Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Full Pantry Part 3

We have filled our dry pantry and our freezer. Now for the perishables in our refrigerator. This really all depends on what you are cooking and the tastes of your family.
We always have the following:
1. Milk and usually a pint of heavy cream ( easy to whip up for homemade whipped cream- no non dairy stuff in this house )
2. Creamer- fat free half and half AND flavored creamer
3. Eggs- plenty of eggs especially if you are a baker
4. Butter - whipped butter and stick unsalted butter. I keep at least a pound of sticks in my refrigerator and a few pounds in the freezer. I also whipped butter and stick butter on sale and stock up.
5. Cheese- blocks of Parm, bags of shredded, slices of low fat....
6. Condiments- all condiments that have been opened are kept in the refrig. Things like Salsa, Sour cream, any bottled dressings or marinades are on a shelf so I always have it ready to use. I have one shelf on the door that is all Asian condiments....plum sauce, soy, ponzu, hoisen, siracha, etc....
7. Produce- we always have fresh salad ingredients in the drawer...greens, cukes, onion, fresh herbs, and ALWAYS have soup mire poix such as carrots, celery and onions. Fruit goes in a separate drawer and only oranges and ripe fruits are kept in it. I personally like all my fruits cold so I add as I need! Ripen your fruit on the counter!
8. Food that is thawing....defrost all foods in the frig for safety. Meat always goes on the bottom. I usually take food out of the freezer 2 days before I need it for proper thawing and prep.
Your refrigerator is what you need it to be to keep food fresh. I put all leftovers in containers and label them for freezing or for future lunches in the frig. We always have a couple containers set aside for lunches for my mom and her hubby. I like being prepared and organized, and you will to. Makes busy life a little easier when we can grab something out of the pantry or the frig and put together a healthy and tasty meal for ourselves and our family. May all your morsels be tasty!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Full Pantry - Part 2

A couple of months ago, I asked for a small box freezer for the garage. It was mostly to house pre-made home-made items that during the holidays and winter months tend to take up too much room in the kitchen freezer section of our refrigerator. Since the holidays are over, all the cookie doughs and most of the hors d'oeuvres have been used up. Its time to restock some necessary freezer items. Here is my list for what I keep on hand in the freezer.
1. Meats - we always have chicken thighs - boneless and skinless, chicken breasts - boneless and skinless, ground turkey, beef or chicken, hotdogs, sausage-  italian hot and sweet and turkey sausage and turkey breakfast sausage as well, depending on sales at our local markets we may have flank or skirt steaks, ham steaks or kielbasa....this is really up to you and what your families taste is.
2. Frozen Veggies- I cant get enough frozen veggies. Sometimes frozen veggies have more nutrients because they are frozen right after harvesting. I always have mixed veggies to throw in soups, broccoli to add to pasta and stir fry mix for asian meals, I freeze alot of my own cooked veggies as well. Roasted corn from summer and beginning of fall, onions chopped, squashes that have been roasted and mashed or pureed. Most fresh veggies can be frozen, you may have to blanch them before freezing but well worth it.
3. Stocks- I make most of my own stocks. Shrimp stock from the shrimp shells is perfect for a chowder soup, an oven stuffer roaster chicken will be turned into a great stock, and even veggie stocks.
4. Leftovers - leftover Rice,  mashed potatoes, sauces, pasta....anything. Most foods can be frozen and I waste nothing. Leftover pasta or rice can be added to soup, leftover mashed potatoes can be turned into curry puff appetizers or used to thicken a sauce. I had leftover roasted squash recently and turned it into a cheesey stuffed shell mixture. I also use leftovers for lunches. I label everything and a small 1/2 cup of leftover rice is a nice addition to a lunch for one of the seniors.
5. Breads and Rolls - I always have package of hamburger or hotdog rolls in the freezer. Ya never know! A freezer bag with some small ciabatta rolls makes it easy to pull out what you need last minute. Even some flatbread - can be used to make pizza or just serve with hummus or spread for that unannounced company. I even try to keep a loaf of challah bread in the freezer for that delicious Breakfast french toast bake you just might decide to make last minute!
6. Fish - we buy and eat alot of fish. We buy fresh frozen portioned individually wrapped fish from BJ's. As long as its WILD caught! Shrimp too! I never buy precooked shrimp either, I like making my own stock from the shrimp shells.
7. Cheese - I love having different bags of shredded cheeses. They freeze well and thaw quickly. I always have Part Skim Mozzarella and Shredded Cheddar! 
8. Homemade meals - I premake alot of meals and label for later use. Soups, pasta dishes, name it. If I can prep it ahead I do! Currently I have Delicata squash stuffed shells with a brown butter bechamel sauce, Stuffed Shells with Marinara sauce, Minestrone soup for dinner for 2, 2 servings of Minestrone soup for 1, Roasted Butternut squash side dish for 3, veggie stock, Shrimp stock, turkey stock, Mushroom gravy, and still a bunch of hors d'oeuvres from the holidays.
Each kitchen will find what works for them. This is MY kitchen and I love being prepared. I love going into the freezer to choose my protein and work out my menu from there. Sometimes our plans dont work out as we have planned and its nice to open the freezer or go into the pantry and find something yummy to whip up for a meal! Final pantry part 3 coming soon!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Full Pantry - part 1

