Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chou Rouge... (Red Cabbage to Americans)

I have, once again, graced the blog with a "foreign food". I don't mean Alien. That purple mass of spice and perfectly balanced flavor is indeed out of this world, but it didn't fly here. Look at it, it would have burned up in the atmosphere...an left charred little purple bits of confetti falling from the ski. Talk about a red dawn. No, this is actually a recipe from my "Adventures in French Cooking" book by Myriam Guidroz. I tweaked it. A lot. Once again this is getting to be a habit. Original recipe called for an apple, bacon, and lard. I cut the bacon and lard--very non-French thing to do I know. I also substituted a firm pear for the apple. That wasn't because I was being fancy...I was just out of apples. Total lack of planning will get me somewhere someday. Oh my...that last phrase was deeeeep.

We actually had this for dinner the night of the Evil Think Tank with Tara (Tara's Toasted Pound Cake with Almond Cream Sauce) ...oh look at me listing dessert first. That was purely subconscious, but now making me snort a little. Y'all really need to hear me giggle at least once. It's a totally professional and proper way to teach. Really. The main course (see, I can stay on topic...sometimes) was Solar Cooked Fire and Rain Barley Pilaf and some killer Shallot Herb Roasted Pork with Lemon Cream Sauce a... . It was a nice meal. Good company. Evil Think Tank. Tara loved the cabbage and asked me to blog it for sure. True to my oath...which I take none too seriously...

Chou Rouge (My Braised Red Cabbage with Pears)
1/2 head red cabbage, sliced thin
1 pear, very firm , peeled and chopped
1/2 white onion, sliced thin
4 slices of cooked bacon (instead, I used a few drops of liquid smoke to cut out the fat--and it is also a good vegetarian substitute for that smokey flavor)
1/4 cup cranberry juice (or dry red wine if you cook with wine)
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
salt and pepper
pinch of thyme
bay leaf
dash of ground clove
1T sugar (or 2 Splenda packets. Do what you need to do.)
2 tsp minced fresh thyme (reserved for the last 3 minutes of cooking)
1 tsp olive oil, for cooking.
Chop up the cabbage and onion and all that...

In a large heavy bottomed (oh please help me not to talk about my heavy bottom...) pan. See, I said pan. It must have a lid that fits it tightly as well. Get that lid out. Saute the onion in the olive oil until soft then add all remaining ingredients except for the cranberry juice (or wine).

Cover an cook over a very low temperature. At first the cabbage will render quite a bit of juice. Don't add water. When it cooks down enough and seems to be getting dry, add the juice or wine. Because this is so low fat...you may need to add a little more water to keep it from sticking if it seems to get that way. Don't go crazy though. It's not the red sea...red cabbage. Different.

This recipe calls for fresh thyme. I squealed to find (well not out loud...I try to contain myself in public as a general rule) this thyme on sale. It's the simple blessings really, and I did take a minute to thank the Lord. It's been a long time since I had fresh thyme.

Keep stirring the cabbage once in a while. The original recipe said cook for 2 hours. Um...I don't want to sound crazy here, but I do like to have a little more texture to my cabbage. If you want to do it the true French way...continue to cook and stir for 2 hours. This is where I think this is a great recipe for a crock pot or Solar Oven . Just left uncovered in the solar oven without stirring would give a very similar effect.
I didn't cook for 2 hours. Sorry. It was more like 40 minutes give or take. I was cooking the Pork at the same time so I wasn't really keeping exact track. Taste and season with salt and pepper, and if necessary the sugar (little honey would work if you don't want refined sugars...hi Angela-Nature-mama). Honestly...the cookbook said not to refrigerate the cabbage for 24 hours. I don't agree with that. I think it would be unsafe. Personally I'd rather ere on the side of my kids not throwing up...especially red cabbage. Why did I say that? Who will want to make cabbage now? Sorry folks. I should be a lot more serious...but that would be so boring! Please come back. I promise no more yucky stuff.

That being said, please make the cabbage anyway. It is delicious!

Weight Watchers...eat the whole pan for only 5 points (It makes 6 cups)...or have one cup for one point. It's a good deal.

There you go.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ace Moments...Random

Tell me, does this man look like he is the kind of guy...

Who drives like this....?

Officially meet Ace.

