Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Leftovers from the Grill

The soup weather we had over the weekend changed into sunny skies and warmer temperatures to begin the week, so we decided to get out the grill yesterday and barbecue.  We use a basic charcoal grill and cook as much food as we can when we use it.  This means the coals are not wasted, but it also means that we get enough leftovers to eat for a few days.  Sometimes we make fish packets that we leave in the grill after everything else is done.  As the coals are dying down, the fish and veggies get cooked perfectly.  I didn't do this yesterday, but I am sure I will at some point this summer.

I had some chicken breasts in the freezer, so we grilled those, along with turkey burgers, jalapeno chicken sausage, turkey hot dogs, and a bunch of different kinds of chili peppers.
I always end up with a lot of chili peppers from the food bank, because they are not a popular item and we get a lot of them.  Sometimes I chop them up and freeze them in little packets so I can add some to various things--I like stuff hotter than Bill does, so by having little packets in the freezer, I can add to my serving and leave them out of his without wasting any extra peppers.  But last year I started throwing them on the grill and roasting them.  I will use some of these now, but will freeze most of them--I'll just put them in a bag and stick in the freezer.  They are great to have on hand. 

So tonight and tomorrow night we will have leftovers from the grill.  I have some potato salad that I made yesterday. Avocados were on sale and I had a little bit of salsa in the fridge, so I made an avocado spread to go with the turkey burgers--there's more of that left, too. I have some milk that I need to use--I will have to see how much is there.  Maybe I will make some butterscotch pudding for dessert.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Soup Weather!

This is my kind of weekend!  It is cool (high temps around 50).  It is windy.  It is rainy.  It is soup weather and I decided to take full advantage of it by making a Crock Pot full of split pea soup yesterday for lunch today and tomorrow.  I made it just like this except that I skipped the basil and used a few bay leaves instead and I added peeled, chopped broccoli stalk.  

I had some summer squash, zucchini, bell pepper, and a tomato and a half that needed using, so yesterday I chopped them all up along with an onion and cooked it all with some sweet Italian turkey sausage with the casings removed.  I added oregano and garlic and served it over whole wheat rotini.  There was also some sauce left from the pizza we had the other night, so I tossed some of that over the whole thing.

So my cooking is done for the weekend.  I can just sit here and watch the trees blow in the wind while the rain comes down.  Nice!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Improvisational Meals

It has been a week of improv meals--both at home and in the soup kitchen. 

On Monday, I brought home some scrambled eggs with chorizo that had been brought to MCHPP from the Bowdoin dining room.  I also brought home a package of salami and ham--there was a bunch of that donated from somewhere.  On Tuesday, they were giving away lots of yogurt in the dining room.  I knew that this stuff would have to be eaten fairly quickly, so we had some of the eggs for lunch on Tuesday with salad and fruit.  There was more left, so we finished it for breakfast on Wednesday.  On Tuesday night, we had pizza--pita bread topped with sauce that I made by thinning a can of tomato paste and adding oregano and garlic, cheese, chopped onion, jalapeno, broccoli and salami.
Wednesday's lunch was salami, ham, and cheese sandwiches with mustard.  Bill also had fruit and I had a big salad.  We enjoyed all of this stuff--the eggs and chorizo, the pizza, the salami sandwiches all tasted great and as salami is not something we usually buy, it was different from the usual fare.  But it was heavy food.  We both felt like we wanted something much lighter for supper Wednesday night, so we had Cheerios with banana and vanilla soymilk and some yogurt.  That was exactly right.

I cooked in the soup kitchen today.  Annette and I had agreed that I would make the same taco casserole (with beef) I made a couple of weeks ago, but then the unexpected happened and they got a whole lot of pork patties (why they don't just call them sausage patties, I do not know). They could not fit them all in the freezer, so Annette asked me if I could make the taco casserole without meat and serve the sausage on the side.  Since the sausage was precooked and only needed to be heated up and serving that meant that I did not need to spend an hour or an hour and a half cutting up steak, it was fine with me.  I made the casserole first and then dumped bags of sausage patties into pans to heat up.  Pretty steady traffic today--we served 154 meals and had a few containers of the taco casserole left and quite a few sausage patties.  It's all packaged and ready to be handed out in the food pantry tomorrow.

