Sunday, August 31, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
The school runs are back on; schedules are overcrowded with after school programs and you have little or no time to cook before everyone's at the table looking to eat...
One thing that works for my whole family on busy days is the pasta bake. I've made numerous variations on a theme depending on the old BOGO collection or whats fresh or simply what we feel like eating.
The simple genius of this dish, apart from its versatility, is that you can combine every element of the meal in the one dish, prepare it ahead of time and in 15-20 minutes its ready to eat. By the time the crusty sneakers have been removed and you've unpacked the lunchbox - its done!
I'm a pretty organized cook. I buy chicken breasts in bulk and grill them, slice them and have them ready to go in the fridge. Its far easier to do it this way than cook from scratch every night - I also only have to clean up once! You can do the same with the pasta. Cook a boxful of penne or bowties, rinse in cold water and dress with a little olive oil and fridge it. This makes a really nutritious dinner just minutes away. I've got quite into the wholegrain pastas too - even if you do half & half its a great way to add fibre without a battle.
Here's what I do. Mix the pasta and sliced chicken with a store bought marinara sauce, add vegetables - your choice - my guys like green beans, sweetcorn, carrots and peas - give it a mix and pour into an oven proof dish. Top with grated cheese and bake until bubbling.
Here are some variations:
- ITALIAN & CREAMY - Whole grain pasta shapes with chicken, alfredo sauce & spinach, top with breadcrumbs & extra cheese.
- BBQ STYLE - Bowties with chicken; marinara sauce, splash of barbecue sauce & a can of sweetcorn, top with extra barbecue sauce and spicy cheese.
- ITALIAN & LIGHT - Penne with chicken, tomato & basil sauce, packet of frozen peas, top with skim milk mozzarella & basil.
- MEXICAN STYLE - Spirals with chicken, spicy tomato sauce, beans, top with mexican blend cheese and French's onions.
I like to let my daughter choose the ingredients, the pasta shapes, the vegetables and the cheese. A little control over what she's eating makes her so much more hungry for the finished product. With this dish I know she's getting a bit of everything good in each mouthful. Dr. Dave and the three toothed one don't complain either!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Of course you'll be seduced by tons of the other gourmet gorgeousness they have in there but what the heck - think of what you're saving on the steak!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Recipe Ingredients - Serves the masses - 8 at least
- 1 x box of bowties (if you can find wholegrain then good - I couldn't!)
- 1 large (or two small) onions, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup of kasha
- 1 pint of chicken (or vegetable) stock
- Butter / olive oil
- Cook the bowties in a large quantity of salted water. Drain, and dress with a little olive oil to stop them sticking.
- In a large frying pan, saute the onion in butter & oil until it starts to brown (around 10-15 minutes).
- Add the kasha to the onion and coat it in the butter & onion juices; adding more butter if necessary.
- Pour over the stock and reduce to a simmer until it is absorbed into the kasha but still moist.
- Add to the pasta and toss until its all combined (taking care not to break up the pasta).
- Serve immediately to rapturous applause.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Bice Bistro, 2000 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens
Marshmallows? or do you think they had enough??!!
Friday, August 22, 2008
- 2 pieces of brisket $17.00
- BOGO Shredded wheat $3.89
- BOGO Prego pasta sauce $2.57
- BOGO Juicy Juice $3.59
- Sushi $4.59
- Rice Vinegar $3.99
- couple of jars of babyfood $1.29
- Spring mix salad $5.00
- Bowtie Pasta $1.39
- Challah $3.39
- Canola oil $2.79
- gourmet magazine $3.99
- Fruit, Vegetables $6.00
- Gorgonzola cheese $5.29
What an odd array of ingredients you may rightly note. I actually went to the supermarket for a few things for my daughter's first birthday on Sunday but you know how it BOGO's... We have some family coming over and that's a great excuse for me to cook. I've been scouring my Disney books for fun family style recipes and we're going to have a couple of dishes from the Polynesian Resort as its my nieces & nephew's favorite place and a couple of my own. If you want the best ever Kasha Varnishkes (as rated by my discerning family) then check back in a couple of days.