My Mother-in-law had a birthday party last night. This is me alone with a crazy guy who won't eat chicken and cleans the toilet so I don't have to. He can also sing like Elvis...the later years.

Here's a link to what someone posted of Ace's driving. It really wasn't supposed to be taped: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGCptVfdsFU It's hard to believe that the man thrashing that Trailblazer is really married to me, yet here he is. Ace. I've been married 13 years to Ace. Ace is my little nickname for him because he is a driving genius. Did I mention I can't park to save my life. Don't ask me about Friday night...I got high centered on a curb. When I called Ace to have him talk me through getting free...oh the open mock-age. It's embarrassing.

Ace on the other hand is a high performance driver and has done a lot of test driving for Nascar teams and training for fire and police departments. He trains the instructors for the academy...so he's a step above the academy. He's the only guy I know who has a plaque on the living room wall from the United States Secret Service for his valued assistance and cooperation with their driver training program. Like I say, he's an ACE!

So, last night at his mom's birthday party, I was reminded again why I love this guy. He's a sleeper. Nobody on the street would look at this guy and say "hot dog, there goes Jeff Gordon"...it just won't happen. He's a softy who misses Elvis (I think he's really expecting him to come back...), writes me random notes and memorizes WW2 bombers. In any given situation, he can find humor. It's a gift. In nutshell, I'm glad he's around. So, there you go.

Solar Cooked Fire and Rain Barley Pilaf

This recipe can be made in a Solar Oven , or a crock pot. It's a whole grain barley pilaf made with big chunks of roasted garlic, sun dried tomatoes, toasted almonds and amazing flavor. Vegetarian, full of character, and still it manages to look totally fabulous. It's the barley version of my husband. Hello baby.

How does it do it? It's all that sun. It makes it happy. Kind of like me living in Arizona...where we get sun! So if you are just joining me on my many cooking journeys, grab on to your space satellite. Wait, that's not a satellite, it's my solar oven...
I got my oven for Mother's Day last year. After I cried, I didn't wait 20 minutes before I was cooking with it. I have loved it ever since. Before I had the industrial made solar oven, I had one I made from cardboard, rolled up newspaper, aluminum foil, glass, felt edge liner, and a mirror. It worked for cooking legumes and a few baked goods. I just wanted something more permanent. Hence my joy at getting this Global Sun Oven. Here's the link: Global Sun Ovens...My Choice for Solar Cooking. I also have it on good authority,( ha ha, my own)...that the home made ones work as well.

"Everyone should know that they can make their own solar cooker in about an hour from a single cardboard box, aluminum foil, a plastic bag, and a dark pot. Here is a link to free plans:The Fun-Panel" --Tom Sponheim Solar Cookers International

Tom Sponheim contacted me recently about adding a page to the Solar Cookers International website about Chef Tess Bakeresse. It sounds like my kind of zany fun. Seriously though, let's get back to the food.
Here's what you'll need for Fire and Rain Barley Pilaf
1/2 cup of garlic (yes I know it seems like a lot! It gets really mellow and roasted so don't panic)
I used the peeled garlic. I found it--organic on sale. so now it's official, I'm good.

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil),drained and chopped

I make my own sun dried tomatoes. More to come on that subject as the tomatoes progress with our dear Jim (Organic Tomato Farming ) guru extraordinaire. I also infuse the packing olive oil with lemon, orange and black pepper...however, any jarred variety will work.

Here's a glimpse into the jar...
In a dark covered pot (my cooker came with one) combine the garlic, tomato and the following:
1 cup pearled barley
1/2 medium onion chopped
1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup yellow or green bell pepper, diced
Add the cooking liquid 3 cups vegetable stock or beef stock if you aren't vegetarian) and season generously. I used:
1/4 tsp each:
oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, dill
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp kosher salt
Cover and put in solar oven. My oven gets well over 350 degrees most of the time. It took 2 1/2 hours to bake. If you use a crock pot, 2 1/2 hours on high should do it.

Just out of the oven it looked like this. Just a little stir to mix in all the good stuff...

You may also add cheese after baking if you are not vegan vegetarian and want a little something more. I love it with 1/2 cup low fat cream cheese added to it at this point.

Grab a fork.
I actually served it with braised red cabbage and some totally non-vegetarian Shallot Herb Roasted Pork with Lemon Cream Sauce a... . That's what I love most about this dish. It can be a main course, or a side dish.

