Sunday, November 6, 2011

Surprise!! Happy Thanksgiving!!

Well, I just put a meatloaf in the oven - waited until after 9:30 to make it, but heck.....I always eat late. Looking forward to it, too, because I LOVE cold meatloaf sandwiches!

I'm also drinking a wonderful cup of Starbucks coffee (Venti size) that Tom brought me after Mass. Love that boy - he's so good to me.

This reminds me of Mom's house. I have that green dish,
but in amber.
But, here's the other thing I wanted to share. My daughter and I are going to have Thanksgiving Dinner in Medford courtesy of Scotch Bonnets restaurant. I couldn't believe it when I saw their post. Free Thanksgiving dinner for people who are down on their luck and, believe me, this year has been a tough one. 

We currently have a shut off notice on our electric even though we haven't missed a single payment for the last year and a half. BUT, because we were late a few times due to when MY check arrives, they are demanding payment in full of the previously agreed-upon payment arrangement and a new deposit. It apparently doesn't matter that it's November or that we haven't missed a single payment, or that our current usage is less than our equal payment plan (so we're in credit status there). It's frustrating beyond understanding!! So, Thanksgiving dinner at home this year just wasn't going to happen. Then this came along and, thinking they'd just take names and choose later, I registered. I immediately got a link for the tickets and an email confirming that we will be included in the dinner. WOW! I am impressed. 

The owner of this restaurant is so grateful for the opportunities she's had in this country that this is how she's giving back. I was there once as a customer and practically moaned my way through my meal, it was that good. If someone else hadn't paid, I might not have been there. I haven't been in a situation since moving back to New Jersey where finding a free Thanksgiving dinner was something I sought - and I didn't seek it this time, either. There were a couple of times in the past, when we lived in Arizona, that I partook of the generosity of different organizations, for which I am grateful. I was on welfare at the time and the money didn't even cover my rent, so the occasional helpful boost was much appreciated. But, this notice just appeared as a post on my Facebook wall. I had "liked" them after experiencing my meal, so when she posted this announcement, I received it. Otherwise, I wouldn't have known about it at all.

Short and Sweet (or at least Savory!)

PA Dutch-style Chicken Potpie
I've been craving chicken potpie for a week or more. I'm not talking about something with a pastry crust. I'm talking about the kind of potpie I grew up on that can be found in many parts of South Jersey and in Lancaster County, PA. Sometimes called "slippery" potpie, sometimes called rolled potpie, it is basically strips of rolled dough that are cooked in chicken broth or stock like noodles until they are tender and the broth is thick. In the Southern US, they have a version of chicken and dumplings that resembles this very much because it, too, is made with strips of dough (usually cut into smaller units) that are then cooked in the broth. They just add the shredded chicken with it where we generally don't.

Well, I got tired of dreaming about it and finally made a short-cut version of it using flour tortillas that I cut into strips and then shook in some flour that would then thicken the broth when they were cooking. The broth I made using powdered chicken stock. I have to tell you - it may not have been the same as Mom made, but it sure did satisfy my craving!! It was the perfect comfort food!!

To top it off, I had a new jar of cinnamon applesauce just waiting to be opened. If I don't have cranberry sauce to eat with my potpie, then applesauce is the next best thing. And, let me tell you - it was WONDERFUL!!

So, if you're a fan of this kind of potpie and don't want to be bothered making the dough, rolling it out and letting it sit while you make the broth, then satisfy your craving using flour tortillas (really - tortillas and potpie dough are made from the same ingredients!) and using a broth base to create the liquid portion. It'll sure do in a pinch!! 

Let the comfort begin!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Late Nite Dinner and Other Food News

Happy November!! It's my birthday month and I've been promised a trip to Vermont as my present. We shall see. Money is tight for both of us, but other than gas, I think we can budget it fairly well. Maybe this time I'll get to see the Grandma Moses exhibit in Bennington that I was promised the last time we were there.

Apparently, I had an older version because ours had egg noodles.
Anyway, I am in the process of making Hamburger Helper Beef and Noodles, but I added a can of green beans to it as well as another cup of gravy so it will go farther. It always seems the gravy isn't nearly enough when you make these, but that won't be a problem this time. I'm also using soy milk instead of regular milk because my daughter has an unusual intolerance to milk. Most of us who have reactions have digestive issues. My daughter breaks out all over with acne. It's a shame because she just loves milk and dairy products, but as often as possible, we try to make them so she won't react. It's funny, too, because she can drink LactAid without a reaction, so it is apparently the Lactose that's the issue, but she doesn't have the most common reaction.

Anyway, I decided that, while the food is simmering the required 10 minutes, I would come in and post a long-overdue blog entry in my food blog.

I had the feeling when I wrote my last food blog entry that I was forgetting one of the places I had gone to eat. I just realized I'd forgotten TWO! LOL

Example of an Indian buffet
I went to another Indian buffet in Pennsauken called Palace of Asia. There have been others I liked more, but there have also been others I liked far less. The food was fresh and varied, something for everyone. I loved the fruit custard they had available for dessert. I'd love to know how to make the "custard" they put the fruit in. It wasn't vanilla or chocolate - it was fruit flavored, yet thick and creamy. Delicious!

Lobster Bisque
We also went to Cap'n Cats Crab Bar in Voorhees last week. It was my turn to treat and I had bought a certificate worth $30 for $15. So, that and an additional $6.21 at the end fed the two of us some delicious seafood. We both started off with Lobster Bisque, which was excellent. I had Coconut Fried Shrimp with onion rings and he had grilled Mahi Mahi, also with onion rings. He was a bit disappointed with the quantity of fish he got for the price, but otherwise it was all excellent. My shrimp came with a Pina Colada dip, but I opted for the cocktail sauce instead. And, we had a bottle of French cabernet; not one of my favorites, but I had a glass while he finished the bottle himself. Good thing I was doing the driving!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Still here, still behind, but not giving up!

Hi, everyone. Here I am again. I'm so behind, but I am getting better. I have posted several things on my creative writing blog in the past couple of weeks, but haven't been cooking much lately, so didn't really have much to say here. Money is tight right now, so I haven't made anything requiring more than a few ingredients. I made tacos two days ago - I had tortillas and shells on hand, had plenty of hamburger and a pack of taco seasoning in the pantry. I had also bought some cheddar on sale recently, so had the cheese, too. I sent a message to my daughter so she'd bring home lettuce and tomatoes. I put some French fries in the oven (I know - they don't really go with tacos, but I wanted something else) that I had seasoned with Parmesan cheese and steak seasoning. I haven't made tacos in years, if ever, so I wasn't sure what to expect from the taco seasoning, but it wasn't at all what I had expected (I expected something sharply bitter from the chili powder). I was happy with it. I was happy I had the fries, though, because it just didn't seem like enough. My daughter, though, was happy with just tacos. 

