Food made easy for busy moms.

Just another Saturday night… June 4, 2011

Saturday night seems to be that night of the week that my brain completely shuts down and has no clue what to cook for dinner. If I had my way, my four year old would sustain herself on the protein that she picks from her nose. I’m pretty sure that my six year old could figure out something from the bottom drawer of the refrigerator (think cheese and salami). Thankfully, I thought ahead and made my marinara sauce to wait for me in the freezer for these very days. I figured out my brain was on full shut down mode when I grabbed the can opener and actually placed it on the wine bottle to open it. Yes you read that right. So, pasta night it became. I opted to go with no meat tonight, my Buddhist vegetarian sister would be so proud.

Let’s begin with the basics; pasta preparation. I know many people who insist on putting oil in their water so that the noodles don’t stick together. I also know people who immediately rinse their noodles in fresh water. You don’t need to do either of these “tricks” for your noodles. The trick is to use an adequate size pot with enough water and a good handful of kosher salt. I typically shove my hand in the salt pig to grab about 2-3 tablespoons of salt. Bring the water to a full boil and then add in the pasta. Follow package directions for the amount of time for the noodle you are using. I like my noodles to be al dente (to the tooth), when in doubt bite a noodle to try it out. I tend to not use a strainer once my noodles are done and merely pour off as much water as I can.

Yes, you could use the basic marinara sauce recipe as is if you want or you could be like me and tweak with it. I decided to dice up half of a red pepper and a green pepper, slice up the five organic mushrooms that my husband picked up from Homegrown Market, sliced up kalamata olives, added in about 2 tablespoons of capers, and about 1/4 cup red wine (I was drinking Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 this particular night). I let this come to a simmer and just before serving I added in finely chopped flat leaf parsley and basil. Top with freshly grated Parmigino Reggiano (please splurge for this) and you have an excellent meal. Enjoy and here’s to those thoughtless nights.


Terriyaki Sauce June 3, 2011

Filed under: Chicken,Fish,Pork,The Basics,Vegetarian,What's for Dinner? — alaskafoodmom @ 12:41 pm
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Why buy bottled terriyaki sauce when you can make your own? This is a basic recipe and can easily be modified by omitting the sesame oil. You can also add pineapple juice (1/8 cup) to give it a different spin. This recipe can be used with skinless, boneless chicken thighs, chicken breasts, or pork tenderloin. Allow the meat to marinate for at least 8 hours. I will usually prepare this in the morning and allow to marinate while I am at work. I recently tried this on a portabella mushroom for my sister who is a vegetarian. It turned out great. This is also great on salmon fillets. The salmon should only marinate for about a half hour. I often double this recipe because it is so well loved at my house. This goes great with white rice and Asian Cabbage Salad

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped (about a 1 inch piece)


What’s in your seasoning cabinet? May 5, 2011

Filed under: The Basics,Thoughts for the Day — alaskafoodmom @ 7:21 am
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A conversation happened at work today which got me thinking.  What is in your seasoning cabinet?  What I would expect in a basic seasoning cabinet is not the same as what someone else might think.  Whenever I visit Minnesota I encounter this very scenario.  My mother-in-law’s version of a seasoning cabinet is vastly different than what my version is.  When I say vastly different, I mean in some other solar system.  Thankfully I have been fortunate enough to visit her and save her cave of a cabinet and populate it with the basics.  Word of warning, I have been accused of collecting spices like I collect clothes.  It may look like I am out of control, but I have a plan for every single purchase.  At least this is what I tell my husband.

The Basics

Kosher Salt – This is a larger grain salt then its iodized table salt cousin you might be accustomed to.  The salt is more grainy and flaky than table salt and doesn’t have an aftertaste that table salt can create due in part to the iodine that is added.  I keep my kosher salt in a salt pig next to my oven for easy access.

Pepper – I believe that pepper should be freshly ground for maximum flavor.  Do a taste test with a chicken breast and season with table salt and prepared ground pepper and the other chicken breast season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  I guarantee you will taste the difference.

Granulated Garlic – I use granulated garlic on just about everything.  This is simple flavor enhancer and you really can’t mess up a simple sauteed chicken breast seasoned with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and granulated garlic.  Don’t be tempted to buy garlic powder in place of granulated garlic. This is dried garlic ground into a fine powder and is far harder to control in your cooking.

