Tag Archives: farmer’s market

Make a Meal from My Freezer: Reader Challenge!

Gentle Readers, is there anything better than a challenge? I think not. Long-time reader Blended Familia came to dinner the other night with this list in hand:

The Practical Cook Freezer Challenge: What Can I Make With This?

The Practical Cook Freezer Challenge: What Can I Make With This?

And a request. What can I make out of this? Delightful! First thing to note, there are warring camps here, as there always are. She is eating healthy and feeding an army of meat eaters. Not that meat isn’t healthy, but everyone runs differently. She needs a little, they want a lot.

BF is also looking to streamline the food budget, and meat, especially from the farmer’s market, is not cheap. How to blend these requests as seamlessly as her familia? Read on.

The Practical Cook Freezer Challenge: 5 Meals

1. Paella. This will use 1/2 a sausage and one package of chicken thighs and makes a lot. The onions and garlic are part of the recipe, combined with rice and tomatoes, you can make a lot. Great to make and freeze in portions if you’re cooking for something less than an army as well. Another bonus, this recipe lends itself well to the addition of hot sauce at the table. Add paprika and saffron in the process, but let people season to their level of fire.

2. Sausage and Greens. Bow to the meat eaters and make a bratwurst with whatever greens are in market at the time: kale, beet, mustard, etc. Simplify your life with a package of pierogie, stretch with applesauce, or make some mashed potatoes or hash browns. When I make this for The Practical Cook’s Junior, I eat double greens and let them have the extra sausage. Everyone’s happy.

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

3. Chorizo Burritos. The beauty of this one, you can use 1/2 package, or brown the whole thing and let everyone decide how much to add to their burrito. Stretch the meat with pinto beans, sweet potatoes, avocados, lettuce, rice, etc. I love chorizo for its intense flavor, and find a little bit goes a long way.

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

4. Gumbo. Another great way to use chicken thighs and sausage. Don’t fear okra, I beg you.I don’t want to hear about the slimy factor, not if you like Jell-O.  If you are unable to face it, add spinach or something else green here, even butterbeans, but do include tomatoes, onions, and rice.

Non-horsey Okra Pods

Non-horsey Okra Pods

5. Pasta Toss. For what I think is Italian sausage, this is ideal. You can cook it in slices separately with peppers and onions, and let people toss with red sauced pasta to taste. That way, you can go more veg if you choose. The big box Italian restaurants are doing this, take a page from their book. We do a lot of pasta bars, letting everyone choose their own taste adventure. Serve with a salad and call it a day.

The Joy of Self-Service: Pasta Bar

The Joy of Self-Service: Pasta Bar

Mission accomplished. These meals are set up to cook once but customize at the table. Meat can be featured in the quantities you prefer, and ingredients are used to stretch the whole thing.

What’s in your freezer? If you’d like to take the Freezer Challenge, post a comment below, send me an email, or tweet #freezerchallenge in my direction. I promise you, I can make a meal out of it.

Send your freezer-burned pictures, challenges, and bright ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Friday, Ham and Cheese Tea Sandwiches (a recipe).

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Weekly Menus: Week of 6/3/2012

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook is unsure where June came from, but it has arrived. The good news is with it comes lots of great vegetables. It also means the end of school for most, and more meals to plan! But, never fear, we will be addressing summer lunches in an upcoming post.

For now, let’s see what’s on the menu for next week. After some serious time away from the kitchen, it is back to eating down the stores and enjoying the bounty of the season and the CSA. So the weekly menus are:

Weekly Menus: 6/3/2012

Weekly Menus: 6/3/2012

And the limited Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/3/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/3/2012

The CSA from Brinkley Farms:

2 lbs cucumbers
1 bag lettuce mix
2 pointed head cabbages
1 bundle red beets
1 bundle chioggia beets

Which translates into:

Sunday: Pigs in a blanket, sweet potato chips, veg
The Jrs have been requesting sweet potato chips, and the pigs in a blanket are simple and a sure-fire hit.

Sweets in the Oven

Sweet Potato Chips in the Oven

Monday: Pasta and salad
We haven’t eaten much pasta lately, it’s time to go for the basics. The last week of school is a busy one, and this is easy!

