Sunday, November 24, 2013

Roasted chicken with tomatoes and olives for a quick weeknight meal

On those nights when I simply don't have time to fuss in the kitchen, I like recipes which need only one pan for preparation and cooking.  Not only does this cut down on prep time, but makes clean up real easy too.  Try roasting chicken pieces with tomatoes and olives.  Serve with some warm rolls and you're all set.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie - using left over chicken

Home-made Chicken Pot Pie

Back when I used to do a lot of business travel, one of the few "safe" items to leave in the refrigerator was Mrs. Budd's Chicken Pot Pie.  It was something my husband could easily prepare and something the kids would eat because they knew it hadn't yet expired.  I'd heard too many horror stories upon returning home about a meal "Dad prepared" which "tasted funny."  It became easier over time to simply direct him to a Mrs. Budd's pie just incase I hadn't had time to sweep the refrigerator for expired items.

Store bought Chicken Pot Pie

Now that I don't travel as much I have the time to use up leftovers before they go bad.  Earlier I made a one crust apple pie.  Then, I roasted a chicken.  Leaving me with some left over pie dough and left over chicken.  Locating a few more ingredients from the refrigerator,  I was able to easily prepare my own chicken pot pie.  No need for Mrs. Budd.

The process is simple.  Dice up chicken, carrots, green beans (or peas, potatoes, etc.)  Whatever you have handy.  Tricky part always for me is the sauce...that is where I have to refer to a recipe.  I can never remember the liquid to thickener ratio needed in order to achieve the desired consistency.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How to roast a chicken without a recipe

When the days get shorter and the outside temperatures get cooler it is nice to warm up the kitchen by roasting something in the oven.  A very easy main dish to prepare is Roasted Whole Chicken.  Recently,  the USDA removed the recommendation of washing poultry and meat before cooking, making the roasting of a whole chicken even easier.  No longer do you need to wrestle with the bird to rinse with water and pat dry.  Simply place the whole chicken in a pan and place in the oven....just remember to remove giblets from the cavity first!

For additional information on food safety, check out the USDA Food Safety Handbook 

Speaking of the cavity.  For best results, stuff the inside of the chicken with something flavorful.  Like lemon halves, garlic cloves, quartered onions, oranges, apples, etc.  Whatever you happen to have available.  The idea is to fill the cavity with something that will provide flavor and aroma while cooking.  I especially like the combination of lemon and garlic.  In my kitchen, there is always plenty of garlic hanging around.

To begin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How to make an Omelet without a recipe

Some meals can be very simple.  So simple that they really don't need a recipe.  Often, it is your technique that determines your success.  An omelet is one of those simply wonderful dishes that can take so many different forms.

Begin with a few eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Add whatever you have handy.  Today, I have the last of the summer tomatoes, a yellow pepper and sharp cheddar cheese.  Mushrooms and onions can often be found in the kitchen...just not today.  Perhaps you have some left over chicken, ham or even pepperoni.  Throw that in too.

Begin by preparing your filling.  Chop up vegetables, cheese or anything else you plan to include.  In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and milk, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Now, make your omelet.

Monday, October 14, 2013

How to bake an Apple Pie without a recipe

"Only a woman of a certain age would need a recipe to bake an apple pie." I read that somewhere in a novel and I immediately related to the character.  I first learned how to bake an apple pie in my high school Home Economics class, circa early 1970's.

I still have the pie crust recipe from class, which I've used so often, I know it by heart.  My teacher, Mrs. Libby, unfortunately, I do not remember.  Home Ec was one of my favorite classes and I went on to study the subject in college.  I learned some very valuable life skills during those years.   Skills, which it seems, are missing from today's kid's education.  How do kids today learn how to cook?  How do they know what is nutritious and healthy?  A recent Boston Globe article, Bring back home ec, raises those questions.  One answer is to consider reviving Home Economics classes.  If not in the school system, then it should be taught at home.  Which got me to my own kids know how to bake an apple pie?  They've watched me bake many pies....but would they know how to make one themselves?

