Hurry, The Peaches Are Ready!

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Peaches, peaches, peaches everywhere!  A few weeks ago, I looked at my peach tree and noticed, there were a lot of small peaches on the tree.  A lot of peaches!!!  I was surprised because each year, against my wishes, my father-in-law would come and spray my peach tree with some type of pesticide.  I would tell him, we should do organic.  His response, “Then you’ll have no peaches!”  This year, due to some health issues, he did not spray the peaches.  I assumed (never do that), I would have no peaches.  Wrong.

Plus, my woodchuck is no where to be seen.  I think he may have been done in by my busy road (or old age, cayotes, etc).  The woodchuck would routinly climb into the tree and eat the peaches.  I never realized woodchuck’s climbed trees but I saw it myself!  Lastly, the deer have kindly left a lot for me this year.  Maybe their busy eating my neighbor’s garden and peaches!  I’ll have to ask the neighbors.  Or maybe the abundance of rain in the Northeast has made it a perfect year for my peach tree.

Whatever the reason, I am so happy to have an abundance of peaches.  But, I do not want them to go bad.  Different from the peaches bought at the store, these peaches only last a day or two after they ripen.  So, what can I do, with all these peaches?  Well, I can eat them…which I have been.  Give them away (my inlaws have already been by to pick some).  Or cook with them.  I have been doing a lot of the latter.

What have I made with these peaches?

Peach jam

I made a total of 4 1/2 little jars of peach jam.  This took me a total of 3 hours from peeling, cutting, cooking and processing.  They are like gold to me.  My daughter opened the smallest jar, and proclaimed them “Good”.  That’s about her enthusiasm for my cooking.  She is taking one of the jars with her to college.  That’s how I know the “Good” means, really great.

Peach turnovers

Simple to make…just pie crust and cooked down peaches with sugar then baked to  flaky delicioiusness.  They were yummy and were gone in about 1 day.

Peach Bars

Just like a oatmeal type cereal bar.  These are baked with oatmeal, brown sugar and the cooked down peaches with sugar.  Again, yum!  I just made those last night, so they are still around and should last a few days (hopefully).

Over the next few days, I will post the recipes for these delecible edibles for you to try with your peaches (grown or bought at the local farmers market).

What I would love to know, how do you use up peaches?  What recipes should I try in the future (or this week) for the rest of the peaches?  Let me know, I could use the help using up these peaches before they fall to the ground and rot (or the woodchuck magically appears or the deer are sick of the neighbors’ gardens or…).

Leftover chicken? Make a Panini!

imageI try to anticipate how much my family will eat for dinner but sometimes, I am just plan wrong.  Someone can’t come home for dinner, doesn’t like dinner, ate lunch late so they are not hungry, etc. Sometimes we have leftovers.  Not planned overs, where I know I will use the leftovers to make an entire meal…but real leftovers.

I volunteer for a free breakfast program once a week for people who just won’t get a breakfast any other way except by going to this free breakfast.  I think this is why I hate wasting food.  Or it might come from my mother’s “There are starving people, you should not waste your food.”  Whatever it is, I try not to waste food.  Even, though, I do throw out my fair share of food.

Normally, my husband and I keep leftovers in check by eating them for lunch.  My husband has no problem taking any leftovers for lunch except fish.  We all know it smells too much when it’s heated in the microwave.  There could be a mutiny at work.  So, fish stays home.

Sometimes I have just a lonely piece of chicken or steak or pork and I try to make it into something else for lunch.  Today was one of those days.  I had this lonely piece of roasted chicken in my refridgerator and decided it would be lunch.

imageThere is an old Pampered Chef recipe for a Chicken Broccoli Braid.  I, like so many others love this recipe.  But the main filling can be used in making a sandwich or panini.  I opted for the panini and it came out fabulous!  (the fabulous is for my niece Erin…she says its my word).

imageHere is how I adapted the recipe.  It’s really a rough recipe because I don’t really measure when I cook:

Chicken Broccoli Panini

  • 1 piece of cooked boneless skinless chicken
  • a few broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 small onion
  • 2 tbs or more of mayonaise
  • 1/4 tsp of dried dill
  • 4 slices of bread of your choice (sturdy bread is best)
  • a little butter for the bread

Put chicken, broccoli, cheese, garlic, and onion in your food processor.  Pulse until it is incorporated into smallish pieces.  Only about 4 – 5 pulses.