Tonight I will make omelets and we will have fruit and yogurt--maybe some toast, too.  We need to finish up the yogurt we got from the dining room the other day.  I am always very happy when these improv meals work out--we eat good food and avoid wasting it--and that's a good thing!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Taco Casserole for 188

I think today must've a Thursday soup kitchen record--at least since I've been the Thursday cook.  We served 188 meals!  Wow!  I made taco casserole.  I heard from Annette last week that there would be steak and sour cream to be used and I knew I'd have taco seasoning, corn, onions, and various tomato sauce-like products as well.  I knew there were some corn tortillas and some tortilla chips that came in yesterday.  I toyed with the idea of a Mexican lasagna kind of thing, but I worried about time--that would need to be layered and baked after the meat was cut up and cooked, and I didn't think I'd have enough time to do that.  When I got there this morning, though, I found a bunch of cheese and noodles along with the other stuff, so I decided to go the casserole route.  The corn tortillas went on the bread shelf for people to take them if they wanted them.  So to make the taco casserole, I (along with a helper), cut up the steak into chunks.  It went into the pans with some water.  We saved the fat scraps and bones for a member of the crew for his dogs.  I cooked the beef at 400 degrees for about an hour.  While that was cooking, I cooked some onion, pepper, zucchini, and summer squash that the crew had chopped for me.  I cooked the noodles.  I mixed the noodles, veggies, sour cream, and cheese in deep steam table pans.  I made the sauce by mixing two (large) cans of tomato sauce, a large can of crushed tomatoes, a regular can of tomato juice, and a bottle of V-8 juice with a can of corn and some taco seasoning.  I poured the sauce over the noodle mixture.  I left one (medium sized) pan without the meat and put it in the steam table.  I added meat to the other two pans and put one in the steam table and one in the convection oven for 10 minutes, just be sure it was hot enough--I used that one first and by the time I had to start the next one it was heated through.  We served it with a sprinkling of crushed tortilla chips and an orange on the side.

There was hardly any left--3 quarts.

People loved it--one woman came and asked me how I made the sauce.  I had the meatless version and so did Bill when he stopped by to eat.  We both liked it, so maybe I will make it at home sometime--maybe with chicken.  I still can't believe we served 188 meals today in less than an hour and a half.   

Since I am usually quite prepared to skip cooking for the rest of the day when I get home from the soup kitchen, I try to plan ahead so we can have leftovers for supper.  This week, I had two busy days in a row, so we had leftovers yesterday, but I'd already planned ahead for tonight.  When I made muffins the other day, I stuck a casserole dish of veggies and cut up chicken in the oven as I turned it on to preheat.  A few minutes after the muffins were done baking, this was ready to remove as well.  I used about a pound of chicken breasts that I cut up, some bell pepper, a summer squash, and some onion.  I added oregano, basil, and garlic.  then I cut up a tomato and halved a pint of grape tomatoes, mixed everything up and baked it.  Tonight I will cook some pasta and we will have that.  Turns out to be many of the same things I had for lunch but with different herbs!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pizza Demo!

I did another demo in the food pantry lobby today.  I made little pizzas.  I went in not knowing what I would use for the base, but there were some packages of sandwich flats, so I used those.  I toasted them a little bit first and then made them 4 at a time in a toaster oven.  People were patient, but eager to get their pizza.  I used fresh tomatoes instead of sauce, because we'd gotten lots of Roma tomatoes in at the food bank.  I sliced those, sprinkled with oregano, topped with shredded cheese, chopped pepper and onion and on some of them, pepperoni.  I did not get to try one.  I made 32 little pizzas before running out of cheese!  I had some really great conversations with people--they seemed to like the idea of using fresh tomatoes instead of sauce.  I didn't think that would be such a big deal, really, but people kept exclaiming how much they loved it that way, so that's good.  One woman talked to me about her need to avoid bread, so I told her she could use eggplant slices instead of bread as a base.  I told her she could sprinkle some salt on the eggplant slices and let them sit for about half an hour.  Then wipe off the salt and the moisture that was drawn to the surface.  Then she could just bake on a greased baking sheet until it was slightly browned, top as she would a pizza, and pop back in the oven until the cheese was melted.  She was thrilled.  She told me she never takes the eggplant when it's offered to her, because she never knows what to do with it, but today she said, she was gonna take an eggplant.  On her way out with her cart full of bags stuffed with food, she stopped to tell me she'd taken an eggplant and was going to make some pizza.  Yay! 

Below is the handout I made for the demo.
You can use lots of different things as a “crust” for your pizza, including:
--English muffins
--French or Italian bread (either split lengthwise and top, or cut into slices and toast them, then add toppings and bake)
--pita bread (leave whole for thicker crust or split layers for thinner crust)
--tortillas (use singly for very thin crust or sprinkle cheese on one tortilla, then add another on top, add toppings and bake--the cheese in between will melt and hold the tortillas together)
--any flat bread, like naan
--flat sandwich bread
--crusty bread of any kind, like the boule--just slice, toast, top, and bake
--focaccia--split horizontally, top, and bake

Sauce (any of the following make great pizza):
--tomato sauce, puree, crushed tomatoes, or tomato paste
--fresh tomato slices

When using tomato sauce or fresh tomato slices, I like to sprinkle on some garlic powder and oregano.  Basil is nice too.