The original recipe from Plain Chicken blog
Right now, I'm thawing chicken broth to make another batch of mac-n-cheese from the no-boil recipe I posted a while back. I love it!! I never have creme cheese on hand, but have had sour cream that I used instead and it turned out perfectly fine. This time is no different, other than I'll have to shred the cheese myself. That's OK. It's really good cheese. I'd like to get some sharper cheddar, but I'll use what I can afford to buy and this was on sale for $.99 for 8 ounces. That's $2/pound - a good price by any standard.

I have gone out a couple times with friends recently and had some pretty good food. A week ago, a friend from Utah was here for a brief visit and we all went to a local diner. They were impressed by the quantity of food that came for the price. I'm pretty sure they ate their leftovers for breakfast since their flight was scheduled for the next morning. But, I had ordered "steakhouse" chops because it sounded pretty good. The kitchen instead cooked breaded pork chops, but that was OK since I like them, too. And, they were really quite good, not at all greasy, and definitely moist inside. I couldn't eat both of them, so I brought one home that my daughter ate.

An example of Vegetarian Thali
Earlier that day, my guy friend and I had eaten lunch at an Indian restaurant next to the Starbucks he likes. Because their lunch specials were close to ending, we ate before getting coffee and I had the non-vegetarian Thali (a "sampler" meal that gives a little taste of several different dishes all on one tray). My meat choices were Chicken Tikka Masala (a creamy tomato curry) and Lamb Curry as well as Dal Mahkani (lentils), Basmati rice, Raita (a yogurt cucumber sauce that reminds me of Tzatziki sauce), papadam crisps and Naan bread. Other than the Raita, I love all of it!

Then, this past Wednesday night, the same friend decides to go to another Indian restaurant where he had seen a sign for AYCE buffet for $9.99. He stopped by after his class, which is unusual, so it was at least 9PM when we got there. They were pretty busy, too, because that day was the Hindu Festival of Lights and many families stopped by after they attended whatever services or festival they attend for the holiday. The main waiter told me they hadn't expected many customers because of the holiday, and he was apologizing for how noisy it was (kids running and playing, one screaming, which I can live without), but it was interesting how apologetic he was. Then he explained how he used to work for a restaurant in Florida and most of his customers were non-Indian, where up here in New Jersey, most of the customers were Indian. I kind of got the feeling that he thought that bothered me, which it didn't. It just means their food is genuine when those who grew up on it flock to enjoy it. It was more the decibel level I had a problem with and that wouldn't matter WHO was causing it. But, I enjoyed the food and will be looking forward to going there again for their weekend buffet sometime in the future.

At the moment, I am straining the chicken broth that is finally thawed to remove the bits of seasoning and vegetables my daughter had added to it when she made her soup. I don't think they'll work well in the mac-n-cheese. At the very least, they'll alter the appearance, I think, to something not so pleasant to look at. Not that I have the proper strainer. I'm using a colander lined with paper towels. LOL Ya gotta do what works!

That's about it for today. I hope to be posting more often, even if not every day. I know I've said that before, but honestly - I mean it! They've predicted snow (IN OCTOBER) for the weekend. As much as I hate the summer heat, I'm definitely not ready for snow! LOL Stay warm!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Let the guilt begin!

I haven't been as good about posting as I should be and I am sorry. I promised myself that I would post regularly, even if it wasn't every day, but it hasn't happened. I'm not ready to give up yet, though.

I have been doing other things during this time that have kept me pre-occupied - I'm not even as active on Facebook as I was and you all know how addictive that can be! I decided to get working on my family tree again and find as much as I could with some temporary access to I got so into it, I even worked on my ex-husband's tree (which, of course, is also my children's tree), my landlord's tree and my childhood friend's tree. There's a lot of information out there, but my two brick walls remain sealed. My father's paternal line and my mother's paternal line are proving to be more challenging than I'd have imagined - and in both cases, the ones who are hiding were born in the 1820s. I'm not sure if people from that decade were more private when census takers came around or if there is some other mysterious force behind all this (assuming there is any explainable reason at all). I'm hoping at some point, they'll allow me to find them so I can get beyond the double greats in those two lines.

I've also been window shopping again (I can say that, right? I do use Windows.) I have a thing for kitchen gadgets, utensils, equipment, servingware, etc. I love walking through those departments at stores even though there's no way I can buy anything. A girl can dream, can't she?

I love the new non-traditional shapes that dinnerware have. You ought to see all these different designs in this dinnerware sets clearance online! They're gorgeous! You don't have to go to some high end restaurant any more to present your friends and family with a touch of elegance! I especially like the Caldo-Freddo Kon-Tiki green set with the tall, square coffee cups. I like the plates with sharp corners better than the rounded corners, too.

After my mother passed and I was going through her things, I just fell in love with all the cut glass and crystal she had in the china cabinet - some of it from her mother or older. With the mirrored backing in the china cabinet, it all looked so pretty when the light hit. Plus, she had several sets of antique salt cellars and what we believe to be a 4-legged knife rest - things you just don't see today. So, I really enjoyed going through the page of Shannon Crystal by Godinger since Mom's stuff is all packed away. I got some really good ideas for Christmas gifts for my Irish Catholic landlady!

While looking at all they had to offer, I happened upon something I didn't even know existed - a grill light for your barbecue grill! Since I don't grill, I'd have never considered such a thing, but I know people who grill year round, so when the sun goes down early in the winter, I'm sure they'd like having a bit more light on what they're doing at the grill. I think they're a great idea, one that might just make your favorite grill master very happy this Christmas.

But, that's about it this time around. I promise to try to get back more often so that my blog isn't just sitting unattended and uncared for. It deserves better. And, so do those who have chosen to follow me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cupboard needs replenished, but money is tight.

It's going to be a Dollar Tree kind of month because the money just isn't here right now. My daughter took a second job just to have some more money because bills are killing us. Houses are expensive to live in.

This morning I wanted something to eat that wouldn't take long to make that wasn't the same old thing, so I mixed some pancake mix with chocolate Malt-o-Meal hot cereal and made chocolate pancakes. I must admit, they were pretty tasty. Not too chocolately, thankfully, because I'm not a chocoholic like my father was, but just a hint of chocolate without ruining the lifelong pleasure of the butter and syrup. I believe it bumps up the nutrition factor of the pancakes when I add a hot cereal to the mix (I've done oatmeal in the past with success). There's more iron in cream of wheat (which is what I think this basically is) than in the pancake mix plus some of the grain factor from the cereal. Maybe I'm fooling myself, but it was still a nice change of pace.