Add mayo and dill and  pulse a few times until all mixed.

Heat your panini or grill pan with press.

Assemble sandwiches and butter both sides of the sandwiches.  Put sandwich on heated pan and top with press.  After 2 minutes or less, flip and press again for another minute or two.  You are done!  Enjoy!

If you do not want a hot sandwich, you can always use the mixture as a chicken salad and serve it cold.

Let me know what you think of this recipe and what you do with small leftovers.

 

 

What do you pack on the road?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am going to my company’s National Conference.  I am DRIVING with 3 other women to cut down the cost.  Airline tickets are super expensive and there are no non-stop flights.  Driving was the answer for us.

This made me think about (of course) traveling food.  When I am scheduled to be in the car for an extended period of time, I always pack something to eat.  With 16 hours in the car, I need to pack several meals.

Why do I pack meals?  If I don’t, I’ll be stopping at a fast food restaurant.  Not a good option.  Not good in the taste department and definitely not good in the health department.  Also, I need to pack items that are easy to eat in the car while driving or while a passenger.

Here are some of the items I routinely pack:

  • Sandwiches

These are always an excellent choice while on the road.  My favorite is peanut butter.  Easy to transport and does not need to be in a cooler.  It’s always my first choice for just me.  But, my husband HATES the smell of peanut butter and cannot have it in the car with him.  When he is going to be in the car with me, I opt for something like: roast beef, chicken salad, tuna salad, ham and cheese, etc.

  • Chicken

I know this sounds weird, but I love to pack oven fried chicken when going on a road trip.  It’s easy to eat.  If you cook the drumsticks only, it’s really a one hand meal.  I put them in a zipper type bag or reusable container with an ice pack and we are good.

  • Calzones

Really a deluxe sandwich, the calzones are a great picnic or on the road food choice.  I normally make linguica and cheese; roast beef, onions and peppers with cheese and the old standby…ham and swiss.

  • Salads

Salads are another great choice, if you’re not going to be driving while eating.  If you are going to stop or switch drivers, salads can be a great choice for picnics and road food.  I love salads with some type of meat: Jerk Chicken Salad, Caesar Chicken Salad, Chef’s Salad or any salad with beans and chicken.  I have also made pasta salads with veggies and meats for many of our road trips.  Great tip:  put the dressing in the bottom of the bowl and make the salad on top.  Once you are ready to eat, just mix.  The lettuce does not get soggy.

That’s the type of “road” food I pack.  Now it’s your turn.  What do you pack for picnics or on road trips?

 

Muffaletta Wraps

I have never had a Muffaletta Sandwich.  I have seen them being made on various cooking shows but I have never had one.

I have made a really great olive and red pepper salad.  This salad is great for bruschetta and to serve with crackers.  I also had it for breakfast with cream cheese and a bagel.  YUM!!!

I was thinking about making a sandwich for the Council on Aging Cooking class and immediately Muffaletta Wraps jumped into my head.  Why not?  Instead of using a large round loaf of bread for the sandwich, how about a wrap.  It could work…and it does work!  In fact, it is delicious.  Here’s the recipe and here is the What’s Linda Cooking Segment where I made the wraps.  Enjoy!

Muffaletta Wraps

  • 10 tortilla wraps
  • 10 slices of smoked ham
  • 10 slices of salami
  • 10 slice of provolone cheese
  • 1 cup green olives with pimentos
  • 1 cup pitted black olives
  • 1 small jar of roasted peppers
  • 1 small bunch of parsley or 1tbs. dried
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Olive oil

Make an olive salad:  Chop the olives and peppers.  Mix in with the parsley, garlic and olive oil.  Set aside.

