Marconi and cheese is the favorite food of my daughter. I used to make it from the little blue box mix until I read the list of no less than twenty ingredients, not including the milk and butter you add which are probably the most natural things in it. Today I made mine with only fourteen. To be fair the macaroni contained seven of those ingredients.
So to make a rich, tasty, creamy and REAL sauce only seven things are required
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 cup water
- 4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
- salt to taste (I used about a teaspoon total)
I start by boiling 1/2 pound of macaroni noodles in plain water for 12 minutes and set it aside to drain. Then I melt the butter add the flour and cook it together in a nice heavy sauce pan. Once this forms a pasty bubbly mixture I slowly add cream and stir constantly with a whisk. Adding the cup of water, I lower the heat to medium and stir until it comes back to a boil and thickens into a creamy bechemel sauce. Salt is added to taste, then the cheeses (I grate my own cheese to leave out the anti-caking ingredients) and the sauce is whisked again until the cheeses are completely melted.
Admittedly this is a pretty decadent comfort food. I don’t make it often but my daughter was craving it. Since she’s such a peanut I gave her a nice big bowl of it for lunch. I feel so much better about it when the ingredients are real and wholesome. Not only that but lunch included a side salad of home grown lettuce and tomatoes with a sprinkle of the grated cheese and dressed with lemon juice and pepper. I don’t think I’m putting anyone in danger of malnourishment…not on this diva’s watch!
Quiche has a long history dating back to the late 1300’s and maybe earlier. Quiche, a French word actually is of German origin and called “Küeche“, in English, cake. In English cuisine, recipes for quiche appeared in an early cook book of the day written by the chefs of King Richard II called “The Forme of Cury”. These custard pastries were made with meat or fish in a custard and baked in a pastry. Today we add cheese and other vegetables like onion or spinach.
Whether in King Richard II’s time or today, all I know is that quiche makes a breakfast everyone in my family enjoys and I can make one on a Saturday morning in about an hour with things I already have in the pantry and ‘fridge. If there are eggs, cheese, meat, vegetables, flour, butter or shortening and spices this can happen. Today I used:
- 6 farm fresh eggs
- 4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese (about a cup)
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 cup broccoli chopped in very small pieces
- 1/2 cup cubed meat (I used ham)
- a few dashes each: salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley flakes
- 1 pastry shell in a deep dish pie plate
First, preheat the oven to 375° and prepare a pie crust either store bought or using the method (this makes two shells) in the link in the last ingredient. In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs and combine all the other filling ingredients. Pour everything into the prepared pastry shell and carefully transfer to the oven’s top rack and bake for 50 or 60 minutes or until the eggs are set. It’s OK if it is a bit jiggly but no liquidity.
Sometimes the cheaper cuts of meat make the most delicious dishes. Most times they are enough to feed a good size crowd too. The part I like best is that they are an easy plate to prepare… those set and forget it meals.
A while back I purchased a good enameled cast iron dutch oven. I’m getting lots of use out of it this winter. It makes great stews, soups and is great for roasting about anything. Arm roast was my latest item on the menu and it sure turned out great. To begin this is some of the prep work:
- Sear in olive oil a 3 lb. arm roast on both sides
- cut six medium red potatoes in quarters
- chop four carrots in chunks
- add a half cup of dehydrated onion
- 1/4 cup dehydrated mushroom or 5 fresh in slices
- pour in 1 cup red wine, a cup of water and halfway through, a 12 oz. beer
- season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dehydrated onions and mushroooms
Preheat the oven to 350°. Once the roast is seared on both sides right in the dutch oven throw a few of the potatoes under the meat to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Add the wine, a cup of salted water, some pepper, garlic powder and a 12 oz bottle of good beer. Put the lid on and let it all cook for the next three and a half hours. Make sure there is enough liquid bubbling around the meat at the half way point. It should reduce a bit and become an unctuous gravy but if your lid doesn’t fit tight all the liquid might evaporate. Add more wine or beer if necessary. Sometimes using aluminum foil is better for sealing the pot well. Do what ever it takes to keep the liquid from drying up.
After the cooking time give it a little rest and let the juices stop bubbling so you can eat it without blistering your tongue.
It was tough for us to wait with all the delicious aroma filling the house, but we managed. Applause to the way the dutch oven cooks up a tender arm roast. I didn’t have to do anything but fill it with meat, veggies, seasonings and leftover libations. The results were outstanding!
Hey, tuna casserole can be classy! Why, I believe James Bond himself would approve of this dish. I will share this culinary secret if you promise to stay home one evening and cook this meal instead of going out and spending your hard earned money. Should you accept this mission, read carefully to learn how to save money, get your kids to eat vegetables, and allow yourself to kick back and watch the six O’clock news.
First, boil some noodles for ten minutes…a one pound package of wide egg noodles in salted water. As they cook, saute in olive oil, one carrot, two ribs of celery with the leaves, an onion, and a clove of garlic all finely sliced and diced and cook until the onion shows some golden brown color.
With the noodles drained and put back into the pot, open two cans of tuna (tuna packed in oil has much more flavor but a few more calories) and one 15 oz. can of diced tomato. Add these ingredients with all of their juices to the noodles and stir.
Shred 4 or 5 oz of jack Cheese and dump that into the pot as well. Season everything with salt and pepper. Add a touch of half and half cream…about a third of a cup. Heat the cream until it bubbles around the edges, add 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, season again with some , salt and pepper, and a bit of garlic powder. Shut off the flame and stir everything together. With the oven preheated to 400° pour everything into a 13″x 9″ baking pan in an even layer and pack it all down a bit.
The biggest secret to the success of this mission is using home made bread crumbs, The food processor makes this step a breeze. Using four or five slices of old bread ends, hopefully some good quality bread like French or sourdough, break it in pieces and pulse it in the processor until you’ve made a little more than a cup and a half of fine crumbs (I used some day [or two] old home made bread). In a bowl or pie plate season the crumbs with salt and pepper, maybe some herbs you like, drizzle on some olive oil, add 1/4 cup of Parmesan and toss everything together. It should still be a fluffy light mixture
Congratulations on the success of your mission! In the last 45 minutes, you’ve not only saved yourself about thirty dollars, but you’ve gotten your family to eat four vegetables, fish with its valuable omega three fat, And so what about the cheese, this meal tastes superb! Now you have time to enjoy the rest of the evening and as a bonus you might even have enough casserole left over to take to work tomorrow.
I have an admiration for the folks of Switzerland. From their awesome pocket knives to yodeling, skiing, banking and watches, they seem to have it all…zest for life and knowing how to live it with efficiency, frugality, agility and style. I mean yodeling…one must have an agile tongue to communicate across the mountains without having to pay for long distance…and what a style of vocal expression! I’ve admired them so long that back when C.B. radios were the latest craze, I hung out on the airwaves with all the radio geeks proudly proclaiming my handle as The Swiss Miss. I’m not Swiss in any way…rather American mutt with strong ties to Wales and England.
I’m not sure if the Swiss really invented it but the Swiss steak is a good example of how to be frugal and efficient. This inexpensive cut of meat could easily wind up having the texture of a brand new leather belt but braising, or cooking in liquid, is the technique used to transform this cheaper cut into a tender piece of delicious meat.
It helps to have a really good piece of meat to start. Grass fed beef certainly has a quality that doesn’t begin to compare with anything you would find in the supermarket. A local rancher that raises beef in such a way is a good person to know. My husband and I lucked into such a connection and purchased an eighth of a cow with a group of friends. Since the round steak was the first steak brought out of the box, I decided to make a good supper out of it.
First, I gave the steak a really good pounding right inside the package to help tenderize the meat. I dug the electric skillet out of the pantry and set it on high with a bit of olive oil in it, then placed the steak in it to sear off the one side. To the other side I sprinkled a couple of tablespoons of flour, some salt and lots of pepper. When a little fat rendered I turned the steak over and let the floured side sizzle a bit. I sprinkled a little bit more flour around the edges to let it form a pasty roux then added two cups of water and a touch more salt. The water bubbling together with the flour and caramelized juices from the meat soon thickened into a rich brown gravy.
It was then time to add a couple more layers of flavor. I used some chopped fresh oyster mushrooms I grew (that is another story) and some dehydrated onions (also another story). I let this bubble away with the lid on for the next three hours. About midway, I added another half cup of water. In the end I added some more pepper and parsley flakes as a finishing touch.
I could really taste the freshness and naturalness in the meat. Wow! What a difference! I could also cut this meat with my fork. Round steak is naturally chewy but not as much as I expected.
An eighth of a cow measures out to be about 60 pounds of meat so I’d say that the future can only get better from this point. There are sirloins, roasts, porterhouse steaks and a good amount of ground beef, all look so good I think I might need to work out a few days before I tackle any more meat cooking projects…but they will happen. Stay tuned!
When you have leftover roasted chicken, a refrigerator stock of onions and green peppers, some cheese, a few spices, a jar of enchilada sauce and corn tortillas around you can have delicious chicken enchiladas in about thirty minutes.
Next, dice up the onion and green pepper very small (I used a half of each vegetable), saute in a skillet with a spot of olive oil and minced garlic until the onions are clear and show a bit of brown color.
Now put about two tablespoons of mixture in each tortilla and roll them up carefully (they crack easily) and place them seam down in a 9″x9″ baking pan. About 8 enchiladas will fit. Depending on the brand you buy they will break very easily. To prevent this, warm them in a small skillet with a spritz of oil spray on each side. This makes them much more pliable.
I used a soft tortilla and they cracked a little bit but they will be covered in sauce and cheese so it won’t matter. Remember, this is an easy recipe. So a half cup more of sauce goes on top of the enchiladas (moisten all exposed parts of the tortillas or they will become hard and dry upon baking) and another 2 oz. of shredded cheese is sprinkled on top. Just pop this pan of deliciousness into the oven for thirty minutes or until the cheese on top is well melted and the sauce bubbles a bit in the corners.
When it is done, plate up a few enchiladas for everyone (you can make a big enough pan of them to feed up to eight people but you’ll need to double the ingredients) using a nice wide spatula. Top them with a dollop of sour cream and some fresh cilantro or parsley and enjoy!