Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snow storm changes meal schedules

Well here in the Northeast we are just recovering from a major blizzard. While I love snow and even blizzards, I know this is a hardship for many. I also decided that this was a good time to write about flexibility in my menu.

While I do keep a menu all the time, and use it every day, I know that there will be days when I just can't make the item on the list. There are many genuine reasons for changing your plans and some are just plain "cause I just don't feel like that today".

This week I changed a few of my days plans because of the storm. I normally bring home pizza on Monday nights after work. The local pizza place has a special on Mondays of a large plain pizza for $6.95 and I can't even start my oven for that, so it has become a standard. Well, my work place was closed and I never got out Monday so no pizza. In its place, we had giant ham sandwiches from the leftover ham on Sunday. I didn't want to make ham 3 days in a row, so we had franks and beans on Tuesday night. I always have franks and beans in the pantry.

Anyhow, all that to tell you that things got pushed around and today is our Short Rib Chili. It is in the slow cooker right now and smells so good!!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Diane's Menu 12/26/2010 - 1/3/2011

Diane's Menu 12/26/2010 - 1/3/2011

Sun 12/26 - Ham, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Salad
Mon 12/27 - Pizza
Tue 12/28 - Mac and Cheese with Ham and Spinach in Rice Cooker
Wed 12/29 - Short Rib Chili in Slow Cooker
Thu 12/30 - Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya in Rice Cooker
Fri 12/31 - NEW YEARS EVE PARTY!!!
Sat 1/01 - Ham Strata
Sun 1/02 - Pasta in Marinara Sauce, Salad
Mon 1/03 - Pizza


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Diane's Cuban Style Pork Stew (in the Rice Cooker!!!)

Diane's Cuban Style Pork Stew (in the Rice Cooker!!!)

You can make really great food quickly with a little help from the super market for this warm and satisfying winter meal.

1 large box of Goya Yellow Spanish style rice
1 pound pork loin, cut into large chunks
1 14 ounce can black beans
1 14 ounce can corn niblets or 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 small can chopped chilis
1 onion diced
3 1/2 cups of water

Put everything in the rice cooker including all the liquids from the canned veggies. Set on rice mix or white rice if your machine doesn't have a "mix" setting.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

OMG - These Short Ribs are awesome!!!

I love good beef. I love a steak and prime rib and roast beef. I have to have it rare, or black and blue. If it's even a smidge past medium rare, I won't eat it. For this reason, I obviously don't eat beef stew. It is well done and I can't stomach that.

For that reason, it shocked me that I even wanted to try short ribs. I have been watching chefs make them for years. They always looked awesome, but knowing that it was well done beef, made me shake my head and say not for me.

Well, we are on a very tight budget right now. The company that delivers my groceries had short ribs on sale for a price that made me sit back and say "wow, I wish I liked them." I looked up some recipes and in one of them there was a comment about how this is the only beef that the reader would eat well done. So, I decided to try it.

I found a recipe that suited our tastes and tried it today. I AM HOOKED!! I am going to try them in many different styles now. See the recipe posted with the menu for this week.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pistachio Rice

Here is the recipe for the Pistachio Rice I made for dinner today. I doubled the recipe and made it in my rice cooker. I used Basmati Brown Rice.

Rice Pilaf with Pistachios and Cranberries

* Serves 2


* 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
* 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
* 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
* 1 1/2 tbsp butter
* 1/3 cup long-grain rice
* 2/3 cup chicken broth
* 2 tablespoons pistachio nuts, toasted lightly, cooled, and chopped (or use slivered almonds)
* 2 tablespoons dried cranberries (or golden raisins)
* 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
* salt & pepper to taste

How to make it

* In a saucepan cook the onion with the turmeric and the cardamom in 1 tablespoon of the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened.
* Add the rice and cook it, stirring, until it is coated with the butter.
* Add the broth, bring the liquid to a boil, covered, and simmer the mixture for apx 17-20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
* Stir in the pistachios, cranberries, green onion, remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter, and salt and pepper to taste.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Diane's Menu 12/13/2010 - 12/25/2010

