Food Nostalgia

I spent a whole day with the 1980’s today. I’m in the show “Steel Magnolias” which takes place during that decade, and then tonight I went to see Cheap Trick and Blondie in concert. Talk about a blast (or two) from the past! As a child of that decade (I graduated high school in the mid-80’s) days like today take me right back to my teenage years. I remember the music, television, fashion, and of course, the FOOD!

The play references a LOT of food, including a recipe that contains Bisquick “which makes it SO easy!” I remember my mom making recipes with Bisquick, including “Impossible Cheeseburger Pie” and a few others. That got me to thinking, what foods do YOU identify with from your childhood? My dad was the pizza king. Every couple of weeks, we’d have a pizza night, where Daddy would make up the crusts from the Chef Boyardee pizza kit, and us kids would get to help him put toppings on it. He was never content to just put that little can of Parmesan cheese on those pizzas. Instead we had provolone, mozzarella, cheddar, even American cheese some weeks! Mom also made a chicken and stuffing casserole that was a family favorite. My brother and I ate PB&J on white Wonder Bread, and we actually put Utz potato chips INSIDE our sandwich to make it crunch. My mom also would make us Steak-Umm sandwiches, with American cheese and mayo. They were great at home, not so great for school when they tended to get cold.

It amazes me how closely linked my memories are to food. I guess I was feeding way more than my stomach back then! What did YOU eat as a kid? Are there any foods that when you taste them take you back in time? Please share!

A confession

I have not done so great during this current Paleo challenge. Despite my good intentions, my life just has not allowed me time to put in the time and effort needed to cook meals that are 100% Paleo.

I’m not eating horribly or anything, and I certainly haven’t been eating wheat (except those three bites of funnel cake which was SO not worth it). But going to the theater every day after work, and then going out with my castmates after shows means that some dairy, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol have made their way into my body.

However, rather than feel guilty about it, I have accepted that this is just where my life is right now. I choose to take part in theater as my hobby. I choose to take time to go watch my kids play soccer. I choose to enjoy the social activities during this beautiful fall season. I don’t exactly CHOOSE to work full time, but I do enjoy the things my employment affords.

You get what I’m saying right? It is what it is. As much as I love food, my life is about more than that right now. My activities are feeding other appetites now, I am feeding my soul and that is just as important.

So maybe the point of this challenge, and the lesson to be learned is that doing my best is good enough. I want to have a happy, healthy relationship with food, not one that is obsessive and filled with guilt. My life is like a gemstone, colorful and multi-faceted, and I am just polishing each one – allowing them to shine and become more beautiful.

Hope your Saturday sparkles too!

Save the Jars!

So, in my quest to eat better, healthier, higher quality food, I have to share with you one of my little secrets.

I save glass jars. Pickle, jelly, salsa, canning, whatever…I save jars. Once they’re empty, I sanitize them in my dishwasher and add them to my food storage collection. For every piece of glass storage I add, I throw away a piece of plastic.

Why? Well, let me answer a question with a question… if I am being mindful of eating healthier, organic, farm fresh, pasture raised food, why would I serve, store, and reheat in containers that possibly transfer BPA, PVC, Phthalates, Antibacterials and other chemicals into my food? Doesn’t that seem silly?

I already have started rebuilding my collection with the leakproof glass food storage items, and the tempered glass prep bowls from The Pampered Chef (I LOVE these!) as well as glass storage from Pyrex and other places. Tempered glass is safe to use in the freezer, the refrigerator, the microwave, and the oven. Reheating in glass does not allow harmful chemicals and compounds to leech into my food, and then into my body. Now, I DO use a FoodSaver for freezing, however the FoodSaver company states that its bags are BPA, PVC, and Phthalate free. Also, I try to be very diligent about not putting HOT food into those bags (I let my blanched vegetables cool before bagging and freezing) and taking the food out of the bags before cooking.

Today, I packed some potato-leek soup and a poached pear for my lunch. Two glass jars with their tight fitting lids fit beautifully into my thermal lunch tote, and all I had to do was take off the lids and reheat in our work microwave. Delicious! Plus I didn’t have to wory about warped lids not fitting correctly, or the glass heating up so that I couldn’t lift it and carry it back to my desk.

As an added bonus, when I store food in glass, it’s easier to see the contents and I find myself far more likely to USE what’s inside, rather than let it go to waste. This applies to the pantry too! Jelly, Dip, Salsa, Pickle… any jar can be sanitized in the dishwasher and then put to good use. Canning jars can be had for pennies or even free at yard and garage sales.

Also, never EVER reheat food on Styrofoam plates, or in those foam carryout containers you get at restaurants. Styrofoam is a petroleum product, and melts when heat contacts it. Where do you think those toxins end up? In your food. Transfer leftovers to glass containers as soon as you get home and store them in your fridge. Then you’re guaranteed a delicious and non-toxic meal the second time around.