I've been adding vanilla flavoring to my coffee water before I make a pot and that has worked wonders for my pleasure of drinking the coffee. It never tastes as good at home as it does at the diner or at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, right? Well, now there's a definite improvement in the overall flavor. It doesn't take much flavoring to alter the entire pot. I'm sure you could do the same thing with any extract if you were of a mind to.

I came downstairs this morning and found that one of the cats (Chloe, I'm thinking it's you!) had torn a hole in the 20 lb. bag of litter and scattered it across the floor - the floor I had cleaned yesterday after changing the litter in the cat box!! I don't know WTH she, whichever she it was, was thinking, but good grief, cat!! The bag of food wasn't far away, but that wasn't touched. Silly little beasts!!

Got all the dishes done today after making my pancakes. I hate washing without a full load, plus we have to pay for water, so why run it when it's not fully loaded. My small pan plus bowl and utensils were just enough to finish filling the dishwasher. I even washed the lid to the recycle since some of the cans had splashed onto it. Great way to get that done!!

Speaking of recycle, tonight's recycle night, so I need to get it together and set out front for pickup in the morning.

Going to Dollar Tree in the morning, so wish me luck finding as much as I can for as little as possible to last until my next check. It's always an adventure, to be sure!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Parents reject technology

After our recent intruder incident, a family friend wanted to share something.

Author: Joseph Sandoval

Since I was born, my parents have always lived in the same house. My father bought it when he first graduated from high school and he has lived in it since then. It was an old house when my father first bought it. He gutted it and started from the beginning. Since that was over thirty years ago, it is not what you would call a “smart” house. I told my parents they needed to make some minor technological improvements. Of course, I recommended the internet and that was quickly shot down. For some reason my parents like to reject technology. I then recommended wiring their lights to be controlled by their smart phones. This was also shot down. I then suggested an alarm from SECURITY CHOICE. They said they would think about it. I guess I can be thankful it was not another no. To be honest, I do not understand why they want everything to be exactly like it was thirty years ago. However, I guess as long as they are happy, then I should be happy too.

It seems forever and a day!

It really has. I haven't been here in so long. I've been really busy working on genealogical research for myself, my childhood friend, my ex-husband and my landlord. I had a month's worth of access to and made the most of it. I had a blast. All those documents in digitized form that I could see what was REALLY said and not just what someone else claimed was said (believe me - some people see words on documents that aren't even there! It's amazing how far off transcription can be at times.) I found burial records, military records, immigration records, marriage records as well as other people working on the very same lines (which is how I was able to get my ex-husband's lines back to when the American Southwest was part of New Spain - they had used Spanish colonial records and Catholic mission documents to back up their search. It was great!)

Lots of things have happened during this time. Of course, I've gone out to eat. And, I've made a few meals. I was taken to an Indian buffet in Philadelphia called San Samosa. It was so good! And cheap, too. $10.99 for AYCE. And, I discovered something I'd never had that I really liked - that was keftas. They look like meatballs and actually taste very much like meatballs, but they're all vegetable. San Samosa had them sitting in the most wonderful curry sauce. I'm not sure if it was a Makhani sauce or a Masala sauce or something else entirely, but it was delicious!!! I love meatball sandwiches, but if someone put those veggie balls on a good Italian roll with loads of that curry sauce, I'd enjoy them just as much, I swear. If you're in the Philadelphia area, go check them out. They're on Walnut between 12th and 13th. A most excellent choice, I promise.

More recently, I was taken to a Middle Eastern place in Philly, just off South Street on 4th, called Alyan's. I'd never been there before and I'm glad I went. I had the mixed grill pita sandwich because I'm not a fan of hummus which comes with the mixed grill platter. I didn't want them wasting it on me, and the sandwich had just as much meat as the platter did for $4.00 less. I also ordered a side of grilled zucchini, which was delicious!! The mixed grill included lamb, beef, chicken and kafta kabab. Now, if you're thinking that kafta sounds very much like the kefta already mentioned, you'd be right. It seems that part of the world does share a certain amount of food culture and some of the words are very similar for those items. This kafta, though, wasn't vegetarian, but was very much ground meat, basically a mix of seasoned lamb and beef. They are not ball shaped, either. They are elongated and placed on skewers to cook, just like the cubes of meat and chicken were. I've had them elsewhere and wasn't too thrilled with them, but at Alyan's they were DELICIOUS! The pita they put this meat on (with a green salad filler and tahina sauce much like we'd use mayonnaise) was also wonderful. I've had pitas in the past that were of questionable quality - more dried out and almost impossible to make a pocket in whereas these were fresh baked, soft, moist and just plain wonderful. We also had baba ganouj for an appetizer. I'd never had it before, but I like eggplant and wanted to try it. It came with quartered pitas and some tahina sauce on top and was excellent. It's a cold appetizer, although the eggplant is cut into tiny cubes and baked (or baked and then cubed...I'm not sure which). If someone wanted to take me back, I'd go in a heartbeat. I was truly full when I left, yet I didn't feel weighed down by my meal.

But, something else happened during my absence from Blogger - we had a daytime intruder in our home. My daughter had gone to work and left the front door unlocked as we have always done while living here. We've never had a problem and didn't think it was an issue as long as we were home. But, this particular morning, I was still in bed when I heard someone knock. Now, I wasn't dressed to be answering the door, so I ignored it. If it was important, they'd come back. The next thing I knew, I heard footsteps coming up the stairs and turn to go down the hall to my daughter's room. I knew it wasn't my daughter since she wouldn't knock first. I actually thought it might be her ex-boyfriend who still comes around from time to time - they're friends - so I called out, "Who's here?" fully expecting Steve to answer that it was him. Instead, I heard the footsteps stop and come back down the hall, down the stairs and out the front door. It happened so quickly, I didn't have time to be afraid. But, as it sank in, I realized that it could have been a much larger problem than it was. My daughter thinks it was an ex-friend of hers who wants to get back at her for whatever reason (I don't know what happened between them - she won't say) while I thought it was my landlord's nephew who will take anything that isn't nailed down that he can make a quick buck on. I can tell you, though, that we now keep the door locked all day, even while I'm here. That was truly a wake up call.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Very Busy Week of Food

Well, this is a long-awaited post (if not by you, then by me since I've been lacking in consistency). A lot of food has gone under the bridge in the last week or so. I'll go over part of it now.

Interior, take from about where we sat.
On Friday night, I went to dinner to a Jamaican restaurant in Medford. I've never even been to Medford, so the entire thing was something new to me. First of all, I fell in love with Medford. It is all original homes from the 1700s, built by the first settlers to the area. I just love old towns with original architecture.

