Chips


Bittersweet Chocolate bars
Potatoes (russett and sweet)
Onions
Garlic
Shallots
Coffee (beans and instant)




Fridge
Milk
Half and Half
Heavy Cream
Butter - sweet
Eggs
Plain non-fat yogurt
Mayo
Cheese - parm, romano, mozzarella, goat, cheddar, ricotta
Capers
Olives
Lemons
Limes
Freezer
Bread
Organic Frozen Spinach, Corn and Broccoli
Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans)
Phyllo
Puff Pastry
Chicken Breast
Sausage
 
 
 

Monday January 04, 2010

Carole’s Concoctions:
A Meal for the New Year

I don't know about most of you but the holiday season seemed long, replete with parties galore and food a-plenty. This is not an overt complaint, just an observation. And for me, I am looking to eat on the lighter, healthier side as we march into the new year and decade.

So, what to eat? What not to eat? I remember this dialogue between my Mom and Nana when we were little, as they, too, were sick of cooking, eating all the impossible to resist goodies and undoubtedly feel as loagy as I do at the end of the season. I think this is where all the religious fasting rituals have evolved. I grew up a practicing Catholic so we were always giving something up for Lent, eating fish on Fridays, etc. I'll stop digressing and get to the point - I'm ready to dine on less fattening meals.

One of my goals for this blog in 2010 is to actually report the "meals" I make as frequently as I can, the inspiration and photos and recipes.

Our Monday night meal:
Broiled Salmon with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and rosemary
Steamed Asparagus
Mixed Greens and cherry tomatoes tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some goat cheese.



I didn't use a recipe.  I just concocted.

Saturday December 26, 2009

Carole’s Concoctions:
Feast of the Seven Fishes or Two in Our Case!!

Well, I made it....the cooking and eating frenzy of the past 2-3 days is over for now. I reflect on all the food my Nana used to make from the scores of baked goods to the multiple course dinners. As you already know I am half Italian and those are the traditions that I carry forward. As a young girl, I remembered my grandfather bringing home the salt cod and soaking it for what seemed like days, resulting in bacala (baacaaala as they pronounced it). And let me tell you, it was gross. As an adult, I still can't seem to stomach it. So sadly, those memories will only reside with me...although, I think there is a salt cod story to be told. My Nana also made stuffed calamari in "gravy" (code for "tomato sauce" in Italian-American households) and served over spaghetti. Add fried scallops, flounder, shrimp cocktail and I am sure some other fishes. This was the Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Now that I am the lucky hostess for my family and friends, I can only take the feast so far, as I think it's important to enjoy what you eat.

Our Menu:

So I decided to make a lobster risotto and fried calamari with a caesar salad to celebrate Christmas Eve.  We had 14 people in total - it was simply lovely!!

Lobster Risotto

2-3 1.5 pound lobsters (have them steamed at the fish counter to save you a step)
7 cups chicken broth (heated)
1 stick butter
1 cup of shallots or onions
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
1 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon freshly chopped thyme
1/4 teaspoon of fresh pepper

Remove meat from lobster, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add shallots and cook until tender.  Stir in rice and stir until coated with oil about 2 minutes.   Add the wine and stir until the wine is cooked off and absorbed. Add the broth one ladle at time, stirring constantly until the broth is absorbed.  (My Mom's hint:  It's time to add more broth when your spoon creates a track in the rice.) Continue adding broth until rice is fluffy, tender and creamy.   Next add the parmesan, lemon juice, pepper and thyme.  And finally, add the lobster until warm.  Enjoy!!  This will serve 6-8 people.

Click the photo to watch a very homemade video:

Saturday December 19, 2009

Carole’s Concoctions:
Homemade Hostess/Holiday Gifts on Newschannel 13

When I was a making caramels, struffoli and spiced nuts yesterday and then packaging them prettily for the segment, my thoughts were all over the map..."hope they taste good - but wait - you can't taste things on TV, well then they have to look GOOD - oh, dear, I have to package all these goodies I just made..."  And of course it is that anxiety and adrenalin that propels me and prepares me. It's like studying for a final exam - if you are prepared, you'll do OK.

And, so I present you with my most recent TV spot. I had a blast. Thank you Mom. Thank you Jim for assisting me. Couldn't do it without my "wing men!!"
 

Click the photo to watch the show:

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