Tag Archives: Main_Meal

Chickpea Cutlets for a Cool Spring Night

Spring is here, but how cool it still is. The other day I met a friend at the grocery store, and she said, “Look what I’m wearing—a turtle neck, a sweater, a big shirt, and a jacket.” I nodded. I was similarly dressed, and when I got home, I shed the jacket but kept the triple layers. It is as cool inside as it is outside, and my husband and I are too stubborn to use the heat.  We are both longing for warm days where we can sit outside and be comfortable wearing a short-sleeved shirt.

Despite the cool weather, the plants and trees and lawns are thriving. The green of the new growth is so bright that it lights up the gloomiest days, which we have had in abundance this past month. The woods in back are positively aglow with green, and I love looking into them as I work in the kitchen. The dwarf irises, with their deep purple flowers, are ready to bloom. They are one of the first flowers in my gardens, and they are eagerly anticipated.

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The birds also seem to be thriving, and our feeders are busy. For Christmas, Clif bought me a lovely red-glass hummingbird feeder, and last week I boiled some sugar and water, filled the feeder, and put it on a hook in the backyard. It didn’t take long for the hummingbirds to find it, and I was thrilled to see the flash of red and green and hear the whirring of wings as I worked in the yard.

However, a few days ago when I was working in the kitchen, I was even more thrilled when I saw a burst of bright blue at one of the other feeders. “Clif, Clif, come here. I think there’s an indigo bunting in our backyard.” Clif hurried to the window and then to the bird book. Yes, that blue beauty was indeed an indigo bunting, and we stood and watched as the bunting picked at the sunflower seeds. I’ve only seen an indigo bunting one other time, while I was driving, and a streak of blue crossed the road in front of me.

This weekend, we are planning on having a barbecue for Memorial Day. Who knows what the weather will do? Naturally, we have two plans—grilled teriyaki chicken if the weather allows and broiled if it doesn’t.

In the meantime, as we still eat most of our meals inside, here is the recipe I promised for the chickpea cutlets, which are so tasty and easy to make that they are fast becoming a staple in our house. We heat up a bit of jarred spaghetti sauce to go on top of them, but if time allows, homemade, of course, is always best. Basically, these cutlets are a variation on a recipe for chickpea patties I posted a while ago. But I’ll repost the pattie recipe, with added instructions for making the cutlets.

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The Curious Case of the Disappearing Quiche

img_5467A week or so ago, as I was rereading volume 3 of the Tightwad Gazette, I came across a “recipe” for quiche. Actually, it was more like a guideline, and I expect beginning cooks would be flustered by the inexact measurements listed—1 or 2 cups of milk, 3 or 4 eggs, that sort of thing. The piece put me in the mood for quiche, and especially interesting was a reader suggestion for an alternative crust made from grated potatoes mixed with a bit of oil.

Now, it must be said that I love making pie crust as well as eating pie crust, and I am not at all intimidated by the process of rolling dough. However, pie crusts are, ahem, a little on the fattening side, and as Clif and I are constantly trying to lose weight—sometimes successfully, sometimes not—a quiche for a weekday meal seemed a bit excessive.

But, I reasoned, what if I used a grated potato crust rather than a traditional pie crust? What if I used milk rather than cream as the base for the quiche? And what if broccoli were the primary ingredient? Might quiche be an acceptable weeknight meal? And with just the two of us, we’d have enough leftover for 2 or maybe even 3 meals.

So using the Tightwad Gazette as my guide, I set about making the crust with shredded potatoes. Then I improvised with the filling, adding leftover breakfast sausage as well as broccoli. I also had some leftover sour cream, and as suggested in the Tightwad Gazette, I added that to the milk. I didn’t add any spicing—herbs or garlic—I just wanted to see how the basic quiche would turn out.

Not too bad, as my Yankee husband put it. We both liked the potato crust, but agreed that it might be worth fiddling with this. The instructions were to bake the potato crust in a pie plate 15 minutes or until the crust was just beginning to brown. Then the quiche mixture was added and the whole thing was baked for about 50 minutes. By doing this, when the quiche was finished, the edges of the crust were crisp and delicious while the underneath was pale and soft. While the underneath was good enough, Clif and I wondered if it would be possible to have the entire crust brown by lining the edges with foil, removing the foil after about 20 minutes, and baking the crust until the whole thing was golden brown. And maybe mixing a little roasted garlic into the shredded potato before pressing it into the pie plate.

