Dining · Food · Recipe of the Month

A Simple Fruit Shortcake

One of my favorite ways to celebrate the bounty of fresh berries and fruit is the simple shortcake. No, not that grocery store sponge cake with the dip in the middle, a rich, simple shortcake that you pile the fruit &/or berries on along with a side of whipped cream or ice cream.

Now, I do have to admit that I’ve been known to pick up my favorite pound cake to use in place of a homemade shortcake – and that is a great option if you have a good pound cake recipe or can get your hands on a good one.

As you probably know, I’m a huge fan of Bisquick and love their shortcake recipe. You can find a link to it HERE.

That being said, I do love to make a scratch version, which oddly enough, isn’t much more work than the previous option. You can find a link to it HERE.

The next time you find a batch of beautiful fruit, consider whipping up a simple shortcake to celebrate it.

Cooking · Dining · Food

Thinking About Food

For those of us who live to eat, food is a predominant topic of thought, if not action. We contemplate flavors, textures, indulgences, and, most importantly, what we are making for dinner. ๐Ÿ™‚

Recently McCormick Kitchens released their Flavor Forecast 22nd Edition. Check it out here: https://www.mccormickforchefs.com/2022-flavor-forecast.

You will find an interesting collection of recipes, along with some rather refreshing (no pun intended) ideas about ingredients.

If you are looking to change up your summer cooking you will find a lot of ideas. I know I have. ๐Ÿ™‚

Enjoy!

Dining · Food · YouTube

New Kitchen Adventures

If you have been around for any real length of time, you will know that I enjoy cooking, eating, watching cooking shows/videos, and exploring new tools and kit for the kitchen.

Recently I came across a selection of videos on YouTube from the Sorted Food channel. What I first encountered were product reviews – and I have to say that what I saw was both interesting and entertaining. I’m slowly (because there is a lot to catch up on) getting into the cooking part of the channel.

This particular video really caught my attention:

As you might know, I’m a bit on the fence when it comes to subscription boxes, but I do think that some of the food oriented boxes could be quite interesting. This batch covered a lot of territory and I thought the reviews interesting. What do you think?

Overall, Sorted is proving to be a welcome addition to my regular rotation on YouTube. I’m curious about the cookbooks. I think the guys cover an interesting range of experiences. I have found the products testing informative. I admit to a bit of interest in one or two.

Update: There’s More To The Adventure!

I’ve been diving into this amazing YouTube channel and am hooked! I’ve discovered a lot. Enjoyed a lot, too. This particular video is a Keeper!

Pantry Updates

As we embark on food shortages and using ingredients that aren’t always in the cupboard, let alone on our menus, these ideas can and will enhance our cooking.

And, really, isn’t that what cookery shows are supposed to do? Provide ideas, inspiration, food for thought?

Have you seen Sorted? What do you think? If you like this post, please do me a favor and click the ‘Like’ button below.

Cooking · Dining · Food · Meal Building Blocks

Pantry Staples That Make Meal Planning Easier

Keeping these items in my pantry make meals easy to put together and less stress on my budget.

Pantry Staples

Pasta

I try to keep a variety of dried pasta shapes on hand, but in a pinch every pasta shape will work no matter what you put with it. While some of the more expensive pastas will have a better flavor, even the cheap boxes are worth trying out. I also keep some cheese stuffed tortellini in the freezer (talk about an easy mac & cheese) but there are other types there in addition to the ready to cook, rather than dried, versions.

Think mac & cheese, baked casseroles, soups, pasta and sauce, salads.

Bread, Tortillas or Buns

As a rule, I don’t tend to keep a lot of bread on hand because I can bake it myself when I take the urge. That being said, I do keep bagels for breakfast and I do enjoy tortillas every once in a while.

A grilled cheese or quesadilla takes less than 10 minutes to make, and are both quite versatile for whatever ingredients you already have.

Tortillas can also be turned into wraps, burritos, enchiladas, or even breakfast tacos.