Cheese--whatever you like.  Mozzarella is traditional, but a mix of that and cheddar is nice, too, especially with pesto pizza.  Provolone adds a nice smoky flavor. 

Toppings--variations are endless.  I especially like onions, peppers, and broccoli (and sometimes turkey pepperoni).  My daughter’s favorite is ham and pineapple.  A friend of mine loves to have plain cheese pizza and she adds cold tomato slices to that. If using sun-dried tomatoes, it is better to put them on before adding the cheese so they don’t burn.

Assemble your pizzas on a baking sheet and bake at 400 or 425 until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Yum!

Here’s a variation on the theme of pizza--Mexican pizza:
To make the Mexican pizza, I place a corn tortilla on a baking sheet, top with a thin slice of cheese or a bit of shredded cheese, and place another corn tortilla on top of that.  I spread refried beans over the top, spread salsa on top of the beans, and top that with cheese.  I add pickled jalapenos (use fresh if you prefer, or leave them off) to the top and onions (or scallions).  You can add chopped tomatoes, too, if you want.  Bake at 400 until the bottom tortilla is slightly crispy.  Usually when the cheese on top is starting to brown, they're done, but it's always good to check and make sure that the bottom tortilla isn't soggy.

I did not make this today, but here is what the Mexican pizza looks like when it's ready to eat!  Yum!

Baby Food Banana Muffins

Yesterday afternoon I spent a couple of hours in the food bank sorting baby food by date.  There were a few boxes of cereal and a couple of jars of fruit (one banana and one apple/banana) that had a date of April, 2013 and I was told to throw it away.  Always trying to avoid wasting food, I asked if I could bring it home instead and was told to go ahead and take it if I wanted it.  The cereal is just a multigrain creamy cereal, so there's no reason I can't make it and eat it or use it in baking.  As for the jars of fruit, I decided to use them in muffins that we could have with eggs and fruit for supper.  They are really good!
I used a version of the recipe I often use for muffins--I love it because it is very versatile and always results in yummy, substantial muffins--these are not the greasy, overly sweet cake-like "muffins" that you get in your store's bakery.  Here's how I made them this time:
Place 2 cups of rolled oats in a container and pour 1 1/2 cups orange juice over oats.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Pour soaked oats into a bowl and add 1 or 2 eggs (I used two this time), 1/4 cup brown sugar (or use white if that's what you've got), 2 jars (4 ounces each) of baby food fruit, such as bananas and mix together.  Add 1/4 cup flax meal, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and stir until incorporated.  Stir in some chopped walnuts (and dried fruit if you want).

Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until tops are golden brown.

We ate them plain with supper, but these would be good with jam, peanut butter and jelly or butter.  They'd be good with chocolate chips added, too, I think!  I've used all kinds of liquids to soak the oats--soy milk, soured regular milk, various juices.  I leave out the flax meal if I don't have it.  If I just have one egg, I use 1 egg and add a little more liquid if the batter seems too dry.  Sometimes I add chopped fruit or dried fruit.  You can use whatever nuts you like or none at all. 

I used to make a version of these muffins and bring to work for lunch--I split the muffin and put it in a bowl, topped with yogurt and then added berries.  Yum!  It's a great warm weather meal that fills you up without leaving you with that heavy feeling.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Avocado Spread and 164 Meals Today!

Cooked in the soup kitchen today.  I started by cutting steak into chunks, and happily, I had help with this.  I added water to the steam table pans and we got them into the convection oven, where they cooked for about an hour at 400 degrees.  I cooked some noodles.  While they were cooking, I added some oil to a pan and cooked some onion, bell pepper and garlic.  Noodles, veggies, tomato sauce/puree, oregano, basil, and parsley went into the serving pans.  I kept one without the meat and added the meat to the others.  We had a huge rush as soon as the doors opened, then it was quiet for a while, with a lot of empty seats.  Then there was another rush!  We served 164 meals altogether and had just a few containers of leftovers.  A couple of women came up and chatted with me about the food and how it was cooked, salt in food, etc.  Many people either came up to tell me how much they enjoyed it or relayed the message through their server.  I am always pleased when people enjoy their lunch and it's particularly nice when people come over to talk to me.

The other day I made the Avocado Spread that I wrote about last week.  I didn't measure anything, of course, and I skipped the salt that's in the recipe we got.  I used a little lemon juice, but mostly lime juice, and I added some scallions and a garlic scape from my windowsill garden.  It was yummy on toast with onion, pickled jalapeno and tomato!