Chili Powder – With as many Mexican dishes as I prepare, I can never be out of this staple ingredient.  Most chili powders are a blend of chili pepper, spices, salt, and garlic.  There is a hotter version which is called New Mexico Chile Powder.  I will sometimes use this in chili and soups where I want more of a punch. Ancho chili powder offers a nice smokey flavor to dishes. Chipolte powder also offers a nice smokey flavor, but can be a bit hotter. I could start an entire spice cabinet with various chili powders blends that are available.

Cumin – Again, with the dishes that I cook, I could never live without having cumin in my cabinet.  This spice is a cousin of coriander and gives your dish a smokey, almost lemon flavor.  If you find you are missing the mark on some of your Hispanic dishes, it is often cumin.

Lemon Pepper – This is a great seasoning to have on hand to give your food a little zip that you might be craving.  Surprisingly, I often use this on my steaks to give a bit of flavor kick.  Look for a mix that isn’t so heavy on the salt content.

Custom Mixes – I am a big fan of mixes that don’t contain a lot of salt, or in some cases, no salt at all.  One brand I use a lot is Mrs. Dash.  They are a great way to give chicken, pork or steak a quick flavor enhancer without all of the salt.  The extra spicy blend works well in chili, hot wings and fajitas.  Another brand that I have discovered recently is the Simply Organic in the organic section of the grocery store.  Both the chicken and steak blend have been great to use both on meat as well as in soups and stews.

More later…


Turkey Breast May 4, 2011

Filed under: Comfort Food,The Basics,Turkey,What's for Dinner? — alaskafoodmom @ 6:58 am
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This is such an easy way to cook turkey and it turns out perfect every time.

5-10 lb turkey breast, bone-in (ensure that the turkey will fit with cover on in your crock pot)
Kosher salt to taste
Lemon pepper to taste*
Garlic, granulated to taste
½ cup water or chicken broth

Rinse turkey breast in cold water and place in crock pot.  Season turkey with salt, lemon pepper, and garlic.  Add the water or chicken broth to the bottom of the crock pot.  Cover and set crock pot on low.  Cook for 8-10 hours.  Reserve juices for use in gravy.

*Can be omitted.


Bread Crumbs

Filed under: The Basics — alaskafoodmom @ 6:18 am
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Bread crumbs are a great basic ingredient to have on hand and many store bought brands are packed with salt and preservatives.  Bread crumbs are a handy ingredient to have in your freezer; I use mine for meatballs and salmon patties.  I like to have control over my ingredients and this allows me to be able to control the salt and use delicious artisan breads that make great bread crumbs.  Trust me, you will never buy another container of bread crumbs from the store again.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut a loaf of artisan bread or other bread of choice into small cubes.  Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet.  Bake cubes until light brown.  Allow to cool and add to a blender or food processor and blend until broken down to semi course bread crumbs.  Store bread crumbs in an air tight container in the freezer.



Filed under: Salads,The Basics — alaskafoodmom @ 6:07 am
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut a loaf of any artisan bread or other sturdy bread of choice into small cubes.  Add the bread to a large bowel and drizzle with just enough extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat all the bread cubes.  Spread on a baking sheet and season with kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, granulated garlic, and dried dill weed.   Bake for about half hour or until lightly brown.  Store croutons in an air tight container in the freezer.

Feel free to experiment with different seasonings.  I will often use the Alaska dill blend that contains dill weed, kosher salt, white pepper, paprika and tarragon.  Lemon pepper is another good seasoning to give your croutons a little zest.


Artisan Bread

Filed under: The Basics,Thoughts for the Day — alaskafoodmom @ 6:01 am

Unfortunately, I have not started making my own bread.  One day I will achieve to be as great as my sister-in-law Alex.  In the mean time, you can still pick up a loaf of artisan bread from most grocery stores or, even better, a local bakery.  We always seem to have a loaf of pre-sliced artisan garlic bread on hand in our refrigerator for meals.  We will brush the slices with olive oil and lightly grill.  A great way to use leftover artisan bread is to make croutons and bread crumbs. Many times I will shop the bakery for their day old selections that are typically discounted by 50%.