If I were snowed in for a week, the six ingredients I couldn’t do without would be…

We're looking down the barrel of another snowstorm that is due to begin this evening. The first thing I did when I saw the weather report was start a grocery list. The Evil Genius will be doing the shopping since he works right in 'The City' and we live in, well, 'Far From The City'. The poor man will be wandering through Wegman's with a glazed look on his face, muttering ominously about the prices of thyme and heavy cream. I'm the prepared type. I like to be assured that -within reason- I can satisfy most of my food whims whether the weather be cold or whether the weather be hot. Or whether the weather is dumping a foot of snow in just 8 hours or not. (Rhyming feels good. Give it a whirl.) I come from a family of contingency planners. I was discussing this with one of my bazillion little sisters (actually it's only three, but if all four of us are in a room together we sound like a bazillion. You should see the brothers'/husbands'/fiance's eyes...) yesterday. Christina, a.k.a. Aunt Tuna, was visiting her fiance in Beantown during the last real storm. K-Thrash, a.k.a. Kevlar (because he, too, has a name), had ventured out in the storm to procure the necessary ingredients for her to make beef stew with dumplings for him and his roomies. He returned with the groceries and Christina set about prepping. She went to the pantry to find the herbs and spices she assumed were present. As in the herbs and spices that you need to eat on a daily basis, and dang if those guys didn't … {Read on...}

Greek Quinoa Salad

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Right.  Let me get this out of the way now.  This post is going to be short and sweet.  Actually short and savory.  My water heater has been broken since the wee hours of Saturday morning and  I'm afraid that if I stay in one place too long (to type a wordy post, par example) that I might smell myself.  And after five days of no shower, let me assure you it's an idea that strikes fear deep in my pea-picking little heart.  This Greek Quinoa Salad was a natch to serve with the Garlic Lemon Chicken Breast I served last night. *recipe forthcoming when I am less in danger of succumbing to my own stink.  Sorry if that's in TMI territory.  It's light, it's delicious, and it's calculated to fill you up without weighing you down.  I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Quinoa equals power food and gives you more nutritional bang for your buck than pasta or rice. I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record about the quinoa but it's wonderful in so many ways.  I wish the quinoa people, whoever they are, would sponsor me so I can buy a back-up water heater.    What else is fabulous about this recipe?  It is great hot, warm or cold.  It uses both pickled and fresh garlic. It uses frozen spinach (*sidebar.  Speaking of getting nutritional bang for your buck you'd do much worse than stocking your freezer with frozen spinach.   You can boost the nutrition content of many savory dishes by throwing in a handful or two of this frozen green gold.   Plus you don't have … {Read on...}

Velvety Chocolate and Vanilla Custards (Pots de Crème) and a tutorial.

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Pots de crème, a.k.a. baked individual custards, are one of my favorite foods in the entire world.  Just knowing that I have a few little ramekins of this heavenly custard waiting for me in the fridge helps me handle anything the day, or a child, throws my way.  The Evil Genius gets almost weepy when he knows I'm making these for dessert. There are not enough superlatives in existence to describe these dreamy custards but I'll try anyway.  If silk or velvet could become a food they would become this one.  I think Lindy gets closer to the appropriate level of food-worshipping description due to these custards when he takes a bite, shuts his eyes and whispers reverently, "It's like chocolate butter..."  My kids go silent when eating these.  And that silence?  Let's just say that it's a precious and rare commodity... The original recipe that I've used for years came from one of the first 'Everyday Food' magazines.  It's available online, but stick with me.  I have some tips that are helpful for both the novice and frustrated custard makers and I have a couple extra touches that make these custards even more wonderful. For a printable, photo-free copy of the recipe, click here. Velvety Baked Chocolate and Vanilla Custards You can make either Vanilla or Chocolate Custard with the same custard base.  Simply omit the chocolate for a pure vanilla custard.  I personally prefer the chocolate, but I know that's not a shared universal obsession trait. 1 1/2 cups half … {Read on...}

Blueberry Love Muffins

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Dang.  It is cold.  At least it is cold here in my own little corner of Amish country.  When I woke this morning my outdoor thermometer was shivering.  I used what little brain power I have available prior to quaffing a pot of Irish Breakfast Tea to decide that firing up the oven to bake would be a very, very good idea.  Courtesy of the forward thinking I had done two days previously, I had blueberry muffin batter waiting for me in the fridge so I didn't have to measure or do anything requiring precision of thought or movement.  I love muffins. This blueberry muffin recipe comes courtesy of the King Arthur Flour website but I learned about it from a very special young friend; Abigail Santora.  Abby is the daughter of my dear friend, Alison.  Alison and I go way back.  So far back that at our ages it might be indecent to mention the number of years of friendship we have under our belts.  Abby has become quite the cook lately. The last time we stayed over at their house, Abby whipped up a beautiful batch of these muffins in under 20 minutes for the whole crew. The key to the speed here is that you prepare the muffin batter ahead of time.  It can store in the chill-chest for up to a week.   That means that you folks out there who, unlike myself, don't have to make at least 1 dozen muffins per meal can bake just as many as you need at one time.  (Hey Melissa!  That's you... wink wink!)  Just roll out of bed and into your fluffy bunny slippers, itch your head a bit, wander … {Read on...}

Power Juicy Jigglers

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My kids ate so many sweets over the holidays that I really thought maybe they'd be tired out on them. No way, Jose! Not even close. So back into the file I keep on (relatively) healthy snacks. I suppose everyone has their own idea of what constitutes healthy eating, so just for the record let me explain my criteria: Minimally processed. I prefer to make food from scratch both for the sake of our tastebuds and the sake of our health. With a few notable exceptions (wine, cheese, dry-aged beef, etc...) most foods taste best and contain the most nutrients when they're fresh. I do, however, hit the fish sticks pretty hard at least twice a year. It's a weakness. No artificial colorings or flavorings. I'm not freaky strict about this. I've been known to enjoy gummi bears and the occasional Shamrock Shake, but I am of the opinion that less is more in this category. Not that everything natural is good for you (think belladonna and digitalis, par example...) In most situations, though, adding color is completely unnecessary. Unless we're talking 'red velvet cake', in which case it's positively, very, very necessary... (I'm not eating it, though. Ew.) Use the real stuff. It is easier for the body to metabolize butter rather than margarine, olive oil (or canola, vegetable, peanut, etc...) than Olestra, sugar than High Fructose Corn Syrup, and so on. It is far better for you to eat less of the offending item. Variety is the spice of life. Instead of worrying about the food … {Read on...}