One Dish Meals, cont’d – Chicken Paprika

One dish meals are convenient, but sometimes they are sort of — well, unattractive.  Just some noodles and sauce.  I guess that’s not so bad, but I’m married to a man who really likes to see a piece of meat bigger than his thumb on the plate.  I like this one from Family Circle magazine.  It’s easy, cheap, and pretty tasty.  Serve it with noodles, mashed potatoes or rice on the side (there goes the one-dish idea) or with some really good, crusty bread (a perfect go-to side dish) and spinach salad.

Chicken Paprika

  • 8 chicken thighs or legs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup paprika (try to find a store that sells good Hungarian paprika)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 14-oz (used to be 16 0z) can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth (see note at bottom)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Remove skin from chicken(not absolutely necessary, but I do it with this dish.) In a large skillet, melt the butter.  Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 4 min.  Add  seasonings and cook for 1 min.

Add tomatoes, with the juice, 1 1/2 cups broth and chicken pieces.  Cover, bring to boiling, and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for about 20 min, til chicken is nice and tender.  In a small bowl, combine the rest of the broth into flour and stir until smooth.  Stir into skillet, cook 1-2 min until thick. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream.  Some fresh parsley is a great garnish.

Note re: chicken broth.

Of course, the best way to get chicken broth is to cook some chicken.  This didn’t always seem practical to me, because, unless you are going to use the cooked chicken,  —well, it just didn’t make sense.  I guess you could cook the chicken, and if you’re not planning on using it (for instance, this dish calls for raw chicken), you could freeze it and make chicken enchiladas or tacos another day.  If you are going to make soup, then you are making broth for that dish, and you won’t have any left over.  Anyway, here’s my solution to what some may not think is a problem in the first place.  First, If I am doing a stir fry, something that calls for cutting the raw chicken off the bones, I cook those bones into broth and freeze it.  Otherwise, I buy canned broth or I have even used bouillion cubes, which I am ashamed to admit.  I know some fine chefs who will cook a chicken only for the broth and then give the meat to the family pet or something.  You get really good broth that way.  Like mom used to say, “You can either save time or money.”

One Dish Meals – The Series: Not Tuna Casserole

Growing up in southern Kansas, we called the one-dish meals “casseroles”; I understand that in some parts of the country, they are called “hot dishes”.  Whatever you call them, they probably got started as a way to stretch the food dollar by combining a little bit of protein with a whole lot of what we used to call “starch”, or carbohydrate. This starch was usually in the form of what we used to call noodles, now known as pasta.  Sometimes,  rice was the stretcher.  To tell the truth, these casseroles all kind of ended up looking alike: a gummy mass of noodles that was pretty salty.  My mom went to her grave never knowing that I hated tuna casserole, for instance.  It had four ingredients: macaroni, tuna, cream of mushroom soup and sometimes peas.  Or cheese.  Fat city, here I come! I knew that there had to be a better way, and I’m sure that I was not the first one to turn to the Italian method for inspiration.  This was the result: something I call Tuna, Pasta, Tomatoes and Olives.  or Not Tuna Casserole.

  • One bag of whole wheat, spiral macaroni (I think it’s about a pound)
  • One large can of diced tomatoes
  • One onion
  • One green pepper
  • One can of pitted black olives
  • Some olive oil
  • Some balsamic vinegar
  • Some basil and garlic
  • one can of tuna, preferably the solid white kind.

Cook and drain the pasta.  Chop the onion and pepper.  Slice the olives. Drain the tomatoes, but drink the juice — it’s yummy and good for you.Mix together about 1/3 c. of olive oil, the same of the vinegar, and season with basil and garlic until you are satisfied with the flavor.  You can serve this hot or cold.  Some crusty bread is good with it.

One Dish Meals: First in a Series . Macaroni and Cheese

One of my sons has suggested a “one pot” theme.  Good idea, especially if the dish is such that you can do like the cavepeople did and all stick your spoons in the same pot!  No dishes! I like it.  To my way of thinking, soup makes a great one pot meal, especially if you have got (or have made!) some really good bread.  Anyway, watch this spot; there will be more to come.  But for the first one pot meal, let’s make it macaroni and cheese.  Technically, I use 2 pots, one for the mac and one for the sauce, but there is a way to make it in one pot.  Here it is.  Don’t forget  to serve with applesauce.

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 bag of macaroni – usually about a pound.  And I like to use whole wheat mac, the spirals.
  • 4 tablespoons butter.  and it’s better if your butter is not margarine.
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk (or alternatively, 2/3 cup dry milk powder mixed with 2 cups water. or add the powder with the flour and then stir in the water.)
  • 0ne pound (or more) of cheddar cheese, shredded — or you can  use a mixture of Monterey Jack, cheddar, etc.  Sometimes I also use some cream cheese.  And, while some would say that Velveeta is not real cheese, it sure does melt nicely. Use the big box.
  • salt and pepper
  • additional seasoning: I like to use either Worcestershire sauce or Lawry’s seasoned salt.  Some chopped green onions are also good.

First, you need a big pot in which to boil your water and cook your macaroni.  I assume you can follow the directions on the bag.  When it is cooked, drain it and return to the stove (but turn the burner way down.  In fact, turn it off for a while.  The mac is pretty hot.) Now, stir in the butter and let it melt, and then add the flour.  Now the milk (or the milk powder and water). Now, with the heat on low, start stirring in the cheese til its melted.  If you choose to add the additional seasonings, go ahead.  Remember, the more cheese the better.  That’s it; you can eat it out of the pot, or if you are from southern Kansas, pour it into a greased casserole dish and bake at 350 til brown on top.  (buttered bread crumbs always make a good casserole topping.)

Like my Mom said, “Feed ’em macaroni and cheese!”

A Word about Powdered Milk

I don’t suppose anyone likes to drink powdered milk, but it is handy to have around.  If you bake or cook any recipe that calls for milk, the difference won’t be noticeable if you substitute reconstituted dry milk. It’s cheaper, and it keeps for a long time. And then you can save the real milk for drinking and eating cereal.

Zucchini: Is There Anything It Can’t Do? (Zuke Salad and Zuke Cake)

And, by the way, how do you spell it? I think this is the accepted form.  Tomorrow is the first day of summer, and if you’re a gardener — or the friend of one– it’s not to early to start planning for National “Leave a Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch” Week.  I’ve actually never grown zucchini, because I have so many generous friends who do.  This vegetable is good for everything from soup to dessert.  If you have a particularly large one, you can stuff it with a ground meat seasoned with cumin, oregano, garlic and mint (some chopped tomatoes, if you like) for a Mediterranean-style entree.  Here are two recipes that I think are excellent examples of zuke versatility. If you have a copy of Jane Brody’s Good Food Book (and I hope that you do!) check out her recipe for Zucchini Fritatta.

ZUKE SALAD

I’m not sure of the origin of this recipe; I may have gotten from a fellow teacher in Kansas City who probably brought it to some luncheon, as my copy is scribbled on the back of a blank test form.  When I pulled this scrap out of my bag  home the other day and prepared it, I had forgotten how delicious it is!  It is reminiscent of home-made pickles.

Mix together:

  • 3/4 cup sugar (I used about 1/2)
  • salt and pepper – you decide
  • 2/3 cup vinegar ( I used a combination of balsamic vinegar and apple cider; red wine vinegar would also be good.)

Add:

  • 5 cups of thinly sliced zucchini
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced

Mix it all up and refrigerate.  It keeps very well and gets better every day (just like you!).

ZUCCHINI CAKE

Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan.  Preheat the oven to 375.

Mix in a large bowl:

  • 3 cups peeled and grated zucchini
  • 3 cups sugar (you could probably get by with 2 cups)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine and add:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Add:

  • 1 cup nuts, optional
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, also optional
  • 1/2 cup cocoa, also optional

Pour into the pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes.  It’s good with cream cheese frosting, but isn’t everything? You can see that this can be made to be a chocolate cake or not.  1 teaspoon cinnamon can also be added.

I have to be honest:  I don’t think you need that much oil.  I think you could leave out 1/2 cup, but it’s been a while since I’ve made this.  Tell you what:  I’ll make it up next week and let you know.

Banana Bread

We don’t let things go to waste in our house.  Brown, slimy bananas make great banana bread! Overripe bananas can easily be mashed with a little lemon juice and frozen  until you are ready to bake.  I have tried several recipes; one had grape-nuts instead of nuts. This one is my favorite.  We had one daughter who didn’t like nuts, so I usually made two loaves, one with and one without.  Chocolate chips are not bad either!

