Monday, April 30, 2012

Crazy Spaghetti Tip

This will be short and sweet.  

First, a little history.  When I was in elementary school, my mom and a bunch of other moms were in charge of a huge spaghetti supper at the school.  Our good friend Dupre owned a restaurant in Irmo at the time and he let them use the place during the day, while the restaurant was closed, to mix up all their sauce.  My memory (be warned...this is a kid's memory) was of buckets and buckets, like sheetrock mud buckets, just lined up everywhere.  They were making the sauce en masse, of course.  One lady's task was to add x-number of cups of Worchestershire sauce to each bucket.  She went into the kitchen, grabbed several bottles of that yummy black nectar and set out to get the job done.  

At about bucket # 20, someone looked at what she was doing.  She had grabbed a yummy black nectar, but a different one than intended.  Yes friends, she was adding soy sauce to the spaghetti sauce.  As you can imagine, all the  moms went bonkers, there were some meltdowns and I'm pretty sure some emphatic "dammits" and "shits."  But, finally the chaos subsided and someone, I'm going to assume it was the level headed Dottie Webber (my mom),  who said something like "Hey, it's done.  Keep adding soy to the rest of the sauce so it's consistent."

The secret weapon

Well, you know what?  That spaghetti supper at Dutch Fork Elementary back in the early 70's was a resounding success.  In fact, up until that time, I wasn't such a spaghetti fan.  But I became one that night.  I think it was the soy sauce.  No, I know it was.  Soy sauce is one of the most precious liquids on Earth, if you ask me.  

So, here's the message I wanted to impart to you all this evening.  When you have those quicky weeknight suppers of spaghetti sauce from a jar <<oh don't act like you don't use it from time to time!>>  add some soy sauce and little garlic powder.  It elevates jarred sauce tremendously.  In fact, my little diner dove into hers this evening and said, 

"Mommy, did you make this yourself?"  <<Okay, I told her yes.>>  Her response? "I love it!  Thank you so much!"  

Do I feel guilty about using a jarred sauce now and then?  Not with a compliment like that from the most important person on the planet!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Best Chinese? Make it Yourself!

I've always found Chinese cooking fascinating. Really and truly I guess this applies to most forms of Asian cookery.  I am a die-hard fan of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean.  But it's not just the plain deliciousness of these cuisines, it's the brilliance of them. 

What I'm referring to is the resourcefulness of this type of cooking.  Think about it.  Let's use the Chinese as the example.  And, I'm not talking about the Americanized Chinese take-out, 24 hour buffet, or mall food court Chinese.  If you've ever read a Chinese cookbook, one thing that stands out is the small amount of each ingredient.  Take fried rice...obviously, you use as much rice as you need to feed the number of people in the family. But, the protein (chicken, shrimp, beef, pork, fish, etc.) is relatively small.  But that's ok, there are then small amounts of various vegetables added next.  This technique likely began and evolved from times when ingredients, money and resources were scarse.  The Chinese figured out that you can make a satisfying, hearty and nutritious main course with a little bit of meat, a little bit of egg, a little bit of cabbage, a little bit of carrot, a little bit of onion, and on and on and on.  The end result is, in this example, a wok full of fried rice packed with veggies, protein and 6 people with full tummies.  Just brilliant.

Today I found myself considering the growing amount of leftovers in my fridge.  I have half a of a pork roast, ham, broccoli, about 1/2 pound of shrimp.  Just those ingredients alone scream some sort of Asian inspired dishes.  So, I popped into Publix for a few staples (a green cabbage, egg roll wrappers, wonton wrappers) so I can use up these fridge inhabitants before they go South on me.  Tonight, it was beef with broccoli (1/2 lb of skirt steak, broccoli, ginger) and shrimp potstickers (my leftover shrimp, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, 5 spice powder and green onion). 

Cute little dumplings waiting to be cooked

 Tomorrow, I'm going to repurpose that pork roast into eggrolls with cabbage, ginger, bamboo shoots & water chestnuts.  The beauty of that plan in that I will have plenty of egg rolls to stash away in the freezer for later!

As a side note, my husband continues to improve from his tonsillectomy from a week ago, so I also used some of the broccoli for a cream of broccoli soup for him.  Not only was he able to eat (and actually taste it!) he went further and ventured into the beef with broccoli and downed some of that too.  Yea!  He's finally able to tolerate eating and getting some fuel into that body.  Good news indeed! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hello? Remember me?