Buns can be used to for sandwiches, hamburgers or even garlic bread in a pinch.

Rice

Rice is just as versatile as pasta, and can be used to make stir fry, burrito bowls, casseroles, soups, or as an easy side dish.

I love to have it with chicken as a simple meal.

Pasta Sauce

I used to buy pretty much anything organic and at a reasonable price. However, I recently tried Raos and now it is the only brand I buy. To be clear, I’ve never eaten pasta sauce from a jar before I tried the Raos. Now, I have to remind myself that the sauce it to go on the meal first. LOL!

You can use pasta sauce not only to make spaghetti or lasagna, but also as a pizza sauce or a dipping sauce for breaded mozzarella cheese.

Freezer Staples

Ground beef – good for a variety of meals from hamburgers to soups, to casseroles.

Chicken – Plain chicken pieces can be cooked for a variety of meals.

Breaded Chicken – These make a great quick meal along with a salad or rice. Find a brand you like and keep it in stock.

Tater Tots – I use these in a variety of ways. As a replacement for prepared hash browns they are a quick and easy substitute. You can either bake them as is or put them in a large skillet with a little bit of oil and break them down as you cook them. Tots are great accompaniments to burgers, too.

Pasta – Stuffed ravioli, tortellini or shells make a great meal that is easy to prepare, you simply boil the pasta, drain and add sauce. Viola!

Frozen Fruits and Vegetables – Packed at the peak of their freshness, frozen veg is a quick, easy and cost efficient alternative to canned. Easy to use, easy to store, these items can be part of a great meal.

Fridge Staples

Eggs

Eggs are flexible and easy on the budget. They can be used in a variety of meals, as part of salads, alongside breakfast meats or in baking.

Cheese

I always have cheese on hand. I buy a variety so I can use them in different ways and, when necessary, a variety of cheeses makes an amazing Clean Out The Fridge Mac & Cheese.

Don’t forget to pick up some soft cheese to spread on crackers.

Mix and Match

You can mix and match pretty much all of these items to make some great meals without having to have a lot of items on hand.

That being said, adding fresh fruits and potatoes or onions to your pantry, trying different things like couscous or grains will stretch your meal options even further.

Cooking · Dining · Food · Meal Building Blocks

When You Need Inspiration in the Kitchen

Or, what to do when you just aren’t in the mood to think about menu planning.

I’ve said before that traditional (?) menu planning and I aren’t friends. I just don’t live in a way that requires, let alone supports, planning ahead for every meal.

However, flying by the seat of my pants can sometimes be an issue, too. I tend to keep things in my pantry that allows for last-minute ideas for meals. But what happens when you just don’t have any ideas?

That’s where I was this week as I planned for my shopping. I’d put aside a couple of ideas from Mandy In The Making, but when it came time to actually shop for the things needed for those recipes… <sigh>

This week, when I just wasn’t interested in choosing a particular meal or two, being able to rely on my pantry for quick and easy meals has been such a treat! I like to be able to have things ready to go so I don’t have to do a lot of prep work. It also helps me keep a balanced diet. I love vegetables but don’t want to spend the time prepping them. (I never said I wasn’t a lazy cook!)

I had an interesting chat with my Schwan’s delivery guy this week. He brought my order and let me know what the specials were and we got to chatting about some of the things I’d tried recently – and loved – and because we both enjoy cooking and good food, we got to talking about putting things together to create some great meals.

Schwan’s has a new Italian Chicken that is wonderful. Beautifully flavored, it fits the profile for many different breaded chicken meals, but the thing that stood out for me was to take that chicken, add it to pasta and a jar of Rao’s marinara sauce and you have the best and easiest Chicken Parmesan ever! In the time it takes to bake the chicken you can have the pasta ready and the sauce heating through. Easy.

That chicken is also great for a fried chicken salad. Yum!