Things I have learned whilst shopping Part 2
- Check your receipt and watch that screen like a hawk. I just noticed I was charged for Bosc pears when I purchased Bartlett. Needless to say the Bosc were more expensive (Grrr).
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
- Tropicana Orange Juice $3.00 - on sale and I had a coupon.
- Cascade dishwasher tablets $3.49
- Blue Goodness smoothie $4.29 - check the ingredients of smoothies, some of them are all apple juice and concentrates, this one is NOT.
- Milk, $2.59
- Bakery bread $3.35
- Sushi (lunch) $4.59
- Pink milk for my Lola $2.59
- Whipped cream $3.29 (got all excited about hot chocolate and marshmallows whilst hunkered yesterday)
- Smoked almonds $3.19 & coconut $1.69 for a chicken recipe I want to try
- Deli meats and cheese for Dr. Dave & Mia's sandwiches $18.00
- Gerber pear juice $1.87 for the toothless one
- Princess spaghetti o's $0.93
- Butter $2.50
- Grapes $3.25
- Toddler snacks $1.67
- Barilla marinara sauce $1.67
- Emergency jar of babyfood $0.63
- Sausages $2.00
- Things I have learned about shopping Part 1:
- Just because its 2 for $5.00 doesn't mean you have to buy two.
- Just because its BOGO doesn't mean you need it. *hands up - guilty as charged* (6 bottles of BBQ sauce & salad dressing is more than I will use in a year!)
- Cut coupons from the Sunday paper and get the Palm Beach Post on a Wednesday & Thursday for the week's coupons & promotions. Invest in a trusty coupon organizer (see below) and keep it up to date and in your bag or car at all times! Yes those coupons may only be for 25 cents or 50 cents but as my savvy brother in law says, 'if you saw the cash on the floor - wouldn't you pick it up?!'
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
So what's a girl to do when Tropical Storm Fay renders her housebound? We were warned, there was 'tornadic activity', we should 'hunker down' and my personal favorite, to beware of 'ponding on the roadside'. 'Ponding'?! What? like a puddle? Puleez, I'm from London, gale force winds? Torrential rain? put yer collar up and take a brolly! Anyhow, not wishing to take any chances with random ponds or being swept away Mary Poppins style by a rogue gust, I was stuck at home....bored....full of Virgo style energy, hence I gave my kitchen cupboards a little overdue cleansing.....
I am small and my kitchen cupboards are tall. I have to use the space on the bottom and middle shelves very wisely as they are the only ones I can reach without my daughter's step stool. Here's what works for me in my three food storage cupboards.
Cupboard 1 - Here are the condiments, herbs, spices, oils etc., all easily accessible from the stove opposite i.e. cooking ingredients. Seasoning for every dish is close at hand. Gotta have balsamic, white & red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil (never in a fridge), veg oil and yep, gravy granules (sorry). The middle shelf has my emergency cans of beans, fruit & princess spaghetti whilst the top houses my shameful collection of BOGO barbecue sauces, matzo and pasta. Wire baskets are perfect for the dinky spice jars - genius invention.
Cupboard 2 - Herein lie all my baking goodies. Flour, matzo meal, baking powder, yeast, sprinkles for every conceivable festive occasion, flavorings, frosting for a cupcake crisis and the odd jar of baby food. I try to house all cereals here like my Dr. Oz endorsed steel cut oatmeal (as yet unopened), honey & syrup. Question: Why don't manufacturers make cereal in more cupboard friendly boxes? In the UK you can buy handbag friendly sizes of Glamour and Elle magazine so why not extend this genius idea to cereal boxes? I don't mind if they're wide but why are they so flamin' tall they won't fit in the cupboard and I have to store them on top of the fridge in full view of visiting folk who may therefore make judgements about me solely based upon my taste in breakfast goods? Virgo no like that! Its enough to make you decant them into plastic containers and if that's the case I may as well buy generic, which with cereal I never do. Are you listening Lucky Charms? ... Oops, I mean Organic Kashi.