Diane's Menu 12/13/2010 - 12/25/2010

12/13 Mon - Pizza
12/14 Tue - Grilled Mahi Mahi with Indian spices and Pistachio Rice
12/15 Wed - Ravioli Lasagna, Sautéed Spinach
12/16 Thu - Braised Short Ribs with Potatoes and Carrots **
12/17 Fri - Vanilla and Black Pepper Pork Loin, Indian Style Mashed Potatoes, String Beans **
12/18 Sat - Grilled Rib Eye Steaks, Baked Potatoes, Salad
12/19 Sun - Rice Cooker Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya
12/20 Mon - Pizza
12/21 Tue - Shoyu Chicken from Aida, Broccoli **
12/22 Wed - BBQ Pork Chops, Roast Potatoes, Salad
12/23 Thu - Franks and Beans
12/24 Fri - AntiPasti Night. (Family Tradition of eating Italian Deli Delicacies Christmas Eve)
12/25 Sat - Merry Christmas!!!! Dinner at my sister's house.

** Recipes below


Braised Short Ribs

Recipe courtesy Anne Burrell


* 6 bone-in short ribs (about 5 3/4 pounds)
* Kosher salt
* Extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 2 cloves garlic, smashed
* 1 1/2 cups tomato paste
* 2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
* 2 cups water
* 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
* 2 bay leaves


Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the crud and let it reform. Scrape the crud again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half.

Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water or until the water has just about covered the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid.


Shoyu Chicken
Recipe courtesy Aida Mollenkamp


* 5 1/2 to 6 pounds chicken thighs
* 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
* 2 cups low-sodium soy sauce
* 1 cup packed light brown sugar
* 3/4 cup mirin
* 8 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
* 4-inch piece ginger, sliced 1/2-inch thick and smashed
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 5 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 5 tablespoons water
* Thinly sliced green onions, for garnish


Combine all ingredients except cornstarch and green onions in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low and simmer, covered, turning occasionally, until chicken is tender, about 30 to 35 minutes more.

Remove chicken to a serving platter. Remove garlic and ginger and discard. Bring sauce to a boil, skim off excess fat, and cook until reduced slightly, about 10 minutes. Whisk in cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add chicken, turn to coat, and serve chicken with sauce and sliced green onions.


Vanilla and Black Pepper Pork Loin
Aarti Sequeira


* 9 cups water
* 2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped out
* 2 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
* 5 whole cloves
* 1/4 cup black peppercorns
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/2 cup kosher salt
* 1 (2 1/2 to 3-pound) boneless pork loin
* 2 tablespoons canola oil
* 1/4 cup butter, divided
* 3 medium Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch wedges
* 1 celeriac (celery root), skin and roots sliced off, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
* Kosher salt
* 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
* 2 cups apple cider, divided
* 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


For the brine: In a large saucepan, combine the water, vanilla beans and seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and black peppercorns. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the sugar and salt; stir to dissolve. Turn off the heat, and then cool to room temperature (this can take an hour or so; put it in the fridge to hasten the process. Alternatively, you can boil only 4 cups of water and then add 5 cups of ice cubes).

When cool, pour the brining solution into a container large enough for the pork and the solution, such as a disposable aluminum roasting pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Pull the pork out of the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Warm the oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until nearly smoking. Add the pork to the pan and brown on all sides, about 15 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the apples and celeriac. Season with salt and saute until golden brown. Deglaze with vinegar and 1 cup cider, scraping up any brown bits. Stir in the brown sugar.

Nestle the pork loin in the apples and celeriac and pour enough cider into the pan to keep things from burning on the bottom of the pan, about 1 cup. Transfer the pan to the oven. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the center of the loin reads 145 degrees F, about 45 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes before carving (pork will continue to cook as it rests).

Meanwhile, return the pan to the stove over medium heat. Finish the sauce by adding in more cider if the pan is too dry. Stir in the remaining butter and the vanilla and black pepper. Taste for seasoning and readjust, if necessary.