Tuesday: Juevos rancheros
Mainly because I both like to say and eat it. With black beans. And green onions. Which I am currently obsessed with.

Wednesday: Pork chops, greens, and cooked apples
I heart Brinkley Farms pork chops a lot. If you haven’t had a thick-cut pork chop lately, run don’t walk. Cooked apples are a great way to use up less than crispy apples. I can’t abide a mealy apple.

Beautiful Pork Chops

Beautiful Pork Chops from Brinkley Farms

Thursday: Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green veg
I am determined to make meat loaf work for the family. There will be add-ins and toppings, which will include bacon. Or guanciale.

Friday: Pizza and salad!
School’s out for the summer, birthday party on the horizon. There will be wildness. Here’s hoping something gets eaten.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Birthday girl’s choice. We shall report on what that is!

And this week features a special project, Birthday Cake! It will be Birthday Carrot Cake per request. The Practical Cooks Junior are big fans, complete with Cream Cheese Frosting. The theme: fairies. Wish me luck. What are you cooking these days? Share your ideas in the comments section below. It’s fresh as a clean sheet of paper, just awaiting your culinary delights!

Mime jokes, licorice, and Nutella can be quarantined by sending them to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Can this supper be saved? The Practical Cook is challenged to create a meal plan from the contents of a loyal reader’s freezer! Game on.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 4/22/2012 (with bonus Farmer’s Market suggestions!)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook is getting ready to do some serious cooking and eating this week. I’ll be making a full Southern spread, and eating at a chef’s table tasting meal. Having just been introduced to the concept of “biscuit poisoning” (a quaint shorthand for needing to push back from the table a bit more often), I think I’ll be looking to extend the workouts this week.

Who knew Orange Blossom Brioche was in season? (I heart the Farmer's Market.)

Who knew Orange Blossom Brioche was in season? (I heart the Farmer's Market.)

But never fear, it’s CSA time, so the vegetables will be flying. Enough chitchat, here’s what’s on the menu this week.

Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 4/22/2012

Weekly Menus: 4/22/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/22/2012

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/22/2012

And the CSA:

lettuce mix
green buttercrunch lettuce
tuscano kale
chorizo

Which translates into:

Sunday: Bok choy and dumplings
The bok choy is from the CSA, and the dumplings are from Trader Joe’s. Couldn’t be simpler to toss together a Sunday supper.

Monday: Southern 101
The Jrs and I will be bringing our A game to this instructional meal: biscuits, sausage, bacon, greens, strawberries, grits, and potentially sweet potato hash or chips. We shall see.

My favorite, biscuit with molasses. On a pony plate of course.

My favorite, biscuit with molasses. On a pony plate of course.

Tuesday: Sammies and Soup
Great way to use up what’s about to go South, and not in the good way.

Bruschetta for dinner: the perfect way to use up a little bit of everything

Bruschetta for dinner: the perfect way to use up a little bit of everything

Wednesday: Lasagna
This is my make-ahead meal for the week. The Practical Cook’s Mom can toss this in the oven while I go dine on things that involve foam. I remain unconvinced by the molecular gastronomy movement, but I will be tweeting about it.

Thursday: Beans and Rice
The batch of black beans and rice I cooked last week will be put to use again. Perhaps in burritos or as juevos rancheros. Or just in a bowl with avocado on top.

Black Beans and Rice: Simple and Satisfying for Dinner

Black Beans and Rice: Simple and Satisfying for Dinner

Friday: Beef something
I need to complete the cow consumption to make way for more. Beefy ideas welcome. I may go with meatloaf to use up some bacon from the Monday meal. Do you like my logic there?

Saturday: Dine Out!
The Jrs have been quite adventurous and opinionated as of late. Let’s find out what happens.

WEEKLY CHALLENGE! If you have not dipped a toe into the world of Farmer’s Market, let this be the spring you give it a shot. I suggest starting simple, so you don’t end up a) getting overwhelmed and leaving with nothing or b) buying one of everything. I have done both. Make a small list, and focus on replacing a few things you’d normally buy. Lettuce is a nice place to start. Then challenge yourself to buy one new vegetable, something crazy. I met kohlrabi that way.

Which veggie do you want to learn how to cook? Post a comment below or send a Tweet my way!

