What’s Hiding in Your Freezer?

Have you peeked into your freezer or deep freeze, lately? If you are like me, no matter how organized you try to keep it, things will hide away from you. You mgiht be surprised at the wonderful potential that’s hiding in there, too.

Burger patties are good for more than just burgers. Whether they are beef, turkey or veggie, they can always be cooked up and made into wraps for a quick meal. Simply cook the patties in your preferred method, slice them up, and wrap them in tortillas with wil lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo and shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese. With the side of beans and rice, you have a quick and hearty meal.

With the colder weather imminent, soups and stews are always a good meal plan. A variety of meats and veggies that are likely hanging out in your freezer can be utilised towhip up lovely dishes such as chicken noodle soup and beef stew.

Chili if also a great way to warm up your family and meats may be mixed in this dish traditionally made fromt he poorest cuts of beef. Diced or ground venison, lamb, fowl, pork, and beef are all great starts for a big pot of chili. Have onion and chili powder? You’ve got the start to an awesome one pot dinner.

Frozen tortellini, tortelloni, ravioli, and other pasts provide a basis for numerous dishes including traditional pastas with sauce, pasta bakes (layered like lasagne but with different pasts varieties), and even soups. Chicken broth and three cheese tortellini with a bit of garlic and spinach turns into a lovely soup that’s a fun twist on chicken noodle.

Frozen meatballs on hand? Stuff them into bell peppers with a bit of pasta sauce (tomato based or Alfredo), top with cheese and bake. Serve with a small side of pasta and a green salad for a convenient meal.

For a quick side to many of these menu choices, try this:

Romaine Salad with Apples and Walnuts
Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
1 bag Romaine lettuce
1 apple
3 oz Swiss cheese
1/4 cup walnut pieces
1 tbsp fresh chives, rough chopped
Your favorite vinaigrette, for serving

Wash and core the apple. Cut into 1/4 inch slices.

Dice cheese into 1/4 inch cubes.

Toss the lettuce into a large salad bowl. Add apples, cheese, walnuts and dressing. Toss to distribute dressing.

Sprinkle chives on top and serve.

 

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

Slow Cooker Recipes from Crock-Pot #3

I like to use slow cooker liners. Whenever I buy a box of them, there is invariably a little handout inside that includes a few recipes. They are great for folks starting out with slow cookers!

Here’s another soup dish to help keep you warm this holiday season!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Cook time on High: 3 hours
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 oz green chilis, canned, drained and chopped (hot or mild, your preference)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
30 oz diced tomatoes, canned, including fluid
1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth
1 Tbs cumin
2 Tbs cilantro, chopped
1 lime
salt & pepper to taste
4 corn tortillas, sliced into 1/4″ strips
1/2 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
1 avocado, diced, tossed with lime juice to prevent browning

Directions:
1. Place chicken in stoneware.
2. In separate bowl, combine chilis, garlic, onion, tomato, 1/2 cup chicken broth, and cumin. Blend and pour over chicken.
3. Cook three hours.
4. When chicken is tender, use the tines of 2 forks to shred the meat.
5. Adjust seasoning to taste and add remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth if needed.
6. Just before serving, add cilantro and tortilla strips.
7. Top individual servings with shredded cheese, avocado and a squeeze of lime.

Notes:
Be careful not to overcook the chicken as it will get tough.

Personally, I prefer to mix the ingredients listed in #2 directly in the stoneware and add the chicken gently to the mixture. This prevents having yet another dish to wash – I use lots of them when cooking!

— Ann Cathey

Healthy Eating Information

A friend of mine shared an interesting, and helpful, set of cooking charts from some else’s blog a few weeks ago. There are apparently several posts in that same vein. This group is all about healthy eating, including some smoothies and soups and Paleo ideas.

Healthy Eating Charts

These wonderful diagrams contain knowledge made simple on things like what a serving of fruit really looks like, “is this Paleo?”, how to pick avocados, cooking grains and brewing a great cup of tea, and all sorts of smoothie making hints.

–Ann Cathey

Budget Cooking – Ramen Noodles

Everyone out there is likely familiar with the ramen-style noodles that have swept through the United States in the last many years. They are available in most groceries under many names such as Maruchan Ramen [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maruchan] and Top Ramen [https://www.nissinfoods.com/products/TopRamen]. From a start with a fascination with Asian food all the way to being consumed in masses by college students and latch-key kids, these noodles have become a household staple for young and old, wealthy and poor alike.

They can be cooked on the stove top or in the microwave, as a noodle soup or simply as noodles. The directions tell you to measure your water, add the noodles, cook until done and add the flavor pack.

Before you turn up your nose at that twenty cent pack of noodles as common or crass, are you aware what else can be done with them? With some simple and handy additions, you might bring a world wide range of cuisine to your table.

In each of these suggested dishes, cook your noodles as directed leaving out the flavor pack, drain and turn out into a bowl.

