In an effort to cut back on carbs - especially refined grains - I am trying to find tasty, workable substitutes for crackers, chips, basically anything crunchy or doughy (just typing that gives me cravings). Arriving home from homeschool park day around 3pm, my snack brain turned on and I started thinking out of the (bread) box as I contemplated my options, not wanting to repeat anything I had already eaten today, which meant no eggs, cheese, nuts, or fruit.
When I went to the pantry to get a bottle of apple cider vinegar (for mixing with garlic olive oil to dip carrots), I noticed a can of skipjack tuna from Trader Joe's. I always buy the wild albacore tuna from Costco, but something about that name just made me want to try it, even though it's chunk light. I knew that I still wanted protein, and near the can of tuna was a jar of sliced dill pickles (also from TJ's) - the kind I usually chop and put in tuna salad.
It occurred to me that the pickles were the right shape for rolling, and then I realized that other tuna salad mix-ins could also work, like pickled jalapeno peppers and pepperoncini. So I mixed the tuna with a little mayo (just enough to moisten it), and voila, inside out tuna rolls! I did add a little chopped onion after the first taste, because you know, onions and pickles...
The only one not pictured is the artichoke heart. It was okay, but it needed something, so I dropped it in the leftover vinaigrette dip from my carrot snack and let it marinate for a few minutes. Then when I topped it with the tuna, it was delightful. My favorite, though, was the stuffed pepperoncini.
I didn't use celery because I had already had that earlier in the day with cream cheese and lox - if you add capers, it's a grown-up version of ants on a log...or you could do dill for termites :)
Another low-carb way I sometimes eat canned tuna is mixed with cottage cheese and salsa. Next time, I'm going to try it with Sriracha mayo on a cucumber slice...mmm...
Decided to make it easier on myself and give the children a self-serve lunch - cold cuts, cheeses, crackers, fruits, and nuts. They thought it was glorious. Not sure why it took me this long to come up with such a basic idea!
It was gratifying to see them consider one another, asking if they could take the last piece and graciously assenting to each other.
They tried more foods than usual - my 8 yr-old even said "salami tastes better than I thought it would" and my son took tangerine (not his favorite) because of the creativity that buffet style eating sparked.
They didn't have to keep asking for seconds, thirds, etc., yet they seemed to know when to stop eating.
The next step is getting them to assemble the buffet...judging from my track record, that will happen by the time they're teens ;)
When I got out the red onions at at 1pm to make egg salad (my 3rd attempt), I noticed they were going moldy...so I consulted the slow cooker French onion soup recipe I had pinned to Pinterest, sliced the onions (4) and put them in the crockpot with 1/4 cup butter, 4 cups beef broth, and a splash of worcestershire sauce. Then we had to leave for piano lessons, so I (yet again) didn't have time to make the egg salad (I need the colored eggshells for a mosaic project - also from Pinterest - I'm leading in our co-op art class next week. I also need to use up the lox from Costco whose expiration date was last week).
When we got back home, I thought my husband must have made something really savory for lunch (he had come home right when we were leaving) until I remembered I was cooking soup. About four o'clock it occurred to me to beef it up - literally - with that leftover uncooked slab of pot roast I had saved in the freezer. So I defrosted the meat in the microwave, put it in the soup, and turned it up to high. At 6:15, I pulled the meat out, cut it into smaller pieces, and put it back in. I tasted the broth and decided it needed more flavor, so I added a half cup of red wine and another cup of beef broth, as well as more worcestershire and a good shake of granulated garlic (it's my go-to ingredient). I turned it back down to low.
No gruyere in the house (never is) nor any oven safe soup bowls (been meaning to get some for over a decade), so I got the sliced sourdough out of the freezer, defrosted four large slices in the microwave, meanwhile grated sharp white cheddar and mozzarella (in the form of multiple string cheese sticks) into a gallon ziploc bag (yet another Pinterest find, but I think it may have originated with Cooks Illustrated - it all blurs together after the last million websites or so). I lined a cookie sheet with foil, put the bread (each slice cut in half) on it, and sprinkled the cheese evenly on all the pieces. I stuck it in the broiler and then grated a bunch more cheese which I put at the bottom of each soup bowl. When the cheese toast was done, I ladled the soup into the bowls, floated a toast in each bowl, and topped with the rest of the grated cheese.
