Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting to Know You

Confessions of a Mormon Foodie has been up for a few years, now. My goals have always been to provide my readers with recipes and other information to help make their lives better, as far as meal time is concerned. Food storage, basic information on various ingredients and kitchen equipment, and the like are all part of that equation. I also like to have a little fun along the way. Food preparation and consumption is an important part of family life. I believe that it can help bring families together, if only around the dinner table.

One thing I've never really done well, though, is learn more about you, my gentle readers. With apologies in tow, I'd like to remedy the situation. Please fill out the following survey and let me know something about yourself, and what you expect from me. You don't need to answer any question you don't feel comfortable with. While I'm curious to find out what you like, if there are things you don't like, feel free to vent. I'm a big boy. I can take it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Food Joke Friday - Gummi Bear Diet

According to a recent article, nutritionists say there is a simple way to tell if you're eating right: colors. Fill your plates with bright colors. Greens, reds, yellows.

I decided to eat a plate of gummi bears. Who knew eating right could be so easy?

Photo credit: Shannah Pace

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spaghetti with Garlic, Olives, and Herbs

Posting two pasta dishes in a row? You've think I'd gone pasta crazy. I'd have a hard time arguing that, but in this case, it's actually my oldest daughter, Writer Girl. The one who likes making candy? She's discovered she likes to make pasta dishes, too.

This offering is a simple, vegetarian, spaghetti recipe that gets it's flavors from aromatic olives, garlic, and herbs. It's a perfect break from heavier meals. The original recipe comes from Julia Della Croce, but this is our version. modified to make it slightly easier to make.

Equipment needed
Large Skillet
Small Skillet
Large saucepan
Measuring cups and spoons
Kitchen knife

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 large Garlic cloves, Very finely chopped
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon Fresh Marjoram, chopped
1/3 cup Black Olives, Pitted and Sliced
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes, crushed
1 pound Spaghetti
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup Fresh Bread Crumbs, lightly toasted

Combine all but 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic in a deep, broad skillet. Turn the heat to medium low and saute until the garlic softens and begins to color lightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley, marjoram, olives, pepper flakes and warm through, about 20 seconds. remove from heat.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt and the spaghetti. Cook until al dente, stirring frequently to prevent the strands from sticking together. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water to moisten the pasta sauce.

While the pasts is still dripping and moist, transfer to the skillet with the sauce and toss together. If it needs more moisture add a little of reserved cooking water.

In a separate small skillet, heat remaining olive oil and add the bread crumbs. Saute over medium low heat, until crunchy. Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta, and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Food Joke Friday - Duck and Friends

An American tourist in China decides to have lunch in a restaurant where the specialty is duck. The waiter explains each dish as it is brought to the table.

"This is the breast of the duck; this the leg of the duck; this is the wing of the duck ..." and so on.

Then came the dish the American knew was chicken. He waited for the explanation. Silence.

"Well?" he finally asked, "What's this?"

The waiter replied, "This is a friend of the duck."

Photo credit: Yosep Sugiarto

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fusilli Pasta with Tomatoes and Olives

October 25 is World Pasta Day, or so the people at Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant tell me. Who I am to argue? I've never needed an excuse to eat pasta, but passing up a chance to celebrate it would go against my foodie nature.

It's also the beginning of fall, and all those wonderful tomatoes are more than ready to be eaten. Either that or canned. Before you get your canner out, let me offer this recipe that's heavy on that fresh tomato flavor, and will help us all celebrate World Pasta Day: Fusilli with Tomatoes and Green Olives. While the pasta must be cooked, this is a salse crude – an uncooked sauce.

Fusilli, is a long, thick, corkscrew shaped pasta and if often confused with rotini, its twisted cousin. Rotini has a tighter helix; fusilli is more like very long, twisted macaroni. Either pasta will do for this sauce, however.

If you want to use other types of pasta, that's fine. Almost any will do, but I would recommend something that will be able hold on to the chunks of tomato and olive.

Equipment needed
Kitchen knife
mixing bowls
measuring cups and spoons
large saucepan

3 ounces Green Olives, chopped
10 Fresh Basil Leaves, torn into small pieces
1 pinch Red Pepper Flakes
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 pound Tomatoes, fresh vine ripened or cherry tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 pound Fusilli (corkscrew) Pasta
Salt, to taste
Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Parmesan, mozzarella, or capers to garnish

Combine the tomatoes, olives, basil, red pepper, garlic and olive oil in a small bowl. Let marinade while the pasta cooks to blend the flavors. If you don't have fresh basil, a few teaspoons of dried basil will do nicely.

Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta cook until al dente, then drain.

