Tag Archives: greens

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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One Ingredient, Three Ways: Salad Edition

Gentle Readers, as Star Wars informs us, there must be balance in the force. In a life full of bacon, there must be some salad. The Practical Cook is actually a fan of salad, salad of all stripes. This challenges comes from @convertiblelife as she is working on a month of salads. My parameters are broad, doesn’t have to be iceberg with ranch. In fact, I can promise you it won’t be. And why stop with one salad when you can have a trifecta?

Grilled Veggie Salad, Potato Salad, Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola and Strawberries

Grilled Veggie Salad, Potato Salad, Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola and Strawberries

Honestly, I could eat salad every day. I do most days. I did today. See above. See below.

The Corporate Lunch Salad: Dismantle the veggie sandwich and add it to the mix!

The Corporate Lunch Salad: Dismantle the veggie sandwich and add it to the mix!

And now, One Ingredient, Three Ways: Salad Edition (fine, salad is not technically an ingredient, let us call it artistic license):

Simple Seasonal Salad with a Moroccan Twist: Romaine lettuce, toasted almonds, mango, goat cheese, and chopped dates (not bacon!)

Simple Seasonal Salad with a Moroccan Twist: Romaine lettuce, toasted almonds, mango, goat cheese, and chopped dates (not bacon!)

1. Fruit Salad. From my awesome SIL, the key is not to mix the fruit till the last possible second. And grapes take up space. You’re welcome, you can now attend potlucks with ease and confidence.

Look to the left of the carbs for the beautiful fruit salad.

Look to the left of the carbs for the beautiful fruit salad.

2. Rainbow Orzo Salad. This is a reminder that a pasta or grain salad does not have to drown in dressing or salt. You can make something healthy and colorful with a fantastic chew.

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

3. Green Salad Guidelines. Something green, something sweet, something crunchy, something salty. Toss with either Balsamic and Olive Oil, or a Sherry Vinaigrette. Example: mixed baby greens, dried cranberries, walnuts, goat cheese. We’ve served this in TPC kitchen for years, it is the house salad. Simple, easy to eat, delicious.

Blueberry Herb Salad: This picture just makes me want to eat it again.

Blueberry Herb Salad: This picture just makes me want to eat it again.

Look for more salad guides upcoming. I love the idea of 30 days of salad. I will confess that our salads have a lot of real bacon bits on them right now. You have your leftovers, I have mine. What’s your house salad? Post a comment, and yes, I’m talking to you.

Simple yet delicious, The Practical Cook's House Salad.

Simple yet delicious, The Practical Cook's House Salad, in Variation.

Email your pictures, queries, and 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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Coming up Friday, Round 3 of Bacon Brackets: Local Edition!

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Kitchen Tool Talk: An Ode to My Cast Iron Skillet

Gentle Readers, is there anything better than a cast iron skillet? Yes, The Practical Cook would argue that one you get as a hand-me-down is better still. My 10-inch cast iron skillet is from my Granny, featured in the header picture. And if you haven’t added a cast-iron skillet to your cooking toolbox, here’s why you should.

Squash frying in the cast-iron skillet

Squash frying in the cast-iron skillet

An Ode to My Cast Iron Skillet: 5 Reasons to Own and Love It

1. Cornbread. It creates the perfect shape, the perfect crispness, and has a convenient handle for easy oven removal. And do I really have to defend cornbread? Fry some bacon in it first, then make cornbread. You can say thank you later.

Cornbread with Molasses

Cornbread with Molasses

2. Sauteed greens. Studies have indicated that there is some transfer of iron to food cooked, so I say, why not double down and go all Popeye on the spinach? The high heat tolerance makes it perfect for a quick flash-saute of greens of any stripe, and I use mine for spinach constantly.

Green Garlic + Spinach (Less Fluffy Now)

Green Garlic + Spinach (Less Fluffy Now)

3. Preheating. You can get a cast iron skillet hotter and keep it hotter than any nonstick I’ve ever tried. I use nonstick pans, but I am not crazy about any kind of serious heat used on them. So when the French toast recipe of my dreams says preheat the cast iron skillet over medium for 5 minutes, I can do just that.

Challah for French Toast Frying in the Pan!

Challah for French Toast Frying in the Pan!

4. Easy cleaning. This is the one reason I think people shy away from cast iron. You don’t clean them in the traditional manner using commercial detergent, but they’re not hard to maintain. I use salt or baking soda to scrape off anything stuck, I wipe down with vegetable oil, I re-season on occasion with a bake in the oven, and I cook bacon whenever I can. That really puts a nice patina on the skillet.

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

5. Longevity. Yours and the pan’s. I still don’t have my Granny’s strength in either a) wielding the thing or b) touching it with bare hands. Clearly, The Practical Cook’s generation is a soft one in comparison. So we need to toughen up! Oh, and the pan lasts a really long time too.