But, then I enjoyed one of the most fabulous meals I have EVER had the pleasure of eating in my life! We dined at Scotch Bonnets, a new restaurant that opened just this past March, by a woman who immigrated from Jamaica. I had the Country Time Chicken Curry and my dining companion had the Coastal Curry Shrimp. 

As an appetizer, we had Calypso Cod Fish Cakes. Honestly, I didn't think I'd like them. I didn't like the sound of "salted cod" as an ingredient. I had wanted the Plantation Pastry Patties (seasoned ground beef surrounded by flaky puff pastry and baked). But, his wishes prevailed and I was surprised to learn that I liked the cakes. They weren't fishy or even all that salty. And, they were very thin - not thick like crab cakes (which is the image I had in my mind.)

Fried Sweet Plantains
For sides, he chose steamed mixed vegetables and I chose fried plantains. I thought his vegetables were very interesting because they actually shredded them before steaming - almost like they were preparing them for a slaw. I might actually enjoy veggies prepared like that since they would cook more thoroughly for my taste. The plantains were wonderful, as they always are wherever I get them.

Scotch Bonnet's Curry Chicken
But, when our entrees arrived, I was at first hesitant because I know they cook with scotch bonnets, but had been assured that the curry chicken was fairly mild. Plus, the pieces of chicken still had bones and I am not fond of picking bones. But, WOW!! I didn't expect the meal to taste so fabulous that I couldn't stop eating!! There was no heavy curry flavor, the chicken was literally fall off the bone tender (I never had to use my knife) and the potatoes tasted as though they'd been roasted before being added to the broth with the chicken. They were great!

After dinner came dessert. Because we'd purchased a coupon for a discounted pre fixe meal, that meant we had to share dessert like we had the appetizer. They gave us our choices and the two that sounded OK to me were coconut rum cake and coffee rum cake. He agreed to the coffee rum cake. HOLY COW!!! There was no skimping on the alcohol on that cake!!! The menu says it was Jamaican rum and port wine. I don't doubt it in the least. But, you know what? It was really good!! Not a dry crumb in the entire slice.

The only disappointing thing about our visit was that the service really and truly needs to be improved. It's not that they weren't helpful or weren't pleasant. It was more that they just "weren't" - there to wait on us, there to bring us plates so we could eat our appetizer, there to take our orders. The owner was there often making sure our glasses were filled and that we were enjoying our meals, but the server seemed overwhelmed. Fortunately, the food was spectacular enough that I would still go back.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wow - I'm really here! I'm soooooo behind!!!

Really, I am so sorry for anyone who subscribed to my blog when I was making daily entries and who now wonders what is going on. I really would love to post something every day, but without cooking frequently or another writing challenge like I was doing then, it's not easy to come up with a daily topic. But, I do want to at least post something once a week. If I happen upon another challenge that pushes me to do more, I will try to take it on because I really enjoyed interacting with everyone.

Now, with food in mind, let me tell you about my most recently cooked meal. Definitely nothing fancy, by any means, but it was pretty good nonetheless. Last night, I decided to get some chicken out and quickly thaw it to make something for my daughter and me. When I discovered that she had bought a pack boneless, skinless thighs, I thought breading and pan-frying them would be nice. I used to do that for my mother when I was caring for her. But, instead, I decided to bake a couple of them since there was just the two of us. I put a small rack in a casserole dish to keep them above the drippings and set about to mix up a coating to put on them.

One of the things I like about Indian cooking is that they will mix their spices with yogurt and marinate their chicken in that. The acid in the yogurt helps tenderize the meat and helps adhere the spices to it as well. It's likely the reason so many recipes call for soaking chicken in buttermilk before breading, as well. I've done something similar with sour cream, although with other spices rather than Indian, and I've been happy with the results. This time, though, I didn't have any sour cream. So, I took some mayonnaise and mixed it with some spicy Mexican salad dressing and covered the thighs, front and back. I placed them on the rack (bone side down - I know there was no bone, but that's the side I put down). Then I sprinkled bread crumbs on top and a little "soul food" seasoning on top of that. I baked them for an hour at 325°.

Now, one thing I learned is that mayonnaise doesn't "meld" into the chicken like the sour cream did when I used it. That may prove to be a negative for some. Additionally, the saltiness of the mayonnaise and the saltiness of the seasoning was a bit much, so thankfully the seasoning was only on top. But, I still think they turned out otherwise well and I will use the same technique in the future, although either with plain yogurt or sour cream. I paired them with corn and enjoyed a tasty impromptu meal.

This dish has sweet potatoes, which I'd rather have.
I've gone out to eat a couple of times this past week and wanted to talk about that as well. The day before yesterday, we went to Aunt Berta's Kitchen in nearby Oaklyn. She specializes in Southern cooking and I've always enjoyed everything I've gotten there. Her sweet potato pie is the most glorious thing I've ever tasted. I'll take that any day over pumpkin. We ordered the family chicken dinner. Eight pieces of chicken plus three large sides and corn bread. We got half fried and half roasted. OMG, her roasted chicken is the most delectable chicken I have ever set my teeth in. Tender, moist, and so full of flavor, I just can't get enough. Our sides were macaroni and cheese (another spectacular dish), collards (which are delicious!) and cabbage (his favorite, not mine). All of this for $19.99. There is enough food to feed 3-4 people. We took home the leftovers. It's been several years since I was there, so I was happy to go. I've been wanting to go for a while, and it was well worth it!!!

One type of kofta

A few nights earlier, we went out and he wanted Indian food, which I love, but he only wanted buffet. Well, unless you're going for lunch, Indian buffets in Jersey are rare. The one we had gone to the week before is good, but they've changed their seasonings and their foods are a lot hotter (it used to be that the buffet was more mild to allow people to try the cuisine, but I guess since most of their clientele is Indian, they've bumped up the heat factor). I didn't want to go again, but knew that there was at least one Indian buffet over in Philly, which is actually closer than the one in Jersey. Other than the parking, which is a pain in the ass (sorry, but it is) in the city, there are so many places to eat in the city and, surprisingly, the Indian places are very reasonably priced. We ended up at San Samosa on Walnut Street, between 12th & 13th Streets. I swear, I died and went to heaven, it was the most wonderful flavor experience for me. Just walking into that heady aroma of curry and then tasting the chicken tikka masala with basmati rice as well as the kofta, which I'd never had before. They look and taste like meatballs, but are actually vegetable balls in a wonderful, thick, mild curry gravy. They're texturally different than meatballs, but not so much that someone who didn't know they weren't meat could tell. They'd probably more think that someone put too much filler in the meatball. They were seriously good eats! I would even eat them as a vegetarian meatball sandwich if I had them and a roll on hand!! The only thing I was disappointed with was the naan which was fairly dry. Everything else was wonderful!! I'm going to try to go back there again soon.