Hello, my name is Elizabeth.  It's been 11 days since my last post.  Despite this lack of activity, I'm a food blogger.  I swear I am.  

Those of you who know me personally or who follow (eagerly) my riveting Facebook and/or Twitter posts know that on April 16, my beloved underwent a tonsillectomy.  At first, this seems pretty mundane.  But once you realize we're NOT talking about the Wunderkind, it starts to register.  <<Wait, tonsils taken out for a 44 year old man?>>  This is where the record comes to a screeching halt and everyone freezes.  That's right... 
The adult tonsillectomy.  

I've always heard how awful they are for adults versus children.  Even the doctors who examined Neil said things like "Wow, how are you even breathing?  Those suckers need to come out."  and "This is going to be an incredibly rough recovery."  and "It isn't going to be easy for you to recover and it isn't going to be easy for me to get those things outta there." That's just to name a few.  The other remarkable thing is how once this happens to you (or your spouse), it seems that people start coming out of the woodwork who also have had to endure this procedure later in life.  And, the stories are all pretty much the same.  I'd rather have my C-sections all over again than that damn tonsillectomy, I've never had so much pain in my life, Ice cream my ass, Day 5 is the worst, Then when I thought I was getting better my ears started killing me.

So, I was prepared. I stocked this house with popsicles, ice cream, pudding, yogurt, Italian ice.  I was ready for requests for broth, soup, mashed potatoes.  Well, nothing has gone according to the plan I had in my head.  The evening of the surgery, Neil was so damn hungry when we got home from the hospital, we just wanted food. I realized that he was exhibiting some post-anesthesia bravado, but I obliged and made the requested mashed potatoes.  He managed to get about half of that down before the rest of the anesthesia high wore off and the reality set in.  So, the next two days he was doing good to get a couple of swallows of yogurt down here and there.  By day three, the poor man was starving but completely unwilling to taunt fate with the pain and opted for hunger instead.  It was heart-breaking.

So, it's been long week.  Flashing back to the Grateful Dead, "what a long, strange trip it's been." After lots of pain, failed attempts at eating, crummy sleep and general discomfort, Neil is improving.  I have tried to remind him each day that in the long run, this is all going to be worth it.  One positive already, he's breathing so much easier when he sleeps. It's true what they say though.  To have tonsils removed as an adult sucks.  It's way different than kids...they are younger, tonsils are smaller and their bodies are more resilient.  If your kids have frequent sore throats, strep infections, etc. make sure your pediatrician documents it all very carefully so if it's necessary to have your child's tonsils taken out, it will be done early and without a lot of insurance hassle.  

Before I go, I'll tell you this.  I left my entire week open so I could be here to take care of my husband.  Consequently, I've had extra time in the kitchen.  This week, I've made a perfect version of Bang-bang shrimp, no-bake energy bites, skillet pizzas and various versions of nachos.  After this healthcare hiatus, I should be able to come up with lots to blog to you fine folks in the coming days.  Eat, drink, be merry and be glad that swallowing doesn't make you want to die! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Chicken Drop

I've told you guys before how much Southern Savers has changed my life.  Jenny Martin is a genius and a kind soul to share all this valuable information with the rest of us free of charge.  A few months ago, one of her posts on her site caught my eye.  It was about chicken.  Lots and lots of chicken.

She shared that every so often, she buys meat in bulk from a company called Zaycon.  They have "events" in cities around the country at various times.  You sign up with them and when an event is coming to your town, they'll let you know.  I signed up right after reading Jenny's post, but the event was already over.  So, I've been patiently waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.  And alas, the great Columbia chicken event notification hit my inbox!

So, here's the deal.  You buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts in 40 lb. increments.  The 40 lb. box that my mom and I split was $71.00, which breaks down to about $1.79/lb.  Find that in your local grocery store.  Go ahead, try it.  You might get lucky at Aldi from time to time, but a regular grocery, don't hold your breath.  We placed the order online and received a notice of the date, time and location of the pickup.  Now, here's where it gets interesting...