With freshly ground pepper, a glass of the aforementioned wine (the soup gave me an excuse to open the bottle), and the oohs and ahs of the whole family (at least in the beginning until my picky ten year-old began to complain of soggy bread), including raves from my husband who deemed it restaurant quality (he used to work in some posh ones), I sat down to a very enjoyable dinner I hadn't expected to make. And that is why I will never be someone who menu plans ;)
In the summer, one of my favorite ways to have tomatoes is Pan Am Tomaquet - much simpler than the name sounds, but just as grand tasting. This morning I decided to try a twist on the original. I added a fried egg and slices of tomato. It was delicious.
Egg Tomato Toast
1 garlic clove
1 slice of sourdough bread or French baguette
1. While the bread is toasting, fry an egg (I like mine with the yolk poked - gooey but not runny).
2. When the toast is done, rub the whole surface with a cut garlic clove.
3. Cut a tomato in half - cut one half into slices and set aside momentarily.
4. Press the other half into the toast all over the surface (like you're stamping), so the bread soaks up the juices.
5. Drizzle olive oil over the toast and sprinkle with salt.
6. Top with fried egg and tomato slices. Sprinkle with more salt (I used truffle salt).
Kale Artichoke Salad for Two
(picture next time!)
4 cups of Tuscan / Dinosaur Kale (preferably), chopped
1 cup artichoke hearts, water packed, halved
2 (or more) cloves of garlic, crushed
4-6 anchovies (canned kind), diced finely
3 T grated parmesan
3 T olive oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T melted butter
1 t lemon juice
1 t Dijon mustard
1 t honey
1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t pepper
cooked chicken strips (optional)
1. Using your hands, "massage" salt into kale to release its natural liquid and "soften" it.
2. Add oil, vinegar, garlic, and artichoke hearts. Combine well.
3. Stir in anchovies, lemon juice, honey, and dijon mustard.
4. Top with cheese, pepper, and chicken (if using).
5. Pour in the butter and mix well.
Fry one large onion and a pound of chicken in butter w/s&p in cast iron pan. Move to baking pan. Add more butter to pan. Saute garlic, chard, mushrooms, potatoes, 1.5 cups rice, curry powder, garam masala, ginger, garlic powder, s&p, and chopped pickled jalapenos for a few minutes. Add 2 cups chicken broth, bring to a simmer. Simmer with a lid for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, season chicken with all of the above spices. Mix veggie mixture in with chicken and add a cup of water. Cover tightly with foil and bake in oven at 450 for 20 minutes. Top with chopped cashews and broil for 3 minutes or until browned. (maybe you could skip the baking step if you simmered longer with more broth/water? or skip the simmering if you bake longer?). Posting for safe keeping - will post pics next time :)
Concocted a new way to make pork tenderloin - roast in the oven on 475 for about a half hour (still a little pink in the center), then put butter, maple syrup, and morello cherries (with some of the juice) into the pan and broil to finish off cooking. On my plate, I stirred dijon and habanero berry jam into the sauce (I kept it separate for the kids' sake). I served it with mashed potatoes and an invented salad of cucumber, cooked beets, avocado, gorgonzola, and onion, with orange-infused olive oil, cider vinegar, dried dill, and a touch of honey. Salt and pepper on everything. Posting for safe keeping - pictures next time :)
I concocted this vivid green soup in an attempt to use up vegetables that were past their prime, and happily, it resulted in one of my best "cream of" soups to date. The best part was that my kids actually ate it...and were shocked to find out it what was in it! I rewarded them with the shocking pink antithesis to this :)
Creamy Asparagus Spinach Soup
1lb asparagus, tough ends snapped off, cut in 1-inch pieces, tips reserved
4 cups spinach
1 bunch scallions (green onions), chopped4 cups chicken stock4 T butter (divided in 1/2)
1 cup sour cream
2 T lemon juice
4 T butter (divided in half)
1/2 t granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1/2 t granulated onion (or onion powder)