Cupboard 3 - Ah, the comfort cupboard. The snicky snacks. The Tetley extra strong teabags and Maltesers hot chocolate smuggled back from England. The goldfish, the baby bottles that *sniff* I'm saying goodbye to as my 11 month old now uses a cup *sob*. Oh and the digestive biscuits, all manner of hot cocoa flavors & mini marshmallows. Yes I know this is Florida but now and again you need to crank that air conditioning and put on Home Alone whilst you hunker. Again the top shelf has been designated to the BOGO's. Salad dressings! Ugh. What possessed me? I think its was the BOGO and coupon combo that sent me over the edge. I mean, one free then a dollar off? How could you not?!
This was a thoroughly enjoyable colonic. Not at all like the first and last one I had in Harley Street in 2001. TMI?!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
If I gain a pound or two this week, I have only myself and the Food Network to blame. I stayed up last night watching that big galoot Guy Fieri on his show, 'Diners, Drive in's & Dives'. I don't particularly like the man either with his banal, contrived catchphrases, 'off the hook', 'that's money' or the latest 'out of bounds'. Look buddy, you're not Jamie Oliver and you never will be so get another gimmick already. Anyhow I put that particular irk of mine aside as last night he drove into an amazing gelato place so off I drifted to sleep dreaming of the stuff and today I had to be indulged in one of my favorite, if occasional, treats.
Gelato Grotto is simply the best 'ice cream' around here and believe me after two babies who had me craving nothing but ice cream for 2 months solid I am something of an expert. Carvel (can't beat the soft serve), ColdStone Creamery (fantastic cheesecake flavor with a frozen strawberry mix in) were all consumed in vast quantity with delight BUT at Santa's Grotto I could eat ANYTHING and be happy. It is all exemplary, made and presented with professionalism, care, cleanliness and - dare I say - love. It shows. The menu trumpets the fact that gelato is lower in calories than ice cream and that may be so but you'd never know to taste it. Its as creamy and soft as it is flavorful. Every flavor (and I've done some serious tasting!) is a completely intense representation of the ingredients contained therein. The hazelnut is a pure, nutty rich cream; the pistachio is delicate and fragrant and the strawberry is like a mouthful of creamy smooth fruit.
It's not the cheapest ice cream in town. The prices start at around the $4 mark for a single scoop but the quality is evident in every satisfying lick. I've had cassata in Rome and stracciatella in Napoli and I can tell you that this is as good as any gelato you'll find in Italy or anywhere else. If you want quality over quantity and this is no bad mantra, this place is for you. (and me!)
Friday, August 15, 2008
Mimi went with with 'kids' pancakes. What kid can eat that much? Thankfully not mine. She had a side of sausage and ate half that and about half a pancake. Dr. Dave had 'Grandma's pancake breakfast' - clearly Grandma can put it away; he was also defeated. I had the 'low carb' offering. Not because of any dietary preference you understand, I just knew they wouldn't eat their pancakes and I'd have at least a single adult portion left for myself. Great quality pancakes, you can't knock them for that. The eggs are fine, the turkey sausage really nicely cooked. The tomato slice & orange garnish? Puleez...
Friendly service, fun and unpretentious environment, and $20 all in including some pretty decent coffee. If you can get back to the car with out dropping the same again in the 'country store' you'll be laughing.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
- Open the cans and drain the salmon really well; place into a mixing bowl.
- Add the cup of mashed potato and the dill relish (well drained & squeezed thru kitchen paper).
- Add salt & pepper to taste.
- Empty some matzomeal onto a board or a plate and form the cakes with your hands or in a ring mould. Coat in the matzomeal.
- Heat some vegetable oil & a little butter in a pan and shallow fry for around 5 minutes each side on a low/medium heat until brown & crispy.
Trust me tip: This is a wet mixture - you can make the cakes and chill them for around 30 minutes prior to frying to dry them out which can make frying easier. Don't flip them around in the pan either, have a little patience and only turn them after 5 minutes or so on a low to medium heat.