An experiment for another time.

In the meantime, we had quiche for our supper, and Clif and I contentedly ate. And ate. By the time we were done, there were only 2 pieces left, hardly enough for another meal for 1 night never mind for 2 nights.

I had had 2 pieces, one more than I should have eaten, but this meant that Clif had had 4 pieces.

“That’s right,” he said when I pointed this out. “Make me the butt of another one of your blog jokes.”

“You did have 4 pieces,” I said. “I wouldn’t be lying.”

“I really like quiche,” Clif admitted. “And we haven’t had it for a while.”

No, we haven’t. And potato crust or not, I think perhaps we should save quiche for the weekend, when we allow ourselves to have treats. That way, it wouldn’t matter how many pieces were left.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:36]

Recipe Challenge: Skillet Tuna & Noodles

A while back, as I was clipping coupons—yes, I am a coupon clipper—I came across a recipe called “One Skillet Tuna Noodles.” The basics were good—egg noodles, tuna, frozen vegetables, milk, and water. But then there was the problem ingredient—1 can of condensed cheddar cheese soup. Granted, the canned soup makes the preparation extremely speedy, and for many busy families, in the evening all they want is to put together quickly a fairly decent meal, for heaven’s sake. I understand that. In fact, I’ve been there myself when I worked outside the home and still had five people to feed every night.

But, I wondered, could I make a cheddar cheese sauce from scratch and still have the meal ready in a reasonable amount of time, say, under an hour? I decided to challenge myself with this recipe makeover.

First, a qualification. I am very, very comfortable making a basic white sauce, to which cheddar cheese can be added. Clif and I like casseroles with cheesy white sauces, and I make them fairly often. My vision of this skillet dish was basically as a casserole in a large frying pan. For people who are not as familiar with making a cheese sauce, the process might take a little longer.

Second, a hint. For speedy preparation, get everything ready ahead of time, or mise en place, as the French put it. This will ensure no last-minute awkward fumbling for this or that, which can really slow down the process and sometimes even ruin a meal.

The following is step-by-step instructions of what I did.

1. Set a large stock pot of salted water to boil on the stove.

2. Measure 9 ounces of egg noodles into a bowl and set by the stove.

3. Measure a cup of frozen vegetables—I used peas—and set by the stove. (Next time I would use 2 cups.)

4. When the water boils, add the noodles and the veggies, set the timer for 10 minutes, and put a colander in the sink. While the noodles are cooking, start getting everything in place.

4. Take out skillet. I used a big electric one.

5. Open a 6 ounce can of tuna, flake it in the can, and set by the skillet.

6. Mince 1 clove of garlic, put it in a small bowl, and set by the skillet.

7. Measure 4 tablespoons of flour into a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. (Actually, I just scrapped some pepper into the flour.) Set this by the skillet.

8. Cut up 4 tablespoons of butter and put into the unheated skillet.

9. Grate a cup of cheddar cheese and set by skillet.

10. Measure a cup and a half of milk. In a separate cup, measure a cup of sour cream. (Or plain yogurt. Or add another cup of milk if you don’t have yogurt or sour cream, so that you have two and half cups of milk.) Set by the skillet.

11. Measure 1 teaspoon of dried dill into a small bowl, and, you guessed it, set it by the skillet.

12. By now, perhaps even earlier, the noodles and veggies should be done. Drain them into the colander and let them set while you prepare the cheese sauce.

13. Heat the skillet using a medium heat—350 degrees in an electric skillet. Keep an eye on the butter and as soon as it is melted add the minced garlic. Let it sizzle for about 30 seconds.

14. Add the flour, salt, and pepper, and stir, stir, stir until the roux is a golden brown. This will take a couple of minutes.

15, Add the milk and stir until the mixture is thick and bubbling. In a big skillet, this shouldn’t take long.

