Friday, August 27, 2010

The Leftover Dilemma

As you may or may not have noticed, fat is a recurring theme here. I'm only echoing what thousands of years of culinary tradition over many cultures has taught us- fat is delicious. Take that, Lean Cuisine. This post is no exception.
Like most other housewives, I end up with a refrigerator full of leftovers quite frequently. Why does this happen? Nobody actually likes leftovers. Who wants warmed over, two day old meatloaf. Ick. Plus, I get bored easily. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of meals I've fixed more than one time in the five years I've been married. So the idea of eating the same thing for dinner and then for lunch the next day is not particularly appealing. For some reason, though, I can't stand the thought of throwing out "perfectly good food." Instead I wait until it's no longer perfectly good. Makes sense, huh? Yeah...
Well, fat to the rescue! I've figured out what to do with leftovers. This also solves the pesky problem of wasted bread heels or the last lonely hamburger bun. You coat leftovers in breadcrumbs and pan fry them. "Gross," you say, "That will never work!" Au contraire, mes amis! Got leftover mac n' cheese? Ball it up, coat it in crumbs, and pan fry it! Deeee-lish. They serve this at some restaurants. Rice and beans? add an egg and some cheese, ball it up, coat it in seasoned crumbs, and pan fry it! Voila- Tex Mex/Italian fusion arancini. Cauliflower (assuming the last bits *don't* get snarfed at the table on the first go. Who doesn't like cauliflower? Har!), chop it up, add an egg, crumbs, and cheese; ball it up, coat it in crumbs, and pan fry! I'm pretty sure all kids will like this, even the 35 year old adult male kind. If the leftovers are too dry and crumbly to ball up, add egg and/or cheese. If it's too soupy, add bread crumbs. I can't think of anything at the moment that this wouldn't work for. It ain't healthy, but it's practical. I wonder how much money and food could be saved if we would repurpose leftovers more often.
Props to Darrin- I thought of this because of an absolutely incredible appetizer he and his lovely bride served us a while ago that was veggies, cheese, and bread crumbs pan fried. It was amazing.

Friday, July 9, 2010


For those of you who don't know, the title of this post is a reference to the most genius television show since Star Trek. Points if you know what it is.
As many of you know, my kitchen sees a lot of action. I make a lot of cakes. Because I make a lot of cakes, I frequently end up with a lot of unused egg yolks. A lot. Like dozens at a time. As you also know, I'm really cheap. I don't like to let food go to waste. Unfortunately there are only so many things one can make with unlimited supplies of egg yolks. For a while I would make pudding or pie filling with them. I also like very much to make my own mayonnaise and aioli. Yesterday, though, I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the golden little chicks in my refrigerator and began searching for alternative uses for them.
After a quick search of the internet, I ran across a site that had a host of recipes for beauty products made from groceries. Bingo! Egg yolk hair conditioner. Yep, I did it. The particular concoction I found was a mix of olive oil and egg yolks, followed by a vinegar rinse. I kept thinking the whole time that I could be making aioli with the products in my hair, but I pressed on anyway. It was so gross. When I rinsed the egg out of my hair, it felt as if I had one enormous dreadlock attached to the top of my head. My hair has never been so tangly. However, the day after (today) it does feel stronger and have a bit more life. It was still icky, and made me want some aioli and blanched veggies.
If anybody sees me about town combing through my locks with a piece of blanched asparagus or a carrot stick, you'll know why.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Macaroni and FAIL

