One woman's adventures in cooking for her Dutch-American family.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Menu Monday: Week of February 28

As I mentioned last week, I'm trying an experiment this week: shopping out of our pantry and freezer. For several months now, I've been building up my pantry and chest freezer. My goal was to get to point where I always have pretty much what I need, and can shop the sales to replenish from week to week. Also, my experience with losing my job after my brain injury challenged me to see how we'd do if we suddenly lost the hubs' salary. (He's perfectly healthy, thank God, it's just an exercise!).

So the photo above shows our total groceries for the week. We spent $18. $12 of it was on dog food. Our almost-ten-year-old Shih Tzu has been having a rough time and has stopped eating. We bought this bag of sensitive stomach food (the smallest bag we saw) and she's not having it. Truth be told, we spend another $10 yesterday on 7 cans of wet dog food, which she is also not eating. So, $22 of our $28 this week is for the dog, who isn't eating it. Many people don't include pet food and supplies in the grocery budget, so I'm going to say we spent $6.

So, what will we eat? Here's a clue:

Actually, my plan is to make some meals as well, but we'll definitely work to make a dent in the leftovers. I should clarify that leftovers are a regular, planned part of our menu. About a year ago, we decided that we could cut the hubs' lunch budget by having him take leftovers to work. Most recipes I make are for 6-8 servings, so as part of our clean up, we just dole everything out into lunch size containers. Each morning, the hubs has a full variety of options.

Also in the freezer, I have several container of frozen vegetables. After watching Food Inc. and a few other food-related documentaries, I started to think about how much food we waste. It's actually not much since we've started meal planning, but there was still more than there needed to be. One really easy fix, is that if I needed a few stalks of celery, for example, I'd buy a whole celery (what's a whole celery called?) and chop up what I need. Then, instead of sticking the rest back in the freezer to die a slow and smelly death, I'd wash and chop up the rest, measure it and put it in a labeled container. The next time I needed celery, I'd check the freezer first before buying any new. As a side note, I only reuse celery in something like soup or stew because it doesn't freeze as well as other veggies like carrot, cabbage, onion and pepper, which I also have in the freezer at the moment.

I'm playing a little loosey-goosey with the menu this week, because I'm really not feeling well. My headache is acting up and I'm having some issues with fatigue and my vision. So, we'll see how it goes. Probably won't be dinner party fare, but we won't starve.

Leftover Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup and Ham & Cheese Grands Sandwiches.
The chicken noodle soup was in a larger container from a time when all the smaller ones were being used, so it keep on getting passed over. I still have a selection of Pillsbury croissant rolls, breads, pizza dough and Grands biscuits from a coupon sale a while back. Since I've been making my own breads, they haven't been touched. This is the week.

For the Grands sandwiches, make the Grands per directions. When they are cool enough to handle, split the in half and add cheese and ham. And butter, pesto, mayo or whatever else you'd like. Super simple. Small portion sizes. (All three of us ate these). Not so great on the no-processed food side, but it's the exemption so I'll okay.

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels. First, an aside. Yesterday the hubs made a comment something like this, "Why did you pick THIS week to do this experiment. We're almost out of butter!" I've pretty much switched completely to butter, since I rarely use it for anything other than cooking. He likes Country Crock spread for his sandwiches. I did too, until I started cutting out processed foods. We've had this bucket o' butter-ish substance for several months--it's the big ol' Sam's Club tub. I responded, "Cool. That's the challenge. How creative will we be when we don't have what we normally have or like to have. And we have butter. Put one on plate and there you go." To which he said, "Oh." Actually, it led to a cool discussion about sacrifice and ingenuity.

All that to say, my turn came when I realized we were out of regular flour. Oops! So this recipe calls for 4 cups of white flour and I had two. But I had plenty of whole wheat, whole wheat pastry flour and oat flour. Whole wheat is tough to work with in large quantities for bread, so I opted for the oat flour. The taste was awesome. If you close your eyes, these babies taste just like the ones you buy at the store. They just look a little sad.

I blame it on the oat flour. But, they're edible and were made of things I already had in my pantry, so it's a win. So much so that the hubs took the whole batch to work with him today. Hmm.

Once I have regular flour, I'll try them again. They are quite time consuming, and without a Kitchen Aid, I actually broke a sweat kneading the dough. But I would like to make blueberry and everything bagels.