16. Add the cheese, tuna, and the dill and stir until the cheese is melted.

17. Reduce the heat to low, and add the sour cream or yogurt, if using. Heat slowly—you don’t want the sour cream to curdle—until everything is warm.

18. Add the noodles and the peas, and again, heat slowly until the mixture is very warm but not bubbling.

And there you have it. A skillet dinner with a cheese sauce made from scratch. The whole process, from beginning to end, took me 30 minutes. Not as speedy as opening a can of soup, but an acceptable amount of time nonetheless.

This could never be considered a company dish, but it is warm, tasty, frugal, and pretty quick to make. Clif had 2 servings and pronounced it “Not too bad,” which in Yankee parlance means good enough.

Here are some pictures Clif took of me as I made the white sauce and then added the rest of the ingredients:

Stirring the roux
Stirring the roux
Adding the cheese and tuna after the milk has been added
Adding the cheese and tuna after the milk has been added
Stirring in the sour cream
Adding the noodles and peas after the sour cream has been added. The heat is on low, and everything is gently warmed.
Adding the noodles and peas after the sour cream has been added. The heat is on low, and everything is gently warmed.
Suppa is ready
Suppa is ready

How I Got 3 Meals from 2 Chicken Breasts and 4 Sweet Potatoes

img_5225I know. The title of this post is akin to the miracle of the fish and the loaves. However, no miracles were performed. Instead, just some thrifty stretching of food with my trusty slow-cooker. Also, I want to hasten to add that these 3 meals were for Clif and me, just the 2 of us. Yet even with this qualification, 3 meals from 2 chicken breasts and 4 sweet potatoes come under the heading of pretty darned frugal, which can only be a good thing during this very cold winter. And tasty, too, if I do say so myself.

Here is what I did. I took 4 medium sweet potatoes and cut them into large cubes. (I didn’t peel them.) I sprinkled salt and pepper on them and added a cup of water. I put two large chicken breasts on top of the sweet potatoes and seasoned them with more salt and pepper as well as thyme and sage. (I didn’t measure. I just sprinkled liberally.) Then I added two cloves of minced garlic. Onion lovers could certainly substitute or add onions as well. I set the slow-cooker on high and let everything cook for about 4 hours.

On night 1, we each had half a chicken breast and some sweet potatoes. Clif and I could have eaten more, but we refrained, which meant that we had both leftover chicken and sweet potatoes. Also, there was a lovely broth from the water and the chicken. I removed the chicken and sweet potatoes from the broth, and put them into separate containers.

Because I have a large refrigerator, I left the broth in the slow-cooker’s crockery and tucked the whole thing in the refrigerator. The next day, I used this as the base for meal 2.

I put the crockery with the broth into the base of the slow cooker, and turned it to high. I added 4 cups of water; 1 whole onion, peeled; 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped; 1/2 teaspoon of salt; and 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper. (Actually, I didn’t measure the pepper. I just ground some in.) If I had had some celery, I would have included a rib or two in the stock, but I didn’t.

I let the stock bubble on high for about 5 hours.  Then, I removed the onion. Into the slow cooker, I added the sweet potatoes, with the skins removed, and using my immersion blender, I pureed the sweet potatoes into the stock. Right there, I had a lovely, creamy soup that would have been fine just as it was.

However, Clif likes his soup to have ingredients, and if we do have a creamy soup, he loads it with crushed saltine crackers. Knowing his preference, I usually add ingredients to most every soup I make. So into the sweet potato soup I added the leftover chicken, chopped into large pieces, and 2 cans of black beans. In the refrigerator, we had leftover couscous, and I added that as well, but any small- or medium-sized pasta would work. (Because pasta and couscous have a tendency to swell, the next time I make this soup, I would add warm pasta or couscous or even rice to the bottom of each serving bowl and ladle the soup on top.)

I made some biscuit muffins to go with the soup, and Clif was a happy husband.

The third meal, of course, was leftover soup and biscuit muffins.

Now, this kind of meal could be amended in a couple of ways. For those living alone and who have a small slow-cooker—yes, Megan, I am directing this at you—the ingredients could be halved, and you would get at least two meals from this. For those with a bigger family, load that slow-cooker right up. In fact, maybe even have 2 of them going.

