Friday, September 30, 2011


The recipes and essays are in order now.  There are about 150 recipes, and 10 essays.  I found a few more gaps to fill while getting it all organized.  Once the gaps are filled, I need to cross-reference everything.

But first, sleep.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mopping Up Overlooked Bits

Oops, I never did finish writing about bread crumbs and stale bread. . .

I need to double-check that bread crumb measurement.

Making Stale Bread On Purpose

Many recipes call for stale bread: croutons, French Toast #, Bread Pudding #, Bread Crumbs #, Stuffing #, etc. To make stale bread, leave slices of bread on the counter overnight without any sort of airtight covering. You can put them in a paper bag if you prefer.

To make stale bread in a hurry, put the bread on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for a half hour.

If your recipe calls for cubes or torn-up pieces of stale bread, you may find that it is easier to cut or tear the bread before it has gone stale.

Stale bread can be frozen until you need it. This is particularly useful for Thanksgiving stuffing, which is a hassle to make if you leave the bread chopping until the last minute. Save up heels of bread as you finish eating loaves of bread, and collect them, diced and stale, in a bag in the freezer. Then when you need them, they will be ready to grab and use. You can toss them right into your recipe without thawing them.

Bread Crumbs

Bread crumbs are an ingredient used in various recipes, such as “breaded” meats, and in Balls, Patties, and Loaves #. If you don't want to buy them,you can make your own by crumbling or chopping stale or toasted bread.

Some kinds of bread make better bread crumbs than others. Ironically, the easiest bread to make bread crumbs from is exactly the sort that you wouldn't want to eat any other way: cheap, mass-produced white bread. Whole grain breads and artisanal breads have a tendency to become rock-hard when stale. These, of course, can be grated to produce bread crumbs, but white bread becomes so delicate that it can be crushed into crumbs in your hands.

One slice of bread (or one hamburger or one hotdog bun) makes about a half cup of bread crumbs.

Just. . .one. . .more. . .

. . .or two more. . .

I swear, these are the LAST recipes going into this cookbook.

Beef and Barley Soup

This recipe is great if you have a chunk of tough stew meat in your freezer. You don't have to thaw the meat – just put it right in the pot. The recipe will take about 50 minutes to cook, if you use barley, but most of that time you can leave the soup unattended.

You can use any meat for this that you like, really, and you can substitute any other type of grain. The exact ingredients and measurements are entirely up to you.

Uncooked barley, or other grain
stew meat of any sort, fresh or frozen
beef or vegetable stock
(optional) chopped vegetables, such as beet, onion, carrot, or greens
salt and pepper to taste
(optional) other spices, such as Parisian Bonnes Herbes or Greek #

Put the meat, barley, and stock in a pot, and bring to a gentle boil. After a half hour or so, remove the meat from the pot and cut it into bite-sized pieces. When the barley is almost tender enough to eat, add the optional vegetables, and continue to boil until the vegetables and barley are tender. Add the optional spices, and salt and pepper to taste.

Bean and Kale Soup

If you have frozen or canned white beans on hand, chicken stock, and frozen kale, you can throw this soup together on a moment's notice. Add sausage for additional heft. Exact measurements and exact ingredients are up to you.

white beans, frozen or canned
chicken or vegetable stock
kale or other greens, fresh or frozen
(optional) fresh or smoked sausage, such as Italian, kielbasa, or chorizo
salt and pepper to taste
(optional) other spices, such as Old World Seasoning or Greek #

If using optional sausage, first crumble and brown the sausage in your soup pot over medium heat until it is cooked through. Use a little oil if using a poultry sausage, which tend to be dry. Spoon out the rendered grease, if necessary.

Add the stock and beans, and heat until a boil is reached. The add the kale – lots of it! Boil for about five minutes, or until the kale is suitably soft.

Add the optional spices and salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerating and Freezing

Ugh. . . this is the last essay.  I'll need to hammer on it some more, but the hard first draft is done.  I also had friends review the "food safety" essay, and they gave me great feedback, which I have implemented.

This leaves two more soup recipes I would still like to shoehorn in, and then lots of revisions.

This vacation is turning out to be quite productive!

Refrigerating and Freezing Your Cooked Foods

Cooked foods need to be eaten, refrigerated, or frozen within two hours of being cooked. The sooner the food is refrigerated or frozen, the longer it will last, and the quality will remain higher for longer.

The USDA recommends that refrigerated leftovers be eaten or thrown away within two days. However, foods that are cooked for later use, if handled carefully and refrigerated promptly, can be good for up to five days when refrigerated . This makes it possible to cook meal elements on a weekend (such as Boiled Beans #, Boiled Grains #, or Pot Roast #) that can be assembled into quick week-night meals.

When you need to put a hot food into the refrigerator or freezer, avoid leaving it out to cool at room temperature, because this extends the time that the food will spend in the danger zone. You can cool some foods quickly (such as boiled grains, boiled beans, or steamed vegetables) by putting the food in a colander and running cold tap water over it. You can cool a large pot of food by setting it in a sink filled with ice and water. Large chunks of meat or whole poultry can be cooled by cutting up the meat and placing it on a cold plate before moving it into a container for storage.

While you can cool food by moving it directly to the refrigerator or freezer, if you do this with too large a quantity of food, you run the risk of putting everything in the refrigerator or freezer in the danger zone. If you need to do this, make sure the hot food has as much space around it as possible, so that the cold air can circulate.

Hot glass cookware should not be cooled quickly, because it could shatter.

When handling foods prior to storage, practice safe food-handling: wash your hands, and also handle the food as little as possible with your hands.

Refrigerates foods can be moved into the freezer at any time. However, a food that is on the verge of spoiling before freezing will be just as bad when it comes back out of the freezer. The sooner you freeze your food, the better.

“Disposable” plastic boxes are ideal for refrigerating and freezing foods, because they are inexpensive and can be washed and reused until they break. These boxes come in a range of sizes, and can be heated in the microwave. To remove a frozen block of food from one of these boxes, run some hot tap water over the box. Do note, however, that these boxes become brittle when frozen, which can make them shatter when dropped.

When freezing soups, boiled grains, beans in their cooking water, or other wet food, it helps to save the food in individual serving sizes. Baby food and broth can be frozen in ice-cube trays and then moved to a sealed container. Chopped greens can be saved in any sized container, because the desired amount can be easily broken off with a fork. To keep them from sticking together, slices of meatloaf, pancakes, French toast, and similar items can either be frozen on a cookie sheet, and then moved to a container; or they can be frozen separated by pieces of parchment paper. Cooked beans and meatballs can also be frozen first on a cookie sheet in order to keep them from sticking together into one large mass.

Fresh produce can be be “blanched” (dipped in boiling water) and then frozen for long-term storage. More information on blanching can be found online at

The safest way to thaw frozen food is in the refrigerator. Small items will require a day or two to thaw in the refrigerator. Larger items, such as turkey, will take about one day to thaw for each 4 or 5 pounds.

Smaller quantities of frozen food can be thawed safely in a bowl of cold water, or in the microwave on the “defrost” setting. Never leave food to thaw at room temperature.

More information on freezing can be found at

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Baby Food

I had taken this section out, but wok up this morning inspired to put it back in.  Feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Baby Food

When your baby can hold up her head, and when she begins to watch and grab for what you are eating, it is time to introduce “solid foods” into her diet. “Solid food” really means “any food other than breast milk or formula”.

Jarred baby food is generally quite good in quality, if bland. However, it is expensive, and if used improperly, wasteful. To avoid waste, do not feed the baby directly from a jar of baby food and do not heat food while it is in the jar. Transfer a small amount of the food to its own bowl, and save the remainder of the jar for the next day. Discard leftovers after 24 hours, to be absolutely safe.

Baby cereals are finely-ground grains that need only to be mixed with baby food or a liquid. No cooking is required.

Consult your doctor as to what foods to introduce when. Keep in mind that the guidelines have changed frequently over the years, and that some foods (such as peanut and spices) which are not usually fed to infants in the United States are regularly used as baby food in other countries.

You can make your own baby food by cooking Steamed Vegetables #, and then mashing the vegetables with a fork and then adding a little water, breast milk, or formula. The same technique can be used with some fruits and meats, as well. A food processor or blender will help if you wish to make more than one or two meals' worth. Save baby food for later by freezing it in an ice-cube tray. Once frozen, transfer the cubes of frozen baby food into a tightly-sealing container.

Frozen baby food can be heated on the stove in a pan, or in the microwave. Always stir heated baby food, and always test baby food temperature before feeding it to the baby. You can use a clean finger to test the temperature, or you can taste the food.

Some fresh fruits lend themselves very well to being made into baby food: banana, avocado, peach, nectarine, mango, and the gooey interior of tomatoes. Baked Squash # and Baked Root Vegetables # also work reasonably well. And there are any number of foods that you might cook for yourself which can be mashed on your plate in tiny quantities to share with your baby.

