Sunday January 24, 2010
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:
Salt ( regular, kosher and sea salts)
Pepper (ground and pepper corns)
Cinnamon (ground and sticks)
Crushed Red Pepper
Coriander (ground and seeds)
Paprika (smoked, spicy, plain)
Vanilla (extract and beans)
Cloves (ground and whole)
Sugars ( granulated, light and dark brown)
Rice (white, brown, risotto)
Canned Beans (chick peas, cannellini, red kidney)
Lentils and Split Peas
Chicken Broth and Bullion Cubes
Vinegars ( red wine, cider, rice wine, tarragon, champagne)
Oils (olive, canola, sesame)
Shortening (I found some non-transfat organic)
Bittersweet Chocolate bars
Potatoes (russett and sweet)
Coffee (beans and instant)
Half and Half
Butter - sweet
Plain non-fat yogurt
Cheese - parm, romano, mozzarella, goat, cheddar, ricotta
Organic Frozen Spinach, Corn and Broccoli
Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans)
Friday January 15, 2010
Each week I co-host a radio show called Radio2Women with Serene Mastrianni. And Serene decided that she wanted to "interview" me. We had a great time discussing how easy cooking really is. The interview has inspired my next blog post....Alway prepared - must have spices, must have pantry and fridge/freezer items....so stay tuned!!
In the meantime, listen to the interview here and get ready for Heirloom Meals Radio beginning in February!
Sunday January 10, 2010
Even the animals have to eat! And their excitement when the see the hay coming is pretty amusing. This winter we've kept the horses and cows in the lower pasture because it is flat and there is a wonderful flowing stream where they can get fresh water that doesn't freeze. Our upper pasture is pretty steep with many under ground springs that create a skating rink environment which is hazardous to the animals. The hay barn is however at the top of upper the steep pasture. We heave the bales into the truck and drive them down. When we go to the barn, the cows begin to moooooo with excitement and the herd descends on the gate. I don't have to come up with a menu for the animals, but it sure is fun feeding them.
And for my other herd....here's a meal I put together after a vigourous cross country ski outing. While there was no mooing, the herd descended upon the table which always makes a cook feel good!!
Our meal consisted of:
Mushroom Quinoa Risotto
Cream of Cauliflower Soup
Left over roasted chicken with gravy
Dark chocolate and clementines to sate our sweet tooth!
Monday January 04, 2010
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
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
Herb-crusted Rib Roast
Mashed yellow potatoes and celeriac (from my CSA stash)
Roasted brussel sprouts
Broccoli sauteed with garlic and olive oil
Turnip and Potato Gratin
Arugula Salad with Dijon vinaigrette
Ice cream and sherbet cake
Had a love-filled afternoon cooking with my Mom and then sharing this wonderful meal that we were all so grateful to enjoy. Present were my Mom and Dad, Jim (my man), Jen (my sis), Johnny (her husband), August (my bro), Sandra (his wife), AJ (my nephew). We celebrated being together and the spirit of the day. Thank you all for such a wonderful day.
Click the photo to watch a clip of the beef waiting to go in the oven:
Saturday December 26, 2009
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.
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!!
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: