Awesome One-Pot Side Dish

Surprise! Surprise! It’s only been 10 days since my last post — actually it was only 9 if you count the post I did yesterday on Simply Grateful Cooking.

Yesterday after months of Grace bugging me for a recipe that one of her bosses wanted for a noodle side dish I began making last summer, I decided to type it up. Of course, this being a new recipe and one I definitely wanted to share, I thought I’d actually do it right and make a post about the recipe as well. So while Hubby was tutoring online for a few hours, I cleared off my desk and wrote a post for Simply Grateful Cooking.

Once the post was done and the recipe printed off for Grace’s boss, I couldn’t help myself, I just had to head to the kitchen to make it. While I was working, Hubby came out to see what I was doing. I told him I was making dinner. As usual he asked me what I was making.

Now you have to realize that Hubby loves to yank my chain. Every time he asks me what I’m making for dinner, he already knows how he is going to react, and so do I. He will give me a disinterested nod of his head and shrug saying, “Yeah, that sounds great” only saying it in his most sarcastic, disapproving voice. It’s a game he seems to enjoy and for the most part it doesn’t bother me. There are some days though that he catches me in a bad mood and I bark at him for his seemingly harsh judgement, even when I know deep down he’s teasing me. Not my best moments, but hey — I’m only human!

Anyway, yesterday when I told him we were having fish, he gave me his usual “That sounds great” response. Then as an after thought as he was walking out of the kitchen he turned and asked, “What are we having with it?”

“Herbed Garlic Parmesan Pasta.” I told him

With a slight trill in his voice he said, “Really! Great!” Now I’m not positive, but I think I saw him skip out of the kitchen with glee. Maybe not, but his excitement was palpable.

I guess there are some things I make that even he can’t fake disinterest in or contain himself. It’s probably one of the families favorites and with good reason. Herbs, noodles, Parmesan cheese, and mushrooms…it doesn’t get much better than that.

If you’d like to try a great one-pot side dish that is sure to please, check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking, Herbed Garlic Parmesan Pasta. It’s one side that I always make far more than we’ll eat in one sitting because the leftovers are as popular as when I serve it with dinner, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Some Things Are Just Better Homemade

There are some really great prepared foods out on the market that can be quite hard to top. Hostess Cup Cakes for example. I know there are recipes out there to duplicate these at home, but for how long and all the effort they take to make, and taking into consideration that I can woof one of those puppies down in about 67 seconds (especially if they are frozen), this is not going to be on top of my to do list of recipes to try. Some things are definitely just easier and dare I say better bought from the store.

However! And this is a big however. There are many, many, many more dishes out there that given the choice of buying them prepared from the store, in a box or from a restaurant verses making it myself, I will have to go with the homemade version. The advantages are many, including knowing exactly what is going into what I’m making, making it fresh (who knows how long some of those prepared meals have been sitting around), and let’s not get started on how great I feel when I serve my family a fresh and hot HOMEMADE meal.

Some things that are better homemade are not necessarily easy or quick. In fact, I’d have to say that most of the dishes I make for dinner seem to take more time than I might actually want to spend in the kitchen, but then again this is my job. Feeding the family is by far the biggest time consumer of my homemaker job and most definitely the one I take the greatest pride in.

A few weeks ago I embarked on a new dish that I have wanted to try making for more than 30 years. Time isn’t always on my side (mostly not on my side) but after trying several store-bought versions of this dish and finding they didn’t compare to homemade, I decided that homemade was the only way to go. Even restaurant versions of this dish left me not quite satisfied. So, when I had a day to spare — well it wasn’t quite a whole day, but lets say a good four hours — I set to work on making homemade potato gnocchi. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking for https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/homemade-potato-gnocchi/.

Amazing how something with four simple ingredients can taste so much better homemade and take so much time to make. I was smart though. Seeing as I was making a mess of the kitchen anyhow, I decided to make several batches and freeze them so I wouldn’t have to have so many hours to make one meal the next time I wanted to serve them.