Infants need to start with foods that are as as close as possible to the consistency of milk. Over time, the baby can be gradually introduced to foods that have a more lumpy consistency, such as mashed banana with no added water, followed by small bites of foods that require no chewing, such as Cheerios which have been broken into pieces. You can test small bites of food by holding it in your mouth. If, after holding it on your tongue for a short while, you can swallow it without chewing, then you can let your baby try it.

Be sure to read up on the Heimlich maneuver for infants before introducing solid foods.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kitchen Safety

I'm exhausted.  Bedtime took stupidly long tonight.  I didn't start writing until 10:30.

I know this is still quite rough.  Mom is going to look over it tomorrow to help me pin down what's missing.  Ugh, this part is tedious.

Cooking Safely

The kitchen is a fun place, and a source of full bellies and tasty treats. But it is also a dangerous place, as a source of burns, cuts, fires, and food-borne illness. This information can be tedious, but if you are new to cooking, please read this section, and save yourself a trip to the emergency room.

Knife Safety

Knives are safest when kept sharp, because dull knives often slide in unpredictable directions. You can use a sharpening steel at home to keep your knives sharper for longer, but eventually all knives need to be taken to a professional knife sharpener to be restored to optimal sharpness.

Protect your knives and counter top by using a cutting board.

In general, cut away from yourself, and towards a cutting board. When cutting a rounded vegetable, first carefully cut off one side. Then set the vegetable so that the cut side is down on the cutting board. This will prevent the vegetable from rolling while you cut.

When using a paring knife for peeling potatoes, or making other small and controlled cuts, it is safe to cut towards your thumb, and no cutting board is needed. Hold the knife in the fingers of your dominant hand, with the blade facing your thumb. Use your thumb to guide the food to the knife.

Heat Safety

Kitchens are full of hot surfaces, and every cook gets burned on occasion by grabbing a hot handle by mistake. Keep several pot-holders stationed around the kitchen where you can grab them in a hurry.

Don't reach into a hot stove. Instead, use a pot holder to pull the oven shelf out.

Keep all pot handles turned so that they aren't hanging over open space. This is particularly important if children are present. With children present, do as much cooking on the back burners as you can, and never leave a young child unsupervised near a hot stove.

Appliance Safety

Keep toasters and other counter-top appliances unplugged when not in use. Read all appliance directions thoroughly.

Fire Safety

It's a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen. Read the instructions carefully, so that you know how to work the extinguisher in an emergency. After being used, even just a little, most extinguishers will either need to be recharged (refilled) or replaced. Aim at the base of the fire, not at the tops of the flames.

Do not use water to put out a grease fire! A grease fire must be smothered. Use a wet towel, a pot lid, or baking soda, or salt to smother a fire. If the fire is in the oven or microwave, close the door and turn off the device. If the oven continues to smoke as if there is still a fire inside, call 911.

Toasters accumulate crumbs, and these crumbs must be cleaned out regularly to prevent fires. If you have a toaster fire, unplug the device if possible before putting out the fire.

Test your smoke alarms every month to make sure they are in working order.

The Danger Zone

Food rots quickly between 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and 140. This is the “danger zone”. With the exception of sealed canned goods and dry foods like crackers, food must be kept below 40 or above 140 to keep for any length of time. Cooked dishes can be left at room temperature, I.E. the “danger zone”, for a maximum of two hours. Food left at room temperature for longer than two hours must be thrown away. On a hot day, food should be thrown away after just one hour.

Animal Products

Most animal products have the potential to be carrying bacteria or parasites which are dangerous to humans. This is why meats and eggs typically have a minimum temperature that they must be cooked to in order to be safe to eat.

When in doubt, cook all hot dishes to 165 degrees. Some foods are safely cooked at lower temperatures, but the majority need to be cooked to 165. Exceptions are eggs (160), whole beef (140), ground beef (160), fish and shellfish (145), and uncooked ham (145). Leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees.

Never eat an egg that has been damaged.

Milk and milk products are typically pasteurized, which eliminates bacteria and parasites from them. Milk and milk products must be refrigerated to prevent spoilage.

Cooling Hot Foods

When you need to put a hot food into the refrigerator or freezer, avoid leaving it out to cool at room temperature to cool, because this extends the time that the food will spend in the danger zone. You can cool some foods quickly (such as boiled grains) by putting the food in a colander and running cold tap water over it. Ice is a good tool for cooling food. Or clear a space in the refrigerator to allow air to circulate freely around the food. (Note, however, that hot glass cookware should not be cooled quickly, because it could shatter.)

Cold Food Safety

Strictly speaking, leftovers should only be kept for a couple of days. However, pre-cooked ingredients such as boiled grains, boiled beans, or baked chicken, if handled carefully, and cooled and refrigerated promptly, will be good for at least five days.

Food can be frozen once after you buy it. Once a frozen food has thawed, it must be refrigerated and cooked within 24 hours. Do not refreeze a thawed food. When you buy frozen food, if it thaws too much before you can get it into your own freezer, then it cannot be refrozen, and should be cooked and eaten within 24 hours.

Some foods, such as cream sauces or cheese, cannot be frozen because the quality of the food deteriorates. This doesn't make the food dangerous to eat; it merely makes it unappetizing.

Food must be sealed tightly when frozen, or it will become “freezer burned”. Freezer burn isn't dangerous, but it tastes bad.

Frozen foods keep from a month to several years, depending on the type of food, and weather the freezer is opened regularly or not. If a frozen food is kept in the freezer for too long, it will slowly become less nutritious, and the quality will become less good. Empty your freezer once a year, and label everything you freeze with the date and what it is.

Thawing Safely

The safest way to thaw frozen food is in the refrigerator. Smaller quantities of frozen food can be thawed safely in a bowl of cold water, or in the microwave. Never leave food to thaw at room temperature.

Canned Foods

Sealed wet foods, such as canned foods and sealed jars, can be kept on a shelf at room temperature until their expiration date. Do not eat or taste foods from cans that have swollen, rusted, become leaky, that are badly dented, or if the food looks or smells unusual. Do not eat food from a jar that is no longer safely sealed.

Most canned or jarred food must be refrigerated after opening, and after opening must also be used or thrown away within seven days. This information will be printed somewhere on the label in small print. This especially applies to things like juice and applesauce that children will be eating. This does not necessarily apply to condiments, such as catchup or pickles. When in doubt, throw it out.

Dry Foods

Dry goods such as cereals, crackers, cake mixes, spices, and flour, can be kept on a shelf at room temperature in their original packages or in tightly sealed airtight containers, until their expiration date. When dry goods are not sealed, the food will absorb moisture from the air, causing the food to become stale. This is not dangerous; it is merely unappetizing.

When a food has a “use by” date, or a “best if used by” date, the food can be used within a reasonable amount of time after that date.

Cross Contamination

Cross Contamination is a major cause of food poisoning. I.E., the raw meat dripped on the top of the beer can, or the cooked meat was placed on the platter that had held raw meat, or someone didn’t wash their hands after handling raw egg, etc. Prevent cross contamination by washing your hands immediately after handling raw animal products, and always wash your hands before cooking, before handling clean dishes, and after using the restroom. Wash promptly anything that touched raw animal products. Store raw animal products so that they can't drip onto anything in the refrigerator.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Section

Nobody should be scared away from Thanksgiving just because it involves a giant bird carcass!

No, the real reason to be scared of Thanksgiving is the stuffing. Once a year I am reminded of that, as the bread cubes are flung willy-nilly and I am franticly flinging chopped bits of food everywhere. And my husband doesn't appreciate stuffing. But what can I say? Stuffing is the best part!


Don't panic! A home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner from scratch isn't all that difficult to make. But it does take some planning and some practice.

If you are intimidated by cooking everything yourself, then don't! It's okay to open a can of cranberry sauce to go with a home-cooked turkey. Boxed stuffing mix can be jazzed up by adding chopped apple or celery. Gravy can come from a mix, or be made with canned chicken stock.

One way to handle Thanksgiving is to invite friends, and have the guests bring some of the dishes. Have the host cook the bird, and the guests cook the other baked dishes, or vice versa.

There is only one safe way to thaw frozen turkey: in the refrigerator. A frozen turkey will need about one day to thaw for every four pounds. So, for example, a 20-pound turkey will need about five days to thaw.

Turkey is just like chicken, but bigger. Bake it exactly the same way as Baked Chicken #. At 350 degrees, expect the turkey to take 15 to 20 minutes per pound to cook. Although you can “wing it” with a chicken, be sure to use a thermometer with turkey, because you will be feeding more people, and you don't want them to get sick, or pretend to enjoy overcooked, dry meat. A probe-style thermometer is preferable. Just as with turkey, set the thermometer to beep when the turkey reaches 160 in the thickest part of the breast. Then move the turkey out of the oven, and the residual heat in the bird will bring the temperature up to 165, at which point it is fully cooked. Let the turkey continue to “rest” for at least another 20 minutes before serving, to keep the moisture in the meat.