There you go.
Oh...it also freezes beautifully for a quick addition to soup or as a meal in and of itself. Try folding in cooked asparagus. I almost die from the sheer pleasure. Really.

Shallot Herb Roasted Pork with Lemon Cream Sauce and Mushrooms

I mentioned I had girl time with Tara on Friday night. What I failed to mention was that we also had a meal...not just Tara's Toasted Pound Cake with Almond Cream Sauce . This master genius dinner was one of my favorite. Shallot herb roasted pork with lemon mushroom cream sauce. It's a mouthful to say...and a mouthful to eat. I got a recipe from The Merlin Menu for Pork Tenderloin with Lime/Cream Sauce. It sounded wonderful! And it was. In true Stephanie fashion (that's me, Tess is my nickname) I tweaked it a little for the Evil Think Tank with Tara. I know Ron Merlin doesn't mind. I had to "healthify" it, so I could save my calories for dessert. As much as I would love to use a bunch of cream, the cream cheese offered a great alternative for a creamy sauce with not much guilt. Weight Watchers has really made me more aware of getting a balance. Healthy dinner and an occasional splurge is okay. I just keep track of it. So, here's the recipe. http://www.weightwatchers.com/ has a great tool there for plugging in a recipe and being able to figure out the points. This one if 5 servings, 7 points each. This recipe makes a good freezer meal as well.

Herb Roasted Pork with Lemon Cream Sauce and Mushrooms
yield 5 servings, about 3 oz cooked pork.

1 1/4 pounds pork loin, lean. cut into thin slices or very lean boneless chops
zest and juice of one lemon
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 T Penzey's Shallot Pepper (or use 1 tsp fresh pepper, 1 tsp dry tarragon, and 2T fresh minced shallot)
1T chopped fresh thyme

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped onions
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 thin sliced garlic cloves
1/4 cup fat free cream cheese
1/2 cup fat free chicken broth (or juice and pan drippings from the roasted pork)
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 T minced fresh thyme
1 T minced fresh parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Grate the lemon zest right onto the pork (save about 1 tsp for the sauce)
Squeeze the juice out...right onto the pork. I put my eye out with the juice. Don't do that. I teared up. It made me look emotionally unstable...and we can't have that.

Season generously with the shallot pepper (or alternative flavor blending). I also added 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic.

This is when I stopped and said out loud to myself , " Self, this is just breathtaking." I then realized I was talking to myself and shut my pie hole. Can't be looking mentally unstable...can't have that. Look at this pork. Are you talking out loud to yourself?! Woa, I may not be the only one on earth with issues.

Pop it onto a lightly oiled roasting pan . I used an olive oil pan spray.
Bake 425 degrees 15-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the pork. If you pierce it with a fork the juices should run clear. Remove pan from the oven and transfer the pork to an oven safe serving dish. Take any remaining juice from the pan and put in a dish (to use in the sauce).
For the sauce:
In a 10 inch skillet, melt butter and add onion, shallot, and mushrooms. Cook until the onions and shallots are a nice dark brown...about 6 minutes. Add the garlic the last 3 minutes to ensure it doesn't burn. Add juice from the pork or chicken broth, cream cheese, parsley, 1 tsp. lemon zest and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the warm pork.
Serve immediately or divide between 5 microwave safe dishes and freeze. Makes a great take and heat freezer meal. Microwave 5-6 minutes from frozen.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Bread of Life Section--Hope.

I want to start a section of my blog for Sunday Morning Courage. It will be called The Bread of Life Section. I owe Him everything. I am, in effect, casting my bread on the water in hopes that it will bless as many as it has power to reach. Some may argue this inappropriate for a food blog. It really wouldn't be my "real" food blog if I didn't bring this ingredient into the mix. It is my soul. I find that my cooking and my Spirit are unmistakably linked. When my Spirit is strong, my inspiration is lead by a higher power. If you choose to discontinue reading me blog based solely on my faith, please know that it is not my intention to offend, but rather promote a spirit of understanding. I deeply respect those of different faiths, and I hope this message will not be taken as anything other than my love. Love gives me power. Love of God gives me strength. That same power whispers to my soul what I need--and how to create. So, despite any static I may receive, this will be a regular occurrence for me. Choose to read or not, but know that I believe in Christ. I will never apologize for speaking of Him. I want to share a speech I love. This quote helped pull me out of one of the darkest times of my life and continues to give me strength everyday. Hopefully it will do the same for anyone else who needs it.. It is by a man who I love and revere as an Apostle. Just as others may revere their Rabbi or Pope. So, in a spirit of love and mutual respect I add this today. My deep and abiding love is with you all as you face the challenges of your life.