I am an ant


I think nearly every culture has a version of the story “The Grasshopper and the Ant.” You know the one, where the ant works through beautiful days putting up food, building a house, preparing for winter while the grasshopper plays the summer days away. When winter comes, only one insect is left warm, well-fed, and alive. Here’s a hint: It ain’t the grasshopper.

Well I am obviously an ant. Today I bathed the two dogs; spread Borax on the floor and furniture to combat the fleas; roasted, shredded, and froze eight large spaghetti squash; peeled, wedged, and froze the last of the season’s fresh peaches in light syrup, roasted half of my stash of butternut squash, which I will freeze tomorrow (it’s in the fridge now), and loaded the dehydrator with poblano/ancho chiles that will dry overnight. Tomorrow I will put up the final bit of beans, and start harvesting the herbs in my herb garden.

I think I will also make this: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since I first read the recipe. With any luck, I’ll have some other insect hanging out playing the fiddle while I cook.

A night off…

Means I actually MADE DINNER tonight. Man it felt GOOD to cook something again. I know that sounds weird, but I had really missed getting creative in the kitchen.

I had a ham steak in the freezer from one of our local pork producers. I also had those cute baby sweet potatoes and fresh green beans that I bought on Friday. The spouse had gotten some pearl onions for beef stew, and I had two Roma tomatoes that I needed to use. There’s that cheapskate gene again! I scrubbed up a bunch of those little taters and popped them in a 400 degree oven. I peeled and halved the onions, dropping them in a skillet with some olive oil. While they browned, I diced up the two tomatoes, and then added them to the skillet. Finally, my green beans went in along with a splash of chicken stock and sea salt. I let them steam a bit, then uncovered to cook off some of the juice from the tomatoes. I ended up with a nice medley there, and the tomato pulp added to the caramelized onion made a nice coating on those crisp-tender green beans. The ham steak went into a grill pan just to get warmed up and get a few grill marks. With good protein, all I want to apply is simple seasonings and HEAT.

I ended up with ham that had crispy skin and charred grill marks, potatoes that were perfectly creamy and sweet without any kind of seasoning, and savory green beans seasoned with tomato and those pearl onions. Completely satisfying. It was so satisfying in fact, that I concentrated more on eating than in remembering to take a photo for the blog tonight.

I wanted dessert, and I had four pears in the fridge. I also had two half bottles of Moscato wine. I’d never poached pears before, but I was in the mood to be adventurous. So, I poured the wine into a saucepan, added some organic raw honey, candied ginger, lemon peel, a vanilla bean, and a teeny bit of simple syrup. I let that mixture come to a boil, and then a simmer while I peeled the pears. I left the stems on and cored them from the bottom and then dropped them into the simmering poaching liquid. It took 30 minutes or so before the pears were soft (but not mushy) and I pulled them from the liquid, standing them in a bowl. I then turned the heat up slightly and let the poaching liquid reduce to a syrup. Into the fridge it went until cool and thick. I drizzled that syrup all over one of those pears and OH MY HEAVEN was it good. The pear was sweet, the reduced wine syrup still had a nice light acidic bite to it and the ginger came singing through clearly while not overpowering.

Some nights it’s so so GOOD to just have a night off to play with my food.

On another note, one of my Facebook friends suggested a mini feature within the blog called “Hey Stacy, look what I made!” He sent me a photo of his dinner tonight, and MAN did it look good. So I think I’d LOVE that. Since sometimes I end up eating instead of taking pictures, you all can send me photos of what YOU make for dinner.

Here’s what Ernie made:

Doesn’t that look good? Now he needs to give me the recipe!

So what have YOU made lately? Post here, or hit me up on Facebook. I’d love to know what’s cooking in YOUR kitchen!

Necessity is the mother of invention

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So remember that “everything pesto” I made last week? Well I used some of it, but had quite a bit left over. Since pesto freezes so beautifully, I figured I’d freeze this too.

HOWEVER, I had forgotten that I sent my ice trays up to college with Stretch for her apartment. So, I was a bit at a loss as to how I’d freeze this pesto. Lucky me, I’d bought some small ramekins a while back at a discount kitchenware and home goods shop. I pulled them down and grabbed a serving spoon out of my silverware drawer. One heaping spoonful went into each ramekin and I used the spoon to spread it out just a little. Lucky me, the ramekins are STACKABLE, and so I stacked them up and stuck them in the freezer to harden.

Once they were thoroughly frozen, I just used a little paring knife to free them and voila! I have beautiful, round disks of pesto in the perfect serving size to toss with roasted veggies, or spoon over meat, or toss with gluten free pasta.

