Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Good but Almost Ruined by a Rookie Mistake

I used curly parsley as the leafy green tonight but made the mistake of briefly rinsing it rather than giving it a good wash. GRIT!! Blech. The food was yummy but the occasional crunch of grit was disconcerting. Next time, the curly parsley will be treated to the same thorough cleaning as celery and leeks! Lots of soaking and swishing.

But the otherwise delicious dish at right is chicken and mushrooms over cheese polenta (corn meal mush). If you've saved a few cheese shavings, sprinkle these on top.

Ingredients (for two servings):
  • Cooked chicken from one largish breast half, boned and cut into smallish chunks
  • 2 Tbl. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup or more coarsely sliced or chopped mushrooms
  • 1 large shallot or small mild onion, julienned
  • 1/2 jalapeño or other hot pepper, seeds removed and inner membrane removed, then diced. Delete or add more to suit your taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped, oil packed sun-dried tomatoes or sun-dried tomato pesto. I used Classico Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
  • 1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • salt, pepper and nutmeg
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan
  2. Sauté the mushrooms, shallot and jalapeño
  3. Add the chicken and sun-dried tomatoes or pesto and heat through
  4. Add the parsley and wine or broth. Simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
While the chicken mixture cooks, make the polenta (corn meal mush)
  1. In a medium sauce pan, bring the water to a boil. Slowly pour in the cornmeal, whisking constantly.
  2. As soon as most of the lumps are gone, turn off the heat and whisk in the cheese.
  3. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Serve the chicken over the polenta. Warm, tasty, with a little bite from the jalapeño. Hopefully, yours won't be gritty! Ours won't next time. Lesson learned.

Last Minute Mashed Sweet Potatoes

They are sweet; add a little brown sugar and they are decadently sweet. They can be cooked using almost any method from microwave to stove top to oven. They are even good raw. They feel wonderfully starchy yet, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, sweet potatoes are better for you than broccoli!

If you need to hurry along sweet potatoes, they take well to being microwaved and mashed.

For two helpings of decadent mashed sweet potatoes:
  • 1-3 sweet potatoes (depending on size)
  • 1-2 Tbl. butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tbl. brown sugar
  • Salt & white pepper to taste
  1. Peel and thinly slice the sweet potato. The thinner you slice it the easier it will be to mash.
  2. Place in a covered microwave bowl with about 1/3 cup water.
  3. Microwave on high, covered, about 15 minutes, until the water has almost disappeared and the potatoes are soft.
  4. Mash remaining ingredients into the sweet potatoes.
  5. Microwave another minute to bring back to temperature.
In the picture it's served with pulled pork that has been heated with a mustard-based barbecue sauce typical of the South Carolina Midlands.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Green, leafy vegetables, the darker the better, may just be the healthiest things we can eat. I am not a rabbit so I strive to hide, disguise, and otherwise alter green leaves in a lot of my cooking.

Heidi's Hints for Tastier Green Leaves:
  • Most salad greens can be eaten cooked.
Sauté mushrooms and add julienned Romaine or other leafy green for a minute or two. Baby Arugula (Roquette) is a great veggie to throw into soup or pasta.
  • Hide spinach in strange places.
When making meatloaf or meatballs, whir spinach with the egg and other flavorings in the food processor. The meatloaf will be moister and you'll never taste the spinach.
  • Parsley is a vegetable not a decoration.
Use whole bunches of fresh parsley (flat-leaf or curly) to add flavor and color to a pasta dish.
  • Cabbage and its relatives only stink if you abuse them.
Do not boil cabbage. You heard me. Do not boil cabbage or Brussels Sprouts or Savoy or any other member of the cabbage family. Sauté, stir fry, steam, roast, or eat them raw. They taste much better and do not smell.

Save boiling cabbage for times when you want to get rid of houseguests.

Oo-oo! Moist Chicken Breasts!

Both pork butt (shoulder) and bone-in chicken breasts were on sale this week. Since I needed to have the oven at 250° for several hours for the pulled pork, I wondered about cooking chicken breasts at that temperature.

I love the internet. A little searching and you can find answers to all cooking-related questions -- or almost all. I Googled slow roasted chicken and found a variety of recipes. A little adaptation and we had some of the moistest chicken white meat I've ever cooked.