Slice the pork into 1/2-inch thick slices. Arrange on the platter with the apples and celeriac. Drizzle the sauce over the meat.

Friday, December 3, 2010

You can rescue a bread machine mistake

I am in the process of waiting for my rolls to rise for the second time. They look plump and will be ready to bake in about 10 minutes or so.

An hour ago though, I thought I had wasted my time, and ingredients trying to make a loaf of bread in my machine. I had checked the dough and touched it at the appropriate time. It was wonderfully smooth and tacky. I could smell the yeast working away as it rose and was really looking forward to a buttery loaf of bread to go with the apple butter I made this morning.

For some reason when I heard the punch down before the second rise, I decided I wanted to make rolls instead. So, I opened the machine and proceeded to shut it off and remove the dough. This would have been the end of the dough cycle had I decided on rolls from the beginning. When I looked in I saw a smooth ball of dough on one end and a pile of unmixed flour on the other. OH NO!! I thought I had wasted all these ingredients. It was a small recipe and as I know from previous times, the Zo* sometimes has an issues with a dough that doesn't fill the pan completely.

I pulled out the dough and quite a bit of the flour. I added some warm water and melted butter (there was already melted butter in the recipe) and kneaded it all in. I formed 4 long grinder rolls and placed on a pan with a towel covering to rise, hoping for the best. Sure enough, they are almost doubled in size and ready to bake.

OK, so I am sorry for such a long post that doesn't have a recipe, but I wanted to give newbies hope. You can repair a bread dough and bread dough on a whole is VERY forgiving. Don't give up, especially if you know your yeast is working.

* a shortened and somewhat affectionate nickname for the Zojirushi Bread Machine.


Smells that make me smile

When I was in middle school my mother went back to work outside the home. My younger sister was in school a full day and we were never home without her. One day after school the selfish child in me complained that because she was working I felt neglected. Of course I was not neglected, but even at 11 years old, I knew how to push my mother's guilty buttons. She asked why? What was I missing? And I told her that when I came home from school she used to be wearing a house-dress and the kitchen always smelled like something wonderful cooking. Now she was dressed like a business woman and because she got home only minutes before I did, there were no smells coming from the kitchen yet.

Well, it took only one day for that to change. The next day I came home and found her out of her business clothes and in a house-dress and the kitchen smelled like cookies. Don't ask me how she managed to do that so quickly, but she always had a way with magic. Anyhow, I managed to continue complaining. I didn't want the house to smell like cookies, I wanted onions and garlic sauteing wafting through the air. From then on, that's what I got.

So, why do I tell this long winded anecdote? Well, this morning I am making bacon. And, I am remembering that there is nothing better than the smell of bacon in the air, except for the smell of onions and garlic sauteing. Sure I eat sweets, though not as often as my weight would have you think. But, I far prefer the smell and taste of savory foods. Give me the smell of carbonized beef coming from the exhaust fans of a local steak place or even fast food place over the smell of any bakery.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Eat at Joe's

For the past 25 years, I have been thankful and at the same time curious why this place was so accessible, quaint and small. Located at a curve on Route 20 right before you leave the wonderful village of downtown Lee Massachusetts is a diner right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. No, I am not using a descriptive term, I am stating a fact. It was actually used in the Norman Rockwell painting called the "Runaway".

Joe's Diner is like stepping back into the early days of service and value. The food is great home cooked and fresh. There is enough variety to please the most picky of eaters and the prices can't be beat. Yesterday I had an eggplant parmigiana grinder with fries and hubby had a pulled pork grinder with fries. I also couldn't resist the homemade grape nut pudding. The grinders were over loaded with freshly made food and the fries were crispy and delicious. Our bill including the tip came to under $20.00.

Joe's is located off exit 2 of the turnpike, about 1/2 mile west on Route 20. You have to pass three fast food places on route, but PASS THEM BY and have real food, that is healthy, satisfying and freshly made. Enjoy the photos, of celebrities that have visited, on the wall and a trip into history of good food gone by.

We won't miss it!! Oh, don't all come at once, cause we like the fact that it is small and homey and rarely crowded.