Monday, August 11, 2008
With Dr. Dave, the girls & Dad safely deposited in the Starbucks above I loaded the stroller with a very careful selection trying to bear in mind the new baggage allowances. Now there's something you have to know about my Dad. If you show an interest in something - if you hint that there's something you may one day like to own - chances are he'll get it for you (so choose your words carefully). You tell him you like his shirt - he'll give it to you (most likely unlaundered but you get my point). Of course he's watching me carefully picking over the books and listening to me umm... ahhh... then putting them back. Fast as I'm putting them back he's picking them up and hot footing it to the checkout. Ergo cookbookcafe's shelves are fit to bust and we had to bring an extra bag home. Thankfully I packed light on the way out.
If all this weren't enough in the spoiling department, Dr. Dave spent two hours tonight re-organizing the cream of my collection. If that's not true love (or perhaps OCD) I don't know what is.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
This is an old favorite from my Malaysia years back in 1990-1991 ish. I must've consumed at least fifty different versions of both beef and chicken rendang with varying degrees of delight. The high end places such as the tourist hotels like the Regent & Shangri-la tend to serve a wonderful quality meat but the sauce can be on the tame side and whilst the street hawkers can use some rather dubious cuts of 'beef', the flavors and fragrance from these vendors can't be matched. Such is the demand for the 'rendang' flavor you can even buy a McRendang from the McDonalds in Kuala Lumpur... and I did... often!
The recipe is a very loose adaptation (you trying buying candlenuts in Publix!) of one that features in one of my oldest Malaysian cookery books, the sadly out of print, 'Traditional Malaysian Cuisine'. You could try ebay for this brilliant book which has authentic recipes for Chinese, Nonya & Malay regional cookery but, word to the wise, cookbook shopping on ebay is addictive.
Recipe Ingredients (serves 6)
For the Paste
2 tbs curry powder
1 onion finely minced
1 heaped tsp of minced garlic
1 heaped tsp of lemon grass
1 heaped tsp of ginger
3 red chillies finely minced
1 3/4 lbs of lean braising steak
1 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
1tbs soy sauce
2 tbs water
1 can of coconut milk
- In a heavy based oven proof casserole, heat & cook the paste ingredients until fragrant (don't worry if the pan looks a little charred up on the bottom).
- Add half the coconut milk and continue stirring and frying until it separates.
- Add the wet mixture of salt, sugar, soy sauce & water along with the meat and stir.
- Pour on the rest of the coconut milk and cook in a 325 degree oven until the meat is meltingly tender and the gravy is rich and thick (2-3 hours). Give it a couple of stirs during cooking to help it along.
- Serve with steamed jasmine or basmati rice.
Trust me tips: Try the gourmet markets or Asian supermarkets for convient jars of minced lemongrass, ginger & kaffir lime leaves - they are so easy!
If you like things a little sweeter you could add some shredded coconut an hour or so before the end of cooking time to really jack up the coconut hit.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
- Leg of lamb (bone in)
- 2 heads of garlic
- 1 large onion
- 1 lemon
- sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 3/4 bottle of dry white wine
- 1 pint of chicken broth/stock
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Cut a few slits in your leg of lamb and place in slivers of rosemary and garlic.
- Place a solid roasting tin over your hob/cooktop and heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
- Cover the meat in seasoned flour and brown on all sides.
- Add the chopped onion, the rest of the garlic, sliced lemon, wine & chicken stock and bring to a boil over the heat.
- Reduce to a simmer and place in the oven for 3 to 3 and a half hours basting every half hour.
- There will be plenty of juices left in the pan to serve with the meat and it'll be moist enough after this long slow cooking to shred with a spoon and fork.
I also had two chickens (see below) for the plainer eaters amongst us which I prepared in exactly the same way aside from some bacon to protect the moistness of the breast and obviously a reduced cooking time.
Serve with copious amounts of roast potatoes & vegetables alongside the winey, lemony, garlicky juices from the meat.