Emphasis added:
"The adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward.Hope, on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn. It encourages and inspires us to place our trust in the loving care of an eternal Heavenly Father, who has prepared a way for those who seek for eternal truth in a world of relativism, confusion, and of fear."

--From Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Infinite Power of Hope,” Liahona, Nov 2008, 21–24
"Hope in God, His goodness, and His power refreshes us with courage during difficult challenges.

There you go. Have a wonderful blessed day. I love you!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tara's Toasted Pound Cake with Almond Cream Sauce

I had to go to the Evil Think Tank today. Why?! Why do I give into the wicked beguiling of my friend Tara . We met at culinary school 14 years ago. For those just joining us in the Evil Think Tank, just know that Chef Tess and Chef Tara are both evil dessert girls. I admit it. This may, in all real logic, explain why I like her so much. Okay...I like her for more than the desserts...but a rousing cake fest never hurt my opinion of her. Though her total lack of respect for raisins still has me baffled. So forward to the tank...get your battle gear on people.
This whole adventure was in fact sponsored by Tara. She teaches classes and this was the dessert last night...which rolled over to tonight when we could get together for girl time. Thank you Tara for rocking my dessert world.

I apologize in advance to my diabetic sister. This post isn't low carb.

Tara made the pound cake. It's her mom's recipe and I bow to her. It was dense and thick and completely perfect. Yes, I did blow all my Weight Watchers points for the week on this dessert. I think I'm going jogging in the morning.

Tara's Mom’s Pound Cake
1 c butter at room temperature
2 c sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
1 c buttermilk
1 t vanilla or almond extract
3 c flour
½ t salt
1 t baking powder
½ t baking soda

Get out extra butter to coat the pan sugar to coat the pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 10 inch bundt or 10 inch tube pan and then coat with sugar. Sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda together and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add in eggs one at a time and blend. Add buttermilk and blend. The batter may look curdled at this point but will smooth out. Gradually add in the flour mixture – about in thirds. Batter will be somewhat thick. Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes and invert onto a cooling rack.

Once it was baked and sliced, it got toasted. Don't mock it dude. Oh my goodness. That slang word just slipped out. "Dude". Sorry. Where was I? Oh yea, don't mock the grilling. It was magic. The way it caramelized the sugars of the cake along with the creamy sauce gave it this sugary crust that made me want to cry. Utter joy. Especially after weeks of dieting. Honestly.
Look at the almond cream sauce:

I don't know why I didn't get that recipe. I wanted to put my head in there and suck it up like Tara's dog. I know most are in awe at my self restraint right now.

Uhhh...somebody stop me.

The simple addition of fresh strawberries almost killed me.

There you go. Another successful visit to the think tank. It was evil, but please do come again!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Low Fat Carrot Cake Cookies

It's been a long time since I made cookies...like a week at least. So, I decided I needed to have a little treat. Despite the fact that I have been losing weight, there are times I just want a little something to keep me from going insane. Since I wanted carrot cake with gobs of cream cheese frosting, I settled for altering a recipe I had for carrot cake. Making it low fat, and pretty darn healthy didn't hurt at all.

Low fat Carrot Cake Cookies
2 tsp sugar free orange jello
1/4 cup olive oil (or melted butter)
1/2 cup warm water
Splenda (enough to replace 1 cups sugar)
1 cup whole grain cake flour (I used home ground wheat/barley combo)
2 tsp high grade cinnamon
1 tsp double strength vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup shredded carrot

Mix the gelatin with the warm water and stir until dissolved(this is a low fat cholesterol free egg replacement for baking). Combine all the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, soda and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and mix well. Add the carrots. Scoop onto a lightly oiled sheet pan and bake 350 degrees 12-15 minutes. (yield 1 dozen) 2 Weight Watchers points each.

