Friday, March 7, 2014

March 7, 2014

It was pantry, freezer & fridge clean out week.  We did pretty well, and even tried a lot of new recipes.  We didn't have to buy too much beyond the typical perishables, and we had fun trying new things.  We did begin to observe Lent so we had two meatless meals that were not new for us, but we still had plenty of other opportunities to give some recipes a chance.

As always, there were some keeper recipes this week, and some that hit the recycling bin! On Sunday we had high hopes for a new chicken dish, but all the browned chicken coating stuck to the pan!  Ugh!  Needless to say - that did not earn keeper status.  But the new salad that we had with it that evening was a keeper!  Ever since we tried and loved the superb springtime spinach salad I have been wanting to try more new salads.  This one looked pretty interesting, and we really enjoyed it!  I had all the ingredients on hand for both the chicken and salad, so it fit the week's criteria.

Actually, for all the keeper recipes this week, I only  had to buy leeks and walnuts (which I needed for 2 recipes).  I don't have too many recipes that call for leeks, but I had everything else, and shrimp in the freezer, so I decided it was worth picking up the leeks to give it a shot.  Wow!  Am I glad I did!  Owen, Ryan and I loved this!  Hannah even tried it and said it was pretty good.  And a healthy meal to boot! I didn't think you needed to have it over the rice, since the leeks and red pepper still had a bit of crunch to them, but Ryan and Owen did, and they enjoyed it that way.  We did cook up a piece of chicken for Hannah and Liam to share, since I knew they would be less than thrilled with the main dinner.  And I added the little bit of leftover chicken to the leeks stir fry (all the shrimp were eaten) and enjoyed it the next day. 

We did a little baking this week - I was organizing my spice cabinet and saw I had poppy seeds, so we tried a lemon poppy seed muffin recipe.  These were fabulous right out of the oven, and still good the next couple of days, just not as good as they were when they were warm.  And I had 2 zucchini that I was not going to get to make zoodles with, so we made zucchini bread - YUM!  This was just as great the next day as fresh.  I cut the recipe ingredient amounts to just make one loaf, so what I present here is easily doubled to make two loaves.

My kids love mac & cheese, and Ryan and I went out for a date one night.  They wanted mac & cheese, but I didn't have any on hand.  However, I did have a block of cheese, small shell pasta, evaporated we made stove-top mac & cheese.  What a hit!  The kids loved it. And rounding out the keeper meals was chunky potato soup.  Owen picked this recipe out when we were meal planning, and I was a bit skeptical, but we all loved it.  The flavor profile was similar to hurry up ham, a perennial favorite at our dinner table.

Wow!  6 new recipes!  Clearly you can still be creative and have fun in the kitchen during a week where you try to primarily use what you've got on hand. 

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Stir-fried leeks with salt & pepper shrimp
Zucchini bread
Chunky potato soup
Lemon poppy seed muffins
Stove top mac & cheese
Spinach, arugula & apple salad

Stir-Fried Leeks with Salt & Pepper Shrimp

* 2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
* 1 tsp kosher salt
* 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
* 1 tsp black pepper
* 1/2 tsp sugar
* 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
* 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
* 3 leeks, biased sliced, white and light green parts only
* 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
* 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
* 2 tsp soy sauce
* cooked brown rice, optional

1. Combine the sesame seeds, salt, pepper flakes, pepper and sugar.  Pat the shrimp dry and toss in the sesame seed mixture.
2. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat.  Stir fry the shrimp until pink, 1 -2 minutes per side.  Remove the shrimp and keep warm.
3. Heat the remaining oil in the same skillet over medium high heat.  Stir in the leeks and stir fry for 3-4 minutes.  Add the red pepper, broth and soy sauce.  Simmer for a minute or two.
4. Add the shrimp back into the pan, enjoy!

I cannot believe how much we enjoyed this!   I was expecting to like it, but Ryan, Owen and I really loved it!  The shrimp were a bit spicy, but not overwhelmingly so.  If you really like your things hot, you could increase the pepper flakes to 1 tsp, but I thought that might be a bit too much for me!  It will seem like a lot of leeks, and a small amount of peppers.  But the leeks will give off a lot of liquid and cook down quite a bit.  Next time I will probably increase the red bell pepper a bit to balance it a little more.

Zucchini Bread

* 1 1/2 cups flour
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
*  1/2 cup brown sugar
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1 1/2 - 2 cups grated zucchini
* 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Grease and flour an 8 x 4 loaf pan.  Preheat the oven to 325 F.
2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon together in a bowl.
3. Beat the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl.  Add the flour mixture and beat until no streaks of flour remain.  stir in the zucchini and walnuts.  Pour the batter into the loaf pan.
4. Bake the loaf for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the bread in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then remove the bread and let it finish cooling.