However it is done, you will still have 2 or 3 thrifty meals, perfect for this time of year when the nights are long and oh so cold.

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Biscuits and Chicken in Eight Photos—Or, What to Do with Leftovers

On Saturday, when Shannon came for a visit, I made one of my favorite Crock-Pot meals—chicken thighs on top of sliced carrots and potatoes. For spicing, I used garlic, dried thyme, sage, salt, and pepper. For a little something extra—a splash of olive oil. At noon, I set the Crock-Pot on high and then turned it to low when everything started to bubble. Around 6:00, the chicken and vegetables were cooked, and all I needed to do was make some cornbread to go with the meal.

Naturally, there were leftovers, and in our house, this is never a bad thing. Instead, it is a challenge to come up with a dish that will not only use the leftovers but will also be just as good if not better than the original meal. Because the leftovers were a little scanty, I knew I would have to add something to round them out, and to my way of thinking, biscuits are a good way of rounding out almost any meal. Biscuits on top of chicken, potatoes, carrots, and gravy definitely qualify as an old-timey meal, but that’s all right. Clif and I like old-timey meals.

When I packed away the leftover chicken, potatoes, and carrots, I also saved the broth in a separate bowl. After a night in the refrigerator, the fat rose to the top of the broth, and I skimmed off the fat. There are a couple of ways to make the gravy—with a roux of butter and flour (or that skimmed chicken fat) if you want it really rich. Or, for a less rich gravy a bit of cornstarch and water can be used. In this case, I mixed a tablespoon of cornstarch in 1/3 cup of cold water. I brought the broth to a boil, and stirring all the while, I added the cornstarch and water and let the gravy thicken for a few minutes. Then, I poured the gravy over the leftover potatoes, carrots, and chickens.

I poured the mixture into an 8 x 8 pan, made a batch of biscuits to go on top, and baked it in a 425° oven for about 25 minutes. “Pretty good,” Clif said, as he went back for seconds, and coming from a Yankee, this is high praise. In fact, Clif took so much for seconds that there probably isn’t enough left for both of us to have another meal. Never mind. Clif can have the biscuits and chicken, and I’ll have one of my favorite night-time meals—eggs and toast.

For new readers, here is a link to my mother’s biscuit recipe.

Biscuits and Chicken in Eight Photos:

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Walking to the Narrows on a Gray Day: Includes Recipe for Pasta with Sausage, Sage, and Browned Butter

img_4483Yesterday, my dog, Liam, and I took a walk to the Narrows Pond, about a quarter of a mile from our home. The day was gray, and it was sprinkling so lightly that I could hardly feel the drops on my raincoat. In fact, a rather nice day for a walk.

The Narrows Pond comprises the Upper and Lower Narrows, and the word pond does not do justice to these large, sparkling bodies of water. In my mind, ponds are small and what you find behind an old farm house. The Upper and Lower Narrows are more like lakes, and the Lower Narrows is quite deep—over 100 feet in some areas. My understanding is that what makes the Narrows a pond is the number of inlets—one—that flows into it. As with so many other things in life, when it comes to lakes and ponds, size doesn’t matter.

As Liam and I approached the Narrows, two crows sat at the top of a tree, and they called in warning as we walked past them. A string of ducks quacked and flew in their surging way, going from the Lower Narrows to the Upper Narrows. Way out on the water, so far out that I couldn’t see its distinctive profile, came the tremolo of a loon. “Where are you?” it seemed to ask. “Right here, right here,” I answered.

After the walk it was tea time on the couch, with the dog on one side of me and Sherlock, the orange cat, on my lap. Along with the tea—Earl Grey—I had an apple and a few pretzels. For a book, Gladys Taber’s Still Cove Journal.

By the time Clif came home from work—at 6 p.m.—it was dark, and the shades were drawn.  “What would you like for supper?” I asked. “Pasta with sausage, sage, and browned butter? Or, creamed tuna with dill and garlic over baked potatoes?”

Clif hesitated. “They both sound good.”

“What we don’t have tonight, we will have tomorrow.”