Blueberry Smoothie. I'm more of a eat-my-calories v. drink-my-calories kinda gal, but I was craving something sweet and we were out of ice cream, so I made my first smoothie. It was a good way to use up some of the yogurt that will be spoiling soon. I added some flax seed, chia seeds and wheat germ to make it a little healthier. It wasn't as creamy as ice cream, but did hit the sweet spot quite well.

Leftover Homemade Pizza. I have two homemade pizza recipes. The first is a Mediterranean pizza, which I LOVE. This one is a spinach provolone one which was a little bland. Yep, that's what we're finishing up tonight.

Also, this morning I made Honey Roasted Chickpeas as a snack for Captain vanCrankypants and I. A bedrest-ridden friend suggested them to me via IM, and as soon as I said the word, CvC went into a tizzy demanding them. There are worse things to fuss for, so I obliged. Not as healthy as the spiced version, but sweet and crunchy.

Spaghetti di Pesto alla Genovese. I found Trent's "Simple Dollar" money blog this past week and like it on Facebook. When this tasty little recipe showed up in my feed, I quickly checked my pantry and just as quickly added it to my menu. Also, I spent way too much time this weekend reading his old posts. This one on the average monthly grocery bill for a family of four was quite interesting and has led to a fun ongoing email conversation between a friend and I.

If I'm feeling better than I am today, I'll be making granola and whole wheat bread too.

Breakfast for Dinner. Not only is this an easy dinner, but since our regular cereals (Cheerios and Raisin Bran Crunch) are gone, we're forced to use up some of the more neglected choices, like this:
This picture was taken seconds before that little hand got a finger full of applesauce!
Brinta is like Dutch malt-o-meal, which, incidentally, I learned, comes from Minnesota. Who knew? The hubs doesn't care for it, but I wanted to try it, and now we have a whole box. I made some this weekend. It's pretty bland so I tried to spice it up with some applesauce and cinnamon. This time I'll use blueberries.

We also have a box of whole wheat pancake mix (MIX!), frozen Eggos from when kiddo was teething and eggs. We'll have a feast!

Leftovers from the freezer. We have a meeting at night so we'll eat a quick dinner.

Mediterranean Quinoa. This is one of a handful of recipes for which I always keep the ingredients on hand.

Crockpot Caribbean Jerk Chicken. Now I'm just making stuff up. My plan is to improvise off of this recipe by throwing some chicken in with the Jerk Chicken marinade I found in the frig. I'll serve it on quinoa or couscous or rice, and some veggies from the freezer. OOH! I just found some homemade buns I made a while back, maybe I'll thaw those out, too.

***update: this was a FABULOUS idea! I will continue to experiment with other marinades and salad dressings. They are next on the purge-processed-food campaign, so feel free to pass on your favorite homemade recipes to me.***

Wow...that was painless. I didn't even have to work that hard and we'll hardly make a dent in the freezer. I may make this a monthly event. Talk to me next week!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shopping in My Pantry (and Frig and Freezer)

I just finished reading an excellent book by Jeff Yeager called The Cheapskate Next Door. It's full of lots of great ideas on how to save money and live green. Two values the hubs and I are learning to embrace.

I wrote down a whole page of thoughts and ideas while reading the book, but the one I'm really looking forward to trying is The Fiscal Fast. The idea is to go for a full week without spending any money. A few things that come to mind as potential challenges for us would be milk for our son and gas for my hubs. The latter actually shouldn't be too much of a problem because he could always use my car, which is only filled up about every two weeks, or he could carpool with a colleague.

The author talks about an annual hard-core fast, I'm thinking about a monthly/bi-monthly moderate fast. Basically, it means we make meals out of what we have in the pantry, frig or freezer. We have a pretty well-stocked pantry, a good number of leftovers in the freezer, and lots of extra meat in the big freezer. Dairy and produce would be a challenge, but I bet we could do it.

When the hubs and I were first married, we had No Spend Wednesdays. It was a good way to make sure we were purposeful about our spending. We got out of that habit, but maybe it's time to start it up again.

Look for some interesting menu planning ahead...and yes, that really is my pantry last summer. It's a bit more crowded now and has less processed food...or cleaners.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

I found this recipe while off a cooking blog bunny trail. Since we've been cutting down on processed foods, we haven't had a lot of chips around the house. I bought a jar of locally made salsa a few weeks ago for the Super Bowl, and forgot to buy chips. When I found this recipe, it sounded like a match.