Don't cook the turkey with stuffing inside of it – it's unsafe if you don't really know what you are doing. And don't rely on the pop-up timer that comes with the turkey – they are unreliable.

If you plan on baking your stuffing, or baking anything else, and you are already planning to cook the turkey, then you will need to make sure that all of the necessary pans will fit in the oven at once. However, if they don't, you can finish baking the turkey first, and then immediately put the stuffing in the oven. The turkey will stay hot for a good long time even if left uncovered, but you can make sure it stays hot by covering it it first in foil, and then with towels or thick layers of newspaper.

Stuffing #, when made from scratch, is probably the most time-intensive of all the Thanksgiving dishes to make, because it involves so much chopping. However, if you save up chopped stale bread in your freezer for a few weeks in advance, you can save a lot of time and counter space on Thanksgiving day. Or you can save time by chopping up the bread a day or two in advance.

Baked root vegetables # are a good Thanksgiving side dish, as is Baked Squash #. But if the oven is already full, Mashed Root Vegetables # are great, too.

Gravy # can be made while the turkey rests. The easy way to do it is to use butter and chicken stock #. If you are up for a little more work, then while the turkey is still cooking, simmer the giblets and neck in a little water to make a small batch of turkey stock. Strain this and set it aside. When the turkey comes out of the oven, pour the drippings (including as much of the solids as possible) into a bowl. Let this sit in the refrigerator for ten minutes or so. This will allow some of the melted fat to rise to the surface. Spoon the fat off of the top, and use it to make the roux for the gravy. Supplement this with butter if necessary Once the roux is ready, use the rest of the drippings and the turkey stock to finish making the gravy. Use additional chicken stock if necessary.

Don't forget Cranberry Sauce #! This can be made a day or more in advance, and is great served hot or cold.

For dessert, you can't beat Pumpkin Pie #. Or use the same recipe to make squash pie or sweet potato pie. Make this a day in advance, or suggest that a guest bring it. If you feel like being fancy, you can make your pumpkin pie from actual pumpkins, with home-made pie crust. But you can also make a terrific pie using canned ingredients and frozen pie crust.

Adding the final recipes

I went to write the Thanksgiving section, and realized that I hadn't yet written recipes for stuffing or cranberry sauce or the pumpkin pie, dagnabit. Crap. Stuffing is a pain to cook and a pain to write about it, because it is so variable. Barbecue sauce also came up, so I got that one written as well. Argh, will I ever be able to move on to draft 3?!

So, after this, I need to finish the Thanksgiving section, and finish the food safety section. (And oh god, writing *that* has been painfully boring.)

Oh, I forgot to mention: getting set up on my parents' computer was a piece of cake, and I am having no trouble finding time to write. It helps tremendously that I am in a house that I am not compelled to clean. Thanks Mom!

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce in a can is decent enough, but the real thing is easy to make, and makes a great condiment for chicken #, pork chops #, and, of course, at Thanksgiving #.

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar, brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup
1 cup orange juice or water
(optional) zest from a lemon or an orange
(optional) cinnamon, or a cinnamon stick, or Pumpkin Pie spices #.

Rinse the cranberries clean. Boil the cranberries in the juice or water until the cranberries pop, which will take ten minutes or so. Add the sugar and spices, and if you like, use a potato masher to smash the berries some more. You can then serve the sauce at once, or continue to simmer it with a whole cinnamon stick.

Barbeque Sauce

This sauce is great on hamburgers, or with leftover meats of any sort. Or you can cook with it by brushing it on meats before cooking, such as baked or broiled chicken #, pot roast #, or sauteed meats #, baked tofu #. You can even substitute it for the dry rub in pulled pork #.

Barbeque sauce is more fun to make if you don't stick slavishly to a recipe. Instead, start with half of a small can or more of tomato paste, and stir other things into it, tasting as you go, until you are satisfied with the results. You will need:

tomato paste
something sweet (molasses, brown sugar, honey, etc.)
something tart (apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, etc.)
something hot (cayenne pepper, taco spices #, hot sauce, black pepper, etc.)
(optional) salt

Be sure to use a clean spoon each time you taste!


Stuffing can either be a side dish (such as alongside turkey, at Thanksgiving #) or a main dish, if made with enough meat and vegetables. It can be vegetarian or not. Stuffing is made up of stale bread, just enough broth to moisten the bread, and various other things, depending on what you have on hand.

This recipe does involve a lot of chopping if you choose to chop your own bread. You may want to chop up your stale bread in a day or two in advance if you are making a big batch. Alternatively, you can keep a container of chopped stale bread in the freezer, and add to it whenever you end up with a stale heel of bread. Then you will have chopped stale bread ready to go whenever you make stuffing. See recipe # to make stale bread.

Don't worry about measuring your ingredients when making stuffing! And don't worry about having specific ingredients. Want to use minced broccoli and leftover Baked Chicken #? Sure, why not​! It might be good served as a main course, topped with grated cheddar cheese.

The following make a traditional Thanksgiving stuffing:

stale bread #, cut into pieces, or pre-cut bread cubes from the store
chicken stock #, vegetable broth, or other broth or stock
sausage, cooked (optional) #
butter, or sausage grease
celery, chopped
onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
egg (optional)
(optional) other spices, such as Lemon Pepper or Parisian Bonnes Herbes #.

You can add other things to this stuffing, and/or omit ingredients. Here are some other ideas you can try: ground turkey and dried sweetened cranberries; cooked breakfast sausage, celery, and parsley; pecans, pear, and raisins; cooked Italian sausage, garlic, and apple.

How much stuffing do you want to make? Pick out a mixing bowl that is about as large as the batch of stuffing that you would like to make. Start by filling it halfway with bread cubes. The rest will be filled with other things. Add extra vegetables as you go to build up the quantity of stuffing that you want. Onion and celery are particularly good fillers, because they taste good with almost any other ingredient that you might want to add.

In a pot that is large enough to hold all of the stuffing, break up the sausage, and cook it on medium heat until it has browned. (If the sausage is made of turkey or chicken, add a little oil to the pan first to keep it from sticking.) Once the sausage has browned, add chopped onion and celery, and stir them over the heat until the onion looks translucent.

At this point, if the pot doesn't contain a few tablespoons of grease from the sausage, then add a few tablespoons of butter. For a medium to large batch, add a half stick or more. Then add everything else except the egg and broth. Pour in the broth a bit at a time, stirring gently, until the bread is moist, but not soggy. Taste the stuffing, adding more salt and pepper and sage and optional spices as necessary.

Now you have a choice. You can either heat the stuffing right there in the pot until it is warm, and serve it as it is. Or you can beat an egg or two, stir the egg into the stuffing, and then bake the stuffing in a casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or longer. If possible, use a probe thermometer. The baked stuffing will be done when the interior reaches 160.

Do not bake stuffing in the cavity of a chicken or turkey, because it is easy to undercook stuffing in a bird, and undercooked stuffing inside of a bird will be contaminated with undercooked meat juices.

Pumpkin Pie

More experienced cooks will want to try their hand at home-made pie crusts, but if you are new to cooking, store-bought pie crusts make this recipe “as easy as pie”. This recipe works just fine with canned ingredients, but you can also use fresh.

1 9-inch unbaked pie crust, or an uncooked home-made pie crust
1 15-oz can of pumpkin, squash, or sweet potato, or about 2 cups of Baked Squash # or Mashed Root Vegetables # that have been pureed or mashed.
1 12-oz can of evaporated milk, or 1 ½ cups milk, or 1 ½ cups cream, or a combination of cream and milk
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spices #

Of the pie crust is the sort that unfolds, rather than the kind that comes in a disposable aluminum pie pan, then follow the directions on the box for thawing the dough, and place it in a 9-inch pie pan.

Preheat the oven to 425. Beat together all of the ingredients except for the pie crust. Put the pie crust on a cookie sheet. (This will make it easier to put the filled crust in the oven without spills.) Pour the wet pie filling into the crust, and put it in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, and then turn the oven's temperature down to 350. Continue to bake for another 40 or 50 minutes. The pie is done when a sharp knife stuck in the center of the pie comes out mostly clean. Let the pie cool at room temperature for up to two hours. Then serve at once, or refrigerate the pie.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

CreateSpace: Questions Answered!

I called up CreateSpace to get more information on publishing. The nice fellow walked me through the steps of submitting files, getting and reviewing a proof, and ordering copies. Basically, if I have the whole month of November to wrangle these steps, that will provide ample time to iron out last-minute bugs and order up a Big Box of Books. (And that will also give me the month of November to do NaNoWriMo - win!)