Questions, ideas for future blogs, and food fights may be brought to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Wednesday: Can this supper be saved? Three Fast Flavor Boosts.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 4/15/2012

Gentle Readers, is there anything more exciting than the first CSA of the season? Answer: No. I just gleefully sent in my request, and I’m already plotting what to do with the fantastic eggs and bok choy that are coming my way. Spring is here, complete with p0llen, and I’m looking forward to more vegetable goodness.

Sunflower Yellow Egg Yolk from Farm Fresh Egg

Sunflower Yellow Egg Yolk from Farm Fresh Egg

We are in the process of finishing up our inventory reduction here at The Practical Cook kitchen. You may be forcefully invited to dinner to help out. Thanks in advance.

Light golden-brown biscuits!

Light golden-brown biscuits!

So here’s what you could be eating, from this week’s Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 4/15/2012

Weekly Menus: 4/15/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/15/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/15/2012

Which translates into:

Sunday: Burgers and Fries
These may be veggie or beef, TBD, but the fries will be sweet potato. (Though the Eldest informed me that TPC’s Mom made an excellent regular potato fry, with a mildly raised eyebrow at me. Le sigh, the age-old competition for the hearts and stomachs of one’s offspring rages on.)

Monday: Salmon Cakes plus veg
We need to eat more fish, and this is a great way to do it. I’ve got some frozen leftover mashed potatoes to use up for the binder, and some butter beans that will pair nicely.

Tuesday: Breakfast for Dinner
Just because it’s Tuesday. I need to make some biscuits as practice for an upcoming challenge.

Blackberry Salad with Sweet Pecans and Mozzarella Cheese

Blackberry Salad with Sweet Pecans and Mozzarella Cheese

Wednesday: Pasta and Salad
The pasta bar was a huge hit last week, especially the creamy ham and pea. The salad was a blackberry number. Delightful, let’s do it again.

Creamy ham and pea pasta toss. (Look, a wagon wheel!)

Creamy ham and pea pasta toss. (Look, a wagon wheel!)

Thursday: Sandwich night!
I have some bread to use up, and what better time to make grilled cheese, pressed sandwiches, or whatever else we can dream up?

Friday: Freezer Surprise
Because I do adore a challenge. And a cleaner freezer.

Saturday: Dine Out!
This continues to be a fun event, as we expand our list of places and determine each time whether they’re worthy of a return visit. I am proud to be raising kids with diverse food interests, who enjoy both the comfort of a familiar place and the excitement of a new one. As spring weather arrives, don’t forget the power of the picnic. It’s a magical experience to grab food and eat it outside somewhere. Especially if it’s cold fried chicken.

Summer Picnic Platter Featuring Cold Fried Chicken

Summer Picnic Platter Featuring Cold Fried Chicken

What’s in your picnic basket these days? I won’t tell, though I may borrow your suggestion. Post a comment below, I can hear you out there.

Send menu suggestions, burning questions, and strokes of brilliance to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, An Ode to Mood Lighting.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 4/1/2012

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook is currently in a state of shock that it is now really, really time to complete her taxes. Where has the time flown? Another favorite eating holiday is just around the corner (hello Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs, I love your seasonality), and spring carrots are coming soon. In preparation for my re-dedication to the art of eating local and my CSA, I continue to work through my pantry stores.

We are fully prepared for Laura Ingalls Wilder to show up for dinner.

We are fully prepared for Laura Ingalls Wilder to show up for dinner.

Seriously, it’s like Little House up in this joint, you’ll note I’ve just been buying fresh goods for weeks now. There was a significant inventory issue, and I will confess that there has been some wonderful field research to be done. Look for some upcoming reviews.

Very respectable fried pickles to be found at Carolina Ale House.

Very respectable fried pickles to be found at Carolina Ale House.

But I digress, here’s what we’re eating this week. It’s Spring Break, so there will be a lot of lunching happening as well. The problem with raising very polite and thoughtful eaters? They’ll tell you clearly and firmly what they do and don’t like. Le sigh. Undone by my own teachable moments.

Pork Belly with Tamarind. Like Bacon, only better. Yeah, I said it.

Pork Belly with Tamarind. Like Bacon, only better. Yeah, I said it.