And...WOW! Super duper easy, and really, really tasty. Not so good for the diet, but it does offer automatic portion control. As the hubs said, "I think we can put corn tortillas on the staple list." I'm looking forward to making the again and playing with the seasonings.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything

  • Lard or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, for deep-frying. (I used veggie oil, because that's what we had).
  • 12 corn tortillas, 6 or 8 inches in diameter
  • Salt
  • Put at least 1 inch of oil in a deep pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium-high; bring to 350°F. The broader the vessel, the more of these you can cook at once, but the more oil you will use. (They cook very quickly, so don't worry if your pan is narrow.)
It took about ten minute for my oil to get to 350 degrees.
  • Stack the tortillas and cut them, pielike, into 4 to 8 wedges.
I should have taken a picture of my brand spankin' new Wusthof knife that made quick work of these tortillas.
  • Fry as many at once as will fit without crowding, turning if necessary. Total cooking time will be about 2 minutes; the chips should not brown but just begin to darken in color.
Sizzle, sizzle!
  • Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or paper bags. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot or at room temperature.
Not diet friendly.
Eet Smakelijk!

Jacci Hilton's Stromboli Recipe

***Note: I haven't made this yet, I've only enjoyed it. Since the recipe wasn't out there on the internet, I made a post of it to help anyone having a virtual dinner party with us this week.***

Jacci Hilton's Stromboli Recipe

• Frozen Bread dough (works best to thaw in the refrigerator overnight)
• Melted Butter
• Garlic Power
• Italian Seasonings
• Grated Parmesan Cheese
• 4 Slices Each: Baked ham, sandwich salami, sandwich pepperoni
• 4 Slices Each: Mozzarella cheese & Provolone cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Roll out thawed dough.

3. Brush melted butter in center section of dough and sprinkle with garlic powder, Italian seasonings and Parmesan cheese.

4. Place the following slices on top of prepared dough lengthwise to cover middle section that you brushed with butter and seasonings (in order):
  • 4 slices of baked ham
  • 4 slices of Mozzarella cheese
  • 4 slices of sandwich salami
  • 4 slices of Provolone cheese
  • 4 slices of pepperoni
5. Cut DIAGONAL slits on both sides of the remaining dough approx. 1” apart to the center where the meat and cheese are. Take the slits and criss-cross to the center of the dough, alternating sides to make a braid. (Note: Jacci's recipe didn't say to cut diagonal, but I saw it on another recipe and I think it will make the braid look nicer).

6. After you have criss-crossed all sections, fold both ends/sides (tends to pop up so try to make sure it holds).

7. Brush top of loaf with melted butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

8. Place loaf into sprayed 9 x 13 jelly roll pan or baking dish with sides.

9. Bake for 35-45 minutes (depends on your oven).

9. Slice into sections and serve with the warmed spaghetti sauce of your choice.

Menu Monday: Week of February 21

It's been a week of big decisions here at the de Jong house. We have been tweaking our budget and interviewing cleaning ladies for awhile now, and this week we hired someone! She starts on Friday and the timing couldn't be better because the other big news is we are finally putting our house on the market. Our cleaner comes on Friday morning, and we've having the photos taken on Friday afternoon. It should still be clean by then. This will be a crazy week of going through each room and getting it decluttered and staged.

As a former neat freak, I've wrestled with the idea of hiring someone to clean. I know that I can do it, it's just that if I used my energy to clean, I don't have the energy to cook, take care of my son or have a coherent conversation with my husband. I'm very blessed to have a fairly high functioning level post brain injury, it's just that I have such a small tank of energy and I have to recharge way too often. So, I'm getting some help. A clean house will energize my brain and give me more time to love on my family.

The photo above is of a marble-topped cart I saw at Marshall's and really love. I want to find something exactly like that for my new pantry...in the new house...which we will start building soon!

Here's what's cooking at our house this week:


Mediterranean Quinoa. I found this recipe on Jenn's Girl Heroes blog. If you have an afternoon to spare, hop on over there and read up on her life as a figure competitor. She's a lot of fun and I find lots of great fitness inspiration there. And my favorite quinoa recipe ever.