Add salt and pepper to the sauce, seasoning to taste. Toss with the cooked pasta. Top with mozzarella cheese, capers, or grated Parmesan as desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 – 6 servings

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Naked Diet

"A great way to lose weight is to eat naked in front of a mirror. Restaurants will almost always throw you out before you can eat too much."
-- Frank Varano

Photo credit: Laura Nubuck

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning Part 2 – Bagging Dinner

After introducing you to the idea of creating meal bags as part of our weekly meal planning, it's time to get down to actually putting the meals together. Now that the plan is made, each day's recipes have been printed, and the needed groceries acquired, its time to assemble each day's meal bag.

Start With the Bags

We started by getting nine moderately sized gift bags, one for each day plus two extra. We needed the extra bags because we're doing the prep on Saturday morning, but we're planning from Monday to Sunday. That way we've got enough for the overlapping days. We also got a box of sandwich bags and a box of gallon sized freezer bags.

First, we took seven freezer bags and marked them with a number, 1-7, to correspond with the numbers we wrote on the printed recipes. We made two number 6's and two number 7's, because they are the extra days. You can number the gift bags, too, although we don't. You'll see why you don't need to, as we go along.

Prepping According to Plan

When assembling the meal bag, take the a gift bag and corresponding freezer bag and set them aside. I put the freezer bag on the counter and the gift bag on the kitchen table for easy access. Next, grab the recipe that goes along with those bags. For example, Monday is day #1 for us so, to prep for Monday I would grab the printed recipes and bags that all have #1 printed on them.

Look at the printed recipes for that day and see what ingredients need to be refrigerated and which ones don't. Ingredients that need refrigeration are going to in the freezer bag. Those that don't need to be refrigerated will end up in the gift bag.

The goal is to make cooking easier and faster the day you are cooking it. We're deferring the prep time from the day we cook to the day we prep. Figure out how much measuring and prep work you can do ahead of time, and what will just have to wait. For dry ingredients, once you measure and prep an ingredient, it can go into a sandwich bag, and then into either the gift bag or the numbered freezer bag. By putting it into a cheap sandwich bag, first, you can reuse the numbered freezer bags without having to wash them each time. We want to make things easy, not fill up the local landfill single-handed.

Also look and see which ingredients are used at the same time in the recipe. Those that can be stored in the same bag. For example, if you're adding a bunch of herbs and spices in the same step, those herbs and spices can all be combined in the same sandwich bag.

Preparing the Ingredients

Prep the ingredients the best you can. For example, chopping or grating vegetables before hand, putting them in sandwich bags, and then in the freezer bags. Canned goods, that closely match the amount you need for the recipe, can just be put in the gift bag. You don't need to open the cans. Any amount that you don't need can be refrigerated for use, later, the day you cook that meal.

Liquid ingredients aren't going to fit in a bag very well. I worry the sandwich bags will leak. In those cases you can just leave those ingredients for the day you cook, or put them in some other container. We've started experimenting with prepping sauces and dressings and putting them in small jars or used and washed cottage cheese cartons in the refrigerator. I'll put a piece of masking tape with the number of the day on them, just like the bags. So far I've not found a case where I needed to use more than one per meal.

Some cooking could be done on the prep day, if want. Be careful about that, though. Most food doesn't last as long in the refrigerator after it is cooked. Where possible, I try and avoid freezing anything that needs to be cooked that week. I don't want to spend time defrosting it the day I'm cooking, or remember to take it out of the freezer the day before.

Storing the Meal Bags

Once the prep is done, and the ingredients are sorted, put the printed recipes for that meal in the gift bag. The gift bag can then go to the pantry and the freezer bag put in the refrigerator, until needed.

That's it! When the evening meal comes long, just get the appropriate bag and follow the directions in the printed recipe. Much of the prep work has already been done so, it won't take as long to put together. If you've done the prep right, you know you've got everything to make that meal because it's already in one of the bags.

We've been doing the “meal bag” thing for about 3 weeks now, and so far it's worked out pretty well. The only downside are those days when I feel like experimenting in the kitchen. I'm not as spontaneous with ingredients as I used to be. In fact, I kind of have to “plan” my cooking experiments more than I used to. There's something to be said for being able to look at the available ingredients and put something tasty together.

Still, I think the meal bags are working out better overall. There's less stress of “what to make,” or “I'd like to make THIS tonight. Do we have the ingredients?” We know we do because it's all in the bag. As a side effect, I think it's helping us to rotate our food storage better and control our weekly grocery costs. We not as eager to rush out and buy something from the grocery store on a whim if we've already got it on hand. Last week we planned meals that only used ingredients from our food storage, so we didn't have to go grocery shopping at all. I don't want to that every week, mind you, but it was comforting to know we could.

Photo credit: Maira Kouvara

Friday, October 1, 2010

Food Joke Friday - Chocolate Marijuana

Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana does.

The researchers also discovered more similarities between them, but can't remember what they are.

Have you got the munchies?

Photo by Gerhard Taatgen jr.