  • Large bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
  • A sauce or marinade to spread on top and flavor the basting juices.
Tonight, I used about 1/2 cup of SAN-J Mildly Spicy Thai Peanut Stir-Fry and Dipping Sauce for four good-sized breast halves.

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°.
  2. Place the breast halves skin-side up in a roasting pan.
  3. Coat them with the sauce.
  4. Baste with the pan juices about every 45 minutes or so.
Start checking to see if the breasts are done at 3 hours. They should be done by 4 hours. If necessary, a minute in the microwave can remove the last of the interior rawness without drying out the chicken meat. Just don't microwave too long or it will become chewy.

Giving Elegance to a Veggie -- Lemon Butter Breadcrumbs

Here's a quick way to make microwaved green beans, asparagus, or broccoli luxurious. For two to three servings:
  1. While the veggies are cooking, melt a tablespoon of butter in a small skillet.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and gently sauté until lightly browned.
  3. Add the juice of half a lemon. Optionally, add half the zest as well.
  4. Heat through but do not allow to burn.
  5. Toss the vegetable with the bread crumbs and serve.

Only for Asparagus Lovers: Spargel Ragoût

Spring is sprung and the asparagus at the grocery store is looking better and better. Although not much beats asparagus washed, quickly microwaved, and topped with lemon butter, Spring is the time of year for asparagus stew -- Spargel Ragoût. This recipe came down through my father's German relatives and has been modernized (and probably "Americanized") over the years. Don't be shy with the nutmeg.

  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 2 Tbl. butter or margarine
  • 2 Tbl. flour
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbl. ground nutmeg (Use less if freshly grating the nutmeg.)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Brown or white rice, cooked, to serve as a base for serving the stew.
  1. Wash & break asparagus into 1 inch pieces, throwing away the tough ends.
  2. Boil the asparagus in two quarts of water flavored with 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. nutmeg until just tender. Drain, reserving both the water and the asparagus.
  3. In the same pot, melt the butter and add the flour, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, and 1 tsp. nutmeg. Cook while stirring to make a roux.
  4. Slowly pour the reserved asparagus water into the roux, stirring to avoid lumps. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Separate the eggs, beat the whites until stiff.
  6. Mix egg yolks, ground meat, bread crumbs, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, and 1 tsp. nutmeg.
  7. Fold beaten egg white into meat mixture.
  8. Drop meat by spoonfuls into the simmering asparagus stock.
  9. When the meat is done, return the asparagus to the pot.
  10. When the asparagus is hot, serve the resulting stew over cooked rice.
As the title says, only for asparagus lovers but if that's you, you'll love this.

Asparagus on Foodista

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ground Chuck Bounty

Ground chuck was on sale for less than $2/pound, the problem being that the minimum amount was 4 pounds. With only two of us to feed, a way to use this bounty of cheap meat was needed. So, time to feed the freezer again!

We need meals that can be nuked when I have to teach at supper time and I think it's safer to pre-cook any mixture including ground meat. So, when all was said and done, 4 pounds of ground chuck, 4 eggs, some bread crumbs, and a variety of flavorings yielded 8 meals of meat servings for two, ready to be eaten with a short stint in the microwave.

Ground chuck has a higher proportion of fat than other ground meats but much of that can be cooked off. Thus, no olive oil was added to these, unlike meatloaves and meatballs made with ground turkey or chicken, where the olive oil is needed to add the flavor strengthening of fat.

Meatloaf is a wonderful place to hide a green leafy vegetable like spinach. We all need to eat more dark green leaves and this is a good way to slip them in where they aren't even noticed.

  • Ground chuck separated into 1 pound lumps (each pound results in four servings)
  • 1 egg for every pound of meat
  • A different set of flavorings for each pound of meat
  • 1/4 pound of baby spinach or a bunch of parsley for each pound of meat
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs for each pound of meat.
  1. Preheat oven to 375 for meatloaves.
  2. Decide what ingredients you will use to flavor each meatloaf or set of meatballs.
  3. Whir the egg, flavoring ingredients, and spinach or parsley in a food processor until well chopped.
  4. In a large bowl, knead together a pound of meat with each one-egg mixture.
  5. Shape into meat loaves, meat balls or patties.
  6. Bake meatloaves until internal temperature reaches about 165°. Sauté meatballs or patties until no longer pink inside.
  7. Allow to cool and freeze in meal-sized portions.
Among the flavoring ingredients that work well added meatloaf are
  • herbs like basil, dill, or cilantro,
  • exotics like sundried tomatoes, pitted olives, jarred pesto or tapenade
  • vegetables like carrot, onion, celery, or shallots
  • sauces like ketchup, mustard, horseradish sauce, or barbecue sauce
  • Spices and garlic
Use your imagination to combine two or three of these together, for example
  • garlic, chopped basil and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Mustard, carrot and dill
  • Cilantro, olives and bell pepper
Then, all you need do for supper is pull out a meat loaf and heat it in the microwave. Add a bag of frozen veggies or a salad and voilà.

