Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Wednesdays have always been my favorite day of the week. Here is why:

1) When I was working, it was the day I could start thinking about the weekend. When Wednesday is over, the week is more than half way done.

2) Wednesday was usually date night. Since I was caught up on lesson planning/waiting for assignments/had a vision for the rest of the week, I could relax and see my future husband.

3) The Food Section of the New York Times arrives. Enough said.

4) Now that I have kids, they go to preschool on Wednesdays.

5) And lastly, the Harris Teeter VIC Coupon Specials arrive in my inbox.

Since I "retired" from teaching to become a homemaker, the same sense of urgency and success that I attained from lesson planning, I now attain by meal planning. I like to have meals planned for the entire week, all from different food sources, that contain adequate nutrition.  If there are not enough meals to plan, for example, we get Blue Apron meals, or we have many evening plans (LOL), I start to twitch.  Now that I have discovered Harris Teeter's coupon web site, my meal planning fantasies have gone wild. I am now meal planning, eating somewhat nutritious meals, and saving $$$$$$$$.
But the best part is THE LIST:

Money Shmoney! Who needs it when you can click on all the coupons you want, and print out a categorized list, WITH prices and amounts.

Added bonuses:
1) I did save $50 on a $150 grocery bill last week.
2) I have frozen pork tenderloin, chicken breast, ground turkey, and ground beef in my freezer.
3) Since I make lasagnas for families of new babies at our church, I have stocked up sauce, shredded mozzarella, lasagna pans, and frozen spinach - 5 of each for $20.
4) I will buy less next week because I have no more freezer space.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Butternut Squash Soup

The first year my husband and I were dating, his building shut the gas off.  The reason for this is all very boring, but it didn't matter. We were young and had no kids, so over the course of three months, we tried every restaurant in the neighborhood. And since it was Fall, the first words out of every server's mouth was, "The soup of the day is Butternut Squash."   I envisioned every restaurant's walk-ins filled floor to ceiling with butternut squash, and it all must be used. A visitor from abroad would think that butternut squash was all Americans ate since it was in everything from ravioli to dessert cakes.

Anyway, we tried a few bowls of the soup that season, and found it unremarkable. Come December, restaurants started touting "Chicken Noodle," or "Beef and Barley."  The gas in my husband's building returned, and we were able to let our sodium levels readjust.

A few years later, we found ourselves stuck in 625 square feet with a newborn, unable to enjoy the brisk Autumn sidewalk dining. But, the farmer's market had thousands of squash. I plopped a Butternut Squash under the stroller.

I don't remember the first recipe I tried, but, the one I use now is better than any restaurant's recipe. And you don't have to peel/dice the squash. Or, you can buy it diced (like I do!).  It involves an apple, and uses butter and cream (though I used half and half), key ingredients for cozy, Fall days.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Miso Paste

I started receiving the Charlotte Observer in March, and since that time I have become acquainted with the writing of its two stellar food journalists, Helen Schwab and Kathleen Purvis. While Ms. Schwab reviews restaurants and reports on food events, Ms. Purvis writes about local food and recipes.  Having been a subscriber to the NY Times for most of my adult life, and a major fan of its Food (formerly Dining Out) section, I had low expectations of the Observer's food journalism. This was because 1) I lived in "the South" now, 2) we had only been to five "very good" restaurants in our city of a million people and 3) after three years, I had still not found some decent sushi.

Then, one Wednesday in the spring, while skimming the Charlotte Food section, I came upon Ms. Purvis' "Top Five Flavor Shortcuts".  What could be on the "Top Five List" of a southern food journalist?  What does she know? And then I saw it, among Old Bay and Sea Salt (yeah yeah), MISO PASTE. My smugness over owning wasabi powder crumbled. I had never used this magic ingredient. I had never even seen it in the store! This is the South! 

Ms. Purvis wrote, "A tub of it keeps forever in the refrigerator, and it provides that elusive “umami” saltiness that gives things a deeper, richer flavor. Toss a dab with roasted asparagus, add it with butter to a baked sweet potato, whisk a little into scrambled eggs."

Where to begin? I could remain ignorant no longer.  First, I had to buy it.  After three grocery store trips, I found it at the Health Home Market 300 yards from my house.  Since I feared going rogue, I scoured my cookbooks for recipes and found only two in my handy Keepers by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion, who are both from New York. I knew they would not leave me astray.  

The first recipe was "Asian Pork Sliders with Magic Miso-Mayo." The Mayo was made by combining 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon white miso paste, and lime juice.  It definitely added that "elusive umami" that Ms. Purvis described.  I have since made it again to make sandwiches for leftover pork tenderloin.

The second recipe was for "Miso-Glazed Salmon."  This involved marinating the salmon in 1/2 cup white miso paste, 2 tablespoons white wine, and 3 tablespoons sugar before baking/broiling.  The results were a rich, moist salmon that was able to hold its own.

Is miso paste worth buying? Yes. Especially if it "keeps forever." Now, I still have to use up the half tub still in my fridge. I am going to try and convince my husband to add it to his eggs on Saturday. Will keep you updated!

Read more here: 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Turkey Chili

My love of chili is another food surprise that has sprung upon me during my thirties.  Maybe because I was thirty-one when I met my husband, and he LOVES chili. Then, it still didn't pass my lips until my sister made it for us in Tahoe, when I was 34.  Now, some years later, it is a family staple.