When I’ve got the time, I have a list of recipes I go to that I want to perfect for the home because either store-bought versions are lacking or restaurant eating is just not our cup of tea. One more recipe off this list and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Too Many Choices

When I try a new recipe, quite often I will make several variations in the hopes that one will be the “clear winner” that the entire family can agree on. In a perfect world, this might happen, but I don’t live in a perfect world.

Every time I make more than one sauce, dip, flavor, or basically give the family a “choice,” the results are all over the spectrum. Hubby will like one, Grace will like another, Zeb will like them all, and I’ll either not like any of them or one that no one else does.

Is this one of Murphy’s Laws or something? I swear, for as often as this happens, there has got to be some rule in the cosmos that I’m not aware of, but a victim of each and every time.

Knowing that offering choices opens the door for someone, everyone, to shoot down one or all of my attempts, sounds pretty stupid when I think about it. Really now, how often does Hubby give me options when he heads out to mow the lawn.

It’s not like he asks, “Do you want me to cut it on the diagonal, straight up and down, across, or perhaps mow your name in it this time?” No, he just goes out and does it. Well, actually Zeb mows the lawn, but when Hubby did mow the lawn, he never offered me any options.

Seeing as no one else thinks to give me “choices,” why is it I feel compelled to do so?

Well, let me tell you why?  I want everyone to like what I make. Is this so wrong?

Maybe not, but at the same time I need to keep myself grounded and not get my feelings hurt every time someone gives me their honest opinion and tells me they don’t like what I’ve made. Most days I can handle a little constructive criticism. There are some days though…

The day I spent, or two days really, making roasted pork tamales I made three different sauces to serve with them. Check out my post https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/tamale-sauces-in-tillys-test-kitchen/ at Simply Grateful Cooking. Once again, true to form, the family could not agree on a clear winner. Still, this could actually work out in my favor in the long run, because although they could not agree on which one was the best, they liked all of them. This means I pretty much have three different meals in my arsenal to serve. I certainly won’t be serving them all in the same week or anything, but if I make tamales once every month or so using a different sauce each time, I doubt the family will get tired or bored of this meal,

So, I guess offering choices can work in my favor every once in a while too, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Kitchen Burnout

I was nearing  the end of another long, tiring day on my feet in the kitchen. I’d started the prep work for this meal more than 24 hours earlier and with the kitchen a total disaster area, the end was not in sight. The aroma that filled the house that had once made my taste buds tingle, now made me want to hurl. I was exhausted, anxious, and regretting ever wanting to undertake such a labor-intensive endeavor. Yep, just another day in the life of this Simply Grateful Housewife.

Grace texted me from school, preparing to head out to dinner with friends, and casually asked how I was. Wrong question. She got a lot more than she wanted in response.

So, how are things going?

If this isn’t the best meal I’ve ever made, I am never cooking again. We can eat out every night from now until eternity!

I’m sure it will be, you worry too much.

So I sent her a picture.

Those look good.

Well it took me more than four hours to make them and I’m still working on sauces.

I’m sure it will be great.

It had better be or I’m NEVER cooking again! We can eat processed everything!

Ok, I understand.

I’m serious. I’ll quit.

Yes, my day had been a bit stressful. Making a new meal can be that way, especially when you’re unsure of how things are going to turn out and your main taste-tester (Grace) is out the house having a life.

Who said she was allowed to have a life anyway? Probably her father, he’s always undermining me in some way or other.

As much as I enjoy making new meals, typically I pick ones that I’ve tasted at one time or other. Not this particular day, not this particular meal. No one in our house had ever tasted it. No one had even considered ordering it off a menu. In fact, no one, besides myself, even had an idea of what this meal consisted of. I saw it on the Food Network (those darn heretics!). I really should smash every television in the house, or at the very least, cancel our cable.

So here I was, spending two days in the kitchen working on a meal that I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like, that no one who I was serving it to had any idea of what to expect, and now the mere smell of it was turning my stomach. Things were definitely not looking good.

