Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cooking From the Pantry--Roasted Root Vegetables

As a Southern girl, born and bred, and a bit of a country girl, to boot, I grew up with home grown vegetables.  Purple hull peas, sweet corn, summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, just to name a few.  But a parsnip was not among them.  Up until recently I had never even seen a parsnip to my knowledge, and if I ever did, I probably thought it was some kind weird albino carrot.

But I've been trying really hard lately to broaden our vegetable horizons--so much so, that my son has even taken to trying a vegetarian diet for a while.  We've been eating kale, brussels sprouts, and baby carrots and sweet potatoes, too.

So as I was browsing the produce section, I came upon a bag of parsnips, and since we've had so much luck trying other new-to-us veggies, I decided to try these as well.  And yes, they do look like albino carrots!

I decided to try them a part of a pan of roasted root vegetables.  I had four small yukon gold potatoes, and this ginormous carrot that the husband of a friend brought back from his rounds of truck farms in West Texas and New Mexico.  I ended up with two of them, one of which I used in a pot roast a while back, and then this last lone one. 

It's that time of year, when the winter root vegetables are playing out, and the early spring greens haven't started producing yet.  So what do you do when you have a little bit of this and little bit of that in your fridge and/or pantry?  You but them all together with the simplest of seasonings, and you make the most amazing vegetable medley ever!

  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt or sea salt

Peel or scrape the carrots and parsnips, and cut into chunks, splitting the larger sections into half or quarters lengthwise. Cut the potatoes into halves and then quarter the halves.  Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse salt.


Bake 30-40 minutes at 350-375, until fork tender and they start to brown. (I baked these 20 minutes at 350, then bumped the oven temperature up to 375 and cooked them another 15 minutes)

I love the mixture of these three together--the parsnips get really sweet, the carrots not quite as sweet, and then the potatoes balance it all out. 

Now that I've made the acquaintance of parsnips, I hope to maintain the relationship--I'm looking forward to fall planting time so I can see if I can grow my own in our garden next winter.  Maybe this time next year it'll be my own home-grown version that I'm using up from the pantry!

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

This post is linked to:
Frugal Food Thursday at Frugal Follies
Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm
Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home
Foodtastic Fridays at Not Your Ordinary Recipes
Meatless Monday at My Sweet and Savory
See Ya in the Gumbo from Ms enPlace

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cooking From the Pantry--Quick and Easy Taco Soup

Yesterday I worked on cleaning out my fridge and pantry as part of the 30-Day House Cleaning Challenge at Money Saving Mom. The fridge wasn't so bad, but the pantry, oh my! I found things I had forgotten I had, as well as realized some deficiencies I need to correct. Since I was working on the pantry anyway, I decided to see if I could come up with all of the ingredients I needed to make a good a dinner, and I decided on one of my favorite go-to meals, taco soup.

I love taco soup, because everything in it is something that I buy regularly anyway, I don't have to make a point to buy any exotic ingredients, it's usually all on hand in the pantry and freezer.  There are a variety of different ways you can make this, and trust me, I've made this dozens of times with all different combos of beans, tomatoes, etc.  This is the version I made yesterday

  • 1 lb ground meat (I used the very lean home raised beef I get from my parents)
  • 1 29-oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 15-oz can of black beans
  • 1 1-oz can of red beans
  • 1 12-oz pkg frozen corn
  • 2 packets of taco seasoning
  • about a tablespoon of dried onion flakes
Ordinarily I cook the meat first, draining it if I use commercial ground meat--luckily our homegrown meat is so lean we don't have to do that. But our son is eating vegetarian right now, so I cooked the ground meat in a skillet separately. Once I got the meat cooking, I put the corn in the microwave for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, I opened the tomato sauce and beans, and dumped them in my soup pot, adding the taco seasoning and onion flakes, bringing it to a simmer.  When the corn was ready, I opened it and added it to the soup pot.  At this point, all it needs is some time.  Cover and simmer for at least 20 minutes to give everything time to meld together.  At this point, I scooped some out in a smaller saucepan for my son, and added the cooked ground meat to the rest.

Taking out some of it made the meat version a little thicker than I usually make it, and I normally would have added some additional tomato sauce, maybe even just a little water, and some additional seasoning, but I used up all of the taco seasoning I had (and I had borrowed one of those packets from my mother!)

I ate mine with a little grated "Fiesta blend" grated cheese and a little dollop of sour cream.

This is good a regular soup, with crackers, or with corn chips.  It's very hearty, no matter how you eat it. 

My son pronounced the vegetarian version good, as well.  "Almost like real taco soup". 

Last night turned out to be good night for it, although we've had very warm weather lately, we had a thunderstorm move through and cool things back down quite a bit. 

What's your "go-to" meal for cooking from your pantry?

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating...

This post is linked to:
Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm
Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home
Foodtastic Friday and Friends at Not Your Ordinary Recipes
Clever Chicks Blog Hop at The Chicken Chick
Mealtime Monday at Couponing and Cooking
Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free
Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kale "Chips"

For a southern girl, I have never been much of a vegetable eater.  I love purple hull peas and sweet corn, but honestly, a lot of other vegetables were in the eat-this-because-it's-good-for-you category.  Even salads are usually just so-so in my book.  (In a restaurant, given a choice between soup or salad for a starter, I always go for the soup.)  I've tried to make up for it by eating a lot of fruit, but even natural sugar can get to be too much if you over-do it. 