“Pasta and sausage, then.”

I suspected that would be his choice. Clif loves pasta, and he loves sausage, even if it is made with turkey rather than pork, as was the case last night. I had four big sausages—as opposed to the breakfast links—as well as plenty of sage growing in a pot outside.

This dish is so easy that it hardly needs a formal recipe, but for clarity’s sake, I’ll provide one anyway. The sage and browned butter over pasta is the base, and many, many things could be added or substituted: Shrimp, chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, and peppers, to name a few. This dish is so good that it qualifies as a company dish. It would go together easily while guests are finishing their wine and appetizers. Then, I guess, you would have to call it dinner rather than supper.

But midweek on a dark, wet night, the pasta with sage, browned butter, and sausage qualifies as supper.

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The Walk for Hope 2013: Includes Recipe for White Chili Stew

The crowd surges toward UMA
The crowd surges toward UMA

Last Saturday was a beautiful sunny day for the Walk for Hope, which is a benefit for MaineGeneral’s breast care program. This year Team Good Eater—my daughter Shannon, our friend Alice, and me—really outdid itself. Thanks to the outstanding generosity of family and friends, the three of us raised $1,215 for the breast care program, and this surpassed what we raised last year—$1,075.  Holy guacamole! As I wrote ungrammatically in a recent email to Shannon and Alice, “We done good.” Many, many thanks to all who donated to Team Good Eater.

The Good Eater Gang (Liam is there, too, but he was hiding by Clif.)
The Good Eater Gang

Team Good Eater was joined by Alice’s husband, Joel; my husband, Clif; our friend Debbie Maddi; and the two dogs, Liam and Holly. (Shannon’s husband, Mike, had to work. We missed you, Mike!) We walked with well over 1,000 other people—men, women, children, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, daughters, sons, and brothers as well as many dogs. What family hasn’t been affected by breast cancer?

Spiked pink hair and high spirits
Spiked pink hair and high spirits

In a mass of pink, we flowed from the Sam’s Club parking lot and walked the trail at the University of Maine at Augusta. We saw many people that we knew, and the mood of the walk was as fine and as beautiful as the day. I am always impressed with how upbeat the tone of this walk is because, let’s face it, there is nothing upbeat about cancer, breast or any other kind. Cancer is always scary, even when it is treatable.

Pretty in pink
Pretty in pink

But on we all went on that golden October day. Many of us—including me—have already had breast cancer. Others were there to support the ones they loved. Down the hill we surged, through the woods at UMA and back up the big hill to Sam’s Club, where we were greeted by cheerleaders, complete with poms-poms. I must admit, I have never been cheered before, and it felt great. When I mentioned this to the cheerleaders, I got another loud and enthusiastic cheer.

After the walk, those who had walked for Team Good Eater came back to the little house in the big woods for a hearty meal of white chile stew, bread from Slate’s bakery, and a salad made primarily with greens from Farmer Kev’s garden. For dessert we had a moist and very tasty German apple cake that Alice made.

Oh, we were all good eaters. The three-and-a-half-mile walk whetted our appetites, and at the end of the meal, there was only a scraping of soup left in the Crock-Pot. I made the soup from a recipe I found online, but I fiddled with it so much in the making that I can now call it my own and share it with you. It’s a hearty stew that tastes even better if it is made the day before.

I served the salad in a pink drizzle bowl that belonged to my mother. Somehow, that bowl seemed very appropriate. Pink is the chosen color of most breast cancer organizations, and my own mother had breast cancer, too. She did not die from it, and she faced it bravely at a time when the breast cancer epidemic was just getting started—1974—long before there were any support groups to help women deal with this terrible disease.

Mom's pink bowl
Mom’s pink bowl

I walked for her as well as for myself and for all women who have had or will have breast cancer.

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Mike’s 30th Birthday Tempura

The birthday boy
The birthday boy

 

Last weekend was a big one for us—we celebrated the 30th birthday of our son-in-law, Mike. Let’s just say that from my vantage point, 30 seems like a very long time ago.

“Do you remember turning 30?” I recently asked my husband, Clif.

“Not really,” he answered.