Every now and again I get a little big for my britches. Okay, maybe it's more than every now and again. Pride seems to be my favorite sin, and it sets me up for some embarrassing failures. The good thing about embarrassing failure is that it's usually pretty entertaining for the bystander. Anything for a laugh, right? This is a story of one such failure.
I have no training in the kitchen. I'm just a housewife with a hobby. After a few successes though, I wander into the delusion that I'm the next Julia Child. A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend about macaroni and cheese. We had started some for lunch and I was going on about how much better it is if you make the box stuff with half a stick of butter rather than the two tablespoons of margarine the box calls for. (By the way, I can't think of anything off the top of my head that's better with margarine than with butter, even if the recipe calls for margarine. Just a preference of mine) When the pasta was draining in the sink I melted the butter in the hot pan. At this point I got distracted by my own apparent genius started "instructing" my poor friend on proper pasta cooking or some other babbling. I don't remember exactly what. The butter got VERY hot. I then made a discovery: if you deep fry the cheese powder, it turns into crunchy salty little cheese bits that are apparently insoluble in milk. I screwed up a box of macaroni and cheese! I didn't even know you could do that. Some gourmet I am. My friend was very gracious and ate the strange burnt concoction, but hasn't quit busting me about it yet.
So there it is. I can improvise a bain-marie but I can't make mac-n-cheese. I wasted a perfectly good stick of butter too. Oh, well. Next time I'll just make sandwiches.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm Baaa-aaack

The title has nothing to do with the actual content of this post. Whatever. I feel better now after having a big 'ol tumor removed.
On to the meat (har har):
I made the discovery this week that leftover tater tots make DELICIOUS nachos. It was my first post-surgery excursion into the world of compulsive late night cooking. It was about 9:30, and the tater tots from dinner were still sitting on the counter. Gross, I know. Maybe it was inspiration, maybe it was the very tasty rum I enjoyed with my friend D that night. I don't know. For whatever reason, I felt compelled to get up mid-movie and put on some bacon (the foodie equivalent of "put on some tea") and smother the leftovers in colby-jack. Once the bacon was done I threw some onions in the grease and carmelized 'em. Twenty minutes or so in the oven for the tots, plus some sour cream, and my slightly tipsy heart was satisfied. I should have added jalepenos or salsa, but it just didn't occur to me at the time. YUM! Even though the cheese was a little old (What? Don't judge me! I haven't been to the store in forever...) it was tasty. Crumble up the bacon on the cheesy tots and cover them in sweet onion and sour cream goodness. It looks like a heart attack. I look forward to trying it again when I think it through a little more.

Quick aside: I have not been ignoring you, dear blog. I still love you. I just had to have a "sorta cancer but not really cancer" tumor removed from my abdomen, and the narcotics I was on really made it impossible to type whole words, much less form an entire blog post. I know that sounds like the excuse of someone trying to obtain fraudulent medical leave. It's not. I have a ten inch scar that looks JUST LIKE a rattlesnake that ate a deer. That proves it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Budget Savers

Anyone want to know the real reason I can cook?
No? Fine, be that way.
Okay, okay, I'll tell you anyway.
I'm cheap. Broke too, but mostly cheap.
Here's the scoop with that. About three years ago, my husband and I went from DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids) to single income parents. The bills went up; the means to pay them went down. Sound familiar, America? After a few weeks of eating store brand mac n' cheese, it occurred to me that some real person makes the delicious pizzas, pasta sauces, and desserts I missed. Someone in a factory, making minimum wage or worse, cranks out frozen things in a factory. Someone putting himself through college peels potatoes and debones fish in the back of a restaurant. And before that, some poor peasant woman in Europe, Asia, South America, wherever, with no supermarket or food processor, INVENTED the dish being copied by the factory worker and the cook, making do with what resources she had to feed her family. It then came to my mind that I am just as smart and capable as the peasant. Since then, it has become a fun game for me to see what yummy things I can come up with on a very small budget. It seems that convenience has replaced skill in the kitchen, and our collective waistlines, wallets, and tastebuds are suffering. Here are a few tips for keeping your family's meals delicious and inexpensive:
1. Do it yourself. Someone knows how to do it. Why can't that someone be you? Example: storebought pita bread is usually about $4 for six, and somewhat stale even straight from the package. It costs about 40 cents to make twice that many, and they are fresh and wonderful.
2. Cut back on meat. If you learn your way around a produce section, you won't miss it and your body will thank you. Example: Veal parmesan and eggplant parmesan both get their distinctive flavor from tomatoes, basil, and parmesan cheese. Veal is generally $4-6 per pound, and the quality is kind of a crapshoot if you get it from the supermarket. Eggplant is less than $1.50 a pound, and quality is fairly consistent.
3. Make the cheese you choose count. Good asiago and feta are pricier than the store-brand taco blend, but they last a heck of a lot longer. A little bit of a strong hard cheese will flavor a whole dish. Plus, those types of cheeses tend to last longer in the fridge without going moldy.
4. Go to farmer's markets in the afternoon. Things might be a bit picked over, but the vendors are ready to go home and will practically give you farm-fresh fruit, veggies, honey, etc. You can negotiate them down to almost nothing. Farmers markets are open in most communities April-November.
5. The internet is your friend. If something sounds good, but you don't know how to make it, look it up. It's usually easier to make than you think. A good place to start is, because they have user reviews of recipes. You can find out if a recipe is any good and what ways to tweak it before you even start. Plus, most chain grocery stores have their weekly ads and coupons on the internet. You can plan your menu on sale items very conveniently.

