Going unprocessed, tomorrow

September 30, 2018

and heres you a potential resource.

On the heels of Hunger Action Month in September, which, if I marked it at all, it was by cooking the white bean and sausage soup once, because I didn’t do much cooking in September, is October Unprocessed.

October is the month set aside each year for feeding yourself food you’ve either made yourself, or you know has been made using a minimum of “processed” ingredients, i.e., no casseroles with canned soup, etc.

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Let there be quiche!

September 29, 2018

Veggie on the left. Lorraine, plus broccoli, on the right.

I’m a quiche fan. I’ve been a quiche fan since I was in college and discovered it (we did not go to such fancy lengths with eggs, meat, cheese, veggies, et. al., in rural West Tennessee in the 60s and 70s), and I’ve made it fairly regularly since.

So when time came to make goodies for the annual bake/rummage sale at church, and I had a gracious plenty of eggs, I thought to myself, “Self? Why not bake a couple of quiches?” And Self was off to the races.

Self decided we would make a veggie quiche, with some of my dried tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms and broccoli. So we did that. And she decided we’d make a good old faithful Quiche Lorraine, with ham and Gruyere. And we did that, too.

Except that when we got to putting them together — we cheated and used frozen pie crusts, so they’d be easier to take to the sale and not worry about dishes, and those were small — we had too much broccoli. So the quiche Lorraine had broccoli in it, too.

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Throwback dinner

September 26, 2018

A dinner from childhood, or the start of one.

Because every once in a while, you just want to go back to the simple stuff you grew up on.

We had gotten to talking about Spam on the food forum I frequent (eGullet.org, and I highly commend it to you). I never ate much Spam, Daddy being a Korea veteran and having overdosed on it as a solider in the field. But I grew up on what must be a cousin to it, corned beef in a can.

We would have it with cabbage, once or twice a year. Always with fried potatoes and butterbeans, either out of the garden or out of the garden by way of the freezer. So when the can of corned beef went into my shopping cart, a head of cabbage quickly followed, and my plans for dinner were made.

I used half the can of corned beef and half a head of cabbage.  The remaining corned beef will go into corned beef hash for  brunch one day this week. I just sauteed the cubed up and further broken up in the skillet corned beef in a couple of tablespoons of butter on medium heat for a minute, while I chopped up the half-head of cabbage. Threw the cabbage in the skillet on top of it, stirred it well, put a lid on, turned down the heat and let it simmer on medium low for a while. Eventually, I added some black pepper. Canned corned beef’s salty enough to take care of that. Boom, done.

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Kitchen days!

September 20, 2018

Veggie quiche (dried tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms), left, and quiche Lorraine (ham, cheese, added broccoli in this one too, since I had it.

I am kitchening. 

The toll so far is two quiches, four rounds of olive foccacia bread, four two-serving casseroles of chicken and dressing, and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, as well as a pot of Tuscan white bean and sausage soup in the Instant Pot burbling away.

It’s rummage and bake sale weekend coming up at church. I took over a load of closet clean-out already, and will load them up with baked and canned goods tomorrow. Still to come are some muffins (apple cinnamon, and maybe some peach ones, or maybe lemon poppy seed) and some breakfast cups (canned biscuit, rolled out and fitted into a muffin pan, filled with potatoes, ham or sausage, cheese, egg and milk, and baked). I might make a couple of loaves of white sandwich bread if I get enthusiastic.

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I have let Hunger Action Month get mostly past me without commemorating it. I like to write at least a few posts focusing on what one can do to help alleviate hunger in one’s community, and one on how you can cook to meet the SNAP Challenge, i.e., cook on a food stamp budget of $4 per day. 

Let’s say you’re cooking for four. So that’s $16 to feed your family for a day. Whatcha gonna do? Well, here’s some suggestions.

Breakfast: Breakfast pizza. 

  • A can of crescent roll dough, $2
  • A pound of breakfast sausage, $3
  • 4 ounces cheddar or co-jack cheese, grated, $1.50
  • 4 eggs,  beaten, 50 cents 1
  • 1/4 cup milk, 5 cents
  • Two medium potatoes, peeled and grated, 25 cents

for a total of $7.25 for four people. It’s a good, healthy breakfast and should keep everyone full until lunch.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Unfurl the crescent roll dough onto a cookie sheet. Press seams together. Press to make a little larger than original shape, and make a little rim around the edge.

Lightly saute grated potatoes until barely done, and drain on a paper towel. Scatter over roll dough. Brown sausage, breaking up big chunks with a spoon; drain that on a paper towel, and sprinkle it around atop the potatoes. Sprinkle the grated cheese over that. Beat the eggs with the milk, and gently pour over the entire surface.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until edges are golden brown and cheese is well melted and eggs are set. Cut into squares with a pizza cutter and serve. Good for wolfing in the car on the way to work or school.

Lunch: PBJ or bologna sandwiches. I’m not going to dignify this with a recipe. You should be able to turn out either for less than a quarter a sandwich.

Dinner: My standby cheap/healthy/good Tuscan White Bean Soup.

  • 1 pound white beans, $1.29
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, $2.99 (hot or sweet, your choice)
  • 1 onion, 25 cents
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, 25 cents
  • 2 or 3 carrots, 15 cents
  • 1 pound frozen chopped spinach, 99 cents 
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can tomatoes, 99 cents
  • 4 cups chicken stock, free because you made it from the carcass of the last chicken you cooked and had it in the freezer
  • Italian seasoning (I’m calling this a pantry staple, like salt and pepper. Surely you have it)

for a total of seven bucks’ worth of ingredients.