Chicken Soup -- You'll Never Eat Canned Soup Again

Chicken soup with carrots, celery, red bell pepper & whole wheat ziti served in a covered dish made by Taylor Smith Taylor, one of many twentieth-century Ohio dinnerware makers.

One of the natural by-products of roast chicken is chicken soup. Another roast chicken, another batch of chicken soup. I tend to make a relatively small batch of soup. One of the reasons making soup gets a bad name is because we tend to make a bucket of soup and then get tired of it.

This is an easy recipe but not a quick recipe -- although most of the time you are ignoring it.


The broth:
  • The remains of a roast chicken. Ours usually has the wings and a leg or two left on it. The more meat left on it, the more meat your soup will have.
  • 1 large carrot cut in 2 inch pieces, wider parts split in two
  • 1 or two stalks of celery cut in 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 a medium onion cut in quarters
  • a handful of fresh parsley
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves broken into pieces. If your bay leaves have been sitting around for awhile, use more of them.
  • Salt & pepper.
  • Water to cover.
The soup:
  • 2-3 cups chopped vegetables of your choice, e.g. carrots, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, etc.
  • 2 servings of a starch, e.g. noodles, potatoes, rice, dumplings, gnocci.
  • More salt and pepper if needed.
  1. Break the chicken carcass into pieces, breaking a few bones in the process.
  2. Place the broth ingredients in a large saucepan or stock pot and cover with water.
  3. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours.
  4. Let cool until safe to refrigerate.
  5. Refrigerate until cold -- I usually do this overnight.
  6. Scoop the fat off the cold broth and discard.
  7. Remove the large pieces from the broth and put aside.
  8. Strain the broth through a mesh strainer to remove the rest of the solids.
  9. Rescue the meat from the solid pieces and return it to the broth.
  10. Discard the rest of the solid pieces, they have given their all to the broth.
  11. Bring the broth and meat back to a boil and add the chopped vegetables and starch. Note: you may want to stagger adding these ingredients depending on how long they need to cook. I like to put the starch in raw so it soaks up some of the broth and thickens the soup.
  12. Simmer until everything is done to your liking.
  13. Adjust the seasoning. You may need to add more salt at this point.
Can one vary this? Certainly. Add garlic. Use an herb other than parsley. Do this with a turkey carcass. Add peanut butter and you have ground nut stew, a West African dish. Add a Granny Smith apple and curry powder and you have Mulligatawny. Add a little extra water at the beginning and you can save some of the broth for other uses. Just don't use too much water or the broth will be weak.

You may be starting to note a lack of tomatoes in this blog. Yes, you could add a can of tomatoes to this soup and in previous years I may well have. But I am now allergic to tomatoes and use them very sparingly. I'm also allergic to onions but there are some things I am unwilling to give up!

Chicken Noodle Soup on Foodista

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Napa & Mushrooms "Orientale"

Many meals around here comprise a serving of meat and a nuked veggie. Veggie boredom has set in. To add variety, sauté a mixture of veggies with a splash of salad dressing. Tonight's combo is sliced mushrooms, napa cabbage, and Newman's Own Lighten Up Sesame Ginger Dressing to add an Asian tang. This was a great side dish for roast chicken.

(By the way, tonight's episode of easy chicken roasting experiments used the same method as discussed in an earlier post but setting the temperature at 425° and the timer for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Done to a tee!)