Homemade Tortilla Chips.* Full disclosure: we spent all day working on the master bathroom and running around for staging decor, so I was too tired to make the quinoa. I'll make it on Thursday instead. However, I did manage to make this little treat while the hubs was putting the kiddo to bed. Super, SUPER easy, and built in portion control. Warm chips fresh out of the pan are pretty awesome after a long day of working on the house.

Crock Pot Italian Chicken. I'm pretty sure this is the world's easiest dinner. Since we're meeting with the tax guy tonight, I knew I'd have no brain power left for cooking. Literally, all you do is put chicken and a bottle of Italian dressing in the crockpot, and press "on." I like to fancy it up with some frozen veggies and rice, but that is it. So easy. So yummy. We also have Italian dressing on hand so we can make this at any time.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread. Last week's loaf didn't even last 24 hours.

Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup. I'm getting six cavities filled on Tuesday--thank you, pregnancy--so soup seemed like a good menu option. I tried out this recipe last week for a gathering with our small group from church. And wow, was it a hit! YUMMO! I was going to make dill potato soup, but the hubs pleaded with me to make this one instead--so he can have leftovers. Love to make the hubby happy.

Jacci Hilton's Stromboli.* For most of my pregnancy, I was either sick or on bedrest, or both. By the time kiddo came around, any muscle I might have had was long gone. Our church family was really good to us, with gifts of food and house care. The meal I remember most was this stromboli. It took forever to track down who provided it, and then get the recipe. I hope it lives up to my memory. (Which reminds me, does anyone remember this episode of How I Met Your Mother?)

Leftovers. But really, the quinoa from Monday.

Pesto Vegetable Lasagna*. I love pesto. I found this recipe a few week's ago when I read Bethenny Frankel's cookboo. Can't wait to see how it turns out! I may regret making this the day my house gets cleaned, so it could get pushed to Saturday.


Eet smakelijk!

* New to me recipe

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cooking Challenges

When I was in high school, science was not my strong suit. In particular, I had a hard time with chemistry. I was a straight A student, but where other good grades came easily, I had to work hard to make sense of chemistry. I did get some help. Due to my tendency to blow things up, no one wanted to be my chemistry partner. So I was paired with our very young, very attractive student teacher. Suddenly my lab works was much more interesting...and I got an A.

After many years of ignoring my chemistry class knowledge, I find myself fascinated by the chemistry of cooking. I like seeing how different ingredients react in different situations. I once melted raw sugar just to see what happens--try it, it's pretty cool. As I become more confident in the kitchen, I can see my progression toward using more and more basic ingredients. For example, not so long ago, if I wanted a cake, I bought one. Then, I bought a cake mix and made it at home. Then, I started making cakes from scratch. Now I'm experimenting with different kinds of cakes, all made from scratch.

I've started a list of food items that I want to make from scratch, just to see if I can. Maybe I've heard it's difficult, maybe it's something I really like and don't want to have to buy it, maybe I want to learn a new process, maybe I'm just curious about how it's made.

So...here's my current list of cooking challenges. If you have a great recipe for me to try, send it my way!
  1. Make my own vanilla. (I found a recipe on Sparkrecipes that I want to try).
  2. Chocolate soufflé. (I need to buy ramekins first)
  3. Cheesecake. I love me some cheesecake.
  4. Angel food cake. I love angel food cake even more. It's my favorite kind of cake.
  5. Crockpot hutspot. Hutspot is a sort of glorified mashed potato and veggie dish that's very popular in Holland. I'm thinking I could figure out a way to make it in the crockpot. I don't know of a recipe already developed.
  6. Pancakes. For whatever reason, I have yet to master pancakes. The hubs is in charge of pancakes around here.
  7. Crepes. They sound so fancy.
  8. Frosting a cake. I bought a little piping set, but I have no clue how to use it!
  9. Knife skills. The hubs gave me and a friend the gift of a knive skills class next month. I can't wait to know what I'm doing!
  10. French Baguettes. We found them for 56 euro cents when we were in Paris this January. I wonder how much it would be if I made them from scratch?
What are some of your cooking challenges?

Monday, February 14, 2011


The past week or so has made it pretty clear to me that it's time to invest in a quality knife set. I'm not excited about shelling out the money, but I certainly cook enough to make it cost efficient, and the recent cuts I've acquired could have surely been avoided with a better knife. I made a post about this and got a nice collection of suggestions: Warther, Pampered Chef and Wusthof all got votes. I'll need to get cracking on that because the hubs gave me a great Valentine's gift: a knives skills class for me and a friend. It's bring your own knife, so I'll be making a decision soon. I'm really excited to sharpen my skills!