The other things that I discussed with the nice phone fellow were more specific to this project. If I use a Creative Commons copyright thingee that specifies that anyone can publish this book so long as the profits go to to a non-profit organization, then yes! CreateSpace will have no problem with this. Other groups can upload the same files. Their copy will be assigned its own ISBN, but that's the only difference.

This is FANTASTIC! It means any food pantry can upload the digital files to CreateSpace, and then direct their supporters to buy copies online, or or place bulk-order copies for their patrons, entirely independent of me. Especially good, since I was envisioning a best-case-scenario gone horribly horribly wrong, with me being swamped with phone calls and having to order Big Boxes of Books for food pantries all over the country. (Shoot for the moon, knock the moon out of the sky, rocks fall, everyone dies!)

My last question for CreateSpace involved royalties. Could I split my royalties so that half goes to a non-profit org? Sadly, no, they can only send royalties to one person.

I'm still on the fence about making money from this, and I'm frustrated that I would have to choose between taking the royalties or giving them all away.

Cost Info

Assuming the cookbook is 200 pages at 7 x 10 inches (which is larger than I had previously planned) then for an order of 100, on the "pro plan" (which seems a worthwhile investment) each book will cost me $3.25, for a total of $325. This is with the author's discount. For 300 pages, $4.45 and $445, respectively. I imagine the pages will fall in that range, somewhere. I should have a more exact count soon. The calculator is here, under the "buying copies" tab.

The pro plan costs $39 the first year, and $5 each subsequent year. The pro plan would set the book up to potentially be sold in bookstores.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Good lord. I'm looking more deeply into the printing process today. At rough estimate, this book will be 300 pages! This is going to be more expensive than I had previously estimated.

I never thought I would see the illustrator-client relationship from the client side, but it looks like I may have found an illustrator to do the cover.

I got all of my files moved to dropbox today, so that I will be able to continue working while visiting family next week.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I just know I'm forgetting some vastly important pasta dishes. What have I forgotten??

Again, a lot of editing remains. I'm pooped. I spent most of today typing with one hand as I nursed Kaylee with the other. Now she is napping on the floor. Again. This time looks like it will be a real nap, and not one of those ten-minute fake-outs.

What's left? I got some good suggestions for the Soups and Stews chapter. And I need to write a Thanksgiving chapter. I think it was my father who mentioned a group that showed up one year at the home of a family who needed food assistance, armed with all the makings of a Thanksgiving dinner, only to be turned away because the family didn't know what the hell to do with a turkey. I would be scared if someone showed up at my door with a giant, unfamiliar carcass, too. Anyway, at this point I don't know the origin of the story, and it may be one of those gems that has been passed along a hundred times. But it still has a grain of truth. Before you can cook a meal, you have to learn how to do it. And it's easy to take cooking skills for granted if they were handed to you as a child.


Pasta is very high in refined carbs, so it is a good idea to minimize the pasta in your diet, and eat whole grain pasta when you do eat a pasta meal.

One pound of dry pasta feeds about four adults.

Pasta is cooked by dropping it into boiling water. Follow the directions on the package for best results, and always cook pasta for the minimum recommended time. This will make the pasta “al dente”, or just tender enough to have a little bite to it.

For tomato sauce (marinara sauce) recipes see recipes ###.

Simple Buttered Pasta

You wouldn’t want to eat buttered pasta all by itself, but this is delicious and reasonably healthful if you top it with a big pile of sautéed vegetables (#), or with beans of any sort heated in some olive oil with some garlic or Italian spices #.

½ pound of uncooked pasta of any sort
2 tbsp butter or olive oil
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional) Italian spices

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, and return it to the hot pot. Add about a tablespoon of butter for each ¼ pound of pasta, and stir it until it melts; or use olive oil. Then stir in the grated cheese. Add salt, pepper, and optional spices.


There are many ways to make mac-n-cheese from scratch. This one is cooked on the stove top and uses egg.

Mac-n-cheese can easily be made into a complete meal by adding cooked meats or vegetables. Cheddar is traditional in mac-n-cheese, but other kinds of cheese can make the dish more exciting. If you use a hard cheese, such as parmesan, you will want to combine it with a softer “melting” cheese so that it mixes in well.
You can make this recipe with any shape of pasta.

½ pound uncooked pasta of any sort
4 tbsp butter
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
½ tsp salt
8 ounces grated cheese (about two cups)
(optional) chopped meats, such as cooked chicken, ham, or pepperoni
(optional) vegetables, such as frozen peas, chopped carrot, chopped broccoli, chopped onion

Cook the pasta al dente. If you want to add optional vegetables, you can use pre-cooked veggies, or you can add raw or frozen veggies to the boiling pasta water partway through cooking the pasta.

Drain the cooked pasta and optional veggies, and return them to the pot. Set the pot on medium heat, and allow the butter to melt into the hot pasta. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and salt. Pour this mixture into the pasta and add the grated cheese. Stir continuously for three minutes, or until the mac-n-cheese is creamy. Add the optional meats.

For a fun variant of this recipe that kids will like, use parmesan and mozzarella cheese, add pepperoni, and top with drained canned tomato. Call it “Pizza Mac”.

Fettuccini Alfredo

Be sure to eat this in moderation, balanced with a lot of vegetables, because it is very fattening. This recipe makes enough for two adults.

½ lb fettuccini noodles or other pasta
2 tbsp butter
1 cup cream
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a pan. Add the cream, turn up the heat a little, and boil, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes. This will thicken the sauce. Stir in the cheese. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Then add the cooked and drained pasta to the pan, turning with tongs or a spoon it until it is coated with the sauce. Serve at once.

Quick One-Pot Pasta Meal

If you want to throw together a healthful meal for yourself in a hurry and with a minimum of mess, this does the trick. Because the vegetables are boiled, they are not as flavorful as sautéed or baked vegetables.

For each person:

¼ lb uncooked pasta; or about a cup
2 cups washed and chopped greens, such as beet greens or kale, or 1 cup diced summer squash, carrot, peas, or other vegetable, or 1 cup cooked or frozen beans
1 cup of chopped tomato. If tomatoes aren’t in season, use about ¾ cup of tomato sauce.
1 tbsp oil or butter, preferably olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional) spices such as French Four-Spice, Lemon Pepper, or Italian
(optional) grated parmesan cheese

Boil the pasta. When the pasta has three minutes left to cook, add the vegetables. Resume timing when the pot returns to a boil. When one minute remains, add the greens. (If the greens are particularly delicate, such as spinach, add them when the time is up, immediately before draining the water.) Then drain the pasta and veggies through a colander.

Put a tablespoon of butter or oil in the pan, and put the pasta back in. Add the tomato or tomato sauce and the spices. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, if you desire.

Pasta with Beans

Topping pasta with white beans is a nice alternative to the usual marinara sauce. This is a variation of what the Italians call “pasta e fagioli”, which is traditionally a meatless dish.

For each person:

¼ lb cooked pasta
1 cup cooked, frozen, or canned white beans.
2 tbsp water or chicken stock # or vegetable stock
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter or oil, preferably olive oil
(optional) cooked Italian sausage, or chopped ham, or other cooked meat
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional) Italian spices
(optional) 1 cup washed and chopped greens

While the pasta cooks, heat the butter or oil over medium heat, and use it to sauté the onion. When the onion is translucent, add the garlic. Stir the garlic for a couple of minutes over the heat, and then add the beans, the water or stock, the optional greens, and the optional meat. Cook until everything is heated through. If you would like, use a potato masher to crush the beans a bit. Add the spices to taste, and serve over the pasta.

Soups and Stews

I know this section needs a lot of revision, but this draft is pretty solid. Am I missing any good recipes? I would love suggestions!

[edit]I forgot potato cheese soup!
[edit]There, I fixed it.

Soups and Stews

This section covers soups and stews made with fresh ingredients. For soups and stews made with pre-cooked meats and vegetables, see Quick Meals, #.

Classic Chicken Soup

There are endless ways to make soup, but this one is useful if you are looking for that traditional, comforting bowl of chicken soup. Although this recipe calls for raw chicken, if you have cooked chicken that you would like to turn into soup, you can use this recipe, and add the cooked chicken at the end, right before serving. Or, you can use the Quick Soup recipe (recipe #).

Raw chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
Chicken stock or broth
Uncooked pasta or grain (you may want to use a grain with a shorter cooking time)
Carrots, chopped
Celery, chopped
Onion, chopped
Garlic, minced (or garlic powder)
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional) spices such as French Four-Spice, Lemon Pepper, Parisian Bonnes Herbes, or Old World Seasoning (#)

In the bottom of the soup pot, first sauté the onion and the chicken in a bit of oil. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic just as the chicken is almost done cooking. When the chicken is cooked, add everything else. Bring to a gentle boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta or grain are tender.