Well, that is all for this time around.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Absence Makes the Writing Harder

I have to say, it's been hard keeping up with my food blog this summer since I haven't been cooking as much or doing any blogging challenges related to this blog. But, I'm going to try to do better.

I have mentioned in the past that I am diabetic. I haven't been as diligent as I should be with maintaining a good diet, but I know I have improved compared to my old eating habits. I try to stay away from heavily sugar-laden foods and to eat more whole grain foods when they are available. I still eat the occasional sweet treat, but maybe only once a month. I've even taken to asking for sugar-free syrups in drinks when I want a flavored coffee or soda. I'm far from perfect, but I felt that I was treating my body much better than I used to.

Well, apparently I was right. I finally got back to see my doctor who scheduled long overdue blood work for me. When she got the results, she was happy to see that three years of no appointments hadn't thrown my numbers off the charts. My triglycerides were still high, but my LDL and HDL numbers were actually acceptable. My blood pressure was well within normal range and my A1C was 6.9, which is within therapeutic range for diabetics (maybe at the top, but I haven't been to the doctor for years!) 

The other thing was that I hadn't monitored my blood sugar for almost as long as I'd seen the doctor, mainly because I didn't have a clue where my monitor was after moving twice in a year and a half. So, a couple weeks ago, I went online looking to see where I could get another glucose monitor and found Abbott Labs were offering a free monitor if I registered for their MyFreeStyle Promise Program. It provides copay discounts for those with insurance so that they don't have to pay more than $15 for their test strips. I still have to call them to find out if they have any discount for those of us without insurance, but considering they will replace the monitor every three years for free as long as I am in the program, I think I can find a way to get the test strips along the way without complaining too much. 

When I tested my sugar, I was pleasantly surprised that my pre-prandial (before eating) readings were all under 110, which has never happened since I began testing my blood. I was shocked! I'm hoping it's because I'm doing something right and not because the meter is poorly calibrated. Now I need to get more strips so I can proudly show my doctor next month how well I'm doing!

Courtesy Wikimedia
To change the subject, do you like to grill? If so, which do you prefer? Charcoal or propane? It's funny how popular grilling has become. There's nothing quite as good as a steak or a burger cooked over an open flame! Yet, I don't particularly like to do it. When it's hot in the summer, I don't even like to cook INSIDE, let alone cook outside in the heat. I have done it, though, and can enjoy it when temperatures are right. I would take my kids and my mother-in-law to one of the city parks where grills were provided and we'd cook hamburgers and hot dogs with the charcoal we brought while the kids ran around the park playing. We always had a good time, but also plenty of shade trees and a nice breeze to go with it.

But, I've noticed just how elaborate home grills have become. There are so many different kinds these days, some even with separate burners for sauce pans. Sometimes I will go online and look at all sorts of different items just because I get curious. Well, curiosity hit me again and I decided to see what was up with the different kinds of gas grills that were around. I came upon a marketing site that showed both charcoal and propane bbqs. Wow! I thought the gas grill my parents had was pretty upscale since it also had a rotisserie (that they never used once), but some of these are big enough that they'd work in your kitchen (if you had proper ventilation, obviously). Others are more like the smaller versions I've used in the past, both table top and free standing. Some remind me of the old Coleman stoves, but on steroids. There really are so many choices out there these days. If you love to grill, I can't imagine not being able to find something to suit your personality.

Plain Chicken's No-Boil Mac & Cheese - Worth a Second Post!

It's been quite a while since I posted and I am sorry. I really haven't done much cooking during this horrible heat we've been having. The desire to work in the kitchen just hasn't been there. But, I threw this together last night and am so happy with the results after a few tweaks that I had to tell you about it.

Steph's Casserole
Plain Chicken: No-Boil Mac & Cheese: "This was the best traditional baked mac & cheese we've ever made. It was SO simple and SOOO delicious! The best part about this mac & che..."

That's how Steph's blog begins for this wonderfully easy mac n cheese recipe. Now, I don't know that it's the best I've ever had, but it's sure up there with the best!

I already blogged about this before, but now that I made it again with some adjustments, I can safely say it will be my primary mac n cheese recipe from now on!

The first time I made it, I used her directions other than the cream cheese - I didn't have any, so I used sour cream instead. Although it tasted wonderful, the macaronis just weren't fully cooked and it was a bit on the hard side. I attributed that in part to the fact that I had used two casserole dishes to make it. But this time, I used slightly more than 2 cups of chicken stock and more than a cup of milk as well as the sour cream instead of the cream cheese. Plus, I baked it in one of my dutch ovens instead of splitting it between two casserole dishes. I also downgraded the oven temp to 350 from 375 and cooked it for 40 minutes. It turned out fantastic.

Now, this comes out pretty solid, so if you want yours a bit looser, you might add even more liquid. I haven't tried that yet to guarantee it, but this recipe is good enough that it deserves several efforts to see how it turns out.

The other thing that's different about what I did than the recipe is that the chicken stock I used is simply salted water that chicken was poached in. I didn't want to see all that flavor tossed down the drain, so I packed it in containers and froze it. I am sure glad I did!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Good Coffee, Bad Coffee, Chicken Parm and Chicken Dumpling Soup

Yeah, it's been that kind of day and, no, I didn't have all of them at the same time (ok - there was some slight overlapping of good coffee and bad coffee).

This morning was spent doing Word 2007 homework and waiting for word on my landlord who underwent surgery this morning for a hernia (today actually being yesterday since it's already past midnight). When Tom texted me to let me know his dad (my landlord) was out of surgery and would be coming home today, I texted back that it sure would be nice if someone brought me some coffee and a sausage, egg and cheese croissant from Dunkin Donuts. Lo and behold, in walks Thomas with said hot coffee and hot sandwich just as I was relaxing from having completed four of five assignments. It was wonderful!!

Later in the day, he asked me to drive him to the train station so he could go into the city and do some bar hopping with friends. I could keep the car. I agreed if he promised to not get soused and not wait until 1 AM to come home like he did the last time (big fight, lots of yelling, all by him, not ever to be repeated). Dropped him off at the station and came home just in time for his brother to call. I assumed he was calling about his money (my daughter bought a car from him and pays him each month), but he was also interested in going to eat. I took him up on it because the breakfast sandwich was losing its steam. (Made sure he was paying, too, since I didn't really have any disposable cash lying about.)