What kind of knife do you use?

I am now the happy owner of a Wusthof chef's knife. I look forward to having many more little Wustof's in the future.

Menu Monday: Week of February 14

Before my brain injury seven years ago, I hardly cooked at all. In fact, other that dinners out with vendors and friends, I have a hard time remembering much of anything I ate at home. Granted, I was single then, working full time and freelance writing, but still, I surely ate something! I remember shopping for groceries, but there was never a plan for the food I purchased.

Some have asked me what appeals to me about cooking now, in my post-TBI life. I thought about this week as the answer became clear. While I was motivated to start cooking at home when I had a husband to fatten up and a young son to feed, the appeal for me is that is gratifying, yet forgiving. I lost a lot of my sense of purpose when I could no longer work or write, and it took a while to rebuild my identity. When I see my boys enjoying I meal I planned and prepared, I feel a sense of satisfaction and value. Cooking is forgiving in that even if the final result isn't exactly as planned, it's usually still edible. There's no failing grade or performance review scheduled. The stress is completely removed, which is good for my brain. And, on those days when I'm just not up for the kitchen, we have a pretty healthy stash of leftovers in the frig--so I can get that sense of satisfaction to boost my ego even when I haven't cooked that day. So again, no stress, no fail, only ego building. That is why I enjoy cooking.

Last week was a bit rough and we improvised quite a bit. My headache is on an upswing, but I'm battling killer fatigue. We've hit the leftovers hard. I'm giving myself an easy week this week as I continue to get my energy back.

Here's what's cooking at our house this week:

Slow Cooker Beef Stew. This is one of those recipes that you make and say, "Wow! I need to make this more often." Then you forget about it for awhile until you start craving it again. It's just so good. I follow this recipe pretty closely. I substitute whole wheat for regular flour, but that's usually about it. This time I had had some extra rutabega from the pasties I made a few weeks ago. I will forever more add rutabega to the mix. It was really, really good!

Chocolate Pretzels.* Since my son loves to help me in the kitchen, I decided that it's time to start a family tradition of baking together. I found this recipe on Megan's What's Megan Making blog. I don't know her personally, but found her through some Grand Rapids friends on Facebook. We had a lot of fun making these. My 2-year-old like mixing the sprinkles together the best.


Some Valentine's Day. I'm tired, the kiddo is nap-striking, and I pulled something in my hip and have been cuddling with the heating pad. Leftover stew for us tonight!

Elegant Orzo. I didn't get this made last week, so it got pushed to this week. Can't wait to try this variation I found.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread. Another week, another loaf of this bread.

Banana Bread. The bananas are going bad, so I'm going to make some banana bread again. I think this time I'll use carob chips, but I'll leave it as a game time decision.


Rosti.* Another challenge recipe. This could be described as either a potato pizza or glorified hash browns. Could be interesting.


Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings.* We are blessed to live so close to Amish country, so we have easy access to all sorts of bulk foods, and I learned, locally-grown hormone-free meats. This past week the hubs and I loaded up on 40 pounds of hormone-free chicken breast for $1.49/pound. Since the hormone-free chicken at the store is usually about $5/pound, I am very pleased. Look to see a lot more chicken on this blog.

Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup.* I found this recipe on Spark People. I've had great luck finding healthy, tasty recipes. Maybe it'll give me the kick in the pants I need to finish my weight loss goals.

* New to me recipe

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

I first discovered sun dried tomato pesto when I started making our favorite Elegant Orzo recipe. It's pretty pricey at the grocery store, so I was quite interested in trying it out when I came across the recipe on Sara's Imafoodblog.com. Turns out I had everything on hand and it's really quick and easy. I'm still getting a feel for it, so it comes out a little different each time, but every time it tastes better than the kind you buy at the store.