Borscht is a traditional vegetable soup from Eastern and Central Europe. There are many variants. This is not a traditional borscht, but like many versions of borscht, it contains beets, which turn the soup a wonderful pink or purple color. Purple cabbage will make this soup even more vibrantly colored, and gives it a sweet flavor.

This soup is also fantastic with ham in place of chicken. A vegetarian version can be made with vegetable broth and no meat.

(optional) cooked chicken, or ham, or cooked sausage
Chicken, pork, or vegetable stock or broth
Shredded cabbage
Potato, cut small
chopped beets
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped or dried onion
Garlic, minced (or garlic powder)
(optional) spices such as Lemon Pepper, Parisian Bonnes Herbes, or Old World Seasoning (#)
(optional) heavy cream or sour cream

Put all of the ingredients except for the cream in a soup pot, and simmer until the cabbage and potato are soft. Remove from heat and stir in the cream, or add sour cream as a garnish.

French Onion Soup

5 to 10 onions, sliced thin
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
4 cups beef or veggie broth
(optional) 1 or 2 cups chopped or ground beef
(optional) spices such as French Four-Spice or Parisian Bonnes Herbes (#)

Thinly slice the onions. Melt the butter in a soup pot, and over medium heat, stir the onion in the butter for at least 20 minutes, until the onions are soft and sweet. While you are cooking, if the onions start to brown, add a little water to keep them moist. If you are adding beef to the soup, remove the onions and brown the beef. Then set aside the beef and put the onions back in the pot.

Add the flour to the onions and continue to stir over medium heat for a few more minutes. Then add the beef broth. Return the beef to the pot and simmer until the meat is cooked.

French Onion Soup is traditionally topped with Swiss cheese melted on toast. Follow the Cheese Bread recipe to make this.


With a jar of curry spices, a can of pureed vegetables, and some chopped vegetables and meats, you can put together a quick and nutritious meal.

In a pot combine:

1 15 ounce can of pureed pumpkin, pureed sweet potato, or other vegetable, or a small can of tomato paste
1 or 2 cups of water
1 teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon salt
(optional) minced or dried garlic
(optional) minced or dried ginger
(optional) one or two tablespoons sugar

Bring this sauce to a simmer. Then, if you want meat in your curry, add:

1 pound of raw meat, cut into bite-sized pieces

Simmer the meat until it is cooked through. While the meat cooks, chop up vegetables. You can use pre-cooked meats instead of raw meat; add it to the curry right before serving. You can also use tofu instead of meat, or omit the meat entirely and throw in some more vegetables. You could also substitute paneer, a delicious Indian cheese, if you are lucky enough to live near an Indian grocery store.

4 or more cups of vegetables cut into bite-sized pieces.

Possible vegetables for this dish include bell pepper, carrot, beet, turnip, broccoli, cauliflower, potato, peas, and onion. Frozen vegetables can also be used. Combine two or three vegetables for best results. Continue to simmer the pot, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.

Serve over rice. This feeds 3 or 4 people.

Chicken Bean Stew

½ lb boneless chicken
2 cups frozen beans (or one or two drained cans of beans)
2 carrots
2 sticks celery
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp cumin, or spices such as French Four-Spice, Lemon Pepper, Parisian Bonnes Herbes, or Old World Seasoning (#)
1 tbsp oil
1 bullion cube plus two cups of water (or two cups of chicken stock)
Cooked rice (optional)
Black pepper
Salt (optional)

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Coat with the flour and cumin, and brown it in the oil. (The flour is optional - it is there to thicken the sauce.) Dice the carrots and celery, and toss them in the pot. (Other veggies can be used here, instead, such as onion, potato, kale, etc.) Add the water and bullion (or chicken stock), bring to a boil, and simmer five or ten minutes, until the chicken and veggies are cooked. Add the beans, and heat until everything is bubbly and delicious. Season with salt and pepper. Eat as-is, or over rice. Serves three to six people, depending on how much rice you serve it with.

Beef Stroganoff

This hearty Russian stew is best when served over egg noodles, but any pasta or boiled grain works well.

2 or more tbsp butter or oil
1 lb raw beef, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 or 3 cups of milk
1 box or more of mushrooms, sliced
2 or 3 onions, sliced thin
1 or 2 tbsp flour
1/8 tsp salt, plus extra to taste
1/8 tsp pepper, plus extra to taste
Dill or spices such as Lemon Pepper or Old World Seasoning (#)
Garlic, dried or minced fresh

Heat 1 tbsp of the butter or oil in a large pan over medium heat until hot. Sauté the onions and mushrooms in this until they are done to your satisfaction. Remove these from the pan and set them aside.

Combine the flour with 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Pour this over the chopped beef, and stir until the beef is coated. Heat another tablespoon of butter or oil, and brown the meat in this. Once the meat is somewhat browned, add the milk and the garlic, turn the heat up a bit, and stir with a spoon or a whisk as the milk comes to a boil. The browned flour from the meat will thicken the milk. Let this boil for a couple of minutes, and then add the vegetables back to the pan. Add dill or other spices to taste, and add more salt and pepper to taste if necessary.

Beef Stew

Beef is the most traditional meat used for stew, but almost any meat works in this recipe: pork, chicken, turkey, etc. If you use what the store sells as “stew beef”, or chuck roast, or other tough cut of meat can tenderize the meat by simmering the stew for an hour or so. Other types of meat won’t need to cook for so long.

Stew that uses a tough cut of meat also benefits by using vegetables that can withstand being cooked for a long time, such as potato, carrot, turnip, onion, mushroom, parsnip, or winter squash. Delicate vegetables can be added to a stew, but are best when added shortly before serving. Examples of these include peas, broccoli, leafy greens, and summer squash.

1 tbsp butter or oil
1 lb raw beef (or other meat), chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 or 3 cups of beef broth (or chicken (#), or other broth)
1 or 2 tbsp flour
3 or 4 cups of diced vegetables. (See above for suggestions.)
1/8 tsp pepper, plus extra to taste
Salt to taste
(optional) spices such as French Four-Spice, Parisian Bonnes Herbes, or Old World Seasoning (#)

Combine the flour with 1/8 tsp pepper. Pour this over the chopped meat, and stir until the meat is coated. Heat another tablespoon of butter or oil, and brown the meat in this. Once the meat is somewhat browned, add the broth, turn the heat up a bit, and stir with a spoon or a whisk to break up the flour clumps. The browned flour from the meat will thicken the broth. Once boiling, add the vegetables back to the pan, and reduce the heat so that the stew simmers. Let the pot sit for ten minutes, if you are using a delicate meat. Let it simmer for at least a half hour if you are using tough meat. A few minutes before serving, add tender vegetables if you are using any. Add salt and pepper to taste if necessary, plus any optional spices you wish to try.


Ratatouille is a stew designed to make use of summer garden vegetables. This is a dish that only makes sense to make during the height of the summer, when these vegetables a cheap and at their peak of flavor.

Ratatouille can be served on its own, or with pasta or boiled grains (#). Although untraditional, this dish can be made more filling by adding beans, meat, or cheese.

This feeds three or four people, depending on how many extras you add, and if you serve it with pasta or grain.

2 tbsp butter or oil, preferably olive oil
1 large eggplant, cut into bite-sized pieces (or 2 smaller eggplants)
2 or 3 zucchini or summer squash, cut into large bite-sized pieces
3 to 6 tomatoes, chopped roughly into chunks
3 or so cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 or 2 onions, chopped
(optional) chopped mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, etc.
(optional) spices such as French Four-Spice, Parisian Bonnes Herbes, or Italian (#)
(optional) grated parmesan or mozzarella cheese
(optional) 1 cup of cubed ham, cooked chicken, or other cooked meat
(optional) 1 drained 15-oz can of garbanzo beans or white beans, or two cups cooked or frozen
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a pot over medium heat. When melted or hot, add the onion. Stir the onion over the heat for a couple of minutes, and then add the garlic. Stir for another minute or two. Then add the remaining vegetables, including optional vegetables. Stir occasionally over the next ten or 15 minutes. The tomato will break down, forming a liquid for he other vegetables to simmer in. Taste the eggplant occasionally - when it is cooked to your liking, the ratatouille is done cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste, and any optional spices you wish to try. If using any meats or beans, add them to the pot and continue cooking until they are sufficiently warm. If you want to use cheese, sprinkle it over the ratatouille as you serve it.

Potato Cheese Soup

This is a good warming winter soup. Feeds two to four, depending on how many optionals you add.

Usually when you add cheese to a soup, you must first add cream so that the cheese doesn’t melt into unpleasant lumps. However, something about this soup makes the cream unnecessary. But you can add cream anyway if you like the taste.