BANANA BREAD

  • 3 really ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups flour (of course, I use half whole wheat)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cups of nuts (walnuts or pecans) (black walnuts are really good) (you can use more if you’d like)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips if you like

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a loaf pan.  Mix the bananas and eggs.  Add the flour, sugar, salt, and soda.  Add the nuts; don’t overmix.  Put the batter in the pan and bake for 1 hour (or so).  (Quick breads will be done when the shrink from the sides of the pan and a toothpick poked in it comes out clean.) Let it cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, and then remove.  It slices better when it is cool if you can wait, and it is great with peanut butter and a glass of milk for breakfast!

Speaking of Refrigerator Magnets

I used to have a collection of refrigerator magnets.  They were really cute: a tiny box of popcorn and a diet coke; a little iron skillet with fried eggs, you get the picture.  Most of the cute ones are gone now.  The girls fed some of them to their dolls, and one of my boys liked to play with little tiny things. I still have  magnets, but now they are more verbal than tactile.  One of my favorites says, “You’ll eat it and like it.” My other favorite is one that I made myself, from an article I cut out of a Good Housekeeping magazine, March, 2003. I was reminded of how true it is when I visited my children this weekend.  I hope I won’t get sued if I share it with you. (author unknown)

“Cooking is an aesthetic adventure, a tangible accomplishment no matter how frustrating the test of the day might be.  But, above all, cooking is a universal language of love, a source of comfort and solace that is instantly understood by anyone who sits down at your table.  I cannot protect my children, who are now 14 and 11,from life’s hurts and disappointments.  But when they get home at night, I can remind them, with my deeds as well as my words, that they are cherished no matter what.

When you have small children, you often feel as though you’ll be overwhelmed forever. But then one day you turn around, and they’re taller than you are, competent, and dauntingly self-sufficient.

“I find myself hovering over my children, asking if they need anything, and they just brush  me off,” a friend of mine, the father of three teenagers, said plaintively the other day.  “They have their own lives now.”

True. But you can always make them dinner.

Granola: Crunchy; Muesli: chewy

Granola is my answer to cold cereal. My opinion is that when you buy cereal from the store, you might just as well eat the box.  There are many, many granola recipes out there. For my favorite, I go once again to the More-With -Less cookbook.    My recipe is different from the original, because one of the great things about granola is its flexibility. Just start mixing!

Preheat oven to 250.

In a large bowl or roasting pan, mix:

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 9 cups rolled oats (preferably old-fashioned, not quick)
  • 1 or 2 cups of coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups of raw wheat germ
  • 1 cup wheat bran (not the cereal, the bran)
  • 1 1/2 cups of dry milk powder

In a separate bowl, mix:

  • 1 1/2 cup water (better start with ust 1 cup)
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup honey or brown sugar (you can add more if yo must)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Add all the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread out onto 2 cookie sheets and bake 1 hour or til toasty. This makes about a gallon.  I add raisins AFTER it is baked.  If you like sunflower seeds, peanuts, etc. they cn be added before the granola is toasted.  Soy flour can be added (about 3/4 cup) but you may have to add a little water.

Muesli: This is like raw granola, and it’s great for the summer.

In a large casserole with a lid (or any container with a lid) mix:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup each lemon juice and honey
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried fuit (I like dried blueberries, cranberries, and apricots) Refrigerate overnight and enjoy.

Breakfast: A category of its own

I’m sure you have heard it said: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Don’t skip it.” I’ve come to appreciate another old saying: “Eat breakfast like a king, luncheon like a duke, and supper like a pauper.” I don’t always wake up very hungry, so I take this to mean qualilty, if not quantity.  But breakfast is really my favorite meal; it seems to be the only meal that can be enjoyed in either quiet solitude, or a happy crowd of family members and friends.  When the children were little, breakfast on school days was  either hot oatmeal or homemade granola (at least I like to remember it that way!).  No Cap’n Crunch at our house. One of the kids spent the night at a friend’s house and made sure to tell me that “their mom lets them eat Cap’n Crunch”.  (We did eat raisin bran and Life cereal.) On Saturdays, we would have pancakes, and on Sundays, I’d make muffins — they were kind of like hand-held pancakes and we had to get out the door quickly! Early in my marriage, I learned to make Dutch pancakes, and they became a favorite. As the kids got older, we ate breakfast together less and less. (No one ever tells you when it will be the last time you fix pancakes for someone.)  I am pleased to observe, however, that , for the most part, they still eat a healthful breakfast.  One son eats oatmeal on the way to work, another eats granola for snacks, and my daughter Kelsey makes great Dutch pancakes.