Ground beef also has space in my freezer. I like to use it in pasta dishes, make my own burgers or meatloaf. I’ve got an idea to use it with canned biscuits. I’ll let you know how they turn out. ๐Ÿ™‚

By the way, if you are interested in checking out Schwan’s click on the link to get 40% off your first order. They have a wide variety of foods for a variety of tastes. I’ve been a customer for several years and have never had a complaint. Their site is easy to use, has lots of recipe ideas and you can read reviews from other customers before you buy. Some areas have delivery to your door while others provide shipping to your door. Check out their service HERE.

Cooking · Dining · Food

Tater Tot Hot Dish – A Lesson in Recipe Fluidity

Came across this article from the Minnesotan and thought I’d share.

https://www.startribune.com/minnesotans-take-tater-tot-hot-dish-personally/600142210/

In a recent post I talked about how recipes and food taste change and evolve. This article is a prime example of only one dish.

Take a look and then, if you haven’t already tried it, give it a go. Using your own variations, of course.

Enjoy!

Cooking · Dining · Food

Kitchen Adventures – How They Change

I’ve been cooking for over 5 decades.

That’s quite a statement, I know. When I contemplate it, I won’t lie to you, it is more than a bit astounding.

So many things have changed over the years. When I first began my kitchen adventures, my mother started me out with small tasks which led to simple meals which led to me being in charge of dinner for the family each and every night.

It did not hurt that my mom was a great cook and a great teacher. It also didn’t hurt that I enjoyed the end product of my efforts, too! LOL!

As I look back, I can see many things have changed over time. For instance I remember coming across a recipe in a magazine for tuna fritters that were deep fried. It was easy, tasty, and everyone loved it. Not bad for a 12 year old, right?

I came across that recipe recently and was tempted to try it again, but without the deep fat fryer as I no longer own one. Turns out, the recipe works well fried in a skillet with minimal oil.

My dad was a ‘meat and potatoes’ man. As a farmer, he worked long, hard hours and needed good hearty food to keep going. Our meals reflected that need, and to be honest, those tastes. Now, however, I find my preparation methods have changed even though I still love a good potato along with a good roast or steak or burger. Or, more likely, a good piece of chicken or pork.

Back then salmon came in a can unless you lived near a coast where fishing was prevalent. This is something that confuses so many today as food is moved around much more efficiently.

I still enjoy salmon but prefer it grilled rather than in a croquette. Although, a good croquette is nothing to sneeze at, either. LOL!

The thing is that food changes, evolves, updates simply because people shift, move about, change tastes, learn more. It is actually more fluid than you might think. Many of the favorites we grew up with evolved from recipes that moved with people as they moved from one country to another, from one area to another.

As growing and harvesting processes have improved, so, too, have transportation processes making availability easier and much less expensive. The downside to that is the customer might tend to look for fancier foreign foods rather than take advantage of locally grown items. This not only enlarges the carbon footprint, but has negative affects on local farming.

We need to support our local farmers. Period.

Food choices continue to evolve for a variety of reasons. Frankly, I applaud efforts to learn more. Dependence on certain foods can have major impact in areas we don’t always recognize, let alone acknowledge. Health benefits, too, have a major impact of consumption. That, too, is worth paying attention to.

There will always be food fads. Some are worth exploring and experimenting. Many will fall by the wayside.

For a long time I wanted to be one of those cooks who always had a kitchen garden. Trouble was, I never had space for, knew how to care for, or even had time for a kitchen garden. Definitely not a win/win for me!

I’ve come to terms with the reality of age, ability, desire, and willingness when it comes to tackling ‘projects’. As a result, I prefer dried garlic rather than fresh because even though the flavor is different fresh garlic won’t last long enough to be used in my kitchen. Trust me, I know. Ditto for fresh herbs.

Basically, it comes down to picking my battles.

These days I depend upon things that I can put into my oven or slow cooker. I love a good casserole and won’t object to left overs. Sometimes those left overs are better the second (or third) time around! And did I mention they save me time?