Ingredients for two servings:
  • 4 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 4 cups Napa cabbage, sliced thin
  • vegetable oil for sautéing
  • 1 Tbl. bottled sesame-ginger salad dressing
  1. Heat oil in a sauté pan on medium high.
  2. Saute the mushrooms until slightly browned but not until they release their liquid.
  3. Add the sliced cabbage and saute approximately 1 minute.
  4. Toss in the dressing and heat through.
  5. Serve immediately with a slotted spoon to drain excess liquid.
Tangy, tasty and it's not another nuked bag of green beans or corn niblets!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tuna à la King for a Cold & Rainy Night

We didn't do the big grocery shopping trip this weekend -- too busy watching DVDs of a British series that never hit our public TV station -- so it was scrounge around to find something quick but warm and tasty. A couple of frozen patty shells, an envelope of tuna, and a can of fat-free evaporated milk became a warm and tasty treat.

INGREDIENTS for two large servings:
  • 2 frozen patty shells (These are little crowns of puff pastry, the most well-known made by Pepperidge Farm and available in the supermarket. Toast will do in a pinch.)
  • 2-3 cups diced fresh vegetables (For example, tonight's combo was 1/2 vidalia onion, 1/2 large red bell pepper, 1 stalk celery, and 1 carrot.)
  • 1 can fat free evaporated milk.
  • Olive oil for sautéing the vegetables
  • 2 Tbl. butter
  • 2 Tbl. flour
  • Salt, pepper, and nutmeg
  • 1 envelope of tuna (5-7 oz.) (If you use canned tuna, make sure it is well drained.)
  • 2 Tbl. curly parsley or other fresh herb, finely chopped

  1. Cook the patty shells as indicated on the package. Try to time these so they are done when the sauce is ready.
  2. Sauté the finely chopped vegetables in the olive oil until they are slightly softened and a bit translucent.
  3. Meanwhile, make the cream sauce. Melt the butter in a sauce pan big enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the flour a little at a time while whisking to avoid lumps. Cook for about 1 minute to cook the flour.
  4. Gradually add the evaporated milk, whisking while you do so.
  5. Add salt, pepper & nutmeg to taste. You now have a cream sauce.
  6. Stir the tuna, sautéed vegetables, and parsley into the cream sauce and let cook for about one minute, stirring to prevent it from scorching on the bottom. If it does scorch a little, just leave the scorched part on the bottom of the pan when you serve.
  7. Serve the tuna à la king over the patty shells.

Voila. Altogether, including preheating the oven and chopping the veggies, this took about 25 minutes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Trust but Verify. Unless it's Chicken.

In the case of chicken, don't trust anything but your eyes. Don't trust recipes. Don't trust a thermometer. Trust your eyes after you have massacred the chicken with a knife. Undercooked chicken is as dangerous as a pit viper!

I'm on a quest to find a relatively foolproof way to roast a broiler/fryer; one that's not much harder than picking up a precooked chicken at the grocery store. So, with whole chickens on sale this week, I decided to try a method that seemed likely.

The recipe said, wash & season the chicken, put it on a rack in a cold oven set for 400°, and let it cook for 1 hour. I had rubbed the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinked it with salt and lemon-pepper. To assure a moist result, at 30 and 50 minutes I opened the door and quickly misted water in the oven with a spray bottle.

After one hour I removed the chicken and stuck in my quick-read thermometer to make sure the chicken had reached the recommended internal temperature of 165°. It had. I'm showing the thermometer in the breast but I also checked a thigh. Clear juice came out of the hole the thermometer made.

But when I picked up the chicken, pink juice poured out. When I cut into it, even the breasts were slightly pink inside. Back to the drawing board.

Luckily, we were only feeding two tonight. I nuked the breast meat for 90 seconds to make sure it was done but not tough. It stayed moist and was quite good.

The rest of the chicken went into a pot of water with parsley and green onions to boil for a soup base. It's bubbling away right now.

So, what do you suggest I try next? Shall I raise the temperature or extend the time?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quick Pork & Veggies in One Pot

Pictured in a covered vegetable dish made by American Limoges of Sebring, Ohio. Shape: Triumph. Decoration: Vermillion Rose.

Pork loin, Brussels sprouts and red bell pepper.

This supper is tasty, colorful, and quick to put together. It uses a few tablespoons of bottled salad dressing and minced garlic to add flavor. The combo below can serve as a framework for any similar combination of vegetables, meat strips, and salad dressing, each tasting very different.

Resist the urge to throw the garlic in too soon. You don't want it to burn!