Oatmeal Bread: The staff of life

This recipe comes from the famous More-With-Less Cookbook, by Doris Longacre, and published, I believe, by the Mennonite Central Committee.  I highly recommend this book, as it is not simply  a collection of recipes. “It was born from the compulsion that someone, somehow must prod us over-fed North Americans to do something about our over-abundance” {juliebee’s note: and I would say, our over-consumption!} “in relation to the world food crisis. It implores us to begin today on a program of responsible eating. There is a way of wasting less, eating less and spending less which gives not less but more.”  The emphasis is on simplicity as a means of responsibility as well as good nutrition and enjoyment.  There is good information regarding over-consumption of protein, sugar, etc. If you can find this book, buy it immediately.  (I”ll check to see if it is still available from the MCC).  At any rate, my friend LaDonna made a particularly good batch of dinner rolls one day, and I asked her for the recipe.  She smiled and replied, “You already have it; it’s in More With Less.” I used to double the recipe since it went so fast at our house, especially when it was hot out of the oven.

Oatmeal Bread

Combine in a large bowl:

  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat floour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespn salt
  • 2 tablespn. butter

Over this, pour

  • 2 cups boiling water

In a small bowl, combine:

  • 1 pkg. dry yeast (or 1 tablespn)
  • 1/2 cup warm water

When the oatmeal bater is cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast.

Stir in

  • 5 cups flour (I usually used 3 cups of white and 2 cups of whole wheat)

When dough is stiff enough to handle, turn onto a floured board and knead 50-1o minutes.  (If you have a Kitchenaid, let it do the work.)

Place in a greased bowl, cover and let it rise until doubled, about an hour.  Punch it down and let it rise again.  Punch it down again, and shape into 2 loaves.  Put them into greased 9x5x3″ loaf pans.  Let them rise for about 30 minutes; then bake at 350 for  30-40 minutes.  (You can test the loaves by tapping them lightly; when they sound hollow, there done. Pop them out and cool them on a rack (I use muffin pans that are turned upside down) and rub them all over with butter. One of life’s ironies is that bread tastes better when it’s piping hot, but it is easier to cut when it has cooled.  And if you are going to store them in the freezer, you can wrap them up tightly in plastic wrap while they are warm. and them bag them up.

Irish Soda Bread

My children’s great great grandparents, Patrick and Katie Fleming, came to America from Ireland during the potato famine, probably passing through Ellis Island with hundreds of other brave people risking it all to find a better life in America. (I wonder what they would think of the state of things in this country now?) One of boys once joked that “I’m more Irish than you are.” That sounded like a great T-shirt slogan to me. At any rate, we all celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a big family meal, usually roasted corned beef (yes, I like mine roasted) and cabbage and mashed. (I have learned that the Irish themselves don’t think much of corned beef, since it hearkens to the days when beef about to go bad had to be salted and preserved before it was completely rotten.) The kids love soda bread, and there seem to be a lot of different recipes out there. Some call for buttermilk or sour milk, some don’t. Some have raisins or currants, and I have seen at least one that calls for caraway seeds. My daughter Kelsey made a great loaf this year that had eggs, which gave it a very tender crumb. This is the recipe that I gave Amos when he asked for it this year.

Irish Soda Bread

  • 3 cups flour (I usually use 2 cups white and 1 cup whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces (please, no margarine)
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup raisin, chopped, or currants

Heat oven to 425 degrees. I hope you have a baking stone, otherwise, you can use an iron skillet (and I hope you have one of those, too!) or a baking sheet. Put the flour, sugar, soda, and salt into a bowl. Cut in the butter (with a pastry blender — get one; you can’t cook as well without the proper tools) til it looks like crumbs. Stir in the raisins, and then add the buttermilk. Stir until a stiff dough forms (but don’t overmix). On a lightly floured countertop, knead about 6 strokes to form into a large ball. Put it onto the stone, and flatten it out slightly. With a sharp knife, slash a cross into the top. Bake about 35 minutes, until it is nice and brown and sounds slightly hollow when you tap it. It’s really good hot slathered with real butter. If you’ve got the money, go to a gourmet grocer and look for some imported Irish butter.

“For food in a world where many walk in hunger, for faith in world where many walk in fear, for friends in a world where many walk alone, We thank Thee, O Lord.”

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