Waste not, want not

I’m working hard to downsize our liquor supply.  It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.  (Why, you may ask, must I do such a thing?  The main targets are a few of the duplicate bottles we happen to have, gifted to us, or accidentally purchased.  I have two bottles of Jaegermeister, enough to last several lifetimes.  I’ll happily give one away as I do not see me using it in any way, shape, or form.  Any takers?)

One very large bottle of Kahlua is almost empty, and it is the main focus of my energies since I have a smaller bottle almost full, and since tall bottles do not fit well in the cabinet we use for liquor storage.  I can fit some tall bottles in the front, but the rest need to clear the shelf and tuck underneath.  I try to save the tall storage space for things like vodka or rum which are used frequently.

The Kahlua bottle has recipes on the back for White Russians and Mudslides.  I tried a White Russian, and it was ok.  I really wanted to try a Mudslide, but you need Irish Cream for it, and we had none.  So I bought Irish Cream (in a short bottle) to help use up the large bottle of Kahlua.  Does that make any sense?  No, I didn’t think so.  I did like the Mudslide, though.  And it’s always nice to have Irish Cream on hand.

Then I found this recipe: Aunt Eileen’s Kahlua Dessert.  It uses a whole cup of Kahlua.  I think I need to have a party just so I can make this dessert.

I’m also wondering if this recipe for meatballs, which uses Guinness, wouldn’t also taste good with Kahlua.  Any thoughts?

Here’s another potentially good recipe: Easy Sweet Potatoes with Kahlua.  And sweet potatoes are healthy, too.  Really, how could I not try that?

After the Kahlua is gone, I’ve got a bit of tequila to finish off.  I have been negligent in making margaritas this summer.  Bill is off next week, so that seems like the perfect time to chill out.

Cinnamon Toast

My children do not like whole wheat bread.  I’ve tried many recipes, and last night tried yet one more.  I even changed the proportions of whole wheat to white flour heavily in favor of white flour (2 cups to 1).  No dice.  Looked whole wheaty, tasted whole wheaty.

The biggest problem with such experiments is that I now have a whole loaf of bread that only I will eat.

I really don’t need a whole loaf of bread.  My hips don’t need a whole loaf of bread.

What to do?  Somehow, the children must be lured into consuming this bread.

My husband, after years of claiming that he did not like sweet potatoes in any form was finally convinced otherwise at Thanksgiving dinner several years ago.  After I poked him in the ribs and told him he really had to sample a dish a guest had brought, we learned that all you have to do is add enough sugar.

With that in mind, I googled cinnamon toast and the first link was this one.  I knew it would be a winner before I even read it (Pioneer Woman’s reputation precedes her).

It was.  The bread is being devoured.  I even have one procrastinator who is quickly doing his assignments to earn another piece.

And the whole wheat flour will move to the back of the pantry until I feel like making cinnamon toast again.  (Does the whole wheat factor offset the high amount of butter and sugar used?)

Fabulously Creamy Tomato Soup

Two Lents ago, I was in Kansas (and, yes, it makes me dizzy to think that was two moves ago). The chapel on post did soup dinners before stations of the cross every Friday, as many churches do, and, as it was very child friendly, we attended every week.

One Friday, I was happily gulping up one of the yummiest cream of tomato soups I had ever had. A woman sitting at my table confessed to being the cook and generously gave me the recipe. I ate it often until the cool days of spring gave way to summer when I don’t prefer to eat hot soup.

And we moved.

Last Lent, I remembered the recipe and searched high and lo to no avail. I poured through every online recipe exchange I knew of and found nothing that was remotely similar. I was disappointed, but I got over it and the recipe faded from memory.

And then we moved.

A few Fridays ago, my friend-who-lives-down-the-street-and-whose-husband-is-deployed invited us over for dinner (Bill was gone). “I have tomato soup,” she said. “It’s not YOUR tomato soup, but it’s good.”