Ingredients for two servings:

2 boneless loin pork chops
12-20 Brussels sprouts (depending on size)
1/2 large red bell pepper
3-4 Tbl tangy bottled salad dressing. Pictured made with Newman's Own Lighten-Up Sun Dried Tomato Dressing
2-4 cloves garlic
2 Tbl olive oil

  1. Slice the pork into thin strips, easiest done while they are only partially thawed
  2. Toss the pork strips and salad dressing in a bowl to marinate while you do the other steps
  3. Cut the bottoms off the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half, discarding any leaves that are dark and readily fall off
  4. Seed and cut the red pepper in bite-sized squares
  5. Finely mince the garlic
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sautée pan (with lid) on medium heat
  2. Sauté the sprouts for about three minutes
  3. Add the red pepper and sauté for a minute or two
  4. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute
  5. Add the pork and sauté for 5 minutes
  6. Cover, turn the heat down to medium low, and let simmer in its own juice for another 2 or 3 minutes.
When the sprouts are softened but still a bit crunchy, serve.

So, Mom said, "What's a Microplane?"

I'm very lucky to have a proofreader in the family. If you see a mistake here, it's most likely because Mom hasn't caught it yet or I haven't kept up with her corrections. Recently, after seeing me mention one, she asked, "What's a Microplane?"

Now, I'm a kitchen gadget junkie of the first order and I've accumulated lots of kitchen toys over the years -- some useful, some just taking up space. The Microplanes fall into the useful category. In fact, the Microplane has made zesting a lemon a 30-second job around here.

I have three different sizes of Microplane but if you are considering getting your first, I'd recommend the one in the middle of the picture. It works equally well for grating cheeses and citrus zests. I've had mine for several years and throw it in the dishwasher. It seems just as sharp as ever.

In finding the link to Microplane for you I discovered they have a full line of gadgets! More to lust after. Maybe I should help the economy? Oh, no! They have an outlet link with seconds! Bill, honey? Hide my wallet!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cinnamon Crumb Cake

When I first moved away from Connecticut in the 1970s, I longed for the cinnamon snack cakes that weren’t available in my new home. So, with much trial and error, I developed this recipe for a dense and moist cinnamon crumb cake. It’s best made with a stand mixer and baked in a bundt pan. It’s a firm cake more akin to a coffee cake or pound cake. It travels well. If you need to carry a cake to work, this one can be stood up on its side in a book bag without falling apart!

Preheat oven to 350° Farenheit.


Add ingredients one at a time. Mix thoroughly between each addition.
  • 1 stick margarine, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 8 oz. sour cream

Sift together:
  • 3 cups of flour (measure the 3 cups before sifting)
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Alternate adding dry ingredients to mixer with
  • 1/4 cup milk

Mix together thoroughly. Batter should be almost thick enough to creep up the beaters.


Work with your fingers:
  • 1 stick margarine
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbl Cinnamon

The crumb mixture will resemble moist beach sand.

  1. Grease & flour the bundt pan.
  2. Layer in 1/3 crumbs, 1/2 batter, 1/3 crumbs, 1/2 batter, 1/3 crumbs.
  3. Pat gently to seal the last layer of crumbs to the batter.
  4. Bake about 40 minutes.
  5. Let the cake cool at least 30 minutes before removing it from the pan.
  6. Slice to serve.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mushrooms, Leeks & Brussels Sprouts with Lemon

One way to add variety to veggies is to mix them. We had these with leftover turkey meatloaf. The richness of the veggies makes up for the leanness of the meatloaf. Don't be scared of the brussels sprouts. They are delicious if they aren't overcooked!

For two servings:

4-8 mushrooms, washed and sliced
8-10 brussels sprouts, washed, bottom removed, and halved
1 large leek, white & light green part, sliced and soaked in a bowl of cold water to remove any grit
2 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1/2 lemon, zest and juice

1. In a large sauteé pan, put butter and olive oil on medium heat. Allow them to heat while you prepare the mushrooms.
2. Add sliced mushrooms and allow these to sauté while you prepare the brussels sprouts.
3. Add the brussels sprouts to the mushrooms and give them a stir. Let this sauté while you prepare the leeks.
4. When the grit from the leeks has settled, carefully scoop the floating leeks into the pan. Water clinging to the leeks helps create the sauce. Let this sauté while you prepare the lemon.
5. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir and sauté for a couple minutes until the sprouts are softened but still crunchy.
6. Spoon artfully over whatever else is on the plate.