I stood at the stove, mixing the ingredients for the final sauce I wanted to try, dreading the moment Hubby would be home and I’d have to start serving. The moment of truth was not something I looked forward to. If I hadn’t invested so much time and effort into this meal, I probably would have just scrapped it and heated up some leftovers. As it was, I pushed on.

When the last of the sauces were done and simmering on the stove, I took a moment and sought refuge on the couch in the great room. The aroma was everywhere so a reprieve from that was not to be found. I’d have snuck out for a walk but Hubby was expected at any moment. At least it would all be over soon.

I heard the groaning of the garage door as Hubby’s car turned into our driveway and he honked his horn so I could let Bell out to greet him. At the door I enjoyed a moment of fresh, cold air before following him into the kitchen where he exclaimed, “Something smells good.” That was a good sign. That was a start.

While Hubby changed from his work clothes and got comfortable, I put the pans of food on the table. I didn’t bother using serving dishes. I already had more than enough dishes to wash, dirtying more just for presentation purposes was not going to happen. I suppose there is some truth in the belief that “it’s all in the presentation” when it comes to how a meal is received, but at this point, I didn’t care. All I wanted was for this dinner to be over so I could clean the kitchen and hopefully rid the house of the aroma Hubby found so wonderful, and I found utterly unbearable.

Sitting in his spot Hubby asked, “So how do I eat this?” I served him, placing everything on his plate and explaining that I had three sauces for him to try. He decided to try the sauces one at a time. I then served Zeb and finally gave myself a very moderate portion. Then I waited.

Hubby ate heartily. He put bite after bite into his mouth, with no comment. I sat there, waiting.

Zeb dug in, lopping up the sauce I’d served him, without comment. I watched and waited.

Finally, it was too much. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I broke the silence, “Well???”

Hubby smiled. Yes, he was torturing me. He knew all too well that I was nervous about this meal. He knew I’d been working on it for nearly two days. He knew and yet he continued to drag it out, just to prolong this. Didn’t he realize that the fate of having a home cooked meal EVER again lay solely in his response? Didn’t he know that my very future as a housewife was at stake?

Of course he did. We’ve been married more than enough years for him to read me the moment I open the back door to let Bell out to greet him. He can tell by the way I stand, the position of my head, the look in my eyes, the tone in my voice — one look and he knows if he should come through the door or run for the hills. Today, as much as I thought the end of the world as I knew it was upon me, he knew everything was going to be fine and took full advantage of it.

Putting his fork down, Hubby covered my hand with his and said, “This is really good.”

Relief? I’m not sure that’s what I felt. At that point all feeling had left my body. I was numb and yet all I wanted to do was cry.

I turned to Zeb, who had not lifted his head from his plate, and asked him what he thought. He grunted a favorable response without missing a bite.

Hubby continued to assure me throughout the meal that it was “excellent” then “really good” and “you can definitely make this again.” That’s always a good indicator as to whether or not he truly likes something or not. Then he said it. The one thing that is the ultimate compliment Hubby will give, “This is definitely ‘company worthy.”

There it was. All my hard work was not for naught. I ate two bites, choking them down, and have to say it was pretty tasty. Hubby and Zeb definitely gave the meal their seal of approval. As for me, I don’t know that I’ll be able to eat a tamale or any Mexican food for that matter again. Just the thought is making my stomach churn.

Still, as much as the process might have been laborious and time-consuming, I do have enough tamales now frozen for two more meals. Three-for-one — not bad in the whole scheme of things. Should you want to give this fairly tedious meal a shot, check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking for https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/roasted-pork-tamales-a-dish-not-to-be-taken-lightly/. The results will definitely not disappoint. Just make sure you set aside enough time to get the job done.

Another Mexican dish to add to my arsenal (for special occasions ONLY), and for this I am —Simply Grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

A Winter Harvest

The weather here in Michigan has been crazy this winter. In fact, beginning in November of 2015, it’s been unlike ever before.

Mild temperatures and very little snow is not really characteristic of Michigan, but definitely not something I’m going to complain about. At least as long as we don’t pay for this with a cold and snowy spring/summer.