“MY tomato soup?” I said. “What tomato soup?” I tried to think of the last time I had made tomato soup…and that had been two Lents ago…in Kansas…where I met this friend… “You mean from Kansas? You have that creamy tomato soup recipe?”

She did. She also explained that she had lost it, so she googled it and found it online. I don’t know, maybe I spelled it “to-MAH-to.”

It’s the cream cheese that makes it delicious.

Creamy Tomato Soup

Ingredients:
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed tomato soup, undiluted
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, cubed

Directions:
1. In a saucepan, saute onion in butter until tender. Stir in tomatoes, soup, milk, sugar, basil, paprika and garlic powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Stir in cream cheese until melted. Serve immediately.

Comfort Food

Day 1: The Warrior Returneth Edition

Filet Mignon (rare) with a peppery marinade
Baked Potatoes

Guinness (Vitamin G)

Really. Does good eating get any better than this?

Day 2: The Snowbound Edition

Beef and Pepper Stew
Homemade Rolls
Spaten Oktoberfest (because the Guinness ran out)

On the way to church (we luckily had a plowed road), one of the kids shouted from the back, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Are mine the only ones who think of dinner from the moment they awake?

“Beef stew,” said I. I looked at my husband. “Does that sounds good?”

He nodded with a very satisfied expression. Oh, yeah.

Day 3: The Stuck in Traffic Edition

Valentino’s New York Style Pizza
Arrogant Bastard Ale (Bill liked it, but it didn’t go very well with the pizza)

Good NY style pizza is hard to find in Northern Virginia. If you like this style, this place won’t disappoint. If you don’t like NY style, then go to Pizza Hut instead.

Day 4: The Nod to “Health” Edition

Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken

I made oven baked sweet potato chips, but I’m not 100% happy with the recipe. I’ll try another one next time.

Some different beer. Bill went to Total Wine and picked up a variety (yes, his favorite beer store is a wine store).

I feel guilty if I make beef every day. I don’t know why, exactly. Modern nutritional wisdom says that too much red meat is bad for you, but I truly believe that this is not a one-size-fits-all rule for good health. I have no problems with cholesterol and Bill’s issues stem from flour and pasta, not beef. I do like chicken, but I definitely serve more beef as a general rule. This chicken recipe is moist and juicy and yummy, making eating chicken a delight.

Day 5: The Date Night Edition

I think the kids had chicken strips (from the frozen foods section). Bill and I went to a place called Ray’s the Steaks. Yum.

We had Filet Mignon (see Day 1).

Day 6: The Christmas Eve Edition

French Onion Soup
Salmon with Leeks

I’m too tired to type recipes. I love my French Onion Soup. I make it with vegetable broth, because Christmas Eve used to be a day of abstinence from meat. The salmon recipe was new this year, and it was tasty, but… I rarely cook with leeks. The recipe said to wash them thoroughly. I rinsed them thoroughly. No, no, no. You have to wash them. I guess when they grow, the sandy soil gets inside. If you don’t wash them well, your food will be gritty. This is not pleasant. The flavor was good, so I will have to make it again. (Fortunately, the leeks could be pushed aside and the salmon was fine.)

Day 7: The Christmas Day Edition

Overnight Christmas Blueberry-Pecan French Toast

This breakfast dish is too decadent to eat regularly. I usually make it for Christmas and Easter. The kids don’t like it (fools), so I finally halved the recipe this year, and it was the perfect amount for breakfast today and tomorrow. The full recipe for two people just lingers way too long to be healthy.

Most Christmases are just us hanging out. Between the candy canes and the eggnog, nobody is really interested in a full sit down meal. Instead, we eat snacky foods: cheese and crackers, shrimp cocktail, leftover yummy French Onion Soup.

Hard to believe, but my husband has been home for a week now. We head up to PA and NJ tomorrow, and the food will be out of my hands for a bit. When we get back, I’ll be making him Cowboy Chili and Kells Guinness Meatballs.