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
Adapted from At Home with Magnolia by Sara at Imafoodblog.com
Yield: About 1 Cup

  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted whole almonds
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 generous packed cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigianno regianno
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Drain your sun dried tomatoes, lightly rinse them, and then pat them dry with a paper towel. (I buy my sun-dried tomatoes in bulk, without oil. So I skip this part).
  • Toast your almonds in a dry shallow pan. They will take about 10 minutes, and you will smell when they are done.
  • Zest your lemon.
  • Juice your lemon. (I always keep lemons in the frig. You can use the zest in recipes, the juice in others, and throw the peel in the garbage disposal to give your kitchen a burst of lemony scent).

  • In a large food processor, combine the basil, toasted almonds, garlic, lemon zest, and salt. Process until coarsely chopped.
  • Add the sun dried tomatoes and parmigianno cheese and process until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped.
  • Now stream in the olive oil slowly and process until the pesto comes together. Don't pour too quickly or the mix will be oily.
Serve immediately or store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

Indonesian Pilaf

Sometime I'll have to make a post about how I organize my recipes, both online and at home. I started tearing recipes out of magazines long before I started cooking them, and this recipe for Indonesians Pilaf came from Real Simple a few years ago.

For a long time, I kept skipping over this one because I thought I had to buy the Kashi packet. Finally I read the fine print and realized I could use any grain I wanted. Dutch cuisine includes a lot of Indonesian foods, given the whole Dutch occupation thing. Politics aside, it sounded yummy and I loved all the colors.

adapted from Kashi.com


I halved the original recipe because it seems like a massive amount for the 2.5 of us. Both of the adults had two bowls (!) and we still had two generous servings for the hubs to take to work for lunch.

Also, we don't necessarily buy labeled organic produce, but we do buy from a great local grocery store/farmer's market-y type place.

  • 1 packet of Kashi™ 7 Whole Grain Pilaf (I used 2 cups dry couscous--4 cups when cooked)
  • 1/2 cup whole peanuts
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1-1/2 cloves organic garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 medium organic red onion, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 cup organic raisins
  • 1 small organic carrot, cut into match sticks (1 diced mine)
  • 1/2 cup organic red cabbage, diced (buy the smallest one you can find, because you'll have a ton left over. The hubs helpfully pointed out that in Holland you can get this pre-shredded in small amounts).
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/2 organic red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped (I used a couple teaspoons dried)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons brown rice vinegar (I used white rice vinegar, because that's what I had)
  • 1 teaspoons fresh ginger root, grated (I used ground ginger)
  • 1/2 teaspoons crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoons evaporated cane juice crystals (I used raw sugar)
  • Cook Kashi Pilaf (or couscous, or quinoa, or rice) according to directions on the package and set aside.
  • Dry toast peanuts in a small skillet until golden brown and set aside.
  • Sauté garlic and onion in first 2 teaspoons of sesame oil in a large skillet until limp.
The food processor went a little nuts with the red onion.

  • Add cumin, coriander and stir.
I love my cute little steel bowls from Ikea.

  • Add raisins, carrots, cabbage, salt, water and stir well.
  • Cover with lid, reduce heat to low, simmer for 3 minutes then remove from heat.

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine sauté mixture with cooked Kashi Pilaf, red bell pepper, cilantro, toasted peanuts and mix well.

  • In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients, whisk together, add to pilaf mixture, stir well and enjoy.
Nutrition Facts:

Serving Size: 2/3 cup
Calories: 180

Menu Monday: Week of February 7

I am bone tired today. We hosted a fun Super Bowl party here last night (YAY PACK!) and I cooked up a storm for two days. I love when I have a reason to share a new recipe, so I went a little nuts.

Anyway, here's what's cooking at our house this week:

Kayotic Kay's Beer Cheese Soup* Kay is one of my favorite food bloggers. You can see what's cooking with her over to the left. She's Dutch, so I get a lot of my Dutch recipes from her. When I saw that she had a Wisconsin beer cheese soup, I knew I had found my Super Bowl soup. Funny thing is, when I made it, the hubs came up to sample it, and was immediately disappointed that I hadn't made more. He wanted to have leftovers! So we made a second batch. And we still only had two serving left at the end of the night.

Cheddar Beer Bread* Oh. My. Goodness. This bread is so easy, so moist, an utterly--should that be, udderly?--delicious. I will make this again for sure.

Roasted Chickpeas. This time they turned out perfectly crunchy. The trick I think was turning up the heat in the oven to 205 degrees Celsius. (My in-laws converts my stove to Celsius three years ago when they were here and we have no idea how to get it back to Fahrenheit!). I like to season with garlic salt, but here are some suggestions for other combinations.

