Friday, October 22, 2010

It's Gettin' Chili...and cornbread

Another change our family has faced this autumn is the amount of hours I am teaching fencing at our local fencing salle- Salem Classical Fencing. Since I am still the main cook in the house, we've been doing more crock-pot and one-pot dishes in order for me to be able to get other stuff done around the house. Starting to make dinner in the late morning has enabled us to choose to eat what's been cooked for our noontime meal or dinner~ for me that is after 9 p.m. three nights a week. I have also tried going back to weekly menus~ what a difference they have been making as I actually know what to make during the week without coming home after a long afternoon of teaching people how to properly poke each other with swords!

This week's menu has been interesting as I've been trying to make use of what's in the larder without going shopping (especially since it's almost the end of the month which means not a lot in the checking account). I decided to make chili (you could try Ron's Chili as it is delicious and pretty easy) on Tuesday as Cari was coming over, and it's something she can eat without having to worry about the gluten-thing. There was some cabbage in the fridge, so I knew coleslaw was in order. Since a bowl of chili is always better with cornbread (in my humble opinion), we tried a cornbread recipe that uses rice flour. I made a few other minor adjustments (like making a larger batch!!), and it turned out to be one of the best cornbreads I have ever eaten!

Anyway- here's the cornbread recipe for you to try. It's so good you'll forget it's got no gluten!

Cornbread for Cari

2 cups white rice flour
1 1/2 cups stone-ground corn grits (I use Bob's Red Mill)
6 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 2 tablespoons butter in 9 x 13 baking dish and put in oven while preheating.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl combine remaining ingredients; add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Pour batter into preheated baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.
*This is so delicious, it doesn't even need extra butter~ although a bit of honey goes nicely with it!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Dinner~ Part Deux

Feeling rather celebratory after a wonderful morning Mass (and knowing what we had in our larder of goodies), today's dinner menu would consist of steak- cooked outside on the grill since the weather was too good to pass up, roasted green beans & twice-baked potatoes followed by another batch of our Caramel-lite Corn (this time drizzled with melted chocolate- almost as good as a certain antlered-animal named snack) while we enjoyed a rousing family game of LIFE. We've chosen as part of our Catholic journey to devote Sundays to family time- not going out to eat or shopping, but rather spending the day going to church and doing things as a family- including reflection, recreation & relaxation. This has been a really good choice~ even though it has seemed weird not doing our bi-monthly Costco lunch and shopping after church like we've done so much in the past!

Brian and I had stopped by Roth's yesterday to buy some meat to round off the rest of our October menus, and they had some wonderful sirloin steaks in a family pack (that also happened to be just past their prime for an extra $3 off~ "score!", as my son David would say).

Green beans have always been one of my kids favorite veggies~ I confess, they LOVED canned green beans when they were young served cold with ranch dressing as a dip for them. Except when I take time to can my own (or find someone else who does), we generally do frozen green beans from Costco or fresh beans from the Saturday Market when they're in season! Our favorite way to serve them (either fresh or straight from the freezer) now is simply by roasting them in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, some freshly ground pepper and a good handful of Kosher salt. After about 20 minutes at 450 degrees, they are a bit crisp and yet still tender~ quite wonderful to eat and still delicious a day after just heated in the microwave!

I love Alton Brown's baked potato recipe, so we decided to try to do a Keatley-twist and make them into twice-baked potatoes. The best part is as I am writing this there are three leftover coracle-shaped goodness (a coracle being a small round boat that I first heard of while reading C.S. Lewis' Cronicles of Narnia)~ I am planning on using at least one to make my version of Bubble and Squeak this week.

Twice-Baked Potatoes
(baked potato part adapted from Alton Brown)

6 russet potatoes, cleaned & scrubbed
Kosher salt
Canola Oil
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
freshly ground black pepper
Hungarian sweet paprika (I get mine from Penzey's Spices)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using fork, poke 8-12 holes in potatoes. Brush on canola oil; sprinkle liberally with salt. Place potatoes directly on middle oven rack; place baking sheet on bottom rack. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove potatoes from oven and dust off some of the salt, leaving most on the skin. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet. Cut potatoes in half; using tablespoon, scoop out inside of potatoes & place into medium size mixing bowl, making sure to leave the shell intact.
Raise oven temperature to 450 degrees. Add cream cheese, 1 cup of cheddar and cottage cheese to potato "insides" along with pepper, to taste. Using fork, mash potato mixture while blending gently. When mixture is combined, spoon into reserved potato skins. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and paprika. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Caramel-lite Popcorn~ in Honor of St. Teresa of Avila

So, as the Catholic Church celebrates an amazing woman- St. Teresa of Avila (aka St. Teresa of Jesus) today, I wanted to make something delicious in her honor. On the way home from noon Mass, I decided that caramel corn would be the dish we'd try~ after all, St. Teresa was a Carmelite nun. Okay, so the pun is a little silly, but the caramel corn is as tasty as it is easy!!

Caramel-lite Corn

2 bags "lite"microwave popcorn
2 cups brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/3 cup dark Karo syrup
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup roasted & salted almonds

Pop both bags of popcorn in microwave (one at a time, please). Place popped kernels in a large brown paper bag while keeping all the un-popped kernels out.