The big day arrived and we were instructed to go to a Baptist church in West Columbia for "the drop."  The instructions were quite clear.  We had a 30 minute window for the pickup.  Stay in your car; do not exit your car.  Proceed through the line, receive your chicken and move along.  I'm not kidding you, that's what it said!  So, we threw a cooler in Dottie's van (we like to call it the Honda "Doddyssey") and set out for the big W.C.  We actually had to use the gps to find this church.  We got there and drove slowly by the sanctuary scoping things out.  Then, I spotted it.  A small, lime green and black sign "Zaycon event" with an arrow.  I looked and there it was.  A refrigerated truck in an empty parking lot.  Orange cones delineated the "zone."  

As we inched forward in line, mom asked me if I should get out and put the cooler in the back so the man could load the chicken.  Hell no!  This was like the soup nazi, as far as I knew.  I wasn't even thinking about exiting the vehicle.  I'd read the rules.  I'm a rules player.  So, we arrived.  Gave our name.  He checked us off the list, went into the truck and returned with a waxed box loaded with chicken.  

Turns out, he wasn't like the soup nazi at all!  He opened up the hatch, grabbed our cooler, took the bag of chicken out of the box and loaded it into our cooler.  He asked us how we heard about them, thanked us and sent us on our way.  That was it.  Still, it felt kind of cloak and dagger, so we sped away with a feeling of mystery and intrigue with our major chicken score!

When we got to mom's to divide it all up, we discovered that these are WHOLE chicken breasts and they are monsters.  Big as hell. I wouldn't want to meet one of these chickens in a dark alley, if you know what I mean.  

So, we whipped out the freezer bags, stuffed them and parted ways for the day each armed with enough lean protein to last quite some time.  Those of you who read me often know that I sleep well when I know I have provisions safely tucked into my freezer.  I've been sleeping like a baby.

If I'm not mistaken, the next "event" is bacon.  Hello???  Bacon, people!  And then after that I think it's hamburger meat.  The quality of the chicken we received is top-notch, so I expect their other products to be comparable.  Check it out.  And if you don't have room for 40 lbs. of chicken, split it with a friend.  It's a heck of a deal, and in this marvelous economy we're all experiencing, the savings is most welcome. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

I'd walk the plank for a good flank

Have you noticed how difficult it is to find a flank steak in your grocery store these days?  I don't think I've seen them in my store for over a year.  Once upon a time, the flank steak got a really bad rap.  It was considered an "inferior" cut of meat, tough, cheap.  I pity the fool who believes that.  Flank steak is one of my favorites.  You can grill it, broil it, make sandwiches out of it, make steak tacos, a simple steak dinner...the list goes on and on.  So, somewhere along the line, other people discovered this and flank steak was pretty plentiful, but as usual, as it's reputation improved, its prices rose.  However, now it's virtually impossible to find it.  Virtually.

On the way back from Asheville yesterday, we stopped at Costco.  (Don't even think about getting me started about how I'd sell my soul to the devil for a Costco and my blood-boiling outrage that the capital city of this state is deprived of one!!!!) There, in the meat department was a beautiful flank steak.  Wait, check that...this package was housing TWO of these beauties.  And, since it's Costco, the price was awesome.  My mom and I selected one and split the spoils.

Tonight I made one of my most favorite flank steak recipes...yes, this is one I've made more than once.  It's from one of my old Weight Watchers cookbooks.  
These cookbooks are the bomb-diggity!
It's simply fantastic and if you can get your hands on a flank steak, I recommend you try this one.  My child raved and gave me the coveted "Ten thumbs up" as she calls it.

Sesame Soy Marinated Flank Steak
  • 1 1-1/2 lb flank steak
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 2 Tbs sherry
  • 1 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
Trim the fat from the steak.  Combine the next 8 ingredients in a large ziploc bag.  Add steak, seal the bag and marinate about 8 hours, turning occasionally.

Prepare your grill.  Remove steak from the bag and save the marinade.  Grill steak about 7 minutes per side, using reserved marinade to baste.  Let steak rest at least 5 minutes before slicing it ACROSS the grain into thin slices.  Trust me...if you don't cut it this way, you just wasted your time.
Hot off the grill and resting
Our meal tonight:  grilled flank steak, broiled zucchini & sauteed corn
  Oh yeah...for those of you here in my town.  If you find flank steak in your grocery, please let me know where.


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