Cast-Iron Skillet Getting Hot Hot Hot!

Cast-Iron Skillet Getting Hot Hot Hot!

Of course, every time I cook with this pan, my Granny is in the kitchen with me. That’s reason enough for near-daily use. Thank you Granny for starting me down this road. Maybe one day the sausage gravy I make in your pan will equal yours.

Are you a cast-iron fan? Share your story in the comments section below! I’m feeling a comments-based giveaway coming on soon. So get some practice now, comment today!

Send your ideas, challenges, and bacon recommendations 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, Mango and Blackberry Parfait.

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One Ingredient, Three Ways: Parmesan Rinds

Gentle Readers, nothing is more satisfying than using an ingredient to the last drop. Especially when it’s a costly one. If you’ve been throwing away your Parmesan rinds, today is the day to stop doing so. And if you have no rinds because you’re using a certain green can, get thee to a cheesery. Ahem, as I was saying, Parmesan rinds are bursting with flavor, and you can drop them in all sorts of dishes.

Parmesan Rinds: Endless flavor possibilities!

Parmesan Rinds: Endless flavor possibilities!

To save them, just grate to your desired end point, wrap, and freeze. That’s it. Best to label them so you use oldest first. I drop them right into the dish, but if you think of it, set it out on the counter while you’re prepping. Could not be easier!

One Ingredient, Three Ways: Parmesan Rinds

1. Cooked Greens. As a bacon or pork substitute, the Parmesan rind was an outstanding performer. The Collard Greens for Haters Recipe, Vegetarian Version featured one such rind, and it added a depth of flavor even I didn’t expect. I’m so proud to say it converted one hater on the spot. This will work with other leafy greens, but works best when you cook them for a while, not just a fast saute.

Vegetarian Collards for Haters, Order Up!

Vegetarian Collards for Haters, Order Up!

2. Beans and Soups. Coming tomorrow, I’ll share a Vegetarian Down-Home Black-Eyed Peas recipe that features a Parmesan rind as a substitute for a ham hock, which I find too hoofy for my taste. I know, I just lost 2 Southern points, but hopefully my love of Fried will redeem me. Add a Parmesan rind to any pot of beans, peas, or soups for a rich, salty, cheese flavor. Minestrone would be awesome that way.

Vegetarian Down-Home Black-Eyed Peas: Delicious!

Vegetarian Down-Home Black-Eyed Peas: Delicious!

3. Risotto. I really love risotto, and I’ve done it a few ways, with red and with white wine. Regardless, I love the deep, layered flavors it provides, and the mouthfeel. I find adding a Parmesan rind to the process (the stock, the rice, either way) enriches the flavor further. This is on my to make list soon, so apologies for the lack of picture/recipe. I’ve got a LOT of cooking to do this year.

How do you use your Parmesan rinds? Do you save scraps in the freezer for future use? Confess here in the comments section, or Tweet!

Send your cheese rinds, your challenges, and your gentle reminders 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, Vegetarian Down-Home Black-Eyed Peas, Or Move Over Porky.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 5/1/2011

Another week, another set of menus. Now that spring is in full swing, there’s more produce options to incorporate, a wonderful culinary problem to have. This week the Practical Cook will be making Freezer Strawberry Jam. Oh, the smell. I digress, on to the meal plan.

Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 5/1/11

Weekly Menus: 5/1/11

Four-Square Grocery List: 5/1/11

Four-Square Grocery List: 5/1/11

From the CSA:

1 napa cabbage
1 bundle tuscano kale
1 bag lettuce mix
1 bundle green garlic
2 bundles mustard greens

Which means we’ll be eating:

Sunday: Leftover Surprise!
Building in a Punt! here. Will either repackage items in the fridge or serve something simple with eggs. We’ve got a party in the afternoon and 2 gallons of strawberries to jam up in the evening, so simple is best here.

Monday: BLTs
The first greenhouse tomatoes are appearing, and with the abundance of lettuce, it’s time for BLTs.

Tuesday: Taco Night!
By popular request from the junior staff members. There is no wrong way to eat a taco, as long as it doesn’t land on the floor.

Wednesday: Rustic Tart
Unsure about the filling right now. Probably potato (sweet or plain) and chard.

Thursday: Beans and Rice
Again, I’m leaving the specifics to whim. Just depends on my mood and the time allotted.

Friday: Sausage/Pierogie/Green
The stand-by meal! And there are soooo many greens in the house.

Saturday: Dine out!

That’s the plan for the week, let’s see if it sticks. Perhaps I’ll start keeping a score card of on vs off-plan nights.

Up tomorrow, A Hush Puppy by Any Name: Southern Food in Translation. You really don’t want to miss this one.

Send questions, comments, and accolades to practical cook at gmail dot com. Or post a comment here, or connect on Facebook (The Practical Cook Blog).

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