This year I've been really trying to cook (and eat) more vegetables, and to introduce some variety into our steady diet of  purple hull peas/corn/mixed vegetables.  I found out a couple of years ago that I love fresh asparagus, but it's a quite pricey around these parts.  Although I've read that asparagus is difficult to grow in the deep south, I'm still hoping to find a variety that will work here and put in an asparagus bed.   

Meanwhile, I tried brussels sprouts for the first time in my adult life, they've become a regular part of our veggie rotation.  That success has inspired me to try another new-to-me vegetable, kale, one I never thought I'd ever try, much less buy, and it's become another roaring success.

This is not so much a recipe as it is a technique, because nothing is really measured, but this is our favorite version so far.

  • Kale
  • Kosher salt or sea salt
  • olive oil
  • crushed red pepper flakes

Spread a generous amount of washed, dried, and chopped kale on a baking sheet.  

I use pre-washed and chopped bags of kale from the produce section at Wal-mart. I try to pick through it and pull out the thick stem pieces as I go.  I'm hoping to raise some kale in my garden this year, if you have whole kale, cut the thick center rib out and chop the rest coarsely.  You need a lot, because this wilts down dramatically.

Drizzle with olive oil, probably a couple of tablespoons for this size pan (around 10 x 15, I think)

Sprinkle with coarse grained salt (not table salt--use Kosher salt or sea salt) and crushed red pepper flakes

Next-and I couldn't figure out how to take the picture while I did this--toss the kale until the olive oil and seasonings seem pretty well distributed throughout.  I take a handful of swirl and flip and toss for a minute or so, until it seems to be pretty well mixed up.

And now the tricky part--put in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. 

The tricky part is making sure the kale gets crispy and a little browned on the edges, but not not burnt.  If you take it out too soon, it's wilted and slightly chewy, but not really crispy and not very tasty, either.   

I set my timer on 10 minutes and go about my business.  When the time goes off, I pull out the tray and give it a shake, maybe touch a piece or two and even taste one.  Then I usually put it back in for another couple of minutes, but I stand beside the stove and watch it very carefully. 

The trays in the pictures above are actually just a little browner than I usually go, I had raised my oven rack for something else I was cooking and I forgot to lower to back to the middle, so it cooked just a little bit faster than usual, but even if you think you've over done it, once they get crispy, the brown doesn't seem to affect the taste--burnt to black, now, that might!

We have eaten these yummy bits of green as a crispy accompaniment to a sandwich...

...and as a traditional vegetable side dish with a meal. 
(In this picture they look "wet", but this is from a batch where I was particularly generous with the olive oil--they're just "shiny".)

Last night's batch was on the stove as I was making dinner, my son was standing there talking to me about his day at work, and between the two of us, we finished off the whole tray in a matter of a few minutes.  I never thought I'd see the day that I'd need to slap back fingers from pinching the kale!

Until next time--good cooking, and good eating!

This post is linked to:

Meatless Monday at My Sweet and Savory
Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family
Meatless Monday at Littlest Sweet Pea
Wonderful Food Wednesday at Mom's Test Kitchen
Frugal Food Thursday at Frugal Follies

Monday, April 8, 2013

Quick and Easy Lentil Soup

Do you know how hard it is to take a picture of soup? I'm definitely not a food stylist, nor a professional photographer, but I have to admit, this soup isn't exactly photogenic to start with.  This is such an easy and delicious recipe, though, I had to try, regardless of the poor result.

I've never cooked lentils before, and the first time I made it, I made a half batch, just in case we didn't like it.  I thought I might have to cajole my family into eating it, but all if took was one try and it received thumbs up from each of us. 

  • 1 pound dry lentils
  • 2 bags of broccoli slaw
  • chicken or vegetable stock (about 8 cups) fresh, packaged, or from bouillon or base.
  • 1-2 T dried onion flakes
Cook the lentils according to package directions in about 6 cups of stock, for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.  I just bring it to a boil, then simmer with the lid slightly askew to let the steam escape.  I usually use chicken stock, but if you wanted to make this truly vegetarian you could use vegetable stock. Once the lentils are tender, bring it back to a boil and add the bags of broccoli slaw and the dried onion.  At this point, I usually add a couple more cups of stock, and stir the vegetables down into the liquid.  Bring to a slow boil, then cover and simmer for awhile longer--probably 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Season to taste. Because the stock is usually salty, I don't add any additional seasoning until right at the end, and then I add a few shake of Tony Chachere's or pepper.

And that's it!  Every time I make this, I tell myself that the next time I'm going to add something to make it little prettier, like a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste.  So far, though, we just over look the dish-waterish appearance and enjoy the flavor!

This recipe is easy, inexpensive, makes a big batch so there's enough for freezing or leftovers, and is one of those dishes that's actually better the next day.

This post is linked to:

Mealtime Monday at Couponing and Cooking
Creating My Way to Success
Martha Mondays at Watch Out, Martha
Make It Pretty Mondays at the Dedicated House
Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!