There really isn't much to making an apple pie.  In addition to pie crust, all you need are apples, sugar, lemon juice and zest, nutmeg, and cornstarch.  I like to make pie crust, yet I will admit that it can be a hassle sometimes.  So, for a quick and easy pie I recommend using Ready-to-Bake pie crust from the market.  Honest, if you use a nice pie plate no one will ever question who made the crust.  Even easier is a one-crust pie.  A favorite with my family is Apple Pie with Oatmeal Crumb Topping.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


How many times do you need to read something, or see something, before you finally decide to jump in and try it?  If we're talking about skydiving I think my answer is never.  But, when we're talking about a simple recipe for tomato sauce, with just 3 or 4 ingredients, the answer is apparently about 40 years or so.

Beginning in 1973, Marcella Hazen published The Classic Italian Cook Book:   The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating,  followed by many more books.  Included in all of this was a very simple recipe for tomato sauce.  Ever since Bloggers have been writing about food they have been raving about Marcella's recipe.  It took her sad passing recently for me to finally try it.

As with most "simple" recipes, there is room for some tweaking with little risk.  For me, it was the addition of garlic.  For others it is a pinch more salt or perhaps a bit of sugar.  Regardless, it is a classic that everyone should have in their recipe collection.

For an adaptation of  Marcella Hazen's Tomato Sauce recipe. . .

Monday, February 4, 2013

Am I ready for a stand mixer?

Anyone who knows their way around a kitchen either owns or dreams of owning a KitchenAid stand mixer.  American made and made to last, this mixer is a standard for many kitchens.  I fall into the category of dreamer.

For the past 35 years I have successfully beaten with a KitchenAid hand held mixer.  It has served me well and I have no complaints.  Yet when the ads start showing up around the holidays...Mother's Day, Christmas and a bunch of other random times, I get to thinking..."maybe now is the time."  So, I start to dream and then the paralysis sets in.  So many choices.  I just can't make up my mind about which style, which color, tilt-head or bowl-lift, on and on.

Then one day I spotted a KitchenAid Pro HD series in a consignment shop. It was tucked in a corner, nicely stored in it's original box.  Using my Blackberry I searched on the product number. many options for a 5 qt stand mixer even when I limited it to only the Professional series.  I could locate similar numbers but not an exact match.  Okay, so I figured this one is an older model.  I jotted down all the details and headed back to my kitchen for a cup of tea and more research.

The price in the consignment shop was about half of the original list price for similar mixers.  But, as we know, KitchenAid holds lots and lots of sales throughout the year.  So, one could get a mixer for much less.  Was the second hand machine a good value?  While I was thinking through the economics I scanned the blog commentaries.  Almost everyone loves their KitchenAid and many found "special" places for them in their kitchens.

A special place.  Did I need a special place? Where was I going to store this major small appliance? Would it even fit in my kitchen?  Oh, did I mention that my kitchen is original?  Meaning old and in need of a good renovation.  I had kept the kitchen as last on the list to renovate because I figured the kids could merrily beat on it while growing up.  This was the kitchen where they and all their friends learned how to cook.  No one was ever concerned about messing up the place.  Then the kids grew up and moved on.  But now tuition payments seem more important than a new kitchen.  Which is leading me back to say that with my old fashioned kitchen cabinets I only have a 16 inch clearance on the countertop.  The KitchenAid Pro series measures 16.5 inches in height.   Pulling out the measuring tape I scanned my counter space for a good spot.  There was no room to store it and there was no room to even use it on the counter.  The KitchenAid is even too wide.  This was the deal breaker.

Upon returning to the consignment shop a week or so later I saw that the mixer was gone.  No more agony.

Making the rounds to another shop I discovered an old Sunbeam Mixmaster Heritage series which looked in okay condition.  A quick search on the web shows Target selling the lastest model for about twice the price of the used mixer.  Measurements of the Sunbeam align better with my kitchen.

 So, what do you think?  Should I go with the vintage model?  Might look nice in my vintage kitchen.