One wonderful thing that we have been able to enjoy because of this change in the weather is an extended harvest from the garden. For one I was able to harvest peppers all the way through November and second, yesterday I was able to pick some kale which is still growing strong.

DSCF3103

Kale — the plant that just keeps giving. Thanks to the wonderfully hearty nature of this plant, I was able to make a batch of Italian wedding soup (check out my recipe at Simply Grateful Cooking – https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/deluxe-italian-wedding-soup/.

DSCF3105

What a gift, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Another Restaurant Favorite Made At Home

Whenever Hubby finds something he likes at any local restaurant, it becomes a challenge for me to see if I can make it just as good, if not better, at home. This hasn’t really worked out all that well for me, because it pretty much means Hubby doesn’t want to go out to any restaurants because whenever I ask if we can go out he’ll say, “I like your cooking better.”

As nice as it is to hear that, it would be nice on occasion to go out on the town. Still, I just can’t seem to help myself.

A few weeks ago I attempted yet another specialty dish that we could only find at a local restaurant — puffy tacos. I haven’t quite mastered it yet, but Hubby already has crossed going out for these off his list of foods to eat out.

Check out my recipes for Puffy Taco Shells and Homemade Taco/Burrito Seasoning at Simply Grateful Cooking.

IMG_8066

Even though it means that I might not get to go “out” for dinner or lunch, I doubt I’ll ever stop trying to make Hubby’s favorites here at home, it’s just what I do. Thankfully, Hubby does appreciate my efforts, and definitely makes all the effort worth the while, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Festive Raspberry Dressing & Vinegar

DSCF0049

Over the summer I did many canning project using raspberries. One that I started back in July was infusing white wine vinegar with fresh raspberries. Although this was probably done sometime in August, things were so hectic, I never got around to finishing it.

The other night I needed a special salad dressing to perk up a ho-hum salad at dinner. Remembering the raspberry vinegar steeping under the counter, I decided to finish up the Raspberry Infused Vinegar and whip up a batch of Creamy Raspberry Vinaigrette. These recipes can be found on Simply Grateful Canning and Simply Grateful Cooking.

Being able to use the projects I worked on over the summer now that it’s cold and sometimes dreary, means the world to both me and the family. Cranberries aren’t the only “festive” fruit to use this holiday season, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

A New Spin On Chicken Marsala

I really had no intension of spending half a day working on dinner yesterday, but making homemade ravioli from scratch without a pasta maker takes a lot more time than I remembered. Check out the whole process and recipe on Simply Grateful Cooking, Chicken Marsala Ravioli.

DSCF2658

I’ve made ravioli before, but forgot how labor intensive it is. I have an electric pasta maker, but that doesn’t work well when rolling out dough for ravioli, and the manual pasta maker I had I got rid of — why I’ll never know. Still, working with my hands and truly enjoying every aspect of this process felt good.

The only change I might make to the recipe next time is to double the sauce portion. Although there was “just enough” sauce, Hubby tends to like his ravioli/pasta swimming in sauce. And, since Marsala sauce is so tasty, dipping some bread in the leftovers wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Another new meal for the recipe book and enough for two more meals in the freezer, not a bad days work, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

How To Fix Too Salty, Too Sour Sauerkraut

It’s a muggy, hot and humid 92 degrees here in Michigan this afternoon, so of course I decided to cook something appropriate for the weather. NOT!

I decided on sauerkraut with pork, sausage, and dumplings. This calls for the stove to be running for at least four hours at the highest setting. Granted that’s only one burner, but then the other four are going intermittently to make the dumplings, sear the pork, and what would this meal be without some garlic and white beans on the side. Oh, and did I mention, our air conditioner is on the fritz? Well, it just wasn’t hot enough in my kitchen this morning after canning another batch of pickles, so heck, why not throw on a pot of sauerkraut to heat things up to that oh so pleasant temperature of 97 degrees?

Now this wouldn’t have been such a bad idea, if when I went to test the meal, about two hours before serving, I didn’t notice that my homemade sauerkraut was too sour and too salty.