Nothing better than a well-stocked pantry. Our lifestyle, our geographic location and whats available to us plays a part in what may be in your pantry, but there are certain items that I know I always need at hand. With some basic items you can usually whip up a quick easy and tasty dinner for you and the family. Even though my menus for the week are planned and usually thought out while food shopping, I still have the occasion to pull something out last minute and create a meal. Its always nice to go into the pantry and have choices.
My pantry includes the following and I have included potatoes and onions in this list because I store all these items in the garage pantry.
1. Rice - Brown, Jasmine, Wild, Arborio and Yellow
2. Grains- Barley, Couscous, Quinoa, assorted flours, bread crumbs
3. Pastas - all kinds - whole wheat and white semolina
4. Potatoes- Yukon gold, Sweet, Squashes and any other faves
5. Tomato Products ( all- diced, fire roasted, sauce, crushed )
6. Beans - dried and canned....all sorts, black beans, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans
7. Condiments - Vinegars ( all flavors ) , Oils ( canola, olive, sesame, peanut, coconut, flavored ), ketchup, mustards ( dry and bottled ) chili sauce, horseradish, honey, soy sauce and other asian flavorings, worcestershire sauce, coconut milk, clam juice, maple syrup
8. Onions, shallots and garlic
9. Stocks and bases - veggie, chicken, beef and any flavors you may want to try or use ( I recently bought a Thai curry coconut stock that was delish ) normally I make my own stocks, its always good to have a box on hand.
10. Dried herbs and spices - everything! 
11. Crackers, saltines, Oyster crackers 
part 2 coming!!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 Let's do it this year!

I have not blogged in a long time, and the last time I did was after the passing of my Aunt. 2013 was not a great year, as I lost 2 very special people, my son moved 10,000 miles away, and my right hip replacement has been bothering me. It has also been a good year, as I got to spend a month with my family in Texas, watched my son move 10,000 miles away to fulfill a dream, watched my brother run the NYC Marathon and finish, took over the family tradition of making the Lessard Tortiere Canadian Meat pie for Christmas and spent the holidays with most of my family making new memories. I have been blessed. I have given myself a few goals for the New Year, and one of them is to blog once a week. I am on facebook alot and have a Michele's Morsels page there, so I tend to neglect my blog. I also want to  I want to make a meal from a new recipe at least once a week.....I have over 100 cookbooks in one bookcase and I think its time to get myself moving. I also have several binders with printed pages from the internet, several different magazine subscriptions from the past that I have actually gone through and condensed, and some culinary magazines that are targeted to professional chefs. I LOVE cookbooks. I can sit and read them as if they were novels. ( I actually am going to start reading my Larousse Gastronomique that I got a couple of yrs ago for Christmas.  If I lived another 50 yrs, maybe I could get through alot of the recipes. LOL I usually plan my meals before or during food shopping for the week, I try to keep a stocked pantry with essentials, and am pretty good at substituting something I may not have on hand. I was always a pretty good cook, but culinary school gave me the tools I did not possess. I usually take a recipe and somehow twist it and tweak it to make it my own. These are all good things. May all your morsels be tasty!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Memories and Traditions