Assemble the wraps.  Place one wrap on cutting board.  Top with a slice each of ham, salami and provolone cheese.  Top with a small scoop of olive salad.  Tuck in sides and roll up to wrap.  Repeat with the remaining 9 tortillas.  Put onto a platter and for best flavor refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  To serve, cut wraps in half and serve with a green salad.

Makes 10 wraps

Linda’s Italian Sausage Shepherds Pie

Sometimes I get Sweet Italian Sausage on sale.  Most of the time it is $2.99/lb. where I shop.  But sometimes, it drops to $1.49 or even $.99/lb. for quick sale.  When I see those prices, I pick up a few packages.  Because it’s reduced for quick sale, I need to use it right away or package it up in 1 lb. or 3/4 lb. packages and put it in the freezer for later use.

Not long ago, I found a really good deal on Italian Sausage and came up with a Shepherds Pie using up the sausage.  It was a huge hit at home and also at my cooking class “What’s Linda Cooking”.  I hope you enjoy this and hopefully we will find some sausage on sale at $.99/lb.!

Linda’s Italian Sausage Shepherds Pie

  • 1 lb Italian Sausage-casings removed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 cups mashed potatoes (either homemade or packaged)
  • 2 cups green beans (cooked)
  • 1 cup cheese

Remove casings from sausage and sauté though with chopped onion, breaking up into crumbles in a 12″ oven safe skillet.

Meanwhile, mix cheese with mashed potatoes and other spices of your choice.

Once sausage is cooked, move to the sides of the pan.  In the middle of the pan, melt butter and combine with flour.  Cook for 30 seconds or so.  Add water and combine with meat to make a gravy. Turn off heat.  Add green beans on top of the sausage.  Then top with the potato and cheese mixture.  Dot with butter and bake in a 350 degree oven until bubbly about 20 minutes.

Serve with a salad.

Louisville Hot Dogs

Louisville Hot DogI love to travel. I love to travel for business and for pleasure. In my former job, I would travel to sales meetings and to conference shows. I loved talking with people at conferences.

I love going to new places, new cities and eating what the locals eat.  Normally, I will not eat at the hotel.  I know the hotels don’t want to hear this but the hotel restaurants tend not to be “local” establishments.  Don’t I ask the concierge for restaurant ideas.  I normally ask the bellmen, the hotel desk staff or the valet.  Why?  I ask them where they go to eat lunch in the city.  They go to where the locals eat.  The concierge normally sends me to restaurants that are touristy places.  I don’t want to go to a tourist place.  I want to eat locally.

For food talk, I love talking to cab drivers, people walking along in the city, hotel staff, etc.  Really anyone who is from the area.  I like to find out those hidden gems.

When my husband and I went to the Big Island of Hawaii, we asked the Valets where to go for  breakfast.  They told us about a little place about 15 minutes away from the hotel.  We went there and had a jackpot breakfast of pancakes, eggs, a linguica type sausage, homefries, and toast.  We ate like kings!  The plates were huge and filled with delicious food.  The whooping cost?  $15 with tip!  That’s right, $15 with tip!!!  We went there 1 other time…it was that good.  When we went back to the hotel, we heard the hotel breakfast was great but was $50 per person.  That’s right, $50 per person!!! Ouch!  We told everyone about the breakfast we had.  Needless to say, the restaurant was busier the next time we went with people we saw at the hotel.

On a recent trip, I went to Louisville, KY for a conference.  During a lunch break, we saw a Panera Bread across the street from the convention center.  While I love Panera Bread, I do not want to go the same chain restaurant that I could at home.  I want a different experience.  I want a local experience.

I spied a food cart just across the street to my left and told my friends that I wanted to go there instead.  Off we went to talk to the guy at the hot dog cart.  I asked him what was so special about his hot dogs.  He told me about the toppings he has…garlic aioli, sweet pepper sauce, caramelized onions, potato sticks (I love potato sticks) and coleslaw.  I was sold!  I told him to put it all on the dog.