Anyone else have budget foodie tips? I'd love to hear them! Post them in the comments section.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Must Have

In my first attempt to inform and entertain, I want to let you know what my kitchen can't do without.

1. Bacon - The universal food. As Bubba waxed poetic about shrimp, I could name hundreds of ways to use this amazing food. There is a reason when you order something “deluxe” or “supreme” it always comes with bacon. Come to think of it, Heather can check, the Latin root of supreme is bacon. My favorite bacon recipes to follow.

2. Paula Deen’s House Seasoning – This amazing blend of salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder has replaced the salt and pepper shaker. I use it to season meats, potatoes and veggies. What I didn’t expect is how terrific it is on omelets and scrambled eggs. The downside is that it comes in small spice sized containers which is why I have tried to make my own version. I’m close but getting the right mix is tricky. I’ll let you know how it goes.

3. Italian Dressing – A high quality Italian dressing can be a great marinade or finishing sauce for meats. One of my favorites is a product called Garlic Expressions, a specialty item that can be found at most local grocery stores, that I like to put on a summer tomato and cucumber salad.

4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil РNothing is better to cook with than E.V.O.O. Put some e.v.o.o. in the pan and saut̩ your veggies with the previously mentioned seasoning and they come out amazing.

5. Chicken Stock (low sodium) – Switch out water with some chicken stock and your dish takes on a whole new life. Many uses include soups, stews, chicken and noodles.

So, there you have it. Let me know what you think.


I ran across this pic on Jorge Garcia from Lost's blog. (Yes, I'm one of those nerds, but that's not what we're discussing here.) It got me thinking about lard. I have this to say about it- don't knock it til' you try it. If you pan or deep fry things, it's amazing. Nothing crisps like lard. It's also fantastic as a substitute for butter or shortening in savory pie crusts (like for pot pies or quiches), or biscuits, or in any kind of cheese pastry. It gives a really great hearty flavor.
It's also better for you than many of its vegetable counterparts. Lard has NO trans fats. Yep, none. It's high in healthy monounsaturated fat. It's also not some kind of greasy chemical Frankenstein like vegetable shortening. It's natural and easily produced in your own kitchen from items you can purchase from your local butcher, if you want to. Conveniently, it also comes pre-made.
I will admit that it's not as versatile a flavor as, say, butter. However, when it's used right, it is absolutely divine. I'd rather have fried foods made in lard than any "healthier" option any day.
Need an idea of something easy to make with lard? Here's one of our favorites:
Sweet Potato Fries
4-6 fresh sweet potatoes, peeled
3/4 c. flour
1 1/4 c. water
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs lard

1. Heat lard in deep fryer or large pan to 360 degrees.
2. While lard is heating, cut sweet potatoes into 1/4 to 1/2 inch strips, or whatever fry shape you want.
3. Whisk together remaining dry ingredients. Add the water gradually, until it makes a thin batter (you may need more or less).
4. Dip sweet potato pieces in batter a few at a time, and add them to the hot lard. Cook until golden brown. Be careful not to put too many fries in at once, as they will stick together. Drain fries on paper towels, and enjoy!