Sunday, April 24, 2011

No more will I shop around, baby/I know I've got the best thing in town, baby

I am a victim of my whims and cravings. I know that I should make a menu plan each week, shop for that plan and do my cooking accordingly. Well, lady magazines tell me I should do that, though I'm not quite clear on the reasons. Budgetary? Time maintenance? Whatever. I've tried it and I can't do it. Because I will see a photo, or read about a friend's menu, I see some irresistible ingredient at the grocery store, or a host of other happenstance circumstances and suddenly there is something I must have for dinner/lunch/dessert. My method may result in the occasional evening where I'm completely stumped as to what to make for dinner, but I'm not giving up my capricious ways.

The other day, the Scottish Correspondent was talking about a pub he might be visiting so I looked up their menu. A soup listed as Spanish chorizo tomato caught my fancy, as did a description of what pretty much seemed like cheese fries. As it was a chilly, damp day, soup seemed like a good idea and I was pretty sure I had a package of Spanish chorizo in the refrigerator.

Of course, I have no idea of the actual ingredients of this pub's soup, but I used the idea as a starting point. I heated a tablespoon or so of olive oil and sauteed half of a sweet onion, three stalks of celery, three carrots, a green pepper and a zucchini (because I had one). After the vegetables softened, I added two small chorizo sausages, halved lengthwise and sliced. For the tomato portion I used one big can of crushed tomatoes and about three cups of tomato juice. To season the soup I used salt and pepper, a touch of oregano, a teaspoon or so of chili powder, and about a tablespoon of paprika. I let is simmer for a couple hours and it turned out quite nice. I got lazy regarding the potato portion of the meal. I had some frozen french fries which I baked and topped with melted Velveeta and chopped fresh tomatoes. It worked.

For Easter, circumstances prevented us from attending an anticipated brunch, so I was compelled to make an Easter lunch when I could. I knew I would be time-challenged, so I tried to think of things that would be quick to make. I gave Steve the choice of deviled eggs or quiche and he (surprising me) picked quiche. I can roll with it so quiche it would be. I must confess that the accompanying au gratin potatoes were made from a box. They were cheap, easy and, honestly, they tasted really good. My homemade au gratins are always lacking something and they either are a bit too done or not done enough. So I compromised. In addition, I prepared asparagus amandine by steaming the spears, browning some crushed almonds in a pan before adding some butter, the steamed asparagus, a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper. After tasting I thought it needed something else so a sprinkle of parmesan did the trick. Finally, with the help of Jiffy baking mix, I whipped up a batch of cheddar-chive biscuits (2 cups of mix, 2/3 cups milk, a handful of garlic chives and 1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar). Oh, and the quiche was made with ham, green onion, sundried tomatoes, spinach, Swiss and jack cheeses.

And then there was the cake. I got a sudden craving for coconut cake yesterday, harkening back to my many childhood Easters when my mom would always make a beautiful lamb-shaped cake covered in coconut, lying on a bed of dyed green coconut "grass." Sort of like this, though Mom's always looked way better. I used a "golden vanilla" cake mix (whatever that is) and made an icing recipe I found on - two cups of sour cream, two cups of sugar, one and a half cups of coconut. Stir together then fold in 8 oz. of Cool Whip). I was a little dubious about the frosting, but it actually ended up tasting quite nice with the cake (that turned out nearly as white as an actual white cake mix and has a texture leaning towards angel food cake).  I bought some purple Peep chicks and jelly beans to decorate and here's what I ended up with. It looks like a child decorated it, but it tastes good. (This is a rather moody photo of a silly cake, I know.)

A few days ago I had a hankering for chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles. Which, in retrospect was a bit of a crazy excursion considering the kittens can be very interested in what I'm doing at the kitchen table. And noodle making was no exception. They watched and occasionally tried to participate. I get impatient when I make noodles, though, and I tend to pile them all up for the drying up portion of the recipe. Soooooo, when it came time to put them into the soup, they were kind of stuck together in places, so the noodles weren't exactly uniform when I added them to the soup. I used stock that I had made from the last beer[soda] can chicken, and a couple of leg quarters for the meat. Chicken noodle is a pretty simple soup - onion, carrots, celery, garlic, chicken, noodles, lots of pepper. It really turned out, with the amount of noodles, more of a chicken and noodle dish than an actual chicken soup, but it was still tasty and quite hearty.
While I was poking around in the freezer looking for chicken parts, I found the tail end of a pork butt from a package of pork steaks so I popped that chunk of meat into the slow cooker after rubbing it with a spice mix. Hours later I shredded the meat and added some barbecue sauce and let it cook a little bit longer.
OK, I think I'm all caught up. Now I have to think about what's for dinner...


Allison said...

Dude, I have an entire quiche and about 6 pounds of ham left over. We should've planned for dinner!

Cat Pick said...

Ham freezes like a dream! And think of all the hammy things you can make. Like ham sandwiches. Egg sandwiches with ham. Baked beans. Navy beans. I love leftovers. :)

On the other hand, we just ordered pizza.

heather said...

My Grandma used to make that same Lamb Cake. Sometimes I miss traditions like that.

Cat Pick said...

I probably have my mom's old mold somewhere, but I'm too lazy for that kind of decorating effort.