The past month since my Aunt's ( Ama as she was known ) passing has been one of reflection and rembrance. My childhood mostly. Baking at Christmas with my Grandmother and my aunt, the road trips to Canada bringing food home to NY, the Holiday dinners just to name a few.  Ama gave me a handwritten book a few yrs ago with family recipes in it. The first page was the dedication page upon which she wrote, " Dear Michele, Keep the memories and the traditions. Enjoy! Love, Aunt Marie Anne ".  It was very important to her that we kept the memories in our hearts and taught are children what we were taught. I grew up proud of my family, my Canadian roots , my name, the country and especially the food. One of my most favorite dishes...a true "COMFORT FOOD", is a dish called Pate Chinois, which means Chinese Pot. It was delicious and I couldn't wait for my Grandmother or my aunt to make it. I wanted it more often so  learned to make it myself, as its really not very hard.  Never understanding why it was called Pate Chinois, I googled it and came up with these possible reasons for its name.....The first possible explanation for the 'Chinese' reference is that it was introduced to Chinese railway workers by Canadian cooks during the building of the North American railroads in the late 19th century. These cooks made it under instruction from the English  bosses as an easily-prepared, inexpensive version of the popular shephards pie, with the sauce in the can of creamed-corn serving as a substitute for the gravy. The French Canadian railway workers became fond of it and brought the recipe back with them to their home communities.  Another more probable explanation for the name was traced by Lionel Guimont, a student of linguistics at Laval University, who shared his idea with Quebec language historian Claude Poirier. Mr. Poirier later published an article to this effect. Mr. Guimont had met an old native of Maine who was visiting Canada for the first time and had heard the man call the dish "China pie". Based on the fact that "pâté chinois" would normally translate in "Chinese pie", referring to the country (like in "French fries" as opposed to "*France fries"), Mr. Guimont wondered why the old man said "China pie", which in English refers to a city or a region (like in "Boston cream pie" as opposed to "*Bostonese cream pie"). He then found that two towns in the state of Maine, called China and South China, had been a favorite destination for Québécois forest workers, who came down from la Beauce along the Kennebec river by the turn of the century. Even today, a vast portion of the population of the China region is from Québécois descent and still bear French names so Mr. Guimont concluded that the name "pâté chinois" had not come down to Maine from B.C. via Québec (and become "Chinese pie") but rather went the other way. "China pie" must have been a common dish in lumbering camps and in mills kitchens around China. It had been (wrongly) translated later by the workers returning to Québec into "pâté chinois" because of the awkwardness of "pâté de Chine" in the French language. In parts of Maine, "pâté chinois" is referred to as "Chinese Party" -- phonetically more similar to the French term. How the dish was named is still a mystery to me but it is one of many reasons I love my Canadian heritage. Today I am making Pate Chinois for a supper tommorow as I will be spending the afternoon and evening with my Aunt Carole Anne ( Aca as we now refer to her....the Sister of Ama ). I thought it fitting that we are spending the night at Ama's house with a little comfort food from our younger days. Here is to you Ama and Grandma......I hope I do you proud!
Pate Chinois Recipe:
2 lbs ground beef....browned
1 medium onion chopped
1 tsp olive oil
4 small cans corn or creamed corn ( I have never used creamed corn )
Mashed potatoes to cover top of casserole
1.cook the onions in the oil until translucent. Add ground beef and brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Layer meat and onions into casserole dish ( approximately 2in layer )
2. Layer corn ( if using reg corn- drain liquid , if creamed use all of the can) on top of ground beef
3. Layer mashed potatoes on top of corn approximate 2 inch layer
4. Bake in oven at 375 until inside is hot and potatoes are golden brown on top.
It is delicious and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Rappelez-vous, la vie est pleine de délicieuses bouchées!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Who says you can't go home again?