“Neither do I. ”

Nevertheless, 30 is one of those milestone birthdays. Ordinarily, we are quite frugal when it comes to birthdays, and we have even been known to slip in a “gently-used” present or two into the mix of what we give. (The gently-used present is usually a book.) But on milestone birthdays we splurge, and for Mike’s 30th birthday, we all chipped in to buy him a Nikon camera. As his family also chipped in to buy the camera, we were able to get a nice one for Mike, who has a great eye and has been taking terrific shots with just his phone. I can’t wait to see what he does with an actual camera and a good one at that.

Our daughter Dee came from New York to join us, and what a great meal we had at our daughter Shannon and Mike’s home. The centerpiece for appetizers was homemade pretzels, baked fresh as we sat at the dining room table. As Shannon noted, it’s amazing how something so simple can taste so good. The pretzels are boiled first and then baked, like bagels, which means they are not just twisted bread. Soft, chewy, warm, salty and dipped in melted cheese—the jarred kind that I don’t usually like but somehow seemed perfect for those pretzels. I am embarrassed to admit how many I ate, so I’m not going to do so. Let’s just say that after those pretzels—along with fresh-baked tortilla chips from Whole Foods—I was so full that I wasn’t sure how I was going to eat any of the main meal, a tempura.

Oh, those pretzels!
Oh, those pretzels!

But, it’s amazing what a half-hour break can do to settle the stomach. Mike opened his presents and quite naturally took a long time examining his camera. We chatted about this and that, and there was a fair amount of camera and photography talk.

Then it was on to tempura, a fancy term for food dipped in a simple batter and, in this case, fried in a wok right at the table. There are usually dipping sauces, and Shannon provided two sweet sauces and one hot and spicy. We had mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, and chicken. The food, piping hot and crisp and bite-sized, is delicious, but more than that, the meal becomes a ritual as diners watch the tempura chef dip the vegetables in batter, fry the food, and then pass small portions on a plate for everyone to enjoy. Not every meal, of course, can be a ritual, but how nice it is to have one like this for special occasions.

The veggies, waiting to be fried
The veggies, waiting to be fried

Clif started out as the tempura chef, but because of his broken wrist, he was not as adept with the chopsticks as he usually is. Since I am pathetic with chopsticks, and Shannon is a wiz, she took over from him. (Unfortunately, I only thought to take a picture of Clif at the batter bowl.)

Clif at the batter bowl
Clif at the batter bowl
Lovely, lovely tempura
Lovely, lovely tempura

Again, I am embarrassed to admit how much tempura I ate. A real cheat day for me, and the ice cream cake we had for dessert was the perfect ending to an oh-so-good meal.

Happy 30th birthday, Mike. I can’t wait to see your pictures.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:16]

 

Creamed Tuna Revisted—And Some Thoughts on How to Cook a Wolf

In Maine, we are having what might be called a good, old-fashioned cold spell, where the temperature barely rises above zero during the day and goes well below zero at night. Add a brisk wind and you have weather so chilly that people barely want to go out to get their mail, much less go for a walk. A hard time for our dog, Liam, who is still energetic at 8 and loves to run and bark in the backyard. Despite the cold, Liam nevertheless gets his chance to run and bark as every day I have to bring in three wheel barrow’s worth of wood for our furnace.

This brisk weather is a good time to make a cup of tea and settle on the couch with a book. This January, I am rereading M.F.K. Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf, first published in 1944. Despite the stiff competition from an increasingly crowded field, Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (1908–1992) remains one of America’s best food writers. W. H. Auden noted, “I do not know know of anyone in the United States who writes better prose.” This is high praise coming from a great poet, and it is no exaggeration. M.F.K. Fisher wrote beautifully, and, just as important, she had something to say.

How to Cook a Wolf is fortunately metaphorical rather than literal—there are no instructions on how to butcher and roast a wolf.  The book was written during World War II, and it addresses how one might live creatively in a time of shortage. In the second chapter, Fisher quotes her grandmother: “I see that ever since I was married, well over fifty years ago, I have been living on a war budget without realizing it! I never knew before that using common sense in the kitchen was stylish only in emergencies.” Fisher notes that although her “grandmother’s observation need not have been so sardonically phrased…probably it was true then…and it is even more appropriate now.”