Caramelized Lemon Creamy Clam Sauce with Fresh Tuna and herbed egg noodles.

I bet that my freezer bags where not the first thing anyone thought of when they read the title of today's entry...

Those bags have been my focus for the main part of this week.

Here's another freezer meal to knock you socks off! If you love me for my bread, not my brains, come back next week. For the residuals of humanity who love me for my sweet, loving, soul nurturing homemade food...

I dare you to click on this first picture:
Wasn't that fun?! You can almost taste the love right now huh?! Caramelized Lemon Cream Clam Sauce with Fresh Tuna is a long way of saying, "goodbye forever regular tuna casserole." In my humble, yet accurate, opinion...most tuna casserole is just nasty. It is painstakingly difficult to imagine what the obsession is with some women and tuna casserole. They serve it at least once a week. It hardly gets touched, or if the family does eat it, they choke it down with a bunch of milk. My mom didn't make tuna casserole very often. I remember. When she did, she didn't use fresh tuna. It was always canned. For the most part, it was my grandma who make tuna casserole...and it was also at every church potluck...in giant bubbly pans of slime and crumbs. Today's freezer meal will be different. I promise with all the vim and vigor in my sweet little left toe.

I start with fresh tuna. 8 oz steaks. 1 lemon, zested and cut in half. 1/4 cup sliced shallots. I put the tuna in a non-stick skillet along with the lemon, cut side down...after about 5 minutes I add the shallots.

In the meantime, I start a big pot of water boiling. If you use this recipe for freezer meals, omit this step until you are ready to serve. I freeze the sauce in quart size freezer bags...lay down flat so they maximize the space. Without the noodles, there is more space for toppers and thus more dinners are in my freezer. For my small family of 4, this recipe makes enough "pasta topping sauce" for 2 meals. Back to the noodles. I love egg noodles. What is is about these ribbons that provoke such feelings in me? I don't know, but putting some Penzey's Spices on them didn't hurt. Shallot pepper and tarragon plus some good fresh olive oil...about one tablespoon. Seasoning up pasta before putting sauce on it just adds an amazing level of flavor to a dish. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend it.

Back to the sauce. To the pan I add 1 tsp baking soda to neutralize the acid in the lemon juice that would make the white sauce curdle. Then ...

4 cups prepared white sauce (of your choice, I use homemade but I won't yell at anyone for using a premade Alfredo...sorry food snobs... I am also real and sometimes folks just don't have the real homemade stuff). Random thought...I make this mix I use in place of condensed soup that is quite fast and easy. I'll be blogging that in the near future.

So...4 cups white sauce, 1 can drained clams (15 ounce size). If by chance you happen to live by the ocean or have it in your budget to purchase real clams...you do that. It's much fresher. I had a can. Sue me.

Just before the lemon was about to drown in the sauce, I rescued it and put it to death in a very graphic way...as if slicing it in half wasn't ruthless enough. Squeeze the juice and all into the pan...watch for seeds. Incidentally, caramelizing the lemon like that adds a smoky depth to the dish, as well as allowing the lemon to give up more juice.

My hand looks so tender and merciful right there...but it was all a trick. Poor gullible lemon.

Remove the skin and bones from the tuna. Add 1/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper and 1/4 cup chopped pimentos (those are the red ones in a jar pickled).

See, that chicken...I mean tuna? Isn't that awesome how it's big and chunky like that?! Ahhh Yes!! I love it!

Now, three options present themselves:

1, serve half tonight and bag the other half in a quart size freezer bag labeled clearly. This will add one meal to you freezer.

2. Divide the sauce between 2 quart size freezer bags for 2 freezer meals. This step leaves you licking the pan out of sheer desperate need for a nibblet.
3. Sit down with that whole pan of sauce and drink it like a bad movie. I'm not responsible for juicy clams randomly rolling down your chin...or your dog sucking them off your face.

If feeling particularly artsy...pile some grapes and fresh thyme around the plates and garnish with lemon zest.

Incidentally, we don't normally eat like this. I did it for the picture and then put the rest on regular plates...right next to the plastic cups. Ahh feel that? It's the pressure to be perfect leaving your shoulders. Welcome to my world my friend. No pressure. No Martha Stewart here. However, that being said, I can put out a pretty breathtaking spread when given the opportunity. Regular life isn't always like that. Maybe it should be...