1. Saute scallions and asparagus pieces (not tips) in 2 T butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.
2. Add chicken stock and turn up heat to high.
3. When it boils, turn down to medium-low, add spinach and seasonings.
4. Simmer until asparagus is tender (about 10 minutes).
5. Turn down heat to low, and using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.
6. Stir in reserved tips, remaining 2 T butter, sour cream, lemon juice, and heat through.
7. Serve with freshly cracked pepper and grated parmesan.
*Disclaimer: amounts are approximate - use less, taste, add more, repeat...
Whenever I bake cupcakes for the kids' birthday parties, my husband always stuffs the inside with extra frosting...well, this time, I was determined to make them so moist, he wouldn't need to do that, and I finally succeeded! Serendipitously, I also perfected my signature frosting :)
1 18oz Box Pillsbury Moist Supreme Strawberry Cake Mix
6oz Strawberry Jell-O (big box)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup strawberry jam
8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz butter, softened
1-2 cups powdered sugar (to taste)
2 t vanilla
2 T half and half
2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a large bowl, combine all the cupcake ingredients with a mixer until smooth (2-5 minutes).
3. Fill cupcake liners in muffin tin about 3/4 full (I used a 1/4 cup scoop).
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until done.
5. Repeat. You may have batter leftover (I froze it).
6. To make the frosting: combine all ingredients with a mixer until smooth.
7. Just before serving, frost cupcakes.
Optional toppings: sprinkles, shredded coconut, blueberries, morello cherries
*Keep unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container on the counter - frosted ones should go in the fridge if they are being stored for overnight.
**Disclaimer: I'm not much for measuring, so amounts are approximates - adjust as needed.
I go grocery shopping every two weeks (going just twice a month helps me stick to our $500 food budget): once at Costco and once at Trader Joe's. TJs is always my favorite. Towards the end of the previous millenium, I worked at the first Trader Joe's in Northern California. It was across the street from my high school, so I answered the call when they came to my hometown (San Rafael), because the idea of being a "cheese girl" sounded glorious. Nor was I disappointed when I landed that position - cutting, wrapping, slicing, tasting, and giving out samples of cheeses from all over the world - that was just over 20 years ago, and if it weren't for the physical aspect (I mean that two ways: mopping floors and putting on pounds), I probably could have done that for forever, but it was actually the rigors of my junior year that forced me into an early retirement from my dream job - turns out working until 10pm isn't such a good fit with learning chemistry, advanced algebra, etc.
Alas, the cheese shop is no more, but thankfully the cheese hasn't moved, so every month is is a trip down memory lane...or should I say aisle (better yet, Ile, as in Ile de France). This past week's excursion was especially exciting because it's the start of the holiday season. Which means more selection of two of my favorite things: cheese and chocolate. My husband is reading Sugar Nation, which I reserved for him at the library after he started reading a copy of the much older Sugar Blues that we found at a thrift shop. I'm kinda wishing we had held off on the sugar research until after Christmas, because it's kind of a downer, what with all the seasonal coffees and baked goods closing in on us. On the other hand (can you hear the music from Fiddler on the Roof?), maybe it will help us to be a little more restrained. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, chocolate and cheese. So I passed on the former and went a little nuts with the latter...so without further ado, here are the new (or new to me) items I tried and have, of course, already tasted, and now will unsuccessfully attempt to make them last throughout the month (especially the cheese):
Tintern Creamy Cheddar with Chives & Shallots ($8.99/lb)
Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah ($7.99/lb)
Port Salut Semi-Soft Cheese ($9.49/lb)
Decaf Candy Cane Green Tea ($1.99)
Dark Morello Cherries from Germany ($2.29)
I made my own "Cherry Garcia" with these sour cherries + other TJs ingredients: Midnight Moo (chocolate syrup), chocolate chips, vanilla ice cream and a splash of brandy (optional).