Roasted Kale. Kale is a food that is much more popular in Holland than here. My only exposure to it prior to marrying the hubs was that Burger King used it as a garnish back in my fast food days. This is a surprisingly addicting snack, but go easy on the salt. I use about half of what this recipe lists.

Matchstick Carrots with Greek Yogurt Dill Dip*. I learned how to match stick carrots a few months ago and found it to be fun and relaxing. It also showed me that I need new (sharper!) knives. I LOVE this dill dip recipe because it uses greek yogurt instead of sour cream, meaning it's much better for you, and it can stay out longer without having to worry about that pesky salmonella.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread. I LOVE this recipe! It's becoming a weekly thing. The hubs will polish off a whole loaf as a snack at work.

Leftovers! We don't need any more new food in the house! At least not for dinner...

Homemade Granola. My son LOVES granola. He'll eat it for breakfast, lunch or snack. Well, truth be told, he'd eat it for dinner, as well. It's super easy to make, and it's pretty forgiving so it's a recipe I let him be pretty hands on for while we're making it. I started out with the linked recipe, but it's quickly become one of those "what do we have in the pantry?" recipes. I usually use oats, pecans, slivered almonds, cashews, walnuts, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sesame seeds, coconut, flaxseed, wheat germ, brewers yeast, cinnamon, apple cider, honey, maple syrup (the pure stuff), olive or canola oil and whatever dried fruits we have one hand. Today we used dried apple.

Still leftovers...


A Dutch dinner for my Dutch boys.

Oma Kitty's Peach Pilaf*. This is one of Niels' favorite dishes that his mom makes. No pressure, right? Last time I attempted to find the recipe online from an English site. Massive flop. This time, I got the recipe from the source. Stay tuned.

Vla*. The Dutch LOVE their dairy. Vla is awful lot like pudding, but different somehow. I found a recipe online so I'll give it a whirl and see what the expert says.

Braised Red Cabbage with Cinnamon and Raisins.* We had a bunch of left over cabbage from the Indonesian pilaf from last week, so the hubs suggested this recipe from one of my Dutch cookbooks. I'm not sure that I like cabbage that much, but we'll see how it goes...

Spinach Steak Pinwheels*. I've seen these fun looking pinwheels at the meat counter at our grocery store (off topic--I'd really like to find a local place where we can get like 1/2 a cow at a time). So when I saw a recipe by Taste of Home (LOVE their stuff), I knew I had to try it.


Elegant Orzo. This is probably the recipe we make the most here at the de Jong house. I can't remember exactly where I found the recipe I use, but I adjusted this one to replace the fresh tomato with 3 Tablespoons sundried tomato paste and a handful of sundried tomatoes. This week I'm going to use some ideas from this recipe, mainly adding the kalamata olives (yum!), red onion, dijon mustard and tarragon.

* New to me recipe

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Banana Bread

Part of our food goals around here includes an effort to reduce the amount of food we waste. I remember reading an article about the amount of food Americans waste and it was pretty shocking...and especially sad when you think of all the people in the world who are hungry. So, we were convicted about that.

Meal-planning has helped us greatly in this goal. For the most part, we only buy what we need for the meals we plan to make. After shopping this way for over a year, it's hard to imagine shopping without this list! We do buy the occasional snack food (licorice allsorts and Breyer's ice cream), but somehow they manage to disappear before spoiling. I've started going through the kitchen each week and if there is any leftover fruit or vegetable that I don't have plans for, I'll often chop it up and freeze it for a future soup or something. My boys love all things dairy, so milk, dairy and cheese never has a chance to spoil.

So that leaves bananas. We don't buy them every week, but we do buy them often. I've been freezing them so we have a good stash for when the craving for banana bread strikes. It struck last night!

I have several banana bread recipes: with chocolate chips, with chai tea, with walnuts. I found this one last night, and the piqued my interest. And I found a new blog to follow. (My name is Jen...and I'm addicted to food blogs).

Banana bread really can't turn out badly, and this one is no exception. It's super moist and the taste is still pretty mild, so I would increase the spices. And we were drooling, so we took it out a little early. Next time, I'll keep it in for the full 50 minutes. (I think we did 45). Also, I added chopped pecans to the batter and another handful on top.

