Sunday, December 30, 2007

super target. clearance. look for it. everywhere in there. seriously.

i ran the endcaps at super target (40th and whatever, south of pine lake), looking for any clearance items... found a pair of 1000-count pillowcases for ten down from forty... but a lot of the clearance deals are in the regular racks. represented here, a chefmate 7" santoku knife on clearance for just four bucks and change.
and! and. this is just fun. two jars of caviar, which might be more accurately represented by me as roe, or in other words, fish eggs. these would be fine til june 2008, but i think they will be used much sooner. these fish eggs were still in refrigeration, of course... look around in the cold section for deals, you know from their dry goods they don't like to carry a lot of dead weight.
the best knife? the best roe? no, no, no.
all three for twelve dollars? i would not pass that up.

leftover takeout taken over, not left out

i finally made it to the new location of the oven at 70th & pioneers, to have a dinner

with some friends. i had the chicken jalfrazie, leftovers pictured above. as you can see from the amount left in the styrofoam: not still an entree, yet not a side dish. so what to do with it... make it into soup! that's the smaller photo below left.

in a small soup pan, i heated up one can of coconut milk, one can of chicken broth, and a couple of dried chiles and let that simmer for half an hour to bring the spice out. then i added the leftover chicken and let stew over low heat till it smelled too good to wait any longer, about twenty minutes.
this is a pretty good formula to make most indian leftovers (especially those made with white chicken, which can dry out, the next day if not sooner) from one into soup for two. leave out any leftover rice and heat separately, and then add to soup before serving, as desired.

for the love of fresh fish, a new dish was made

i had planned on making a variation of a poke salad, using ahi tuna from

midwest seafood. but i got there a little late on saturday, and they were out! that's the risk of going to a place with the freshest fish in town... and not getting there until late afternoon. lesson learned.
i got a half-pound fillet of salmon, though, and adjusted the recipe from there to make an appetizer that same night.

i cubed the salmon, and tossed the raw fish with three sliced stalks of green onion, chunks of one cucumber and one avocado, a chopped one-handful of cherry tomatoes, and a tbsp of sesame seeds. for the dressing, i mixed the juice of one grapefruit with about as much toasted sesame oil and a few dashes of fish sauce, and then tossed this mixture with the previous sentence.
i trust the fish from midwest seafood, so i covered this bowl and let it sit at room temperature for half an hour and then served. it was delicious. the color of salmon works with the smell of grapefruit in a way i can't explain. next time i would leave the avocado out till just before serving, because it lost its texture into the dressing more than i would have liked. two lessons learned. i will make this again for sure.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

what it might look like when you open a can of coconut milk

it's okay! it does separate in the can, however, and might look too oddly, weirdly coagulated to be true; so go ahead and smell it-- just to make yourself know. a nutty smell is fine, a sour smell is not.
once warmed, coconut milk re-integrates itself within its structure, smoothness, and sweet.

herbs for meat are the herbs for me

so, we all like to buy and use the fresh herbs, but i have a hard time with the cost to benefit ratio. unless i'm making something for a party, i usually don't need a whole container of one herb, and then i've got some wilting leaves in the fridge, waiting for me to use them in a way they deserve.

in comes the 'herbs for meat' mix that you'll find in the packaged herbs in the produce section, and i'm sold on it for the future. it's a blend of basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme. (if you're a vegan, think of it as the simon and garfunkel mix instead of the meat mix! apologies to all for that.)
the blend is perfect if you're roasting a bird... or perfect if you want a bit of one herb for one recipe, and then also have a recipe that needs a couple others... the one that's most challenging to find use for within a recipe, in my opinion, is the rosemary-- and guess what, it lasts the longest, so you've got some time to figure it into a plan. try it with poultry or potatoes.
standard price around town for a 4 oz pkg is between 2.50 and $3.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

a potluck appetizer combined with non-storebought gift for hostess

when i first held the little cookie cutters in my hand, i wasn't sure what i would do with them. i have little patience for any baking, save the simplest.

and yet, i knew they'd be perfect someday.

and that day was christmas eve and christmas day, so there you go, christmas miracle again.

the cocktail loaves of bread are still 2 for $3 at hy-vee. you get about 48 slices (24 sandwiches) in each loaf.
i used the tiny cookie cutters to pierce a shape from the top layer of bread on each sandwich. i alternated the layering of filling to have more colors on the plate.
the vegans got vegan cream cheese, sliced english cucumbers, and slices of red bell pepper sauteed (and softened) in toasted sesame oil, on pumpernickel. the omnivores got sliced summer sausage and cheese on sourdough.