So, dinner was at Olive Garden where I enjoyed a bowl of Pasta Fagiole and a plate of chicken Parmesan. They seem to have cut back on how much pasta they put on the plate (which is odd since it's the cheapest thing on the plate), but there were two nice sized pieces of chicken. I ate one with the pasta and brought the second one home. After dinner, brother dearest (yes, I am making that subtle connection to the infamous movie) wanted to go for coffee at Starbucks. Since that's usually what Tom and I do, it annoyed me, but I said OK as long as we didn't go to the same one Tom and I go to. We went to the one in Barnes and Noble which was across the street from Olive Garden. Big mistake!!

First of all, the coffee I got, which I get regularly at another location, was the absolute worst coffee I've ever had from Starbucks!! It tasted like someone had left it in the pot all day and it had cooked down to sludge after which they added some water and ice and then some milk to sell as iced coffee. ICK!!! How can a chain coffee shop selling the same coffee made by the same company have coffee that tastes so different in each location??? I've had some in malls that tasted pretty much like iced milk with sweet n low. What I get where Tom and I go is wonderful and consistent, regardless of who's behind the counter. But, this stuff was just plain nasty! I couldn't wait to get the taste out of my mouth.

Secondly, I spent money there. I bought another cookbook (shhhhh - do NOT tell my daughter. She hates that I have so many!) Yes, I know - I didn't have disposable cash for dinner, but books last forever! (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.)

Finally, we left and he took me home.where I did a few things online and watched a little TV. Tom finally contacted me to let me know he'd be taking the 11:42 train back to Jersey. I left to go to the station around 11:38 and got to the station just as his train was arriving. Don't ask me to do that again because it was a total accident!! LOL

We pulled out to come home and Tom wanted to go get something to eat, presumably to absorb some of the five or so cocktails he'd had since going to Philly, so we went to a local diner where he ordered a chicken croquette and Brussels sprouts with Chicken Dumpling soup. That sounded good to me, so I also ordered soup along with a chicken bacon ranch wrap and fries (knowing I'd be taking most of it home). I also ordered some decaf coffee. The soup was delicious! The wrap was OK, but should have had the ranch dressing ON it instead of along side it. It was very dry. The fries were actually pretty nice. They looked hand cut and still had skins. The coffee was also very good and succeeded in removing that bitter burnt taste I was suffering from since Starbucks. I packed my fries and just over half of the wrap to bring home, dropped Tom off at his house and came home. While I was gone, my daughter ate the piece of chicken Parm I had brought her from Olive Garden. Now she has a bacon chicken wrap she can take to work tomorrow. This was a huge wrap!!

So, that's how today's food went. It's just been too hot to want to really get down to cooking, but now that the nights are getting cooler (for a while), I might get back into it. Besides, it's cheaper (unless I can again get someone else to pay for my meal.) 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Never Too Hot for Chili

Restaurant Widow's chili 
Yes, I said it. Despite it being the hottest summer season we've ever experienced here in South Jersey, my daughter wanted chili and set out to make a pot full using some of the fresh ground beef I had just bought. Chili is one of her favorite foods. She loved it when my mother would make chili. And, she liked my chili (which was a bit different from my mother's). But, once she began making it herself, she swears by her own. 

Of course, it is good, I have to admit. But, I don't quite know where she got her taste for adding hot sauce since that's never been part of my cooking or my mother's cooking. Even her father, of Mexican heritage, isn't too fond of spicy foods. But, my daughter likes to kick it up a notch, as Emeril might say. I don't even know which of the several hot sauces she's brought into the house she uses because I don't use it, although I might consider Tabasco sometime now that I'm familiar with it on spicy Hawaiian Pizza (thank you, Dominos!! You ROCK!)

Anyway, this time she decided to add corn to the mix. Corn is her favorite vegetable - well, second favorite. I'd have to give potatoes the edge. In a very close third position for her would be either French style green beans or broccoli (cooked beyond all recommendations). Neither of us has put corn in chili before, but I've seen some recipes call for it and I've even considered it in the past.

Deb wanted tater tots to go along with the chili, so that was my job. Toss them on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven. Can't get much easier than that.

What made this even more interesting is that this was all taking place between 12:30 and 1 a.m. What can I say? We were hungry and it was a bit cooler by then (although temps never dropped below 80° all night). We both really like chili and can eat it any time of the year. We still have over a quart left over and that includes eating more today and her taking some to share with a friend. One of these times, though, I'm going to have to  make some of my somewhat less spicy chili. I like mine as much as she likes hers, although the basics of both are the same (ground beef, diced onions, diced green peppers, kidney beans, tomatoes and tomato sauce, chili powder).

I have included an image from The Restaurant Widow. She makes her chili differently than we do, but the image looks very much like what my daughter made.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chocolate Pancakes

If you've read my blogs along the way, you may have seen me mention how I'm not big on chocolate. My father was the ultimate chocoholic. His dream (he wouldn't have called it that) was to go to a food show all about chocolate. He loved chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, Hershey's syrup in milk, Hershey's syrup over chocolate ice cream, Reese's peanut butter cups, ad infinitum. I didn't inherit that love. That's not to say that I didn't have the occasional craving, but for the most part, I could live without chocolate.

Now, I do like chocolate cereal. I especially like Cocoa Krispies or Cocoa Pebbles. I love how the milk is so chocolate-y when you're done. But, as much as I love it, I still have to drink water or something else afterwards to get the chocolate-y taste out of my mouth. I'm that way with most sweets - I don't like that leftover syrupy taste that lingers, even if I've enjoyed every bite.

Another chocolate cereal I love is Chocolate Malt-o-Meal. Basically, it's like cream of wheat with cocoa added. Oh my goodness! It smells so wonderful when it's cooked and then with butter and sugar added, it's most excellent. (I grew up with all hot cereals eaten with butter and sugar.)

Anyway, I'm not overly fond of sweet breakfasts, which is why the butter makes the hot cereal more palatable for me. The same is true for pancakes. The butter adds a savory flavor that cuts the syrup (which for me is usually low or no sugar). But, lately, I've been trying to keep pancakes from being just plain pancakes. Plain pancakes for me are like eating spoonsful of sugar. The carbs process so quickly and I end up just dragging even as my blood sugar skyrockets. It's like taking a sleeping pill. So, I've been adding whole grains to my pancakes - until recently, that grain has been oats along with some cinnamon for added flavor.

Maybe it's not a perfect solution, but when you're low income, you use what you have. What I have is generic complete pancake mix that I combine with a whole grain before adding water. The end result has actually been quite good. The oatmeal pancakes turned out wonderfully light and fluffy without any real evidence of the oats that I had added, despite the fact that they were so obvious in the batter itself. And, I didn't have the sugar slump after I ate them like I did with plain pancakes. The whole grains seemed to make a difference in how my body processed them.

