Sunday, January 10, 2010

MPM--In the Swing

Welcome back! I hope everyone is having a good week. We are back in the swing, just in time for my younger son's school to close for break again. Sigh. Fortunately I have some good plans coming up so we should have some fun with it. This week is a light one for us as far as obligations go so I'm trying some new things as I continue the effort to clean out the freezer. Perhaps I should unplug the freezer in winter. It's really very useful for ice cream and popsicles in summer but this time of year, it only gets me in trouble!

If you're looking for inspiration, don't forget to visit I'm An Organizing Junkie! for an astounding collection of great ideas.

This week:

Monday: Slow cooker red wine short ribs from Real Simple (ribs in the freezer, wine from the party, still--we had lots leftover, not ever a bad thing!); and either Smitten Kitchen's Walnut Pesto or the even easier Real Simple version of walnut pesto, Walnuts and Parmesan Crostini, with both walnuts and parm from my freezer. Since I have the sun dried tomatoes and sherry vinegar hanging around, I whipped up some of the SK version tonight, which I liked, but despite how much I love complex flavors, I think I might prefer the simpler version, so I'll probably do a taste-off tomorrow.

Tuesday: thinking of spring longingly with this one: chicken with citrus sauce; will probably try millet or another "strange" grain in my cabinet to go with it; celery somehow

Wednesday: Super Suppers meatball bread and vegan chili from the freezer (am I a heretic for serving that with meatball bread? too bad)

Thursday: probably leftovers, but I am interested to try this Cheeseburger Pie. I'm thinking it's sloppy-joes-esque without the rolls. But we'll see.

Friday: my favorite turkey shepherd's pie (using ground turkey, mashed potatoes, and peas from the freezer. Bonus!), again, doubling the veggies and halving the meat.


One thing I didn't list but had to do after the report of more snow coming: the overnight crockpot steel-cut oatmeal. My husband loved it last time and since he is always so good to me, clearing the cars and sweeping the walk while I'm still in bed, it felt like the least I could do. I use the linked recipe above but use milk (1%) and let him add his own sugar and fruit.

Last week, we tried Kelly's Swiss stuffing chicken--maybe the Swiss was past its prime, maybe I just can't go home again to cream of chicken soup, maybe the apple juice didn't work for me--but this didn't work for me. Cheese and stuffing--what could have gone wrong!? Still in the mix: her Georgia chicken and a few others. I'm thinking it was the canned soup and I've trained myself out of that relic of my childhood cooking. (Except the poppyseed chicken. That still seems to work.)

I also got adventuresome with the tilapia in my freezer. It was only three filets but it weighed well almost two pounds, which was more than either recipe needed, so I made both, hoping they weren't both terrible. The opposite happened, though, leaving us with lots of fish.

First, I tried the Very Very Mild Fish from Glorious One-Pot Meals. I adore using my mother's vintage Le Creuset Dutch oven; it feels very homey to me, so this book was really a godsend. It teaches a technique the author calls infusion cooking where everything is layered in the pot and cooks together. I was very antsy about it. My carrots were a recent-enough purchase but still looked like they'd seen better days. Then there were so many of them I did the whole cauliflower because it seemed like the only thing that would balance them at all. I was nervous about the potatoes going brown before it even started cooking. And then, she tells you to take it out of the oven 3 minutes after the smell of a meal comes from the oven--and I had started cooking something else! D'oh! Then, when I lifted the lid, the veggies looked kinda dry.

But when I tasted it--oh, yum! It was, as promised, very very mild, so I was of course not knocked out by the flavor. But I did like how things were soft but not mushy and the flavors all informed each other while not erasing each other. And I couldn't believe it was all done with such minimal cooking fat. (The Dutch oven was lightly oiled, and the fish had some butter on it. This was great and now I am inspired to try other things. The Amazon reviews tend to imply that all the things end up only mildly flavored so I will keep that in mind. We'll see what I decide for next week. One thing I LOVED: while unlike a slow cooker in almost every other way, you can use still-frozen meats or veggies in here and still end up the same. Bonus for forgetful defrosters.

Meanwhile, though, the other recipe I tried was amazing! It was from The Frugal Foodie Cookbook, written by the authors of the Two Fat Als blog. They have a recipe for Curried Tilapia and Sweet Potato Stew. I did not have the fresh herbs called for (basil and cilantro) but everything else was already in-house. Even better, it finished off several jars and cans (ginger, curry powder, coconut milk, broth) that were hanging around as well. And even without the fresh herbs (which would really knock this out of the park, I think) it was amazing. It was too soupy to be a stew, really, but I put it over rice (which I made for my fish-hatin' kids) and it was a fantastic blend of flavors and ideal for a night-before-snow. This was SO good and we will clearly have this may more times. I'm including their recipe at the bottom in hopes of inspiring you to buy their book--they have some really inventive recipes and I love that they included total cost and price-per-serving on every recipe too.

Curried Tilapia and Sweet Potato Stew
from The Frugal Foodie Cookbook by Alanna Kaufman and Alex Small
price $16 servings 4 price per serving $4

We use tilapia often because it's extremely versatile--thick enough to hold its own in a stew, flavorful enough to bake with just lemon, salt, and pepper, and mild enough to take on new flavors when well seasoned. Plus, it's wonderfully inexpensive. In this stew, tilapia is complemented by flavorful Asian flavors, but isn't overpowered. The dish comes together quickly and easily for a tasty weeknight meal.

2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 carrot, sliced (I chopped up some leftover baby carrots)
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 Tbs grated ginger (I used the kind in the refrigerator jar--I'll use a little more if I do that again)
2 sweet potatoes, cut in to 1" cubes
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups light coconut milk
2 Tbs chopped fresh basil
1 pound tilapia, cut in to 1" chunks, seasoned with salt and pepper (forgot to season--mistake)
cilantro (optional, for garnish)

Heat oil in large pot. Add onion and carrot; saute 3 minutes until onion is soft. Add curry and ginger; saute 1 minutes. Add sweet potato, stock, coconut milk, and basil; simmer 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are soft. When potatoes are ready, add fish to top of soup; spoon a bit of liquid over it and let cook about 5 minutes, until cooked through. Spoon soup into bowls, garnish with cilantro, and serve.


Mom24 said...

It's nice to get back in the swing, isn't it? I'm enjoying it too.

Your week sounds yummy. I hope you have a good one.

I'll have to check out the cookbooks. Thanks for the links.

jennifer said...

You are inspiring me to think differently and try new recipes. Thank you for prompting some new goals!

Kelly said...

How was the cheeseburger pie? I am curious...

Elizabeth Yarnell said...

I was thrilled to see that you tried my Very, Very Mild Fish recipe and enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing.
Happy cooking!
Elizabeth Yarnell, author