And more Filet Mignons.

Real Food: Part I

Never, ever would I serve hot dogs for dinner to my husband. Lunch, perhaps, especially if I were turning the grill on, too. But not dinner.

But the kids like hot dogs, and I like easy meals, so we do, occasionally, have hot dogs for dinner when Bill is gone. Which is every day for those of you who aren’t paying attention.

In fact, in the interest of happy kids and simplicity, the types of food I’ve been serving for the last 6 weeks have been pretty basic. And now that tomatoes are ripe, I think BLTs for dinner once or twice (or three or four times) per week is perfectly acceptable. A thick slice of fresh tomato is on my top 100 list of proofs that God exists and loves us very much. For my own personal reference, I’m going to include this link to Jenn’s tomato recipes. I’ll be making some salsa this coming week, I think.

*****

A friend and I were trying to coordinate going to confession together. One of us could watch the under 7 crowd outside of the church while the other monitored the behavior of the others standing in line and herself too went to confession. Despite our church’s generous confession schedule of 4 times per week, we were having a difficult time coming up with one that worked for both of us. Finally we got to yesterday, and neither of us had a conflict. In fact, I discovered that her husband would be TDY, and it was her birthday.

(Wouldn’t it be lovely to be born on a Marian feast day? She said as a kid it was awful because she always had to go to church!)

So we decided to meet at the church for confession, stay for Mass and then come to my house for dinner and cake and ice cream. In Part II, I’ll talk about the cake.

For the kids, I decided to do pizza with my homemade and pre-baked crust. Pre-baking the crust and then storing it in the freezer means I can have pizza on the table in 15 minutes. Homemade pizza dough takes 90 minutes to make, and then I shape it into balls and rest it for 10 minutes, then I roll it out and let it rest for another 10 minutes, and then I add toppings and bake for 20 minutes (or just pre-bake for 10 minutes). Pizza is NOT a quickie dinner at our house, usually.

I was trying to come up with something for the grownups to eat, because having someone for whom to cook is the excuse I need to eat more sophisticated fare. I belong to a farm share program (which has been delivering me the yummy tomatoes I’ve been eating), and in this week’s box they included eggplant and this recipe:

Rigatoni with creamy eggplant and mozzarella

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 medium eggplant, medium dice
1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup loosely packed thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 pound rigatoni or penne regate
8 ounces buffalo mozzarella, small dice

Saute onion and garlic in the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When just soft, add the eggplant, stir to coat in oil and then stir rarely until soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove half the eggplant mixture and reserve.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions and drain.

To the eggplant mixture, reduce heat to medium-low, add the tomatoes, cream and half the basil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes.

Add sauce to drained pasta and stir to coat. Add reserved eggplant, remaining basil and mozzarella and mix until cheese begins to soften. Serve immediately.

I had never had eggplant before, but I was willing to try this recipe. My friend told me she prepares her eggplant dishes by salting the eggplant at least 30 minutes before using and then rinsing the salt off thoroughly. She said it makes the eggplant less bitter. I left the sliced and salted eggplant in the fridge while I was at a church. Having never had eggplant before, I can not tell if this step made a difference or not.

This dish was very delicious. I wouldn’t have taken the time to type up the recipe if not, right? I don’t think my kids would care for it, but I will make it again sometime and have them try it.

My friend would have been happy had I served her the pizza. I’m glad I used her birthday as an excuse to make and share a new dish. And to eat some real food for a change.

*****

We concluded the evening by praying the rosary together. We couldn’t let that plenary indulgence opportunity go to waste! It was a lovely way to spend the Feast of the Assumption.

Desperation Dessert

When the crowds will riot without something sweet, but bedtime is in an hour, this was just right. And the yield of 24 mini-brownies meant no tempting leftovers for breakfast (that’s a good thing). If you have more than 6 kids and one hungry husband, you might want to double the recipe.