Almost 70 years later it is still true. Common sense belongs in the kitchen (and the rest of the house) in good times as well as hard ones. In addition, Fisher’s frugal but common-sense tips are particularly relevant today.

Many of us, even in this richest country in the world, feel as though the “wolf is at the door.” Expenses go up, but for most of us, salaries remain the same. What was once a comfortable income is no longer quite as comfortable. Bills must be paid. Pennies must be pinched. Extras—such as meals out and plays—are often eliminated. While those who have jobs and health care have much to be grateful for, there is no denying the feeling that things aren’t quite as good as they once were, except for the few at the top, where life is better than ever. With Earth’s dwindling resources, increased automation at the work place, and a still-rising population, it is my guess that the wolf will be at the door for quite a while. It seems to me the trick is to acknowledge this and to still live as well as possible. (And, of course, to elect politicians who will address the gross inequality in this country.)

These observations, in turn, bring me to creamed tuna, a thrifty dish my mother often served for supper. She was a child of the Great Depression and knew a thing or two about making do with little. My mother often said of her own grandmother: “Even when it seemed as though there was hardly anything in the cupboards or refrigerator, my grandmother could still put together a warm, tasty meal.”

Cream sauces are not very much in vogue right now, but I must admit to having a fondness for them. Smooth, warm, rich with butter. Really, what’s not to like? All right, they are a little plain and old-fashioned, but what wrong with that?

I loved my mother’s creamed tuna, which she usually served over potatoes. (We are Mainers, after all.) But I wondered, could I jazz it up just a little, so that it would have extra zing? Yes, I could, with garlic and dill, nice additions which lifted the cream sauce from tasty to very tasty. And how about a little sour cream or yogurt to replace some of the milk? Ditto.

Creamed tuna is definitely a family dish and probably not one you would serve to company. However, when the thermometer barely rises above zero, and the wolf seems to be nuzzling the door, creamed tuna on potatoes (or toast) tastes, as my Yankee husband would put it, pretty darned good.

Note about the tuna: Tuna, as I’m sure readers know, can be high in mercury, with albacore being the worst. Chunk light tuna, which is often yellow fin, is lower in mercury and the tuna of choice in our house. Still, it is only an occasional treat for us.

 

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:15]

Spicy Beans for a Cold Month

Last night, I was rooting around my refrigerator to see if anything should be used before it went bad, and I found the following items: a wrinkled sweet red pepper that had no mold and about a quarter cup of cilantro salsa, again with no mold. What to do with them? In my cupboard, I had a can of black beans, and my freezer yielded a cup of frozen corn. Well, why not make some spicy beans? But rather than having them over rice, which would be delicious, I would use them as a stuffer for baked potatoes. Last fall, I bought 50 pounds of organic Yukon Golds from Farmer Kev, and although the potatoes are still good, they are sprouting eyes, so now I am planning to use potatoes in a variety of ways.

The ingredients
The ingredients

Before I get started on the actual recipe, I want to emphasize that this is one of those adaptable dishes that can accommodate many kinds of beans and various vegetables. Therefore, the following recipe should be used as a place to start as much as a recipe to follow. I used garlic to jazz up the beans, but onions would work, too. Or, if you wanted to get really bold, onions and garlic. If you have a hearty digestive system—alas, I don’t—go for it. It’s winter.

The cooking
The cooking

I always use my Yankee husband, Clif, as an indicator as to whether a dish is successful. These spicy beans not only got a “Pretty darned good” from Clif, but he also went back for seconds, using tortilla chips as a base for the beans. He liked these spicy beans so much that he suggested I make them especially for nachos. “That would give them some snap,” Clif said. (With the Yankee emphasis being on “some” rather than “snap.”)

Ready to eat
Ready to eat

It certainly would, and I just might make these beans for nachos on a cold Saturday night in January or February, when the snow crunches and squeaks underfoot, the nose pinches when you take a deep breath, and the frost doesn’t leave the windows, even during the day. Warm inside, cold outside. A cozy time of the year.[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:13]