Hint for using a lemon over several days: Don't cut it open. For this recipe, I scraped one side of it with a micro-plane for the zest and poked a fork in the lemon to get some juice. The wounded lemon is now back in the fridge to help another meal.

Pasta Servings are Difficult to Eyeball

I know this runs counter to the idea of imprecise cooking but who wants a half serving of left over pasta? I started weighing pasta when on an exchange-based diet and found that weighing dry pasta helps you have the right amount of pasta every time.

Dried pastas differ greatly in shape and thickness but for many, a serving is listed in the nutrition panel as 56 dry grams. Just multiply this by the number of servings and you will have the right amount of pasta with no leftovers. If you find that 56 grams is too much for you, choose your own number and commit it to memory.

Local box stores carry food scales that weigh in both grams and ounces. Try to find one that has a "tare" button that allows you to cancel out the weight of the container you pour the food into.

What can be imprecise in cooking pasta? The water, the salt and the time.

How much water? Lots. How much salt? A good deal. Watch Giada De Laurentiis throw salt into the pasta water some time. How long? Fish out a piece and test it. I usually drain pasta when it is still a little under done so it can do it's last cooking in with the sauce.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Moist Turkey Meatloaf

One of the tricks that seems to result in a moist meatloaf is to use the food processor to make a frothy liquid of the eggs and other ingredients before them to the meat and bread crumbs. Another trick is to add a carrot, which is in itself moist. Here's last night's turkey meatloaf.

1 pound ground turkey
2 eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 carrot cut into 1 inch pieces
3 green onions cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 bunch curly parsley roughly chopped
1/4 cup sundried tomato pesto
2 Tbl. olive oil + oil for pan
Salt & pepper
1/2-3/4 cup bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a food processor, whir eggs, ricotta, vegetables, pesto, and olive oil until well mixed and somewhat frothy.
3. In a large bowl, fold all the ingredients until well mixed.
4. Grease a glass or metal pan with olive oil and spoon in the meat mixture. Cooking the meat in a pan keeps any juices in the loaf rather than around it on a flat pan.
5. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, using an inversion thermometer to make sure the interior has reached at least 165 degrees.

My favorite pan for this is an old glass tube pan I found at a farmyard auction in Indiana.

Turkey Meatloaf on Foodista

Squits and Dollops of Flavor, or Stocking Your Refrigerator Door

My refrigerator door is full of things that can add flavor to the most mundane ingredients. In fact, between the fridge and various cupboards and shelves, there are many different ingredients standing ready.

Although, like spices, some of them are expensive per pound, you don't use them by the pound. You use them in squits and dollops. So think of their expense per meal. And think of the flavor they can add to yet another boneless chicken breast or broccoli crown.

Here of some of my standards, all readily available in the supermarket. (Hint: different grocery stores in the same chain carry different things by neighborhood. Use this to your advantage in the hunt for flavors.)

Fresh on hand? Different things different weeks but always one or another thrown in the grocery cart. Garlic, shallots, onions, lemons, parsleys and other herbs. Peruse the fruit and vegetable section and ponder what could be used for flavor. Think of a Granny Smith apple as a flavoring agent. Or a single jalapeno. Is the dill fresh this week?

Barbecue sauces are ever at the ready to perk up a pork chop, moisten some brisket, or give kick to pulled pork.

Sesame oil, fish sauce (Nam Pla), soy sauces of various strengths, and other Asian ingredients.

Jarred pestos and tapenades, e.g. the classic basil pesto and the more recently available sun-dried tomato pesto, black olive tapenade.

Vinegars: white, cider, wine (red, white and rice), and balsamic.

Salad dressings for quick marinades of fish or chicken breasts.

Various tubes of goodies like black olive paste, sundried tomato paste, and pre-chopped dill.

Wine and other liquors. Since I'm cooking for only two, I find the little four-packs of wine to be convenient for cooking. Want to make a spectacular dessert that calls for Grand Marnier? Know what liquor store in town has the best mini-bottle collection.

Of course, I don't have all ingredients on hand at all times. Who has the money or storage for that? But by picking up a few things weekly, the larder is always ready for some experimentation.