Thai Noodles
Add half of the flavor package, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a pat of butter, and red chili flakes to taste. Stir until the butters have melted. You have a simple satay noodle. It can always be expanded with other spices, vegetables, and meats into a more glorious dish.

Noodles Con Carnes
Dice some leftover beef to stir into your noodles. Add some Ro-tel and all or part of the flavor package. Stir it up and allow the bowl to sit for a few minutes so that the flavors can mingle. Add hot sauce if desired.

Chicken Curry Noodles
Curry powder is the key ingredient here. Whether you prefer yellow (my favorite), red or green curry, add some to your noodles with a pat of butter and stir. Add some diced, cooked potatoes and carrots and leftover chicken to make a hearty and tasty meal.

Spicy Noodles
Grab your favorite hot sauce (Sriracha, Raspberry Chipotle, Hatch chili sauce, whatever you like) and add as much or as little as you like to the noodles. Stir in a pat of butter and all or part of the flavor package if desired.

Cajun Noodles or Dirty Noodles
Cajun spices are a unique flavor treat. Add some Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning to taste with a pat of butter and stir. Adding leftover meats or sausage, diced, to the dish will give it some heft. You can turn it into “dirty noodles” by adding cooked chicken or beef liver, diced or mashed as you prefer.

Italian Noodles
For a carbonara style dish, add diced ham, green peas, and a pat of butter to your unflavored noodles. A bit of garlic (granulated or roasted) and basil (dry or fresh) will add the right touch to that essential Italian dash. This can be made up as a soup if you prefer.

Egg Drop Noodle Soup
Prepare the package of noodles as directed for a soup. While the the bowl of noodles and broth is still steaming hot, crack and add one chicken egg. Stir break up the egg and you will have a lovely egg drop style soup. The egg can also be left whole to poach, rather like a nabiaki udon.The water for these two variations must be nearly boiling to ensure that the egg is properly cooked. A goose or duck egg will add additional flavor, but might be harder to come by. check your local farmers market for availability.

Each of these suggestions may be used with multiple packages of noodles to create side dishes and even quick meals for two or more people.

In many cases you will have a partial or whole flavor pack left over. Save these and use them as flavorings in other dishes, soups and stocks. The sodium content is a trifle high, so be careful you don’t over salt when using them. The beef and pork flavor packs are excellent additions to beans, and chili dishes.

I have used ramen-style noodles in some pretty odd concoctions, too. Cooked noodles, cute to pieces about a half inch long, were folded into a cookie dough. The cookies are known as “Cat Poop Cookies” and the noodles made it look like the “cat” had a bad case of “worms”. They tasted great, but most guests at that party could not get over the visual of a “litter box” filled with “poops”. Hey, they dared me.

Please drop us a line and let us know if you tried and enjoyed any of these suggestions, or if you have some ideas of your won to share.

–Ann Cathey

Stock vs. Broth?

Stock, broth and bullion are very closely related in the culinary world. They are often confused with one another, one term being inappropriately used for another by many people. They all may be made from vegetables, beef, chicken, other meats, and combinations of these materials. Hopefully some of the material below will help with removing any confusion.

Traditionally stock is made by simmering various ingredients in water. This is an excellent use for tops, peels, stems and ends that will be strained out of the stock before it is used. Meat stocks are common and include the bones and attached bits, and require a longer simmering time than vegetables alone. The gelatin released by long-simmering bones gives stock a heavier or fuller mouth feel than broth.

Broth is the term for the liquid strained off a stock. It is also defined as a basic soup where the solid pieces of flavoring meat or fish, along with some vegetables, are left as part of the dish. It is often made more substantial by adding starches such as rice, barley, or potatoes, thereby becoming a soup by definition.

Bullion is dehydrated stock available in cube or granulated form. It normally has a great deal of salt in it both for flavor and as a preservative.

Personally I like to keep commercial bullion in the spice cabinet and commercial broth in the big cabinet. One never knows when it will come in handy. When I have the material available, I make my own stock.When we cook or buy a roast chicken and have stripped the carcass, I will boil the bones, then simmer with vegetable bits like carrot tips and potato peels. The resulting strained broth is then put to good use immediately as a soup base or the beginnings of a pot of chicken and dumplings. I do the same with pork, beef, or venison bones, either using the strained broth for something immediately or freezing it. Home made stock or broth is much lower in salt than the commercially available products. It is also not always relegate to a single meat products. It is not unusual in my kitchen for a stock to contain bones form a couple of different animals, and the broth works out really well.

Home made stock, once strained into broth, can be used as a replacement for water in lots of recipies from simple rice to biscuits to whatever your imagination desires. The broth adds distinctive flavors to whatever it is used in. White rice cooked with a broth instantly becomes a poor man’s pilaf to be eaten alone with a bit of butter or as a side to any dish that calls for rice.

This is something to keep in mind this holiday season when you are slaving away in the kitchen. Don’t waste all that flavor when you could be simmering it into stock!

–Ann Cathey