Weekly Menus for this week:

Weekly Menus: 4/1/2012

Weekly Menus: 4/1/2012

Four-Square Grocery List:

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/1/2012

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/1/2012

Which translates to:

Sunday: Veggie Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries
I have a lot of sweet potatoes, as in many pounds. I made the last batch too spicy, as sweetly told to me by The Youngest Practical Cook Junior. Leftover buns from last week’s burgers, new swing at the fries, done.

Monday: Breakfast for Dinner OR Beans and Rice
Depends on time and the potential guests. I plan to actually have the beans in the house to cook this time. Bonus.

Tuesday: Dine Out!
The Juniors and I are going to be rolling on some research. I hope this will be a joint review, we shall see.

Wednesday: Sausage, greens, pierogies
One day I hope to make my own pierogies, or source them locally in a way that hearkens back to my time in NYC. Any and all suggestions welcome here. Until then, freezer case for all of this.

Thursday: Tuna Salad
Because I need to eat more fish. And because I want to perfect tuna salad, which I’m quite fond of. I just don’t love cat food, if you know what I mean.

Friday: Leftover Surprise/Risotto
Depends on energy level and circumstance. I’m craving mushroom/asparagus risotto, and I just made stock.

Saturday: Dine Out!
This could potentially be a remote location opportunity. I have some BBQ scouting to do to quiet a certain cantankerous critic. You know who you are.

Send your bon bons, actual questions, and video challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Wednesday, Easter Brunch/Lunch Ideas!

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Weekly Menus: Week of 3/25/2012 (with bonus “recipe”)

Gentle Readers, forgive the delayed posting, The Practical Cook is working on her taxes, and used the time-honored strategy of oversleeping as a means of addressing that odious task. She has determined that her next career will be as the person who names nail polishes, though, as there is a wonderful overlap between food and marketing in that field.

Today's Bonus Recipe: BLT with avocado on rye

Today's Bonus Recipe: BLT with avocado on rye

I am currently wearing “Gouda Gouda Two Shoes” on my fingers and “Vodka and Caviar” on my toes. That was the reward for housecleaning. As I’m out of paintable surfaces, alas, I must do the taxes. But I digress. This week will involve a fairly good amount of field research, and some forward planning. I am awaiting spring and the return of my CSA with great anticipation. Until then, I’m in a tasting frenzy. Last night I had some cremeux, a cheese that reminded me why food is my passion. It was as creamy as butter, salty and pure, such a clean taste on exquisite bread.

Hello dreamy cheese.

Hello dreamy cheese.

So I am entering this week with the simplest of meal plans, stripped down to taste the components, manageable to fit a busy week, and interesting enough to engage the food lovers I am raising. They are urban farmers now, having planted some lettuce. I look forward to becoming a farm-to-fork family.

Urban lettuce patch. Back off bunnies.

Urban lettuce patch. Back off bunnies.

So for our weekly menus we have:

Weekly Menus: 3/25/2012

Weekly Menus: 3/25/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/25/2012

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/25/2012

Which translates into:

Sunday: Beans and Rice
I’m thinking this will be black beans. Great to eat straight up or as a side.

Monday: Pizza and Salad
Because, just because.

Tuesday: Leftover Surprise
I can’t express how much I enjoy having reclaimed my fridge to some extent. Building in a time to eat what’s on hand will be a staple henceforth.

Wednesday: Chicken pie and green veg
This is the planned outcome for the rotisserie chicken on the grocery list. I don’t know if I’ll go with a pie dough based one, or more a savory crumble. TBD.

Thursday: Hamburgers and sweet potato fries
Every cook needs a good burger in their arsenal. I was reminded of this last week.

Friday: Mexican!
Leaving my options open here, could be burritos, juevos rancheros, or nachos. Possibly even quesadillas. There will be a soundtrack.

Saturday: Dine Out!
The Juniors have been vocal lately, we shall see where their cravings lie.

BONUS RECIPE:

This comes courtesy of The Eldest Practical Cook Junior, who makes a mean sandwich. It is a BLT with avocado on rye. The secret? A thin, evenly spread layer of mayo on one side, and on the avocado side, a thin, evenly spread layer of Dijon mustard. Trust us on this. Enjoy.