Maybe because I was raised in the northeast, by parents who were also raised in the northeast, I had never been served chili. I avoided it in school cafeterias, always choosing my backup meal of a few bowls of cocoa krispies.  The chili at JG Melon's in NYC always had a cult following, which I never gave a second thought. Who were these chili eaters? 

Then, in Winter 2011, Lake Tahoe, I could not avoid my fate. My sister, husband, and I arrived at the rental house with a cold wood stove among twenty feet of snow. My sister defrosted some Turkey Chili she had made for us in advance. There were no alternatives. There were no cocoa krispies. I was six weeks pregnant and freezing. And, it wasn't so bad. My husband devoured it all. 

With that ringing endorsement, I returned home and made a few batches.  While waiting for R to arrive, I even made some to freeze for a future meal.  

I have tried a few recipes over the years, even meatless recipes, and I always return to the original recipe my sister used, from All Recipes. 

Dinner: A Love Story also has a good recipe, which recommends a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Now I usually add some to the All Recipes recipe.   

Friday, October 9, 2015

Silver Palate's Baked Chicken with Apples

When you read as many food blogs as I do, you start to hear about different cult recipes from different cookbooks that "you must try."  This is one that always pops up in the fall as a perpetual favorite of many a home cook. I don't own the Silver Palate Cookbook, but many of the families I babysat for in the 90's had it on their shelf, usually next to The New Basics cookbook, and the updated Joy of Cooking.  I fondly recall many evenings reading through my clients' cookbook collections, and then trying to place them back in the exact empty spot. Anyway, this is my first recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook, and it fit the season and the mood impeccably.  

Personal Notes:  I used boneless/skinless chicken thighs.  Also, noting that the blogger below failed to note oven temperature, I chose 425 and just watched them cook until I thought they were done. They came out fine.  Further research found that the original recipe called for 350, but then I would have had to wait longer. I served this with cous cous, which I found perfect! I also paired it with valpolicello, my favorite light red, but it would also pair well with a heavier, oak y, chardonnay.

Baked Chicken with Cider and Apples
Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook
2 whole chicken chickens,quartered (I used 6 whole bone-in with skin)
2 cups apple cider
1 c flour to coat chicken
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup apple jack (I used a splash of apple cider vinegar)
2 apples, cored, peel-on, and cut into thin slices

The day before, place chicken pieces in a non-reactive shallow container. Pour cider over the chicken. Cover the chicken and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, remove the chicken from the marinade. Reserve the

Combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Coat the
chicken with the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. Place the
coated chicken pieces in a low sided roasting dish. Bake, uncovered, for
40 minutes.

Combine the reserved marinade, brown sugar, apple jack,and the apple slices in a medium bowl. (*Others have brought to a boil in a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes) Pour the mixture over the chicken and continue cooking for 25 additional minutes or until the juices run clear. Baste with the pan juices.

Downton Abbey Claret

 I have not done a wine review in a while, but when I saw this on the shelf, it had to be done. So, the husband and I opened this up on Sunday night to watch Masterpiece Classic, which is not showing Downton Abbey but rather Indian Summers. We did an official tasting using the WSET Guidelines.

"Claret" is what the British call "Bordeaux," a blend of mostly cabernet and merlot grapes that grow in the Bordeaux region of France. The only reason I can give for this perpetual disparity is centuries of rivalry. But, after tasting the wine, the "Bordeaux' portion of this wine label should lobby to be removed.

Upon first whiff, there was absolutely no odor.  When pushed for a descriptor, the word "petrol" comes to mind.  The wine was extremely dry, full bodied, highly tannic with only medium acid, and had a short finish. There seemed to be no accentuating flavors. The husband declared it "flat as a pancake," and "not offensive, just bland," like the British Aristocracy. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup

I have always hated broccoli.  "You and George Bush," as my grandmother would say.  My mother, thankfully, never forced me to eat it, as I probably would have vomited from the smell alone.  When co-workers would microwave broccoli in the teacher's "lounge" at school, I had to "step out for a moment."  When I worked at Bertucci's, I would always eat the Rigatoni with Chicken and Broccoli, with no broccoli.  Therefore, I find it surprising that in these past few weeks, broccoli has deemed to pass my lips two times.  

I had been thinking about trying broccoli again (had I tried it before?) for a while.  While scrolling through the endless websites I cruise on a daily basis, I came upon Roasted Broccoli.  The writer proclaimed that it was the best way to eat broccoli, and you didn't even have to thaw the frozen broccoli, just place it on the pan with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and roast away.  I had been converted to asparagus and brussel sprouts with the same recipe. Anyway, I sat on the idea for the time being.  

Then came a night when I needed an emergency side, and I roasted the bag of frozen broccoli to the point of a little char, the way I liked other roasted vegetables. It did not smell heinous. I passed the broccoli through my lips, bit down, and didn't vomit. In fact, it tasted fine. I will just give it fine. My husband was thrilled. He had broccoli for dinner for the first time in five years. 

So, imagine my surprise when I clicked on Smitten Kitchen's blog last week, and saw her recipe for Broccoli and Cheddar Soup, and thought it looked good!  Good enough to make! 

So, we had it last night, and it was fine (especially with bread). The husband thought it was GREAT. And the kids did not let it pass their lips. I am not worried.   

Recipe Notes:  I did not use carrot in my soup, and it tasted fine. I would like to try it with carrot though.