Whiplash Wednesday

Is it just me that finds the weeks whizzing past before I can even recognize the month and week on the calendar? For some reason Wednesdays are the worst for me. Probably because it’s a little shorter school day for us but it also means that the supposedly ‘most productive days’ of our week are spent and we are already behind the game, and it’s Awana night (again?! already?) and I need to help the kids learn their verses because, despite the solemn oaths of last week that we would be better prepared and work on verses before Wednesday afternoon, we haven’t even opened the books since last Wednesday. I find myself getting whiplash each week around this time, amazed that my time is slipping away so rapidly and I have so little to show for it.

As a result, I try to make the most of my Wednesday afternoon and prepare a meal in 20-30 minutes (sometimes it cooks longer, but not a meal that needs my attention for longer than that) while I’m sending the kids off to gather their backpacks, Awana bucks, books, vests/shirts, etc. “Make sure you have socks and shoes on — it’s your ticket to the dinner table; no socks, no shoes, no dinner!” I yell from in front of the stove. I juggle dirty dishes into the dishwasher or empty it of clean ones, call kids to stow their school materials for tomorrow, fling the hash onto the plates, and call everyone to come eat — we have 10-15 minutes to eat before we need to leave, kids! Sometimes The Husband enters the chaos at this point, other nights he’s running late himself and gets home just in time to wave us off from the front steps — your dinner is on the table. Love you, bye! Keep moving kids, we’re running late — again! I say, with cattle prod in hand.

Wednesday night meals are often reheat repeats, burritos, or some other simple food. Last week I was inspired to make something from the contents of the freezer. I had some frozen cooked shrimp from a ‘buy one, get two free’ deal at Meijer and a couple of leftover chicken jalapeno sausage links (natural pork casings removed) and decided to make a shrimp over rice dish. The sausage was spicy, too spicy for the younger kids (Thing 1 loved it, though), but I thought it was a good dish overall. You could substitute a milder sausage and use a little Tabasco to add whatever heat you want.

Spicy Sausage & Shrimp

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 long red sweet pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 – 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes
2 links fully cooked chicken sausage, casing removed & sliced
1 lb. frozen cooked shrimp, defrosted, rinsed & tails removed
frozen peas

Heat oil in pan, add onion and pepper and saute until tender. Add garlic and stir for a minute or two. Add tomatoes and sausage simmer for 5 minutes. Add shrimp and frozen peas and cook until heated through. Serve over rice.

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Heart of the Matter from the Sea

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Lucillian Delights is hosting the fifth round of Heart of the Matter, searching out heart healthy recipes that use the fruit of the sea. I have a couple of great salmon recipes I could have turned to for this but I had been itching to try yet another Cooking Light recipe: Orange-Ginger Shrimp Skewers. I intended to serve it with stir fried vegetables and brown rice. Unfortunately, the sky looked rather ominous and I didn’t fancy standing in a downpour to grill the shrimp so I used the basic marinade from the Cooking Light recipe as the basis for a stir fry sauce and just cooked it all in one pot. I love the bright colors of stir fried (or stir poached) vegetables.

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This was a very tasty meal.  Despite the cholesterol in shrimp, it is a relatively low calorie meat and served up with so many vegetables and brown rice it’s good for you!  Here’s to your health.

My Soup Bowl Runs Over

I’m not including these in my LOT#3 entry, but it’s more of the same . . . using up that rice last week. I was the main dish provider for small group so I made two different soups.

One was a chicken and rice soup — pretty straight forward. I made my own broth with celery, onion, carrots, garlic, salt and pepper, and a couple of bone-in chicken breasts in a pot of water on medium-low heat for six hours. Next, I pulled the chicken out and shredded it and returned it to the pot sans bones (although there may have been a few left). Finally, I added some frozen peas and the rice and let it warm through. Pretty ho-hum and I’m sorry to say we have a lot of leftovers from that . . . b/c it’s likely to go to waste . . . anyone want some chicken & rice soup?

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For the other I made a Stuffed Pepper Soup. I read several different recipes — some included brown sugar or soy sauce — and came up with my own version. Here’s what I added to my crockpot:

2 lbs ground sirloin, browned

large onion, chopped & sauteed for a few minutes with the beef

2 bell peppers, chopped

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 – 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

~ 24 oz V-8 juice (I poured from a 46 oz bottle and used about half)

water

thyme

parsley

rice

salt and pepper

I didn’t drain the beef b/c it didn’t look like it had much fat and I thought the juices would be good in the soup. But when I tasted it, I thought it was too greasy so I should have drained it like I usually do. I put everything but the rice in the crock and cooked it on low for about 6 hrs and added the cooked rice in the last half hour to get it heated through. This was OK, and the kids like it well enough, but I thought it could use a little jazzing up. A little Tabasco or something. Maybe use the spicy V-8 juice.

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Currying Favor with Leftovers

Most of my cooking in the past week has been trying to figure out creative ways to consume this and it’s twin:

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As I’ve mentioned before, more often than not when leftovers are given a makeover to create a new meal they have a Mexican flavor because we all like Mexican foods. Using up this rice reminded me of a challenge I gave myself several years ago.

After growing up in a household in which chicken and turkey slaughter was an annual practice (well, I must confess we only raised turkeys one year but it *seemed* like more), in which the pot of boiling hot water was set up on a fire of logs a few yards from my bedroom window, in which my main role was pulling the feathers off the chickens after they had been dipped in the hot water, and which left us with chickens to bake most Sundays of the year, except for the ones in which we baked a turkey . . . and have I mentioned I’m an only child and these birds lasted a long time?? Well, after all that, when I left home it was several years before I ate chicken by choice . . . I would see the chicken and the smell of wet feathers would be conjured up and I would begin to gag. Chicken is fairly inexpensive and it’s a fairly healthy choice for meat, but cheap and healthy doesn’t necessarily result in tasty. After several years of chicken avoidance the wet feather smell wasn’t so strong, so my challenge to myself a few years ago was to make chicken and rice (or noodles) every night for a week and never have them taste the same. It was a great challenge and encouraged me to be a little more creative and I started enjoying cooking chicken a little more.