There you go.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Random Thoughts...simplify.

One I call Little Man...because he is growing into a strong, caring, wonderful man.

The other I call Face...for obvious reasons...

This is totally random thought #215...this week. I have a lot of these little bad boys...thoughts that is. This is Face. He's 6 years old and totally crazy. I don't know where he gets his dramatic streak. I just have to voice my humble opinion. If I had a humble one. I'll voice this one anyway.

Actually, I have to speak up on being a full time mom. Sometimes I get a little...static...on my choice to stay home and be with my kids. Not anything obsessive, but sometimes a little over the top.
In my defense, look at that Face. Could he be any happier on a bigger kitchen counter? I came to the realization that anyone could make the buffet for the upcoming parties at the resort. Anyone. It may not be pretty, but they could do it. It wasn't easy giving up the big house and moving to a small place to pay off debt so I could be home stress free. I don't see much extra green beyond the salad at the farmer's market. It's been tight. If I had it to do all over again and couldn't see the end...I'd still do it. I'm living the golden years right now. I'm on golden pond with my kids.

L. Tom Perry told this story about Henry David Thoreau who, for a period of years, escaped to a place called Walden Pond—that Walden Pond offered him so much hope for simplicity and provided such a renewing escape from his overly complex life.

Sometimes I feel like my little condo in a small town, is like that pond.

"It was in March of 1845 that Thoreau decided to move out on the banks of Walden Pond and spend two years trying to figure out what life was all about. He settled on a piece of property owned by his good friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. He purchased an old shanty from a railroad worker, and tore it down. From the lumber from the shanty and the lumber from the woods, he constructed his own cabin. He kept meticulous financial records, and he concluded that for a home and freedom he spent a mere $28.12. He planted a garden, where he sowed peas, potatoes, corn, beans, and turnips to help sustain his simple life. He planted two and a half acres of beans with the intent of using the small profit to cover his needs. Small profit indeed: $8.71.
Thoreau lived quite independent of time. He had neither a clock nor a calendar in his little cabin. He spent his time writing and studying the beauties and wonder of nature that surrounded him, including local plants, birds, and animals. He did not live the life of a hermit—he visited the town of Concord most days, and he invited others to come into his cabin for enlightening conversations. When the two years ended, he left his cabin behind without regret. He considered the time he had spent there a proper amount of time to accomplish his purpose—to experience the spiritual benefits of a simplified lifestyle. He also felt he had other life experiences ahead of him. It was time to move on and explore other opportunities."

There you go.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

All Purpose Meatballs

Just take a look at this gorgeous new little man and his mama. Christine. I mentioned that I spent a couple hours with Super CC yesterday making a few new freezer meals for her family. It was actually a grand celebration in honor of her new baby. What could be better than having a blow-out cooking party for a new mom? I haven't laughed as hard as we did in a long time. One of the things I have to emphasize, is that most of the mental hang up I had with freezer meals went away when another friend (who vaguely claims to cook) taught a freezer meal class at our church for the ladies. It really rocked my paradigm. I thought (sarcastic goof-ball...there it is...I thought once)...hey why is she teaching this? Seems like Chef Tess should have a grip on how to cook freezer dinners. Especially since I was a busy mom just like my friend. 6 years later and a whole lot more excited about freezer dinners, I too can tell others how to make meatballs.

In all reality, freezer meals have come to be a great blessing for me many times. A few unexpected trips to the hospital ago, I almost had to hold back the tears when I came home to a freezer full of dinners I knew my family would eat. It was a great feeling of self reliance. Not that I don't also think others should be given the opportunity to help us...the amazing Relief Society ladies from church did come over and wash laundry, do dishes, and general stuff. I did have my own meatballs though...and it saved our budget! No eating out every night until mom got better.

All Purpose Meatballs
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey sausage (99% fat free)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup gluten flour (by the specialty flours in most grocery stores...or check the link to Honeyville grains.)
1/2 cup dry onion flakes
2 eggs
1 T each, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and Chef Tess All purpose seasoning blend
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional, but adds a lot of flavor).