i baked the bread shapes left inside the cookie cutters, scattered onto a cookie sheet, at 300 for at least fifteen minutes. one batch got sprinkled with parmesan cheese and pepper, one stayed plain. if they're done before you are, just turn off the oven and let them sit in there. the low heat won't hurt them. put in a clear glass jar for best presentation.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

gloria: not just a 70s tv character

happy holidays to you and yours, and to everyone else, too

baking elephant garlic

baked garlic is always fun, if messy. elephant garlic is easier to peel when baked, and the flavor is more subdued, which makes for a more diverse audience. as shown here, the skin will fall away easily.
preheat oven to 350. slice the top of the bulb off, enough to expose some of each clove. drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. bake loosely covered for an hour.
you can peel and mash the cloves and then serve as a spread, or use as an ingredient-- i used these in the smashed potatoes described below.

you say potato, i say bacon

if you can't use the peel in a smashed potato dish, you can still get the added texture by using chopped, cooked bacon. this is three yukon gold potatoes, cut in chunks and boiled in enough water to cover, until easily smashable. i drained and then stirred in the bacon, one bulb's worth of baked elephant garlic, a handful of grated cheese, and a couple tbsp each of olive oil and sour cream.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

reminders about seafood marinades

citrus and other fruit marinades suggest selves to seafood. remember that the assertive chemical nature of citrus can't be left alone with the delicate structure of seafood for too long. one half-hour, at room-temperature, tops, before it goes on the grill or in the pan.

which would you rather eat? or serve?

these two pieces of shrimp were marinated and grilled exactly the same way. one deveined, one not. deveining shrimp: gross, tedious, totally worth it.
the shrimp from midwest seafood, once again, more than justified the trip and relative expense.

watch for smoked hocks or shanks on sale-- best stock ever

last week ideal had smoked ham shanks for 1.09#. they'll cut them to order, too.
these make a very tasty stock. here i've browned an onion, then added about $2 worth of shank and added water to almost cover. this picture is taken right before i was going to add more liquid and some greens.
i also recommend throwing a dried chili pepper into any broth to help round out the flavor.

Friday, December 21, 2007

mint, mango and jalapeno glaze

sorry i left that lamb chop post without any hints or ideas...
my main lamb experience is with gyros, but lamb chops at hy-vee last week for 3.99# (down from 9.99#) invited me to experiment. mint on sale at super saver, and two for a dollar mangos at sunmart, both hurried this concoction into existence.
i chopped one mango's flesh and stirred that into one chopped jalapeno, which is the picture here. then took a supermarket bunch of mint-- stripped the leaves off half that bunch, and threw the leaves into the blended mix, and stirred up the green and gold. used enough of this to glaze the lamb chops (enough to coat each side once before going on the grill), and then threw the rest into a pan on the stove-- with an already-browning onion and red bell pepper, both diced. tossed some leftover steamed rice into the pan and then covered, let stew for a few until due, and served on a plate with the chops, which were better than i ever expected.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

christmas brie, oh christmas brie

i've seen the bread at le quartier meant to be used as a bread bowl for soup, and thought it might work for brie. it does nicely.
preheat oven to 350. use a knife to cut a triangle into the bread, and make the hole in the bread deeper than the thickness of the cheese, and insert the cheese. bake for thirty minutes. serve with sliced bread or fruit to dip into the brie.
i used tubes of sundried tomato and pesto to decorate it to look like a christmas tree. if you try this, add the decorations after baking for prettier results.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

fancy treats on a plate

leon's is advertising a few flavors of pate this week. i picked up a 6.5 oz pkg of paysan pate for 4.99. (they have foie gras, but it's $35 for the same amount.) here's a chunk of the pate with a cherry stilton cheese, some cashews, and a tangerine. also, the "demi parisian" loaves of french bread are on sale for 79c at leon's this week.

bacon-wrapped london broil for a dollar

hy-vee usually has one- or two- day sales in the monday journal star. this week they offered bacon- wrapped london broil for a dollar apiece! with asparagus on sale at ideal, this dinner you see here cost about a buck fifty a plate.

Monday, December 10, 2007

so, i can recommend some brands

for dry pasta, i always used to go with barilla. the price to quality ratio worked for me. now, though, a company called ronzoni has introduced a high fiber, calcium enriched pasta that looks, cooks, and curls just like regular pasta; so i've got a new favorite. it's sold in most local supermarkets now.
for bottled pasta sauce, i've never gone wrong with paul newman's. in all of my purchases, the brand has been reliable and reasonably affordable, across the board.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

asparagus, walnut and gorgonzola rice

this all started with finding the thirty per cent off sticker on the cheese island at open harvest-- on the gorgonzola wedges. it's a milder bleu cheese than you might expect, easy to work in with other winter ingredients.
first, got a cup of brown rice going in the rice steamer. then browned an onion in olive oil in a large pan, until soft. then added one bunch asparagus-- on sale at ideal for 1.99/# this week-- broken into inch-long pieces. when this took on high color, added a few sliced crimini mushrooms and kept on low heat for just a couple of minutes... then stirred in the cooked rice, and immediately after, four ounces of crumbled gorgonzola, a splash of olive oil, several turns of the pepper grinder, and a cup of toasted walnuts. kept over low heat, stirring now and then, five minutes. then covered and turned off the heat. let sit about another five minutes and then it's ready to eat.
here it is with a smoked pork chop (also on sale at ideal this week, and quite tasty).