My challenge to myself this week was to not focus on Mexican or, due to the source of the leftovers, Chinese for the leftover menus. This was one of the first things I made: Chicken Curry.

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I started with some diced chicken breast and browned that in a pan with a little peanut oil.

Side note: one of my most helpful hints I can give to a busy cook is make your own convenience foods. One of mine is to buy large flats of chicken breast, clean them and then freeze; some are whole, others I dice before freezing, some I slice into long strips for skewers. So easy!

I added onion, celery, asparagus, and carrots and cooked until they were bright and still a little crisp. I added a little fresh grated ginger and minced garlic and sprinkled it with mild curry powder until it was lightly coated.

Next, I added some chicken broth and brought it to a boil and stirred in a little broth/flour paste to thicken it slightly.

Finally, I added some of the cooked rice and frozen peas and cooked it until those were heated through.

It had a similar flavor to the S&B Curry that I like without the MSG that doesn’t like me. This is something I’ll make again!

LOT#3 is Coming Soon!

This time Leftover Tuesday, the brain child of David at Cooking Chat, is to be hosted by Megan at What’s Cooking. After Saturday’s party I have 2, yes that’s 2, 9×13 pans that are 2.5 inches deep FULL of white rice. I will probably be able to make a wide assortment of leftovers for this one! We finished off the Vegetable Soft Noodles on Monday and Thing 1 and I polished off the last of the Hunan Chicken for lunch Tuesday so the rice is the only thing left that I didn’t freeze.

Last night for dinner I cooked some ground beef and onion with a can of corn, a jar of peach and mango salsa, and a bunch of rice and we had taco salad with some leftover chips in the closet from a week ago (crisped in the oven last night). We piled some romaine, grape tomatoes, black olives and cheddar cheese on top. Yum. I used some of the leftovers from that to make the Husband some burritos for lunch today. How many iterations of leftovers can we come up with here?? Leftovers often have a Mexican flavor here, but for LOT #3 I’m going to try to come up with something a little different. Mmmm . . . off to play in the kitchen!

Leftover Tuesdays #2

David at Cooking Chat started a wonderful event called ‘Leftover Tuesdays’ and Rachel is hosting the second one. I can’t wait to see what everyone cooked up!

I make pork loin about every other week and it’s a good source for leftovers. Sometimes I shred it for BBQ sandwiches or add green chile sauce for burritos, for example. This week I was intending to make a garlic filled Twice Cooked Pork, but plans often go astray. Instead, I made another fairly common meal for our house that I, ever so creatively, call ‘Meat, Beans and Rice’.

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There are a number of different permutations of this — ground beef, chicken, or pork for the meat, for example — but it typically has kidney beans, onions and tomatoes in it and corn makes a frequent appearance. Here’s this week’s method:

Three slices of cooked pork loin, torn into small chunks

1 can green enchilada sauce

1 (15 oz) can kidney beans

1 (15 oz) can corn

1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes

3 green onions (b/c I didn’t have any yellow ones but had these on hand)

cumin

oregano

2 cloves garlic, crushed

I put the pork in a pan and covered it with the green enchilada sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes before adding the beans and corn. I let that simmer a few more minutes before adding the tomatoes and seasonings and then let it simmer until the rice was done. I also made some guacamole to go with it. The Husband had a little sour cream and cheese on top of his.

A Tale of Two Loins

Saturday night is when our small group meets and we share a meal. This week my assignment was ‘main dish’. After being plagued by indecision, I looked through the Meijer ads and decided on pork loin. There are so many things you can do with one of those . . . oh, the choices. Because we number 14 adults and 6 kids, I bought 2 half loins and decided to do them differently.

I’ve mentioned before one of my favorite ways but I also wanted something more . . . interesting. While wandering the grocery aisles, I picked up a jar of inspiration . . . well, actually it came in a burlap sack. I bought some basmati rice and I cooked that with some onion, garlic, carrots and a splash of olive oil. Then I mixed in some (and then some more) jerk seasoning from mathuaerknedam (who doesn’t post enough 😉 ) a good scoop of apricot preserves, lime zest and a little more onion and garlic.

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Then I cut my pork loin in a ‘Z’ cut (cut the top in one direction until 1/2″ from the edge, cut the bottom from the opposite direction until 1/2″ from the edge and lay flat). I spread the rice mixture all over the pork and rolled it up and rubbed pressed garlic over the top. I covered it and baked it in a glass pan at 350F for about 1.5 hr then opened it up, smeared apricot preserves all over the top and baked it uncovered for about 15 minutes. Then I removed it from the oven and let it rest. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of the lovely finished product b/c I cut the ends off to keep for us and took the rest to the small group and didn’t stay b/c we had sick kiddos 😦

The other loin I made with garlic rubbed all over and rosemary sprinkled on top (baked similarly w/o the apricot) and I made some chunky applesauce to go with it. The applesauce was made with 5 braeburn apples, 1 golden delicious apple, sugar, a squirt of lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. I cooked it for about an hour but it wasn’t getting very saucy in that time so I added a couple spoons of unsweetened store brand applesauce. It was tasty. We had a discussion about how frequently people combine pork and apple — I actually don’t often, but it makes a tasty combo.

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