I loved every minute of eating this delicous hot dog.  I recreated it at home and got 2 thumbs up from my family.  I cooked it a the Council on Aging got rave reviews.

So, here is the kind of recipe I used.  And, if you want to see me in action, cooking the Louisville Hot Dogs, go to this link

Here’s the recipe:

Louisville Hot Dogs

  • Grilled Hot Dogs
  • Sweet Red Pepper Sauce
  • Garlic Aioli
  • Caramelized Onions
  • Cold slaw
  • Potato Sticks

Put hot dogs in a bun of your choice. Top with Aioli, Pepper Sauce, Onions, Potato Sticks and then Cold Slaw. Enjoy! Super yummy!

Sweet Red Pepper Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup roasted red peppers (from water-packed jar)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a blender, combine the red peppers, vinegar, and oil and process until smooth. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Garlic Aioli

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of one lemon, juiced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Directions
  • Mix mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Coleslaw

  • Ingredients
  • 6 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, make dressing by combining mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seed, sugar, salt and pepper. Combine cabbage and carrots on top of dressing. Toss dressing into cabbage mixture and let chill.

Pantry or Menu Plan?

photoI have read many frugal blogs and sites.  Many of them rely and support the idea of menu planning for cutting your grocery bill.  Those who are supporters of this practice, say they look at the sale flyers and base their menu on the rock bottom prices.

While this may work for some, it really is not realistic for many.  Why?  Suppose you plan on having Chicken Fajitas for dinner on Tuesday.  Tuesday comes along and you just don’t feel like fajitas.  But maybe you really feel like a pizza.  The menu planning option is too rigid for this type of circumstance.  Or, maybe you made too much pasta one night and have leftovers.  How do you use up those leftovers with a strict menu plan?

Instead of a menu plan, I rely on stocking my pantry; combining that with shopping sales and special markdowns.  Basically, I shop sales to stock up!  I always have the basics in my house:  eggs, milk, flour, sugar, chicken, basic canned and frozen vegetables, etc.  When I see a fabulous sale on any of these items, I stock up.  Here’s an example, of one of my trips to the store, I saw a special markdown on sirloin tips and London broil.  They were both marked down to $1.99/lb. for quick sale.  I (along with other savvy shoppers) stocked up on them.  Why…because, I have not seen that price for beef in a long time.  My family loves a beef dinner every once in a while and it is nice to not just have ground beef.  (I have not seen ground beef at $1.99/lb. in a while)  When buying reduced meats, you just need to cook it up right away or store it in the freezer.  I normally cook one that night and put the rest in the freezer.

So, how do you make sure that you have all the ingredients for what you want to make?  Simple, decide what to cook the night before.  While cleaning up from dinner, I plan my next day’s menu.  Any leftovers that are enough for one portion, go into my husband’s lunch for the next day.  I take anything out of the freezer that needs to defrost and any side dishes I make come from my pantry.

A note on side dishes.  I shop for produce at a local fruit market.  They don’t have “sales” flyers.  They are a restaurant supply store and they stock any leftovers that were not purchased by the restaurants in their store.  They (and I) never know when the deliveries will be made for the day and what they will have.  Sometimes, I can get bags of salad mix for $2 (we are talking large bags or organic), artichokes 4 for $1, strawberries for $1, gallons of organic orange juice for $1 (I saw a sticker once and it was $21/gallon but I paid $1).  I never know what I will get.  I make my side dishes based on what I buy at this market.  I normally can buy a weeks’ worth of produce for $5-$8.  That’s right…$5-$8 of fresh sometimes organic produce.  If you don’t have a market like this in your area, shop in the reduced produce section.  While your deals may not be as good as the ones I described, they will be substantial.  Once the fresh produce for the week is gone, then switch to your frozen or canned supplies.

These tips have helped me maintain an average food bill of $40-$60 per week for 4 people.  I hope they help you too.

Now, how do you cook?  Meal plan or cook from pantry?  Comment below.