I halved the original recipe.  If you double it, you can use 3 eggs, and 3- 3 1/2 cups of zucchini.I also read some people replacing half the oil with applesauce, so feel free to try that.  This single loaf to 56 minutes to cook in my oven.  I jumped the gun on removing the bread and a small part of the bottom remained in the pan.  I got it out and put it pack together and let it cool upside down for a little while.  After flipping it and cutting it, it seemed to have stayed together.  Next time I will let it cool for 20 minutes in the pan (not 3)!

Chunky Potato Soup

* 4 cups of red potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
* 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
* 3 tbsp butter
* 3 tbsp all purpose flour
* 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
* ground black pepper
* 3 cups milk
* 1/2 tsp sugar
* 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
* 1 cup cubed cooked ham

1. Boil the potatoes until tender, about 9-10 minutes.
2. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of the liquid.  Then drain and set the potatoes aside.
3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and soft, but not brown.
4. Add the flour to the saucepan and season with red pepper flakes and black pepper. Cook 3--4 minutes.
5. Gradually add the potatoes and the 1 cup potato liquid.  Then add the milk and sugar, and stir well.  Add the cheese and ham.
6. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Serve and enjoy!

I made this for dinner one night when we had a volleyball game to go to in the afternoon.  I prepped all the ingredients ahead of time, including cooking the potatoes. It was then really easy to throw together after we got home.  I had skim milk and 2% and used both, but I think any kind of milk will work.  I made popovers to go with it, and let the soup continue to simmer while the popovers cooked, so I probably simmered the soup 40-45 minutes.  Everyone loved this!

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

* 3 cups AP flour
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 tbsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 3 tbsp poppy seeds
* 1 1/2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
* 2 eggs
* 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
* 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375. Generously spray your muffins tins or use liners.
2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds together in a large bowl.
3. Whisk together the yogurt, eggs and lemon zest.
4. Gently fold in the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture.  Then fold in the butter.
5. Fill the muffin tins to the top.  It is a thick batter, but don't worry.  Don't overfill.
6. For regular sized muffins, bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  For mini muffins, begin checking at 9 minutes and 30 seconds.
7. While the muffins and cooking, mix the lemon juice and 1/4 cup of sugar. Heat over low heat until the sugar dissolves.  When the muffins come out of the oven, brush each muffin with the lemon syrup.

This batter makes between 12-16 regular sized muffins, and between 36-40 mini muffins.  We made them mini, and then after we filled 24 we made a mini loaf pan sized loaf.  The loaf overflowed!  If you try that, put a baking sheet under the loaf pan to catch the overflow.  The loaf tool about 55 minutes to cook through; I put some aluminum foil over it after 35 minutes so the top didn't burn.  Although it didn't come out as beautiful as I would have liked, I can adjust that for next time (don't fill the loaf pan to the top!).  My kids loved these as much as I did!  Yum!

Stove Top Mac 'N Cheese

* 1 lb small shells of elbow macaroni pasta
* 4 tbsp butter
* 2 eggs
* 12 oz evaporated milk, divided
* dash - 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
* 1 tsp kosher salt
* fresh black pepper, to taste
* 3/4 tsp dry mustard
* 12 oz shredded cheddar cheese

1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as directed on package.  Drain (reserve 1/2 cup of the water if you desire, just in case you need it!)
2. Return the pasta to the pot, add the butter and toss to coat.
3. Whisk together the eggs, 6 oz of the milk, the cayenne, salt, pepper and mustard powder.  Stir this into the buttered pasta.
4. Add the cheese and the remaining 6 oz of milk.  Stir over low heat until the cheese is melted, approximately 3 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!

I used 2% evaporated milk and it worked well.  If you want to use the regular it may even turn out creamier!  Also, I kept about 1/2 cup pasta water before I drained it just in case I felt I needed to thin out the sauce, but I didn't need to use it.  But always better to grab the water before it goes down the drain then realize you need it!

Spinach, Arugula & Apple Salad

Ingredients for the Vinaigrette
* 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
* 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* 1 tsp minced fresh garlic
* 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
* 1/4 tsp black pepper
* 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Ingredients for the Salad
* 6 cups spinach or arugula, or a mix
* 1 granny smith apple cored and thinly sliced (unpeeled)
* 1 oz shaved Parmesan
* 1/4 cups chopped walnuts

1. Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients.
2. Toss the salad ingredients.
3. Dress the salad, or pass the dressing separately.  Enjoy!

We only had spinach on hand, so we just used that, but I would do a mix of the two next time.  You could substitute the apple for another kind, perhaps Pink Lady, but you want the apple to be on the tart side with a good crunch.  You can also toast the walnuts if you want, but I didn't, and we still thought it was great!