With homemade sauerkraut, I find rinsing it prior to cooking is not a good idea. The reason being that many times all the sour gets washed out. When this happens, there is no fix other than opening another jar and adding it to the washed sauerkraut. Therefore, I empty the jars of sauerkraut into a stock pot and add several jars of water to start the process. As the kraut cooks I add water to it as necessary so it doesn’t cook down and burn. Usually this is enough to tone down the sourness and make the sauerkraut perfect by the time dinner is served.

Today I used two quarts of sauerkraut and added about three quarts of water. After adding the sausage, pork, and dumplings, my 8 quart pan was pretty full. This was left to boil for several hours. When I tasted it however, the sauerkraut was too sour and salty to the extent of almost being inedible.

What to do?

My fear was that if I were to wash the sauerkraut now, I would be left with tasteless sauerkraut and the meal would be ruined. Doing nothing however would result in the same, so here is what I did.

First I removed as much of the meat as I could. Then I strained out most of the original water in the stock pot, reserving it for later.

Next I filled the pot half full with fresh water and returned it to the stove. Right away I tasted the sauerkraut and found the salty taste gone, unfortunately so was the sourness — just what I had feared. But, I had planned on this. So, slowly I added back some of the reserved original water. Each time I added the sour liquid I let the pot come back to a boil and then did a taste test. Eventually I got it to my liking and then added back in the meat.

DSCF0369a

Once the meat was back in the pot and it came to a boil I again tasted the sauerkraut. Because of the reintroduction of the meat the sauerkraut was a bit more sour and a little more salty. Not too much, but definitely something that should be kept in mind next time. It is possible that the meat could have taken the salt/sour ratio over the top again, so in the future I will add the meat back to the pot immediately and start taste testing from that point.

In hindsight, making this meal on the hottest day of the year might not have been the smartest thing, but I learned something new and that made it well worth it, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Cheddar & Ham Vegetable Chowder

I know, I know, it’s hot, muggy, and definitely not the best time to be stuck in the kitchen slaving away over a hot stove, but dinner’s not going to make itself and around here, dinner isn’t an option — it’s the rule. Still, why in the world would I chose to make a new chowder of all things?

For one, with all the wonderful vegetables coming out of the garden, I had to find a way to use them other than just as a side dish. I know I’ll have frozen vegetables to enjoy this winter, but putting the fresh, just-picked ones right in the pot is more fulfilling than I can possibly explain.

This chowder is thick, rich, and more filling than any soup I make. Hubby was only able to eat one bowl and two pieces of crusty bread. The rest of us barely finished a smaller serving and one piece of bread.

Cheddar & Ham Vegetable Chowder

DSCF0011

6 Slices Thick Cut Bacon, diced

1 Large Onion Chopped

1 Cup Diced Carrots

1/2 Cup Chopped Scallions

5 Tbsp. Flour

4 Cups Milk, divided

1 1/2 Cups Water

3 Cups Cubed Potatoes

1 Cup Corn

3/4 Cup Fresh Peas

3 tsp. Vegetable or Chicken Bouillon

3 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese

2 Cups Cubed Fully Cooked Ham

  • Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towel. Add onion, carrots, and scallions to bacon fat in pan and saute until tender. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually add 3 cups milk and stir until thick. Stir in water and again stir until thickened.
  • Transfer flour and milk mixture to a stock pot and bring to boil. Add potatoes, corn, peas, bouillon, and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Be careful to keep an eye on this so it does not burn.
  • When potatoes are tender, add cheese and ham. Stir constantly until cheese is melted. Stir in bacon and serve.

This soup was a real hit! Even Grace’s boyfriend, who happened to stop by after work right around the dinner hour loved it. He told Grace he could have eaten the entire pot — now that would have been something to see.

The carrots, peas, and scallions from the garden, as well as the corn that I took from the last bag of Michigan corn I froze last fall, really made this chowder pop. I might even try omitting the ham next time and just enjoy the vegetable medley. Definitely a meal in itself, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.