when i looked up toasting walnuts...

the top result on google was a unl website!
it's pretty good, lots of basic info, clear and concise, easy to navigate for the beginner:

Friday, December 7, 2007

tangerines so far this season

in the last week i've had tangerines from open harvest, hy-vee and ideal. i haven't found a stellar one to recommend yet, but i have high hopes for starlight on old cheney. so far, i can say that the clementines are tending more sugary than the satsumas, based on recent availability.
don't let the lack of perfect tangerines let you from enjoying the beginning of the season, though. when on a plate with salty foods like nuts and cheese, you can appreciate the complexity of the flavor even without crazy sweetness.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

cheap kitchen gift idea at open harvest

open harvest has little two-packs of these posters for three dollars. the other poster is bigger, with a tractor & farm scene included. by the bulk spices.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

one starch, one sauce, and two sets of dietary restrictions

first, there was the jar of spiced garlic puree for 99c on cetak's sale rack.

then open harvest had the fancy mixes of lundberg brown rices for 1.99/16 oz pkg. and kohl's had a lovely fifty dollar rice cooker for half price.

one group's requirement: kid-friendly vegan. the other: not so much on the vegetables, thanks.
i made a full pot of the brown rice. and used the jar of spiced garlic puree between these two:

1. brown an onion in the garlic puree. toss in a chopped head of kale and a half-cup of water. stir regularly. when kale is almost done, toss in two chopped tomatoes. keep over low heat for five minutes. stir in a can of beans, stir in 3/4 of the rice, cover and remove from heat. this will thicken as it cools. (smaller picture, obviously.)
2. brown a pound of stew meat from cetak's in a skillet with some of the garlic puree. then turn down the heat. saute covered over low heat for at least an hour (test for tenderness as much as doneness), stir every now and then. meanwhile, use an egg slicer on several portobello mushrooms and toss those in near the end of the meat's tour of duty. when the mushrooms are almost done, stir in the remaining rice, cover, and remove from heat.

serve either whenever. both warm up well.

shopping wisely at ideal and leon's

both ideal and leon's are small, locally- owned grocery stores-- with great selections of food, and reputations for being spendy. if you go about it correctly, though, you can get a lot from your dollar at each one. i am a big fan of both stores.
ideal's sale cycle runs monday thru saturday (they're closed sundays). the ad is in the 'neighborhood extra' in the sunday journal-star.
the ad for leon's is in the tuesday journal-star. their sale cycle is tuesday thru monday.
they both have good sales. if you stick to what's in the ads, and don't buy stuff on a whim-- just file the info about what enticing, expensive glories they have available away for future use-- you can walk away with bargains.
this week at ideal: ghirardelli baking chips 2.89/pkg. lindt chocolate bars 2/$3. bartlett pears 59/#. mascarpone cheese 2.69/8 oz. tub. vitamin water 99/ea.
this week at leon's: lemons 2/$1. tiramisu mascarpone cheese 2.99. and nabisco famous chocolate wafers! okay, these are 4.49 a package, but if you google recipes using these cookies, most of the returns will be about how they're impossible to find. i haven't seen them in over ten years. among other things, these make the best chocolate crumb crust ever.

and, speaking of leon's market....

it's always salad days in there.
even if you're just stopping into leon's for one item, you must swing through the produce department. they almost always have close-dated bagged salad mixes marked down to 99 cents. they must store their produce correctly, because these bags always look pretty good... if you're going to eat them in the next day or two.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

soup and open faced sandwiches

A loaf of bread from le quartier is perfect for this. and they'll slice it for you if you buy it at their bakery. and brie is on sale all over town.

first, i preheated the oven to 350. then laid slices of olive bread into a cookie sheet. sliced up two bosc pears and put a piece of fruit onto each piece of bread, and a slim wedge of brie on top of that.
bake till the brie starts to melt. serve as an appetizer, or with a soup.

i warmed up some butternut squash soup while this baked, and had the toasts on the side. it made the soup, which is always satsifying, not quite so boring.

introducing: the amaretto gameday

a bottle of amaretto on clearance at cvs inspired this concoction.
for each cup of black tea you steep (and steep it a bit longer than usual), add a quarter cup of apricot nectar and a dash of amaretto to the teapot.
picked up the apricot nectar on clearance at open harvest.
since there's an ice storm today, served this warm with a dried fruit garnish. in the summer, serve iced with fresh citrus garnish.