Get the meat and spices together. Super CC had all the stuff in a well organized container. I loved it.
Combine ingredients and form into 60 one inch balls using small scoop. Place on foil lined baking sheet and then cover with foil so they steam a little when you bake 350 degrees 20 minutes. Yield 4 meals, 15 meatballs each frozen in 1 Quart freezer bags.
To each bag at time of service add one of the following:
2 cups prepared spaghetti sauce--place in microwave safe bowl and heat 5-7 minutes
1 cup sweet and sour sauce, 1 cup pineapple cubes, 1/2 cup bell pepper and onion--
heat 5-7 minutes in microwave safe dish-- serve over hot rice.
2 cups prepared white sauce--5-7 minutes in microwave safe dish. Serve over hot buttered egg noodles.
1 cup prepared BBQ sauce--5-7 minutes in microwave safe dish. Serve in fluffy hoagie buns.
There you go.
Nutritional information:
4 meatballs:
9 carbohydrates
92 calories
1 gram fat
10 grams protein
2 grams fiber
each meatball:
2.36 carbohydrates
23 calories
.25 grams fat
2.5 gram protein
.5 gram fiber

Monday, March 23, 2009

French Onion Orange Chicken

I spent a good couple of hours today with an amazing new mom. Her name...Super CC. Not pronounced super "sissy". Though I do consider her a sister. She just amazes me...and reminds me of myself. Oh she is too cha-cha for words (quick name that movie!). So, CC earned a spot on the blog. Way to go girlie-mom. I am going to feature a few of our creations in length to help the world have some good ideas for new freezer dinners. BTW...Her new baby boy is sooo cute. When I get permission, I might even let the rest of the world look at him.

First up...French Onion Orange Chicken (of glory laud and honor...all hail the super chick). Or something like that. This is one of my favorite freezer dinners! I've used it for at least 5 years. For good reason, I can either make one for tonight and put one away, or make two meals (actually, this is more like 3meals for my small family of 4) Yield 12 servings. So, if you have a honkin' huge family, it works as a one time deal too. I also love that it is made with ingredients that I usually already have laying around without having to find something in the gourmet section of the store. Gotta love that! Oh yea, and I didn't even get this recipe from another recipe site. It's one of my personal creations. Feel that glow inside? It's total admiration for my skills and magic.

Chef Tess' French Onion Orange Chicken
5-6 lbs boneless skinless chicken thigh or breast
1 large onion, sliced thin
4 oz minced uncooked bacon
2T fresh pressed garlic
6 oz tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth (up to 1 cup wine if you cook with alcohol...I don't)
zest of one orange (I also use the fruit, just cut all the white and membranes off)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

In a large 12 inch deep skillet (that has a lid) cook the onion and bacon until the onion is very dark brown, about 6-8 minutes. The last 2 minutes, add the garlic (adding the garlic this late in the game magically keeps it from burning and turning into bitter little black nubs of death in your chicken pan...do you really love me now?)Random...I know a few bitter nubs that walk around like people and try to steal my love and happy thoughts. I am not even giving that thought any of my power. We are Soooo back to the chicken.

Next, add the tomato paste and scrape the bottom of the pan. This gets all the caramelized flavor and happy stuff off the bottom of the pan, and back into the food where it belongs. Tomato paste is like a call from a good friend..."Uh Hello...welcome back to the world of my chicken thighs...care to join the party?" We love tomato paste. It's happy and red.

Add Orange zest, chicken stock, bay leaf, salt and pepper...

Did you miss how I get my zest to look that bomb-tastic? Ka-pow! Lemon Marmalade...part one ....pictures and everything.

Mix in the chicken pieces (I also added the fruit of the orange, because it just seemed like a waste to throw it away).

It should get really thick and saucy.

Cover and simmer 30-35 minutes until cooked through. Put half of the chicken on a platter and garnish with half of the parsley for dinner tonight. Put the remaining chicken, garnished with parsley on a plate in the fridge to cool. Bag, label and freeze as soon as possible to prevent food born illness and ensure best flavor when you serve your freezer meal. I put in a gallon size freezer bag, labeled clearly with the contents and the date.

To heat, place defrosted meat in the microwave on high 7-9 minutes, or heat on the stove in a covered skillet. This chicken, served with buttered egg noodle and a fresh spinach salad, is an elegant dish. It is also a sign of impeccable taste, to invite me over to cook it with you. Super CC has the best taste I have ever had the honor of experiencing. Well done my dear!

There you go.