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My daddy raised a cheapskate

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After my visit to the produce auction on Friday, I came home and started cleaning out the fridge. As I’ve stated, I hate wasting ANYTHING, and I had a few things in the fridge that were at the “cook me or toss me” stage. Of course I chose to cook!
I had eggplant, yellow squash, leeks, mushrooms, broccoli, peppers, yellow cherry tomatoes, and half an onion that all needed my immediate attention. So the leeks got paired with potatoes for delicious leek and potato soup. Some of the eggplant was planked and grilled with Italian herbs for a quick side dish, or a panini sandwich later. A few of the yellow squash were charred in a cast iron skillet and tossed with roasted almonds in a turmeric and honey glaze before being finished off with fresh parsley. The rest of the eggplant and squash were roasted (along with some carrots) in the oven and then combined with those cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and some fresh green beans into a big pot of vegetable soup. The mushrooms, peppers, and onion all got sauteed in olive oil and garlic until caramelized and soft. It will end up being an amazing condiment/topping for hamburgers or steak in the next few days.
The eggplant planks couldn’t be easier. Slice in thirds, salt to draw out the water. Pat them dry, and then brush with olive oil. Sprinkle on Italian seasoning and pop into a grill pan. Turn them over once you get those awesome marks, and then finish with a drizzle of garlic infused oil at the end.
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I modified the squash from Aarti Sequeira’s recipe on the Food Network. I didn’t have hazelnuts, and I had more parsley than cilantro. PLUS butter isn’t Paleo, so I used coconut oil. It turned out delicious and beautiful!
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My leek and potato soup recipe is from my man Alton Brown. Again, I skipped the dairy since it isn’t Paleo, and you know what? I didn’t miss it at all. I added thyme to my potatoes and leeks, and when I fired up my immersion blender, the soup ended up perfectly creamy and smooth. I didn’t miss the cream or the buttermilk at all.
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I built the base of my veggie soup by sweating onion, garlic, and celery until soft, and then adding those yellow cherry tomatoes and salt until the tomatoes “popped”. I then used the immersion blender again (reason number ONE THOUSAND why my husband is the best ever… I LOVE my immersion blender) and made the base smooth. I added a quart of organic, free range chicken broth, a can of diced tomatoes, a bay leaf, thyme, and some salt. I had cubed and roasted some yellow squash, eggplant, and carrots in a 400 degree oven until they were a little tender and browned a bit. I added them to the soup broth along with the broccoli and some fresh green beans. Simmered on the stove until the veggies were all soft… the soup is really flavorful and sweet. It’s like a little bit of leftover summer in a bowl!
So, now my fridge is a little cleaner, I didn’t have to throw out anything, and I’ve got food prepared that I can heat up quickly and eat while on the run. Plus, my wallet is happy! No waste, and no need to pay more than I have to by eating out. My dad is going to be so proud when I tell him. Of course he’ll want to come over for dinner and that’s fine too.

I learned a lot about myself today

It’s FRIDAY! It’s also my day off…and rather than sleep in, I got asked if I would accompany some friends to have the most fun possible at 9 am on a Friday. I hadn’t really planned this trip, so I didn’t have a whole lot of cash on me. I decided I was just going to go to help Kim and her mom do the bidding, kind of like an auction coach. Instead here’s what I discovered about myself:

I suck at being an auction coach. I’m much better being an auction participant.

It does not matter how many I have in my freezer, or in my fridge, I am physically unable to walk away from fresh green beans.

I will indeed buy a bushel of sweet potatoes just because they’re tiny and cute.

I am going to need many recipes and ideas for things to do with butternut squash ($4 for a huge boxl? REALLY?)

Nothing makes me squeal like a little kid than finding farm fresh asparagus on the last day of summer and then only paying $3 each for 4 huge bunches.

So I could REALLY tell that the seasons have changed, because there weren’t nearly the number of wagons lined up to sell the produce. Additionally, there were far fewer cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini. Instead we were treated to the emergence of pumpkins, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and kale. It was still beautiful, and two weeks from now, I’ll be back out there bidding on greens, apples, pears, and mums!

But for today, here’s what I got:

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Total spent? $30

Herbs, sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, green beans, poblano peppers (which will be dried to make ancho chiles!!) asparagus… Yum.

I look at my impromptu trip as a journey toward self discovery…and at least my addiction is healthy, right? RIGHT?

Oh and I got to see Dave from Zekiah Farms at the auction too. Always a bonus. PLEASE go visit him and his wife…they run a QUALITY operation and are awesome folks to be around. Besides, their price on organic, free range chicken cannot be beat. For real. Go see him, and tell him that Stacy said “Hi!”

What I eat on opening night

So y’all know I’m doing this show thing…. and last night was opening night.  That’s the reason for NO POSTS.  Just too much going on, nerves, last minute line runs, messing with my hair and makeup…etc.

So here’s what I eat on opening night:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s right.  Nothing.  I have HORRIBLE stage fright and the nerves make my stomach not a happy place to be.  So rather than throw up on my cast mates… I just don’t eat until that first show is done. I know, you’re asking “Stage fright?  Then why do theater of all things?”  

Masochistic tendencies.  That’s gotta be it.

Well, that and I eat like a MONSTER once the show is over.  A girl’s gotta compensate, right?