Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ricotta Spreads

Bill had never tried ricotta cheese until I bought some (part skim, of course) to make his birthday lasagna.  I had always used cottage cheese before, but the ricotta was lower in sodium, so I bought that.  I had some left after making the lasagna, so one day I gave him a sandwich for lunch using the ricotta as a spread and giving him a container of veggies to top it with.  I still had some left, so I made a spread for toast by mixing the rest with a bit of sugar, some cinnamon and some dried cranberries.  It was a hit!  It's better than butter and jam because it has less fat and some protein.  I thought about other possibilities.  I bought another container of ricotta on my last grocery shopping trip and I used half for a sweet spread (on the right of the photo below) and half for a savory one. I made blueberry ricotta by mixing a pint of ricotta with a bag of frozen blueberries, thawed.  I just threw the berries in and beat with a mixer.  It is really good on whole grain toast and Bill brings it to work and spreads it on some soft sliced bread, which he then rolls up and eats.  You could use this for sweet bagels, too.  You can eat it plain or top with nuts, other sliced fruit, or whatever else you can think of.  Maybe place some in a bowl and mix in some granola or muesli?  Use as a dip for sliced fruit, like apples or pears?
For the savory spread, I placed a few chunks of carrot, bell pepper, broccoli, and a slice of onion in the food processor and processed on low for a few seconds until everything was finely chopped.  Then I added my pint of ricotta, some garlic and chili powders, some dried oregano, and some fresh cilantro.  I processed for a few seconds more until everything was blended well.  This is also easy to vary to suit your own tastes--change the herbs and spices; use different veggies; add salsa; add some other kind of cheese--parmesan, swiss, etc.  Use this in wraps, for sandwiches, as a dip, mashed into potatoes, or whatever else you can think of.  Maybe toss on pasta or rice?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mexican-ish Bowls

On Fridays, if I have not yet done so, I plan what we will have for supper on Saturday and Sunday.  Usually we will have either the same thing both nights or a variation of the same thing.  Bill takes his supper to work with him on these nights, so it has to be easily portable and something that can either be eaten cold or reheated in the microwave.  This weekend I decided to do Mexican-ish bowls.  Friday morning I put a pound of black beans in a pot to soak.  I left them to soak all day and into the evening, changing the water a few times throughout the day.  At about 8:30 Friday night, I drained the water, placed the beans in my 4-quart crock and filled that with water within about 1 1/2 inches from the top.  I turned the Crock-Pot to the low setting and left it overnight--it was on for about 10 1/2 hours.  In the morning, I drained and rinsed the beans and put them in a container in the fridge. 

After breakfast and some coffee, I made cheese sauce as described here, using all pepper jack cheese:
http://www.craftivistinthekitchen.com/2012/01/cheese-sauce.html

It dawned on me that I could use polenta for one night, so I got some started in the Crock Pot since it was already out, as described here:
http://www.craftivistinthekitchen.com/2011/11/polenta-in-crock-pot.html

Then I chopped an onion and a bell pepper and cooked them in some oil in a pot n the stovetop.  When they were almost done, I added some garlic and chili powders and cooked for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.  Then I added my cooked beans and a can of no-salt added diced tomatoes.  I let it simmer for a few minutes. 

I boiled some roughly diced potatoes, since I had some that needed using.

So for Saturday's supper, we had the potatoes and the bean mixture in a bowl, topped with cheese sauce.  I also had some hot salsa and chopped pickled jalapeno in mine.

Tonight's supper was a variation on the theme--polenta with the beans and cheese sauce, and in mine, the salsa, jalapeno and some chopped sun-dried tomato.  Yum!  I liked it both ways and there is still some left.  I like stuff like this because you can do the work once (or have your Crock-Pot do the work while you sleep, read, or crochet) and then use the food in different ways for a day or two.  I could have also used macaroni or rice instead of potatoes or polenta.  Or I could have made nachos, burritos, tacos, or enchiladas.

Since for lunch we had the last of a chopped veggie salad I had made the other day and Bill had an oatmeal concoction that I made yesterday and I had peanut butter toast for breakfast, I did not cook at all today.

But now I am off to make some tea!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Volunteering

This morning I dropped off my volunteer application at the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program.  They do a lot of stuff there all from the one building.  There's a food bank, a food pantry, a soup kitchen, an elders program, and more.  They have shelves of bread for people to take with them and they frequently have produce donated by the grocery store across the street as well.  They will also have a community garden this year, where people can help to grow food for use in the soup kitchen and for their clients.  We got a tour of the place yesterday when I picked up the application. Anyway, a couple of hours later, I got a call from the food bank guy.  He needs someone to come in Friday, so I said I'd be there--8:30 a.m. is usually not my best time, but I will manage :-)  I am sorry that there is a need for such a place, but I am happy that I will be able to do something constructive to help.  I have been impressed with the quality of the food provided to people in both the food pantry and the soup kitchen.  To some degree they have to use what they are given, but they do a very good job of getting fruit and veggies to people that want/need them.   Some people, of course, couldn't care less and ask first whether there is any cheesecake.  But they serve 120 meals a day in that soup kitchen (if I am remembering correctly), and they do it in a friendly and respectful way, treating people as though they were in a restaurant.  They do really good work there and I am looking forward to learning more.  I will be starting in the food bank, but I told them that I would be perfectly willing to move around to where I was needed and to fill in if people go on vacation or something.  So Friday I will start learning about how the food bank operates and maybe in the future I will get to learn more about the other facets of the operation.  At the very least, I expect to meet some interesting people and hear some interesting stories!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Birthday Lasagna

Today is Bill's 60th birthday and, as he usually does, he wanted lasagna.  Being my Nana's granddaughter, I made a lot.  I wonder what we will be eating this weekend.