So, after several days of eating Chocolate Malt-o-Meal for breakfast, I was in the mood for pancakes again. I decided to try mixing the malt-o-meal with the pancake mix and see how that turned out. First of all, I've always thought the idea of chocolate pancakes was disgusting. Pancakes are sweet enough without adding chocolate to them. Yet, I knew that the chocolate flavoring in the hot cereal wasn't that strong and it was, after all, a whole grain cereal; so, I decided to try it.

I have to say, I wasn't disappointed. Although they were somewhat heavier than the oatmeal pancakes (whether that is because of the cereal or because I changed pancake mixes at the same time, I don't yet know, although I suspect it's the cereal), they turned out amazingly well. The chocolate flavoring was minimal, yet I could smell its essence while they baked in the pan. As with the oats, the cereal grains cooked through while the cakes were baking because of, I assume, the intensity of the steam factor in the cooking process. I still eat them the same way - with butter and low-sugar syrup, although I really only put syrup on the top pancake to run down the sides.

I personally think it's a great way to sneak whole grains and fiber into the pancakes your family keeps requesting. The kids will be intrigued by the chocolate factor and you'll know they're getting something better in their bodies than a pancake usually is. Try adding oatmeal, applesauce and cinnamon. Or, slices of banana once the oatmeal batter is in the pan before you flip them. I know I've noticed a difference in how my body responds to the pancakes since I began adding the hot cereals, so I'm sure these additions will benefit your family as well. And, they won't even realize it!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fast and Easy Burritos

I decided to make burritos tonight using the tortillas and cheese I had bought at Dollar Tree (it's actually a cheese substitute, but for a buck, I can handle using it for cooking). I just haven't felt up to cooking these days, although I have cooked more this last week than I have in a while. Whether it's the heat or something else, I don't know.

Anyway, I was sure I had refried beans in the pantry, so I thawed the ground beef and went to get the ingredients out. Uh oh! The meat is browning, but there are no refried beans to be found. So, I took the two cans of pinto beans I also had and used them, mashing the beans with the potato masher I also use to break up the ground beef in the pan. I then poured a cup of salsa in and about a cup of Mexican cheese shreds. I use mild salsa, but you can up the ante with medium or hot if you prefer. You can also add leftover rice (Spanish rice would work well) if your family enjoys rice. I stick to the tried and true when I'm feeding my daughter. It's just easier that way.

I put the tortillas in the microwave and heated them for about 45 seconds, but it's probably best to put them on a flat griddle to heat. As soon as they start to puff, they're ready. Don't let them get crispy. You just want them soft.

Now, I didn't prepare anything else to go with this. My daughter likes shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes, but we didn't have lettuce and I don't like tomatoes, so she can dice her own tomato. I like them just as they are - hot, cheesy beans and meat slathered on a soft flour tortilla and rolled. It's a wonderful and filling dish.

You can also use this mix as a hot dip if you want - keep it in a small slow cooker to stay warm and soft. Adjust the ingredients to make it more "dippy", to your taste. In fact, that's how I discovered this burrito filling. I was at a party where it was served as a dip. I found out what was in it and tried my hand at home. It was a success with my kids and their friends (whenever I had it, I also had Court and Tara on hand, too.)

As I was saying, though, this is a very flexible recipe. Some add corn or rice or diced green chilis. Some have more meat than beans. Some use beans only. Others keep the beans separate from the meat. I might try corn one day since that's a family favorite, but I prefer the one pan concept, so I'll stick with the mixture rather than separate the ingredients.

A dip that looks very much like my burrito filling - found at Recipe Girl.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No Boil Baked Ziti (actually, Rotini) DELICIOUS!!!!!

I recently tried a recipe for No Boil Macaroni and Cheese that turned out pretty well other than it was a bit too al dente. It's still worth it because I'll just add more liquid the next time I make it.

But, I had a box of tri-color rotini in my pantry I wanted to use along with some ricotta, shredded mozzarella and spaghetti sauce. I went looking for a recipe for no-boil rotini, but wasn't successful. However, I did find a recipe for no-boil baked ziti that I decided to try figuring my pasta would replace the ziti approximately one-for-one.

My problem was that my box of rotini was 12 oz and the recipe called for eight ounces. Plus, my rotini seemed smaller in diameter than ziti would be, so I wanted to be sure what came out of the oven wasn't too runny or too thick and that the pasta was cooked all the way through.

Holy cow! What I got turned out to be the BEST baked pasta I'd ever had!! I've had some that the ricotta seems to dominate and the pasta sauce gets lost. I've had others that add nutmeg to such a degree that it isn't just an accent, but a primary flavor. I was hoping to avoid either one of those extremes. 

One of the ways I tried to do that was to add some additional spices to the mixture to keep it from being too cheesy. Fortunately, I was successful. 

Now, I'll share with you the recipe I used with notes showing what changes I made and where. I really think you'll be pleased with this recipe. It takes only five minutes to prepare!

The thing I liked best was that it didn't heat up the whole house. There was heat from the oven, but if I had done both boiling water and the oven, it would have been very uncomfortable. Since we don't eat in the kitchen, this worked well for a summer meal.

No Boil Baked Ziti

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 8

1 26 oz jar pasta sauce (I used a can of Hunt's meat flavored)
1 1/2 cups water (I added more water, maybe 1/2 cup or so)
15 oz ricotta 
1/4 cup grated parmesan (I left this out - just sprinkled some on top near the end)
2 cups shredded mozzerella
8 oz uncooked ziti (I used 12 oz of tri-colored rotini which is why I added more water)

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Combine sauce and water.
Stir in ricotta, parmesan, and 1 cup mozzerella.
Add uncooked ziti. (I also added about 1/2 tsp each of Italian and Pizza spice blends.)
Spoon ziti mixture into 13x9" baking dish.
Cover with foil and bake 55 minutes.
Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzerella. (This is when I sprinkled the parmesan, too.)
Bake uncovered for 5 minutes. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

PB&J, Hamburgers and Hot Dogs and Beans

Nothing special to see here today, folks. No tried and true recipes, no new adventures in culinary prowess, just some every day eats with affordable standbys as we reach the end of the monthly economic cycle.

My income is extremely fixed, so when the money's gone, it's gone. Sometimes I make it until the next check, sometimes I don't. 

Things are thinning out a bit right now, so when I went shopping, it was for the most affordable foods. I got some hamburger at the in-town grocer and other items at Dollar Tree. I love Dollar Tree because there are just some foods that you can get there whose prices you can't beat. I get my chicken and beef broths there, my tortillas (seriously - try finding tortillas in your regular grocery for $1.00 - unless you're wanting jumbo sized), sometimes I get eggs, hot dog and hamburger buns (very good and very fresh), 3 liter bottles of sugar free soda, and, lately, 8 oz. bags of shredded cheese. I really feel no reason to pay a higher price for something I can get for only $1.00. Granted, there are things there I won't buy because I can get them cheaper somewhere else (like canned veggies, soups, etc.), but the things I can get for less money there are totally worth it!