4 to 10 potatoes, depending on the size of the potatoes
3 or 4 cups of water or any sort of stock (such as chicken #)
(optional) 1 cup of milk
4 ounces or more of grated cheddar or other cheese
(optional) ½ cup of cream or half-n-half
(optional) chopped vegetables, cooked or raw, such as carrot, onion, broccoli, mushrooms, plus 1 tbsp butter or oil
(optional) fresh greens, chopped
(optional) ham or other cooked meat
(optional) spices such as French Four-Spice, Parisian Bonnes Herbes, or Italian (#)
Salt and pepper to taste

If you wish to add raw veggetables to this recipe, start by heating the butter or oil in the bottom of your soup pot over medium heat. Saute the vegetables until done to your liking. Then move the vegetables aside to a bowl and continue using the same pot for cooking the potatoes.

If you are using russet potatoes, or if you dislike potato skins, you may want to peel your potatoes. Otherwise, scrub the potatoes clean and leave the skins on. Roughly chop the potatoes. The smaller you chop them, the less time they will take to cook.

Put the potatoes in the pot and add the water or broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and put a lid on the pot. Every ten minutes or so, stick a fork in the potato pieces. When the fork slides in without resistence, turn off the heat, and use a potato masher in the pot to squish the potatoes. (For a smoother texture, you can put the soup through a blender in batches.)

Add the optional milk or cream, and stir in the grated cheese. Do not boil the soup once the cheese has been added, or the cheese will curdle!

Finally, add the optional spices, cooked vegetables, cooked meats, and/or raw chopped greens. Apply low heat if the soup needs to be warmed back up. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Try these variants:

Beefy Potato soup with Swiss cheese, beef stock, pot roast, onions, and Parisian Bonnes Herbes.

“Baked” Potato soup with chicken stock, cheddar, green onions, cooked bacon, and spinach.

Italian Potato Soup with vegetable stock, cream, parmasan and mozerella cheeses, tomato, greens, and Italian spices #.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Heart of the Cookbook!

So here is the payoff of the cookbook: once someone learns how to cook beans, grain, sauteed veggies, and a chunk of meat, all of those things can be cooked in advance and then used to throw together good quick meals.

What's left after this? Soups and stews, Thanksgiving, maybe a pasta section (if I can think of anything to say other than "read the directions on the box"), and some short essays on food safety, freezing, and making baby food.

And then I have to edit everything so very hard, because holy inconsistency Batman! And it all has to be cross-referenced, with all of the ###'s replaced with recipe numbers.

Damn it, I think I'm going to have to bow out of NaNoWriMo if I hope to get this done properly by Christmas. Booo. *sulk*

But I SO want to do this right. I want it finished, and highly polished. I want people to speak highly of this book. I want people to suggest it to their friends. I want I want I want. . .

Anyway. . .

Quick Week-Night Recipes

Now that you have a baked chicken in your refrigerator (or pot roast, or pulled pork, or any other cooked meat), and some cooked grain, cooked (or frozen) beans, cheese, and vegetables on hand, you can now use these things to whip up any number of delicious, healthful weeknight meals in 30 minutes or less. The following are recipes that are designed to use whatever you have on hand.

Quick Enchiladas

This is a great week-night recipe to use with the chicken (recipe #), pot roast (recipe #), or pulled pork (recipe #) that you baked over the weekend. Or you can use another pre-cooked meat, or frozen or canned beans. Or you can make plain cheese enchiladas by using more cheese. You can also make a fun variant for kids using raisins instead of meat.

This is another recipe that doesn’t require precise measuring, or exact ingredients. Use whatever you have on hand.

1 cup pre-cooked chicken, or other pre-cooked meat, or frozen or canned beans, or ½ cup raisins
1 ½ cups Monterey jack and/or cheddar cheese
1 package of tortillas
1 can enchilada sauce (or about 1 ½ cups of home-made, recipe #)
2/3 cup chopped greens, such as frozen kale or spinach, or cooked onion or mushroom, or other chopped vegetable

In a microwave-safe, small (9 x 9 inch or so) casserole dish, pour about a third of the enchilada sauce. Dip one tortilla in the sauce so that both sides are wet. Then put cheese, meat, and veggies in the tortilla. Roll up the tortilla and move it to one end of the pan. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, until the pan is full and all of the ingredients are used up. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas, and grate little extra cheese over the top. Then microwave the casserole for about ten minutes, or until the whole dish is hot and melty. (Alternatively you can bake in a 350 degree oven until the sauce bubbles.)

Serve on its own, with or without such toppings as salsa or sour cream, or with a side-dish such as rice or refried beans. Serves two to four people.

Quick Soup

With soup, every ingredient is optional, with the exception of the broth! Pick whatever ingredients below that you would like, in whatever quantities that you would like. For a classic chicken soup recipe, see recipe #.

Cooked meat of any sort (See the meat sections: #, #, #)
Chicken broth (recipe #), or any other sort of broth. You can use canned or bullion cubes if you don’t have any home-made broth on hand.
Cooked grain (recipe #) or pasta (recipe #)
Cooked vegetables (recipe #) or frozen vegetables, or fresh, chopped vegetables
Salt and pepper to taste
Herbs and spices of any sort (recipe #)
Milk or cream
Grated cheese (use ONLY if you are also using cream)

Heat the broth or stock to a boil. Add the vegetables first, if they are fresh or frozen, and, simmer until they are cooked to your liking. Add everything but the milk or cream and return to a boil. Then, remove the soup from the heat, until the pot no longer boils. If you want a clear soup, at this point you are all done!

If you want dairy in your soup, add milk or cream after the soup has stopped boiling. Do not boil a soup that contains dairy, because the dairy could curdle into unappetizing chunks.

If you wish to add cheese to your soup, do so after adding a significant quantity of cream. (Note that cheese will not melt properly into a soup unless you have first added cream. If not enough cream is present, the cheese will form lumps.) Heat just until steaming (but don‘t boil it). Season to taste. Serve, and enjoy!

Quick Chili

If you make pot roast or meat loaf on the weekend and have leftovers, you can use it to make chili later in the week, for variety. Chicken or other cooked meats can be used. Frozen cooked meats work well, too. Or, the meat can be omitted entirely. This is a particularly good way to get rid of overcooked pot roast or mediocre meat loaf.

You don’t need to measure ingredients for this dish. Just start with your leftover meat, and add frozen or canned beans, and tomato, until you have a pot of chili big enough for everyone.

Leftover pot roast or meat loaf
Canned or frozen beans
Canned or fresh tomato
Salt and pepper
(optional) reserved liquid from Pot Roast
(optional) tomato paste
(optional) taco spices (recipe #)
(optional) onion, green or red bell pepper, chopped carrot, or other vegetables

Chop the meat into small pieces. Or, if the meat is frozen, just put it in the pot whole, and later (after a bit of simmering with the other ingredients) take it out and cut it up. Add beans (with or without the can liquid) and tomato (with or without the can liquid). If you made pot roast and reserved the liquid, you can add that to your chili. Add some tomato paste if you like. Add some water if it looks like too many dry things thrown together. Add other vegetables if you like. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked. Add seasonings and spices to taste.

Serve as-is, or topped with cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, or green onions. Or serve on top of lettuce as a taco salad, with any of the above toppings.

Chili keeps for a few days in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen and reheated later.

Quick Curry

This curry isn’t authentic to any particular country’s cuisine, but it’s fast to make and tasty. It’s also a good excuse to eat vegetables. The sauce is based on the Universal Gravy recipe (#). Vegetables and meats can be cooked in advance, or you can use the sautéed vegetables recipe (#) or the sautéed meats recipe (#) immediately before making the curry. If you sauté vegetables or meats before making the curry, you can transfer the cooked meats or vegetables to a bowl and make the curry in the same pan that you just used - and you won’t even have to wash it!

1 tbsp fat, such as butter, bacon grease, chicken fat, or oil
1 tbsp flour
½ cup liquid: milk, tomato sauce, or coconut milk, or 1 tbsp tomato paste plus ½ cup water
½ cup very finely grated carrot, beet, sweet potato, and/or other vegetable, or canned pumpkin puree, squash puree, etc.
1 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp salt
(optional) garlic, ginger, black pepper
2 cups cooked, canned, or frozen vegetables and/or cooked or frozen cooked meats and/or cooked, canned, or frozen beans

In a skillet on medium heat, heat the fat until it is melted and hot. Add the flour, and whisk it around for a few minutes. Then add the liquid, continuing to whisk. Bring the sauce to a boil and then add the finely grated vegetable matter. Whisk in the curry powder and salt. Bring the pot back to a boil and add the cooked veggies or meats. Heat until everything is heated through.

If served with boiled grains (#), this will feed about two adults.

Quick Tacos

This recipe makes tacos for two adults using leftover cooked meat of any sort. You can make a vegetarian version using beans instead of meat, or you can stretch a little meat further by using a combination of meat and means.