If you are new to the world of home cooking and a bit apprehensive, take my advice, start slow. Make the time to make a list of what you like to eat and find out how to make it yourself. Hey, those restaurant recipes had to come from somewhere! Give yourself room to make mistakes and to fail. Everyone does at one time or other. That ‘fail’ might actually be an unexpected success.

Remember that tuna fritter recipe I mentioned? I played with it a bit and after a few tries, I found a way to make it using a biscuit mix and you know what? After a while it was as good as the original recipe. And that was before I tried making it without a deep fat fryer.

That’s another thing, learn to play with your food. Really! Think about the flavors you love and learn to incorporate them into different foods. It is astounding to discover how many recipes use ranch dressing or dressing mix.

Whatever your cooking and/or eating style enjoy yourself. A good meal is a great gift not only to friends and family but to yourself.

Happy Cooking!

Jacques Pepin
Cooking · Dining · Food

Cozy Comfort Food For A Cold Day

I treated myself to some broccoli cheese soup and some of my favorite cornbread today.

You can choose your own favorite soup and accompanying bread, but I offer the recipe I use for you to try:

Copycat Marie Callendar’s Cornbread

Not quite the original but tasty just the same.
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 9

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Bisquick or other baking mix.
  • 1/2 Cup Corn Meal
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar use less if desired
  • 1/2 Cup Butter Melted and cooled
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 each Egg
  • 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8 x 8 inch baking pan.
  • Mix all ingredients and pour into pan.
  • Bake – Check for doneness at 25 minutes.

Enjoy!

Cooking · Dining · Food

Nibbles For When You Don’t Want a Meal

In my house, we have what is referred to as a Nosher’s Run. This is a collection of nibbles, or snacks, that are collected in lieu of a full sit down meal. It is a great option for movie night, game night or when we just want something a bit out of the ordinary.

The Domestic Geek posted a great appetizer recipe that is very versatile and easy to make. Check out the video:

You can find the recipe here.

Not into Brie or cranberry sauce? How about substituting cream cheese along with a different fruit or bacon? Why not check out the puff pastry cups instead of the crescent dough?

Speaking of cream cheese, why not take advantage of the flavored cheese spreads or make your own?

You could go a bit crazy and start playing with chicken nuggets mixed into the cheese mixture. Think buffalo flavors or perhaps an oriental flavor profile. Or, how about pulled pork?

If you receive a pot of chutney or onion jam for the holidays, why not try those?

These versatile nibbles could be a great option on a snack buffet.

How would you make this recipe your own?

Cooking · Dining · Food · Recipe of the Month

The Holiday Meal Revisited

When we think of the ‘Holiday Meal’ many of us think of the roasted turkey or ham (or both) with loads of different sides and a collection of pies, cakes, and cookies that will require the loosening of the belt or the wearing of the comfy clothes.

Some cooks are genuinely terrified of roasting the bird. If they have little to no experience with roasting a chicken a turkey can not help but be scary.

Then there are those years when the tried and true are just boring and repetitious. Of course, there will always be those traditionalists who insist The Meal be exactly the same every year, but what if maybe we tried something a little different? Since many Americans repeat the same big meal menu for Thanksgiving on Christmas, there might be room for a change.

At a time when shortages are rampant and items that used to always grace the holiday table might not be available, now seems to be the perfect time to experiment a bit.

The recipes Iโ€™ve included keep the spirit of a Make A Fuss Meal and that meal can be created for any reason, not just the Holidays. True, most of them are not diet friendly. That being said, there are dozens of alternative recipes available at the touch of finger to keyboard.

Hereโ€™s What Iโ€™m Thinking

How about a spectacular main course accompanied by easy side dishes? For those who love their traditional sides, they could be used. Dessert could be a showstopper or a collection of the usual goodies folks look forward to.

Basically, what you have is a blueprint for a meal that can be easily customized and created. And, if you are lucky to have a group over for The Meal, some of it could be divvied up among guests to bring. Sort of a pot luck, you know?

Check out the November Pantry Magic Holiday Meal Revisited recipe collection here.

Happy Cooking!