What do you serve when you are cleaning out your fridge or freezer? What’s your leftover surprise? Post a comment today, and share this blog with a friend. (Is my mind control working?)

Send questions, lucrative contracts, and queries to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Wednesday, it is Kitchen Tool Talk!

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Weekly Menus: Week of 3/4/2012 (bonus recipe)

Gentle Readers, with life’s hectic pace, and the winter months upon us, The Practical Cook must confess she did not go to the Farmer’s Market for a long time. Yesterday, driven by a cause (bacon), she went with the Juniors. Hog wild barely describes the scene. And that was just the Juniors. We came, we saw, we tasted and bought. We also learned.

Sing with me: "You're the inspiration!" (Bread, I Love You.)

Sing with me: "You're the inspiration!" (Bread, I Love You.)

If you haven’t located or visited your local Farmer’s Market lately, make a point of doing so. Interesting things are starting to happen again in most climates, and the baked goods are not to be missed. In fact, I’m so inspired, I’m making bread tomorrow. I have a partner in crime, though she doesn’t know it yet. Thanks CV Tall in advance.

Farmer's Market = Potential, my equivalent of mainlining

Farmer's Market = Potential, my equivalent of mainlining

I’ve included my Farmer’s Market purchases on the grocery list, though retroactive, as proof that I don’t exist solely on bacon. Especially since, irony of ironies, I’ve gotten multiple requests for veggie recipes lately: salad, grains, etc. I am here for you. Look to the bottom of the post for the bonus recipe inspired by today’s shopping trip.

Without further delay, here is this week’s Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 3/4/2012

Weekly Menus: 3/4/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery List (still very spartan, still trying to eat down my unfreakingbelievably large pantry warehouse + my assault on the Farmer’s Market = fresh veggie overload):

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/4/3012

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/4/3012

Which translates into:

Sunday:Salmon and kale
I think I’ll do something orange-ish, as I have a few oranges lingering in the crisper drawer, and pair it with Quinoa or couscous salad (recipe research!)

Monday: Butterbeans, cornbread, and beets, et al TBD
I’m looking to do a serious veggie meal, as the Juniors are developing a bacon withdrawal problem.

Wednesday: Sausage and Chard
Of course, then we’ll eat more pig, but as part of a cassoulet-like dish, with white beans.

Thursday: Bacon and Egg Sammies with Salad
Maybe I’ll have nailed the homemade bread by this point . . .

Friday: Soup and Sammies!
I’ve got some beef stock I need to use, so it may be time for a French Onion soup of some stripe.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Field research is so necessary. I’m scoping some new spots, let’s see if I can gather a research team. Volunteers? Mission: Chinese.

Breakfast for Dinner: I almost forgot, I bought more grits too.

Breakfast for Dinner: I almost forgot, I bought more grits too.

Bonus Recipe: Spinach Salad with Cherries, Pecans, and Goat Cheese

This is too obnoxiously easy to be a true recipe, but it permits me to lecture on what to keep in your pantry/fridge, so you’re salad-ready at all times.

baby spinach (don’t be without this, for real)
dried cherries
chopped pecans, lightly toasted
goat cheese, fresh is best and way less goaty
good quality Balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Combine in portions that work for you. My Youngest, a notoriously picky salad eater, literally wiped the plate with her spinach leaf. She would walk on hot rocks to get to goat cheese, so I crumbled a heftier portion on her salad. The basics here are sweet, crunchy, and salty. Spinach is a good salad back-up. It stays fresh longer in the fridge, is less bitter than some greens, and packs a serious nutritional punch. Keep dried fruit always. Raisins are good, but red dried fruit (cherries and cranberries) look more festive in salads. Nuts or seeds, also keep on hand. Of course, if you’re me or have a nut allergy, you can sub bacon bits. And though I’ve got both feta and goat cheese in the house, I find goat is way more versatile. If you hate it, go with feta, but you want creamy/salty here. It melds with the oil and vinegar.  End of lecture. Salad on!

What are you eating between seasons? Post a comment with your meals or your cravings!

Send salad suggestions, vegetarian challenges, and lucrative book contracts to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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For Wednesday, we’ll be testing one more round of M&Ms: Pretzel vs Peanut!

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