So, I have had fewer full-sized meals of late, other than the two I posted recently. And, one of those was made primarily with ingredients obtained from Dollar Tree (cheese and pasta). I made hamburgers a couple of nights with the hamburger and the burger buns and fries I had bought at Dollar Tree (they frequently have frozen fries and tater tots, sometimes hash browns). Twice I had hot dogs (Bar S brand from Dollar Tree both times) with canned baked beans and the hot dog buns I had and a jar of applesauce on the side.

Now, the peanut butter and jelly did not come from Dollar Tree. That's one of those things that I either can get a better value elsewhere or they don't have what I generally use. Because I'm diabetic, I've been buying sugar-free jams and preserves and found a wonderful Triple Fruit Spread at our local Wegmans grocery. Naturally sweet without that sweet intensity so often found in other jellies. As soon as I can, I'm getting more. 

The peanut butter I got at Dollar General; not because it was the best price, but because I happened to be there when I needed some and the price was comparable to others. However, it is by far the best crunchy peanut butter I have ever had!! I LOVE crunchy peanut butter. I'll eat the creamy, but I get no pleasure from eating it. This peanut butter truly lives up to its "crunchy" moniker. These are the crunchiest peanuts I have ever found in peanut butter, bar none!! It's fantastic. I plan to get it there from now on, as long as they have it in stock. It is their brand and I'd love to know who they contract with because it's not like any I've ever had. 

I've been eating whole grain white bread lately. It's actually very good. This last loaf came from Wegmans. Really dense, but not gritty, yet soft like we've all gotten used to bread being. Larger slices, too, so when you're done making your sandwich, it's a sandwich of substance.

I'll eat PB&J for breakfast, as a late night snack, lunch and occasionally for supper. That and tuna fish sandwiches. I'm not really much into eating sandwiches on a regular basis, but if I have good bread on hand and either of those two fillers, I will enjoy having a sandwich instead of making a mess making eggs or pancakes for breakfast.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Beer Baked Chicken ~ Tried n' True Recipes Blog

I decided to thaw some chicken leg quarters and find a recipe that was easy to put together and might use some of the beer my daughter had left over from last weekend. I found this recipe on the Tried n' True Recipes blog (which wasn't easy with so many Beer Can and Beer Butt chicken recipes out there). There were beer-braised chicken recipes galore, but there were none whose images drew me in. Most looked more like stew and I didn't want something on top of the stove in this heat and humidity.

I actually found this one by looking on Google images. The picture looked great, so I went to the recipe to check it out. I had all the ingredients except the rosemary, but it allows for that. That sealed the deal. Easy to throw together and in the oven, not on top of the stove. Perfect!

The only "problem" I had was that I was using two chicken leg quarters and not 18 legs, so I cut back on the ingredients quite a bit. I also took the skin off, so to compensate, I dried the chicken and smeared sour cream over the meat and then added the same seasoning to the sour cream that was blended with the beer. I used slightly less than a half can of beer, but if you're hesitant about using beer, I would try either chicken or vegetable broth. The taste will be different, but not bad.

The recipe calls for baking for 2 hours, but I baked for an hour with foil over the chicken and 30 minutes with the foil removed. The meat was fall off the bone tender and moist. I was pleased with how it turned out and wouldn't be afraid to do it again, other than I'll cut back just a little on the mustard. It added a pungency that we would rather not have. But, that doesn't make the recipe bad. It would be good without it, too. I served this with "baked" potatoes (aka microwaved) and am very happy with it.

I'll admit I enjoyed the mac n cheese recipe more, but that's a personal preference issue. I like BOTH recipes because they are throw together easy and get popped into the oven with little mess and no steam adding heat to the kitchen. I would recommend either one for ease of preparation and because they're worth making even in summer.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

No-Boil Mac & Cheese by Plain Chicken

Plain Chicken: No-Boil Mac & Cheese: "This was the best traditional baked mac & cheese we've ever made. It was SO simple and SOOO delicious! The best part about this mac & che..."

These are the first words you'll find in Plain Chicken's blog entry for this absolutely wonderful recipe. I haven't cooked much in a while, as you have noticed, I'm sure. But, when I saw this recipe and knew I had pretty much all the ingredients (and knowing that I LOVE macaroni and cheese), I just HAD to make it. Of course, it was after 9:00 when I began, but I've never been much of a clock watcher when it comes to eating, so when the mood strikes, I follow it.

I am so glad I did. First, let me tell you of some adjustments I had to make out of necessity. The first was the cream cheese. I had none. And, I didn't have money to buy any. But, I had ricotta on hand, so guess what? I used ricotta cheese. Secondly, I didn't have four cups of cheddar cheese. I had about three cups of Mexican blend cheddar and Jack plus shredded Mozzarella. Guess what again? I used it! Thirdly, I didn't have onion salt. Instead, I used dried minced onion. It turned out just fine. Lastly, I added more liquid because it just seemed like it needed it. I was right. But, that could be just me, so follow the recipe the first time and make that decision for yourself.

The thing I loved most of all about this was that it was all thrown together into one dish (or, in my case, two dishes since I didn't have a single dish big enough) and put into the oven. No pots of boiling water heating up the already warm kitchen from this summer heat, no pots coated with sticky cheese sauce that would then be poured over the already cooked macaroni, and no major mess in the kitchen. I did use a large bowl to mix everything because of the already mentioned lack of a large casserole dish, but since nothing is baked into it, it's easy to clean.

I will say this, though. Be sure to add the flour BEFORE you add the cheese and macaroni. It will be easier to blend into the liquid that way. Despite that, it turned out wonderful!

Now, I'm a big fan of easy, so I am absolutely thrilled with this recipe and that it turned out so well. It's obviously flexible or it wouldn't have turned out so well with the adjustments I made. And, it's so much easier to put unboiled macaroni in than it is to know when it's reached the al dente stage. In fact, it wasn't until I made no-boil lasagna that I finally had a wonderful firm pan of lasagna that didn't slip-slide away while it was being cut, so I'm a huge no-boil fan. And, trust me - you don't need no-boil pasta to make a no-boil recipe. That's just an added expense that's unnecessary. I just make sure there's enough liquid for the pasta to absorb while it's cooking - which is what this needed for me. I think it's because I used two smaller casserole dishes instead of one large one. I probably should have reduced the cooking time, but no matter. I'm just so happy with how it turned out.

Don't be afraid to try this one. It'll be worth it!