Banana Bread

makes 1 loaf, prep 10 minutes, cook 50 minutes

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter (I use unsalted)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt (increase this to 1 tsp is using unsalted butter)
  • pinch cloves
  • 1/2 tsp mace or nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup mashed banana (about 2-3 bananas)
  • (1/2 cup chopped nuts, pecans or walnuts, optional)
  • Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a loaf pan.
  • Cream the butter and sugar.
  • Add eggs, flour, salt, and spices, stir to combine.
  • Combine baking soda and buttermilk in a measure cup, stir well then add to batter. Beat until well combined.
The sad, neglected bananas that inspired today's adventure.
  • Stir in mashed banana and nuts if using.
  • Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake approximately 50 minutes or until a tester in the center comes out clean.
This is about the time I realized that I forgot to spray the pan. It only stuck a little bit.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I'm having a lot of fun following Beth at BudgetBytes. Great food and saving money, these are two of my favorite things!

A friend of mine asked me today if I used the bread machine we received as a wedding gift. Actually, I don't. The usual answer for this is that people don't make their own bread. I don't use it for two reasons:

1) My hubs eats a LOT of bread. Seriously. He calls his sandwiches his "tower of power." It's nothing for him to down three or four sandwiches---that's six-eight slices of bread!--at a sitting. The bread maker we have makes these cute little square loaves...which disappear awfully fast. So I started making bread in loaves that last a little bit longer, and double the recipe when I'm feeling especially ambitious.

2) It's about 20 years too late, but I'm really interested in the chemistry of cooking. I like breaking things down to their whole food element to see how they combine and interact together. Yeast in particular has been vexing to me, but I think I found the sweet spot at 95 degrees F.

Usually, when I make bread, I make wheat bread. I've also made garlic, multigrain and dill. I'll continue to play with seasoning and flavors. The hubs really likes cinnamon raisin. I made it once, but it was just okay. Then I found this recipe and was blown away. It is that good. The only downside is that it takes quite a while to make--mostly rising time. Since I get to stay home during the day, it's not a problem. Plus, it makes the house smell all cinnamony and wonderful.

by Beth at BudgetBytes (click the link above for the cost breakdown and her commentary)

Prep time: 15 min.
Cook time: 30 min.
Rise time: 3.5 hrs
Total: 4 hrs 15 min.

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2.25 cups bread flour
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1.25 tsp salt
  • .75 Tbsp yeast
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1.25 cups warm water
  • In a large pot or bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, salt, yeast and raisins.
  • Stir everything until evenly mixed (break up any raisin clumps).
  • Add the warm water and stir. If the dough does not come into one cohesive ball (with no dry bits left at the bottom of the bowl) add a little more water, one tablespoon at a time, until it all comes together.
This is my secret to not killing the yeast.
  • Loosely cover the bowl and let it rest for 2 hours at room temperature. (Jen says: I'm not sure why the dough is supposed to be covered and I've read that the towel should be wet, dry, hot and cold. I usually use a warm, wet cloth.)
  • After two hours the dough will have risen and grown to about twice the size. It will be a rough looking, shaggy ball of dough.
  • Turn it out onto a floured surface. Give it maybe one or two turns or "kneads" in the flour just to work in enough flour to keep it from sticking to your hands. Flatten and stretch the dough into a long rectangle. The short side of the rectangle should be the same length as your bread pan, the long side double that.
My son was very disappointed that we didn't have to use the roller.
  • Sprinkle the cinnamon over the surface of the rectangle. If you want a sweeter bread, you can sprinkle on some additional brown sugar with the cinnamon.
  • Roll the rectangle up and place it in a bread pan coated with non-stick spray.
Your roll should be as wide as your loaf pan, and twice as long.

  • Let the bread rise for 1.5 hours or until it has risen up and out of the pan.
Oops...I guess I didn't roll evenly!
  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  • Brush the top of the bread with water and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the top is a deep golden brown.
  • After baking, turn it out of the bread pan onto a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing.
A few helpful hints from Beth:
  • When you roll the dough up, stretch as you roll... the more it's rolled, the more swirl you'll have.
  • I sprayed the top of the loaf lightly with non-stick spray before letting it rise so that the top would stay pliable and allow it to expand.
  • A few chopped nuts would also be AH-MAZ-ING in there... mix them in with the dry ingredients in the beginning.
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