Boil the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Carefully pour caramel onto popcorn in bag; cover and shake. Microwave for 1 minute and shake. Tear open bag and pour into large bowl. Add peanuts and almonds and stir to combine. Let cool for 5 minutes (if you can wait that long). Enjoy!!

*My kids decided this would be really good for the holidays with dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, etc. added to the mixture!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sunday Dinners~ a Risotto by any other name...

Our oldest daughter, Cari, moved into her own- adorable- apartment just about a month and a half ago. While she is enjoying learning all the joys of "grown-up-land", we've tried to make it a habit/tradition of reviving the Sunday dinner of inviting her to enjoy with all of us after attending Mass. We believe Sunday should be used (as much as possible) as a day for family, for recreation and for rest (which is Brian's favorite as he likes his Sunday after dinner naps). I've also learned to be creative as we've found out Cari is gluten-intolerant which means no meals with wheat in them.This past Sunday was another family and gluten-free dinner that was enjoyed by all~ chicken, green bean & roasted red bell pepper skillet along with risotto and a green salad made for a delicious and filling meal! It also gave me an opportunity to share the how-to's of making risotto with Cari as rice is a staple in her kitchen (which it should be in everyone's since it's so inexpensive). While we all generally eat brown rice, once in a while a good risotto is hard to beat. Here's my favorite recipe for an easy risotto anyone (or most anyone) can make:



6 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Arborio rice (I get mine from the bulk section at Winco)
2 ounces grated Romano cheese, approximately 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

In a medium saucepan with a lid, combine chicken broth and white wine and heat just to simmering. Keep warm.
In a large 3 to 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the grains are translucent around the edges. Be careful not to allow the grains or the onions to brown.
Reduce the heat to low. Add enough of the wine and chicken stock just to cover the top of the rice. Stir until the liquid is completely absorbed into rice. Once absorbed, add another amount of liquid just to cover the rice and continue stirring as before. There should be just enough liquid left to repeat 1 more time. It should take approximately 35 to 40 minutes for all of the liquid to be absorbed. After the last addition of liquid has been mostly absorbed, remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, lemon zest, and nutmeg.
Taste and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

New Blog Name~ Same Blog Taste...

Okay, so I had decided to give up my blog forever as the time has flown by this year, and I had no desire to try to come up with anything creative for it. My children, however, had different thoughts as they (especially Cari) kept asking when the next post would happen. I finally got to the point of realizing how much I enjoy doing this and how much I've actually missed it. So with all that, I've decided to take a bit of a turn for Mangia Mama, and will be adding some "Tiber Tales" to the foodie stuff I like to wax eloquently (or not so much~ I guess my readers can decide).
The tales will have to do with our family's journey to join the Catholic Church that we started officially this year~ Joshua was ahead of us all by a year or so, but we are now all on the same road towards becoming Catholic. It has been a really interesting- to say the least- travel for all of us. I have a Catholic background as I was raised in the Church and went through everything from baptism to confirmation. My family stopped going to church when I was a young teen. I searched for a church, attending everything from a Presbyterian to United Church of Christ to Dutch Reformed. I finally settled in at an American Baptist Church as a young college student~ which is where I met my future husband. Speaking of my husband- Brian was raised Baptist (mostly Southern), and we were married at Bellflower, CA First Baptist (the church where we met). After moving to Salem from Southern California, we started attending Kingwood Bible Church (Mennonite Brethren). When our oldest kids were toddlers we moved over to Salem Alliance (Christian and Missionary Alliance) where we had been actively involved for the past 17 years.
Needless to say, the decision to start on our Catholic journey was a bit of a challenge as we felt so attached to the people at Salem Alliance. As I read in David Currie's book, "Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic", I understood why he was able to say that he gave the church his family was involved with before becoming Catholic an A+ as we feel the same way about Salem Alliance. There were so many things we love about SAC~ the people, the music, the heart for the brokenhearted, etc., so it was not without much praying, reading and numerous hours of talking that we made our decision.
Many people have had questions about why the Catholic church which we have tried to answer. The best answer I have is that I feel as if I have always had a good walk with the Lord and now I have a great walk with Him. Joshua, our oldest son, has said the difference for him between attending an evangelical church and a Catholic church is the difference between having your thirst quenched with a wonderfully glass of water and diving in a pool that continuously refreshes and quenches as it covers you.
We are now attending St. Joseph's in downtown Salem, Oregon. We are enjoying going to Mass- often daily as well as on Sundays, getting involved in Bible studies, youth activities and taking classes on what the Catholic faith is all about. Our faith and love for God and His Word is going deeper and deeper as we continue on our journey!
You may wonder what food has to do with all this, but it is still a central part of joy in my life! As we have chosen not to eat meat on Fridays as a fast to remind us of Jesus' dying on the cross for us, I've had to learn to be very creative with our meals. The kids said they could only take so many weeks of macaroni and cheese. There are also feast days that we celebrate which are fun reasons to try new recipes. There is a great blog, Catholic Cuisine that has been helpful in finding new recipes from other homemakers for all kinds of celebrations!
I plan to post new recipes and bits and pieces of our journey as we continue growing in our Lord! May He bless you and guide you closer to Him in all you do!!