1 tbsp cooking oil
1 medium onion, chopped small
2 cups cooked meat or cooked beans, or some combination
1 or 2 tbsp water
1 tbsp taco spices (#)
4 to 6 tortillas or taco shells
(optional) grated cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
(optional) chopped tomato, onion, and/or lettuce
(optional) salsa (#)
(optional) sour cream

Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion until it is translucent. Add the spices and a tablespoon of water. This should make a saucy concoction in the pan. If it looks dry, add a little more water. Then add the meat and beans, and continue to stir over the heat until everything is heated and coated in taco sauce. Serve in tortillas with any of the optional ingredients.

Quick Stew

This stew can be made quickly from any cooked meats. For best results, use chicken stock with chicken, beef stock with beef. The sauce is a variant on Universal Gravy (#). This feeds about three adults.

1 tbsp fat, such as butter, bacon grease, chicken fat, or oil
1 tbsp flour
2 cups liquid, such as chicken (#) or beef stock. For variety, you can replace a cup or two with milk or tomato sauce.
Salt (omit the salt if using a salty broth)
Other spices (optional)
1 or 2 cups cooked meat
2 or more cups cooked or frozen vegetables

In a skillet on medium heat, heat the fat until it is melted and hot. Add the flour, and whisk it around for a few minutes. Then add the liquid, continuing to whisk. Bring the sauce to a boil and then continue to simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. (It will thicken even more after it cools.) Season to taste with pepper and salt. (Though salt may not be necessary if you started with a salty broth from a can or made from bullion.) Add the cooked meat and vegetables, and continue to cook until they are fully heated.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Beans, finally

I'm having to pinch myself to stay awake. Not sure why I've had so much trouble writing the bean section, seeing as how much I love beans.

I finally came up with a decent quick curry recipe today. Though, lunch's iteration came out better than dinner's, which was pepto-bismol pink and has an unfortunately stringy texture.

Gads, the last 10% of any project takes 80% of the time, doesn't it?


Few foods feed us so well for so little cost. Canned beans (#) are reasonably inexpensive and convenient, while dry beans cost pennies, and are simple to cook, if you have the time (recipe #). Beans can be cooked on the weekend and stored in the refrigerator to make quick meals with during the week. But better still, cooked beans can be frozen, for use at any time (recipe #).

Canned beans

Canned beans are cooked and ready to eat right from the can. Some people swear that the beans should be drained and washed in order to minimize gas, but you can cook with the water from the can if you want to. Be aware that canned beans contain a lot of salt.

Boiled beans

Nothing could be simpler than cooking dry beans: simply cover them with water, put a lid on the pot, and set them to a simmer or a low boil. Stir every 20 minutes or so. Cook with a lid on to keep too much water from evaporating. Add extra water to the pot if the beans seem to be crowded. Taste a bean every so often. When the beans are as soft as you like, use them in any recipe that calls for cooked or canned beans.

6 or more cups water
2 cups (1 pound) dry beans
1 tsp salt (optional)

There are many types of beans. Each type of beans has its own cooking time. Additionally, the older the beans are, the longer that they will take to cook (and the less nutritious they will be). This makes it tough to judge how long it will take to cook a pot of beans. Unless you are cooking lentils, which can take as little as a half hour to cook, assume it will take at least two hours to cook your beans.

Beans need to be rinsed before cooking, to remove dust. You should also sort through them before cooking to remove any pebbles or other agricultural debris that may have jumped into the bag. Also take out any beans that look particularly shriveled, discolored, or otherwise unfit to eat.

Cooking time can be reduced somewhat by soaking the beans overnight in cold water, but this is not a necessary step.

Most cooks will swear that adding salt to a pot of beans will cause the beans to take longer to cook. However, chef Mark Bittman has tested pots of beans side-by-side, one with salt, the other without, and reports that both pots of beans finished cooking at the same time. But if you want to add salt to the pot, and you wish to cover your bases, you can always wait and add salt then the beans are mostly cooked.

Beans double in size when cooked, more or less, so if you cook two cups of dry beans, you will get about four cups of cooked beans. One pound of beans is about two cups of dried beans.

Once your beans are cooked, you have several options. You can drain the beans in a colander, or you can keep them in the cooking water. (The cooking water can be useful for making soup or stew.) You can immediately turn some or all of the beans into soup or any other recipe. You can refrigerate the beans with or without their cooking water for use in recipes over the next five days or so. Or you can freeze the beans indefinitely.

Run cool tap water over your drained beans to cool them before moving them to the refrigerator or freezer.

Frozen beans

Cooked beans freeze beautifully. If you drain them, you can put them into one big freezer-safe bag or box, and then later use a butter knife to break off beans when you need some for a recipe. But chipping away at an iceberg of beans can be tedious. An alternative is to freeze beans (with or without cooking water) in individual serving sized containers.

Beans in soups and stews

Not only are beans tasty in soup, but if you mash them up a bit with a potato masher, they also function as a thickener. Frozen beans can be added directly to soups and stews without thawing them first. Add cooked beans at the end of cooking, if you wish the beans to remain whole and firm.

Beans in salads

Beans add a lovely heft to salads. Frozen beans need to be thawed before being used in salad - preferably in the refrigerator, but the counter will do in a pinch.

Beans in balls, patties, and loaves

Beans are fantastic in balls, patties, and loaves, particularly in meatless versions. You can add them whole and even frozen, if you are in a hurry. But for a better consistency, chop or mash the beans before adding them.

Refried beans

Beans can be “refried” by heating them in a pan with a little water, and the mashing them with a potato masher. For flavor, season with salt and pepper, and add cumin, garlic, onion, and/or taco spices (#). Or experiment with other spices.


Tofu is a soft white substance made from soy beans. It can usually be found in two varieties: firm, and “silken”, which is softer. While it can be eaten raw, tofu’s flavor is very bland, making it an excellent candidate for dishes with a strong-flavored sauce or broth. Tofu marinates well (see Baked Tofu #). And tofu makes an excellent filler in Balls, Patties, and Loaves (#), especially when you want to make the dish meat-free.

Baked Tofu

Baked tofu has a tougher texture than raw tofu. When cut into one-inch cubes and baked, the toughened tofu cubes can then withstand being stirred in curries, soups, and the like, more than raw tofu can. Baked sticks of tofu make great finger foods for young children, or for parties. Or it can be eaten as a meat substitute, cut in a slabs. Baked tofu can be refrigerated for about five days, and it can even be frozen for later.

Use firm tofu for baking - or “extra firm”, if it is available.

You can bake tofu with or without marinating it first. You can marinate tofu just like you would marinate meat: cut the tofu into the desired shape, put it in a container with a lid, and cover it with a flavorful liquid. Marinate it from thirty minutes to overnight. Discard the liquid before baking the tofu.

Rub a little oil on a baking sheet or a casserole dish, and lay the tofu out with an inch of space between cubes. If the tofu has not been marinated, sprinkle it with a little salt. Then, for one-inch cubes, bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Use tongs or a fork to flip the tofu over, and bake for another 20 minutes. Larger tofu shapes may require additional time in the oven.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mini Cookbook for the Harvest Festival

Anne Marie asked me if I could put together a few sample recipes to distribute at the Franklin Food Pantry booth at the upcoming Harvest Festival. Of course! Here is what I have put together. Step 2: lay these out in a nice format, get them printed, and drop of the shiny end product at the pantry.

Four Recipes Every Family Should Know

Anyone who has a family to feed can benefit by knowing these four basic recipes: how to boil beans, boil grains, bake a whole chicken, and sauté vegetables. With these basic recipes, some spices, and a few additional ingredients, a home cook can make chili, stir-fry, curry, soup, burritos, and numerous other healthy meals. By cooking beans, brown rice, and a chicken on Sunday, a busy family can throw together quick dinners each night for most of the work week.

These recipes are part of a larger cookbook being written for the Franklin Food Pantry. For more information and more recipes, visit pantry

Baked Chicken

One whole chicken, or any chicken parts
1 tsp salt
1 tsp any other spices (optional)
1 tbsp butter or oil (optional)

You can get the most chicken for your money by cooking a whole chicken and then picking all of the meat off of the bones. A single chicken can provide meat for three or four meals for a small family. Or instead of whole chicken, you can bake any chicken parts, with or without bones.

Whole frozen chickens take a couple of days in the refrigerator to thaw. In a pinch, a microwave (on the “defrost” setting) or cold running water can be used to thaw a chicken. However, leaving any meat to thaw at room temperature is not safe.

When baking whole chicken, you can stick an onion, or apple slices, or other vegetables in the body cavity of the bird to add extra flavor to the meat. However, you will want to discard these things after cooking. It typically isn’t a good idea to cook stuffing inside of poultry, because the stuffing may not reach the necessary safe temperature.

Before baking a whole chicken, you must first reach inside the body cavity and remove the bag of giblets, or confirm that no bag of giblets is present. Then sprinkle the chicken with a teaspoon of salt, and any other spices that you would like. You can also rub the chicken with oil or butter, for more flavor.