Travel to exotic places, like Cincinnati, and buy spices

I now have a spice cupboard! Yes, in the recent remodel of my home office/pantry, a re-purposed bar and entertainment center yielded a spice cupboard among other things. Why do I need a whole cupboard for spices? Because you never know when you might need marjoram for the chicken salad, celery seed for the coleslaw, or cream of tartar for the snickerdoodles.

Stocking a spice cabinet can be an expensive proposition but not if you spread the project over a lifetime of cooking and travel -- interspersed with trips to the local ethnic markets, health food stores, and even supermarkets.

Buying Little Bits in Bulk

If you stop to add up how much bottled spices bought in the grocery store cost per pound, you will consider storing them in the safe deposit box! The supermarket is a very convenient place to buy spices but once I have that nicely labeled container, I refill it with stock from cheaper sources. When your cinnamon bottle is empty, don't buy another bottle. Buy bulk cinnamon from the health food store or look in the supermarket or taqueria for cinnamon in plastic bags. Much cheaper. When your oft-refilled bottle starts to look seedy, buy another bottle.

Spices as Souvenirs

I've bought spices as souvenirs since those days when the only travel I did was to visit friends or attend professional meetings. I would come home from seeing Boston friends stocked with goodies from the Italian North End. My gumbo file was my souvenir from a conference in New Orleans. Souvenirs help us remember our journeys. Why not spice up a trip to visit the inlaws with a stop in Cincinnati at Jungle Jims, the world's largest grocery store, to restock that wonderful lemon pepper or find a disposable grinder full of nutmeg bits? If a friend asks you what to bring back from their trip, ask for spices, especially if that trip is home to a foreign land. I will never know what was in those wonderful spice blends brought to me from a mother in Israel but, oh, they were delicious while they lasted!

Oh, and yes, though freshly purchased and ground spices are best, you can keep most spices for years if they stay air conditioned. Just use more. When they lose their taste, throw them away and start over.

A Word About Mustards

As the courier dropped the box off, he said, "Mustard Museum? That's a new one on me!"

Yes, we order our mustard online. Even though there are only the two of us we go through mustard at quite a pace. Bill eats it on the sandwiches he carries to work. I cook with it.

Mustard isn't just mustard. Mustard comes in hundreds of varieties from a glossy Canadian honey mustard to a course-ground British mustard that is to die for on a chunk of good cheddar. Mustard also keeps in the fridge for months after opening and is relatively cheap. A $3 to $5 jar of mustard can bring excitement to many meals.

So, several times a year, we order a half-dozen or so different mustards from the Mustard Musem in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. Although I wonder how exquisite the $22 french mustard tastes, I have a lot of fun ordering from the lower end of the price spectrum. Six jars is about right for filling a box while keeping the shipping costs low.

Oh, and as you can see in the picture, I got to visit the place last summer. I raided the sale table!

Mustard on Foodista

The Struggle For Moist Boneless Loin Chops

When boneless pork loins go on sale, I hie myself to the grocery store and bring one home to convert into loin chops and perhaps a small roast or two. Just slice the loin as you would a loaf of bread, each slice being the thickness you wish for chops. Leave some chunks as roasts for variety.

WARNING: I tried this once with a bone-in loin and the only thing that was clear at the end was that the loin had lost. If you don't have a bone saw, let the butcher do it!

Pork producers have bred wonderfully lean animals that make pork about equivalent to chicken when it comes to fat. There are two downsides to this, one is that pork production is hard on the environment, the other is that this wonderfully lean pork often tastes like sawdust!

So, here's one way to try to have moist and flavorful, though lean, chops: boil them. That's right, boil them. You don't even need to think ahead to thaw them.

Here's a recipe for tangy pork chops:

Boneless loin chops (1 per person)
Beef broth (any broth works in a pinch but beef adds more flavor for this)
White wine
Dill, basil, curly parsley or other herb
Something salty

Throw all these into a saucepan, making sure the liquids almost cover the chops, and simmer for an hour or so. When you serve the chop, spoon about a teaspoonful of the liquid on top to soak in on the plate.

Again, an imprecise recipe but there is no need to be precise in this case. You can adjust the flavors to suit.

This week's herb/salty/pepper combo was a dill-celery-garlic mustard, pre-chopped dill-in-a-tube, black olive paste (salty), and lemon pepper. But you could use any old hot dog mustard, dried parsley flakes, salt & pepper. Just go for it.

Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.