Soak the beans in water overnight. The next day, in a big stock pot, saute the onion, diced, and the  minced garlic and the cubed-up carrots. Add the drained beans, the drained sausage, and the chicken stock. Cook until beans are tender. Add the can of tomatoes, and season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer an hour. Add the frozen spinach and continue to simmer until it’s thawed; stir it through the soup and cook until it’s thoroughly heated and incorporated. Serve up with cornbread or crusty  Italian bread.

So that’s $14.25 for breakfast and dinner, and let’s say you made six sandwiches at a quarter apiece for lunch, that’s another $1.50. For a total of $15.75  for four people for the day.

It ain’t fancy, and it takes a bit of work. But it’s healthy, and tasty, meals for four for a day on a SNAP budget. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em have eaten a lot worse, for more money, I promise.

Just FYI, I’ll have my bologna fried for my sandwich, please. 

Long-time readers may remember previous posts extolling the virtues of The Cupboard restaurant in Memphis, a midtown treasury of Southern cooking and fine, fine vegetables. (I have never eaten an entree at The Cupboard. Been going there since 1977, been eating the vegetable plate the entire time. It ain’t broke. I ain’t fixing it.)

Corn, green beans with ham, eggplant casserole. Veggies R Us.

Said readers may also remember me bitching and moaning about having bought the Cupboard cookbook specifically because it had the recipe for their eggplant casserole, which is surely food of the gods. Except the recipe? Sucks. Out loud. Even taking into account they make it by the giant sheet pan full, and I cut it down. It was awful.

I took another run at eggplant casserole today. It’s not QUITE the Cupboard’s, but it’s close, and I can sure get it there next trip.

I bought eggplants at the Farmers’ Market Saturday morning, along with much other good stuff. We would have veggies for Sunday dinner, yes, we would, and veggies we had. And one of those veggies was the latest run at eggplant casserole.

I roasted five small to medium eggplants, whole, at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Let them cool. Cut them in half and scooped out the flesh. I wound up with about two cups or so of eggplant flesh. Added two eggs, and four ounces of grated cojack cheese. Crushed a sleeve of Ritz crackers and added about half the crumbs. Added a splash of half-and-half. Stirred it all up. Mixed the remaining crumbs with another two ounces of grated cheese, spread the eggplant into a pie plate, and topped with the crumb-and-cheese mixture. Baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Close. Real close.

 — The topping was too heavy. There should have been about half that much.

— It wanted to be a little saltier. I may use grated Velveeta next time, as the Cupboard’s recipe calls for American cheese, and Velveeta is salty to the max.

— It could have stood some black pepper.

All that is eminently fixable. The Ritz crackers are key; they give the body of the casserole its buttery flavor. In fact, some melted butter in the casserole would not go amiss. (The Cupboard cookbook calls for saltines. It may have called for adding melted butter, I don’t remember. Take my word for it; use Ritz.) 

I’ll be back at the Farmers’ Market next Saturday for more eggplant, and we’ll give it another go. But I’m surely encouraged. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em stand by for the reprise.

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Sure enough home cooking

September 15, 2018

Ummm. Hello. I really do not intend to become one of those bloggers who splashes out four or five posts and then disappears for a period of time, but that certainly seems to be where I’ve landed. 

When it’s pear-picking time in Tennessee….

Life does interfere, doesn’t it?

Like the above. Since I last posted, I have been Up Home, up in West Tennessee, where I am getting ready to sell my parents’ “home place,” if I can bear to do so. So I gathered up Children A, B and C, and Amazing Grandchildren 1, 2 and 3, to spend a weekend up there and decided what we wanted out of the place. 

I knew I wanted pears.

There’s a wonderful old pear tree up there. I’d estimate it’s more than 50 years old, and it’s one of the few remaining of what used to be a near-orchard of peach, plum, apple, pear and cherry trees. It’s a pineapple pear, and its fruit is hard and not very juicy and it makes the best pear preserves on the face of the planet.

My daddy ate pear preserves for breakfast with his scrambled egg and bacon, sausage or ham and a biscuit, every day of his life except for Sundays, when breakfast was a bowl of cereal. And scrambled eggs with pear preserves, a biscuit and some kind of breakfast meat is still my choice among all breakfasts. 

So I dispatched the Thundering Herd out to pick  pears. The old tree only bears about once every three years now, but this year, it is loaded. We picked about 30 pounds of pears and brought them home.

About half the pears. Lucy was underwhelmed.

I set about peeling and slicing pears. First batch of preserves was about 8 or 8 pounds of sliced pears, enough to fill a Dutch oven and a stock pot. A cup of sugar to each pound of pear slices. A quarter cup of water in each pot. That’s it.

Just about to start cooking.

Then they simmer. Slowly. For about three hours. And by then, they’re a gorgeous reddish brown.

And then you can ’em up.

Damn, but I love ’em.

I canned eight pints out of the first batch of pears. The second batch, nearly as much more, is waiting for me to get to it (That’s on Monday’s agenda). Then I will get more pears when I go up next week, before pear season is over completely.

They taste like home. And I plan on making enough pear preserves to last me for a long, long time.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em come on up and help me peel pears.