Place the bird breast-side-up in a pan or casserole dish. A probe-type thermometer (with a wire that runs out of the oven and connects to a counter-top digital device that beeps when the desired temperature is reached) is the most reliable way of judging when chicken is fully baked. If you are using a probe thermometer, insert it into the middle of the thickest part of the meat, near the chicken‘s leg. In order to get an accurate reading, the tip of the thermometer must not be touching bone.

Cook the chicken until the thermometer reads 160 degrees. Take the chicken out of the oven and leave it out uncovered, and the residual heat in the outer part of the bird will cause the internal temperature to continue climbing to 165, which is the safe “done” temperature. Then, if you can, leave the chicken to “rest” (i.e. don’t cut into it) for another 20 minutes or so, so that when you do cut into it, the juices don’t run out and leave you with dry meat.

If you are cooking chicken pieces, remove them from the oven when they reach 165 degrees, as there may not be enough residual heat in the meat to fully cook the interior of the meat.

If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test for doneness by sticking the thickest part of the chicken with a knife. If the juices run clear, the chicken is done. If the meat falls away from the bone, the chicken is over-done - which means it is quite safe to eat, but may be a bit dry. For boneless chicken pieces, cut into the chicken and look at the color of the meat to determine if the meat is done. White meat is fully cooked. Note, however, that in parts of bone-in chicken, there will be some pinkish or reddish bits of meat against the bone, even when the chicken is fully cooked.

After you have carved off and eaten pieces of the whole chicken, don’t forget to pick all the remaining meat from the bones! There may be a meal or more worth of meat hidden on the carcass. Don’t forget to flip the chicken over to get the back meat! And save everything: bones, gristle, skin, and the liquids and crusty stuff from the bottom of the baking pan. These can all be used to make chicken stock. Refrigerate these leftovers for up to five days, or freeze them indefinitely.

Cooked chicken meat can be used to make quesadillas, burritos, soup, chili, or omelette. It can be used cold on top of salad greens or in chicken salad.

Boiled beans

Nothing could be simpler than cooking dry beans: simply cover them with water, put a lid on the pot, and set them to a simmer or a low boil. Stir every 20 minutes or so. Cook with a lid on to keep too much water from evaporating. Add extra water to the pot if the beans seem to be crowded. Taste a bean every so often. When the beans are as soft as you like, use them in any recipe that calls for cooked or canned beans.

6 or more cups water
2 cups (1 pound) dry beans
1 tsp salt (optional)

There are many types of beans. Each type of beans has its own cooking time. Additionally, the older the beans are, the longer that they will take to cook (and the less nutritious they will be). This makes it tough to judge how long it will take to cook a pot of beans. Unless you are cooking lentils, which can take as little as a half hour to cook, assume it will take at least two hours to cook your beans.

Beans need to be rinsed before cooking, to remove dust. You should also sort through them before cooking to remove any pebbles or other agricultural debris that may have jumped into the bag. Also take out any beans that look particularly shriveled, discolored, or otherwise unfit to eat.

Cooking time can be reduced somewhat by soaking the beans overnight in cold water, but this is not a necessary step.

Most cooks will swear that adding salt to a pot of beans will cause the beans to take longer to cook. However, chef Mark Bittman has tested pots of beans side-by-side, one with salt, the other without, and reports that both pots of beans finished cooking at the same time. But if you want to add salt to the pot, and you wish to cover your bases, you can always wait and add salt then the beans are mostly cooked.

Beans double in size when cooked, more or less, so if you cook two cups of dry beans, you will get about four cups of cooked beans. One pound of beans is about two cups of dried beans.

Once your beans are cooked, you have several options. You can drain the beans in a colander, or you can keep them in the cooking water. (The cooking water can be useful for making soup or stew.) You can immediately turn some or all of the beans into soup or any other recipe. You can refrigerate the beans with or without their cooking water for use in recipes over the next five days or so. Or you can freeze the beans indefinitely.

Run cool tap water over your drained beans to cool them before moving them to the refrigerator or freezer.

Cooked beans can be used in chili, soups, stews, salads, or burritos. They can be mashed into dip or refried beans. Beans can be spiced with Mexican spices or Indian curry spices and served with boiled grains of any sort. Beans can also be mashed and combined with boiled grains, grated raw vegetables, egg, and breadcrumbs, and then rolled and pan-fried to make vegetarian “meatballs” or veggie-burgers.

Boiled Grains

This recipe yields perfect rice, barley, whole wheat berries, rye, wild rice, or hominy. The cooking time varies from 10 minutes to over an hour, depending on the grain used. (White rice is quickest, unhulled grains take the longest.) In general grains double in size when cooked. (Barley, however, triples in size.)

6 or more cups water
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cup rice, barley, whole wheat berries, rye, wild rice, or hominy

In a medium or large pot, boil the water, and stir in the salt. Rinse the grain and add it to the boiling water. Continue to gently boil the water, without a lid, stirring occasionally. Add more water if it looks like there is too little. Taste the grain every ten minutes or so. When they have reached the desired tenderness, drain them in a colander, and serve or use in another recipe.

Cooked grains can be saved in the refrigerator for five days or so, or can be frozen indefinitely. If you want to move the grain straight to the refrigerator or freezer, cool them first by running cold tap water or ice water over them.

Cooked grains can be eaten as a side dish with little more than salt and pepper, and perhaps a bit of butter or oil. Or cooked grains can be mixed with chopped cooked vegetables for a more fancy side dish. Toss chopped raw greens in with a hot pot of grains, and the greens will cook just from the heat of the rice. Cooled grains can be used with chopped raw or cooked vegetables and salad dressing to make a grain salad. Cooked grains can be used as a filler in meatloaf or meat balls or hamburger patties, and cooked grains can be added to soups and stews.

Sautéed Vegetables

Sautéing is possibly the best way to get to know an unfamiliar veggie. Sautéing brings out the flavor in food quickly. And, importantly, when you sauté vegetables, you can taste them as you cook.

2 or so cups of almost any vegetable, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pinch (about 1/8 tsp) of salt
A sprinkle of black pepper
1 tablespoon of butter or oil, preferably olive

Heat the butter or oil over medium heat until the butter melts or the oil is hot. Toss in the vegetables, salt, and pepper. Give them a stir every thirty seconds or so. If the vegetables get dry and start to burn in the pan, add some extra oil, or add a tablespoon or so of water.

As you cook, periodically taste what you are cooking. Note how the texture and taste change. When the texture and flavor seem to be at their best, remove the pan from the heat, and as quickly as possible, get the veggies out of that hot pan! Many a vegetable dish has been overcooked because it has been left sitting in a hot pan. For particularly delicate vegetables, such as leafy greens or broccoli, you may want to get the vegetables off of the hot pan before they have reached their peak of texture and flavor, because even out of the pan, they will briefly continue to cook.

Sautéed vegetables can be served immediately just as they are. Additional spices of any sort can be used to jazz them up. Or, the cooked vegetables can be cooled (you can put them under cold tap water to do this) and used in salads. Cooked vegetables can be refrigerated for five days or so, and used in any number of recipes: burritos, omelettes, pasta dishes, quesadilla, sandwiches, etc. Reheated vegetables on toast are delicious for breakfast!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chipping away at draft 2. . .

How to Use This Book

If you have no experience cooking, start by reading the Basics of Cooking # and Basic Food Safety #. If you need basic cooking equipment but don’t know exactly what you need, read Basic Cooking Equipment #.

If you already know how to cook and you have the necessary equipment, then you can proceed to the recipes. Use the table of contents or the index to find specific recipes.

Tips for planning meals and saving money can be found in Planning a Week’s Worth of Meals (#), Freezing and Refrigerating (#), and Lunches for Work and School (#).

Basic Cooking Equipment

Equipment should be solid, thick metal if possible. Don’t bother with non-stick pots, pans, cookie sheets, etc..: the non-stick coating is too easily damaged, and once damaged, the metal underneath is likely to rust.

Restaurant supply stores carry the best equipment: plain and made to take abuse. Yard sales can be a great place to find good quality kitchen items for cheap.

The Essentials:
Large pot with lid
Small or medium pot with lid
Large frying pan with lid
Cookie sheet (preferably with edges, known as a “jelly roll pan”)
Medium or large casserole dish
Serving/stirring spoons, including a slotted spoon
Potato masher
Mixing bowls
Measuring cups
Chef’s knife
Paring knife (any small knife will do)
A plastic cutting board that fits in the dishwasher
Can opener
Box grater
Whetstone or steel knife sharpener

Optional items that may make your life a little easier:
Instant-read or probe thermometer
Salad spinner
Bread knife
Loaf pan
Countertop griddle

Expensive Kitchen gadgets that you WON’T need for most of the recipes in this book:
Food processor
Croc pot
Stand mixer
Rice cooker
Pressure cooker
Bread machine