 I grew up in Astoria, Queens. Well at least until we moved to Long Island. Astoria is a predominately Greek neighborhood, although when I was growing up, our block had many ethnic backgrounds. My grandparents were from Canada, our next door neighbors were from Italy, and the people across the street were from Greece. My parents bought a house in Hauppauge Long Island and we moved out of Astoria when I was 9 years old. We always went back to Astoria to visit family! Then, after a year at a local community college, I transferred to a City University in Manhattan. I went to live in my grandparent's house that was now my Aunt's home. Back in Astoria! I think I ate souvlaki once a week.....LOVED the tzatziki sauce, the homemade grilled pita breads, and most greek food. I am not a huge fan of Feta cheese although in small amounts I deal well with it.  I havent been back to Astoria for some Greek food in a long time, and not sure I want to ruin my memories. Sometimes we remember things far better than they really were OR they dont seem to live up to our memory. I make a great tzatziki sauce and we often have grilled chicken souvlaki and greek salads here at home. While food shopping this week, I came back to some memories of youth.  I have alot of amazing memories of my childhood and alot of them food related. Tonite we go home to Astoria or Little Athens and remember my childhood growing up there.
 Being a trained Chef, one of my downfalls as some people see it, is that I do most of my food prep in the mornings. I like being prepared early! So at 9am this morning, I made my Tzatziki Sauce with fresh dill from my garden, prepared the chicken for the grill, prepared the salad all but the feta cheese, made some homemade redwine vinaigrette with fresh oregano from my garden, and sliced the raw onion for the souvlaki.
Chef Michele's Easy Tzatziki
1 small container of greek nonfat plain yogurt

1/3 english cuke – seeded and chopped in food processor
Juice of ¼ lemon
Drizzle of olive oil
1 tbs chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. I usually make this in the morning so the ingredients can really marry well. Serve over grilled chicken, pork, or lamb……or use for dipping veggies or toasted pita triangles. YUM!!
Mom ate dinner tonite, and couldnt stop Mmmm'ing! She said the tzatziki was as good as any Greek restaurant. She even asked if I remembered going to the little greek stand at the flea market when we were kids. I sat at the table and said " I should thank you and Daddy. ( my father past away when I was 13 ) She looked at me quizzically and asked why. My response was because I was sooo grateful to be introduced to so many different and ethnic foods as a child. That alot of parents dont do that. Some of my best friends and even some younger generation family members are not exposed to the kinds of foods I was as a kid. I think a part of that may have been from being born and living in the city for alot of my life AND the diversity of my parents and what they introduced us to. Tonite's supper brought me back to my childhood and my college days. I know we werent the norm, people cower when I tell them my birthday meal was Calves liver with bacon and onions, a baked potato and asparagus or wax beans. Thanks Mom for cooking some ODD foods and thanks Dad for asking for them! I love going home again!!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Do it " Once a week"

I have over 100 cookbooks and at least that many issues of different Culinary magazines on the bookcases in my bedroom. The picture to the right is only one bookcase with only some of the cookbooks and none of the magazines. That is not including the binder I have with recipes I have printed out from online searches or from friends. There has to be at least 500 pages in there. Let me not forget the approximately 150 emails saved in a folder of recipes from different food blogs or sites I have yet to print out. Then of course we have the shelf of cookbooks my mother has in the den on her bookcase. That's alot of recipes. I made a vow to my mother that at least once a week I would cook a recipe from one of the many cookbooks. I think we do a pretty good job of doing that. I try to revise most of the recipes to make them either Diabetic friendly which in turn becomes healthier and better for anyone who may be following Weight Watchers in the house. I pretty much plan the menu out for the week, as I am food shopping, although sometimes we just buy things that look good. Especially when it comes to fresh produce. Mom saw some nice looking smaller and thinner Eggplants when we were produce shopping the other day. She bought them and said she would cook them. Ha!! Although she did pull out a Vegetarian cookbook of hers and found the recipe, I revised the recipe and did the cooking.
Eggplant Boats recipe from the Vegetarian and Vegetable Cooking cookbook by Christine Ingram  revised by Chef Michele

1 cup brown rice
3 small size eggplants halved lengthwise
1 red onion chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 small green pepper chopped * I substituted 1 each mini red/yellow/orange pepper
½ cup sliced mushrooms
3 tbs olive oil
½ cup cheddar cheese grated * I omitted the cheddar cheese
1 egg beaten * I omitted the egg
½ tsp marjoram * I substituted 1 tsp fresh oregano and 1 tsp fresh mint leaves from my garden
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the rice as directed and let cool. Scoop the flesh out of the from the eggplant and chop. Blanch the shells in boiling water for 2 minutes then drain upside down. Saute the chopped eggplant, onion, garlic, pepper and mushrooms in the oil for 10 minutes. Mix the rice and the eggplant mixture with the cheese, egg and spices. Arrange the eggplant in the shells in an ovenproof dish. Spoon the mixture into the shells. Heat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 25 minutes until the filling is golden brown.