Monday, January 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 1/25/10

Getting into the New Year groove here in the Richard household! I've continued to menu plan all along but now I'm getting to actually posting it too. If you don't already, menu planning is a great resolution to make. You'll tend to eat out less, spend less, and feel less stressed. Just my plug for spreading the organization love out there to you all. :)

On another note, I think I have the ranch dressing secret mixture down. Oh, it took me many tries. I had it very close but something on the spice end was just wrong. Then it hit me! I knew what spice to add. Now I think it is about perfect :) Thinking about submitting it to a contest I saw the other day on-line but we'll see. Not sure I want to give up the rights to this one.

Monday: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup & Biscuits
Tuesday: Mini-meatloaves, Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, & Peas
Wednesday: Pork Chops with Apple Onion Stuffing & Salad
Thursday: Tropical Salmon Coquettes (testing a recipe I've been playing with in my head), Rice, & Salad
Friday: Cheddar Chicken Broccoli and Rice Bake & Salad

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Today I Baked A Pumpkin

Or, to be absolutely honest with you, today I baked a Long Island Cheese Pumpkin (or Squash). That's what one does when the roads are incredibly icy and you don't have to go about your normal morning duties/routines, right?

This year was the first for Long Island Cheese's in my garden. In fact, I kinda just tucked the one plant behind a bunch of perennials. In my actual vegetable garden, I grow butternut squash, my absolute favorite winter squash but a close relative to the Long Island Cheese. But I may have to grow less of them and put in another of these, because not only do they taste wonderful but they make the prettiest looking fall decorations (people didn't even think they were real!).

Now, this year, I probably went over board on squashes. Or it was just the year for them. Regardless, I harvested 22 butternut squashes and a couple of Long Island's that were each about 6-8 lbs. I probably have enough to last me through a good portion of next year since we don't eat them every week. Or maybe we're going to have to start. Either way, come April or May, I'll have to process and freeze whatever is left.

So, back to today. I managed to cut one of the Long Island's open and baked it at 375 for about an hour on a aluminum foil lined baking sheet after cleaning out the inside. Then I let it cool down. After it had cooled, I used a paring knife and cut of the outer skin (easier I think, than scooping it out with these types of squash). In two batches, I pureed the squash with no added liquid. What I was left with was 3 15oz. cans worth of puree plus one cup. I froze two cans worth and made one pie and one batch of muffins. I can't vouch for the pie yet but the muffins were AWESOME! Here is the recipe I worked off of (and of course, I'll tell you what I changed).

From Food Network's Ellie Krieger

Pumpkin Muffins:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.

Now, I didn't have molasses so I substituted another tablespoon of brown sugar and poured a little maple syrup in the batter. Sorry, I didn't measure but I'm guessing it was about 2 tablespoons. :) Also, I didn't have any pumpkin seeds to place on top so I simply omitted that. The recipe made 12 very nice sized muffins that I think turned out very visually appealing. Here's a picture:

And because, I took a picture of the pie too:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Menu Plan - For New Decade ;)

Here's what I've got going on in the kitchen:

Monday: We had German Style Pork Chops in the crockpot. It was a dish where the pork chops cooked on a bed of potatoes, onions & carrots. Then the last half hour you added a can of sauerkraut and a couple of diced apples. It was okay - definitely not going on the rotation.

Tuesday: Whole Chicken with Balsamic Dried Tomato Sauce and Potatoes (cooked in the pressure cooker altogether). Add will be a green salad. It smells delicious in here but we'll see what it tastes like :)

Wednesday: Good Ole Tater Tot Hotdish & Salad

Thursday: General Tso's Chicken, Egg Rolls and if it is as cold as they say it will be, I'll throw in some Egg Drop Soup.

Friday: Broiled Salmon, Cous Cous, & Peas

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 Goals!

As the new year begins, which by the way, I'm referring to as Twenty Ten, one starts to think about one wants to accomplish. Now, I've been running since late summer on a consistent basis so I really don't feel like I need to add exercise to my list. But I do love to cook and I do love to garden, so I've decided that I will do some "extra" focusing on my loves and set some goals in those areas for this coming year. I love my children and I set goals for them too so why not?!

1. Asparagus. We love it. So why am I not growing it? Well, for those of you who do not know, asparagus is a perennial vegetable. That means that it comes back, year after year on it's own accord. In fact, a well tended asparagus bed can produce for 20 years or more. I know growing up that we would find asparagus in ditches. My parents have recently, in the past few years, found some "wild" asparagus behind some old buildings on the farm. These asparagus patches have been planted by birds from the seed of female asparagus plants. Now, I am not going to plant asparagus from seed. As the newer hybrids are mostly all "male" meaning they produce more and bigger spears than the female plant but do not produce seed. So I plan on planting crowns (i.e. the roots) of the plant and probably two-year crowns. Now, the tricky thing with crops such as asparagus and strawberries is that you really are going to have to wait to harvest any sizable amount. And not wait like a few weeks or months, but maybe a couple of years. The plant needs to "get strong" enough before you can start picking the asparagus spears. That's because those spears turn into the fern that in turn feeds the roots that in turn allows it to produce more spears and so on and so forth. Why not dig up well established 5 year crowns and transplant them? Well, because they are fickle and older plants do not transplant well. So one year crowns are recommended but I find that 2 year crowns are more widely available. I'm still deciding on the variety...

2. Ranch Dressing. Lite House Ranch dressing is our favorite ranch dressing. It doesn't contain any msg and it tastes fantastic. I'd love to be able to recreate this at home. I've tinkered with this project off and on but I've decided that this is the year that I will master the ranch dressing quandary. I've made some really good head way into this project and I think that well before 2010 is over, I will have conquered ranch dressing. Then I may post the recipe :) Maybe ;)

3. Figure out another way to stake my tomatoes. I can't decide whether to do t-bars, cages or string but I do know that I need another method for staking my tomatoes. This past summer was pretty cool and rainy by any standards and tomato blight was a huge problem. Some of this could have been avoided by proper staking. But I admit, I am a lazy gardener when it comes to things like staking. And I'm cheap. One idea is to put t-bar on the outside ends of a small row of tomatoes. Then take string and as the tomato grows, use the string to make a "cage" by encasing the tomatoes between the t-bars. It might work. Or I could by or maybe build some heavy duty re-bar tomato cages. Lots of ideas floating around in my head as you can see. If anyone has some great pointers, I'm willing to listen.

4. I'm not sure this is a real goal or not but I'd like to maybe rent a plot in a community garden. Then I could grow larger quantities of things that I currently don't believe I have enough room to grow profitably - think potatoes. Wouldn't you love to see posts on here of yummy dishes using purple & fingerling potatoes? And to grow enough beans to actually put some up for the winter? I guess the problem would then be how to store the potatoes.....hmmmmm