Friday, January 27, 2012

A Tale of Two Turnips

A while ago, my family bought some kind of weird pasture grass mix and planted it. It included turnip seeds. Apparently turnips are a great grazing crop. The tops are nutritious and the sheep and horses eat the roots like apples. I had thought about seeing how they tasted before, but didn't actually do anything about it until today. My sister and I went out and found a couple that the horses hadn't taken a bite out of. (I'm trying to write that sentence without ending in a preposition, but it sounds so awkward) One was double sized and looked like it could have been two stuck together.

I brought them home and looked up turnips in my big exhaustive Joy of Cooking. It didn't have a mashed turnip recipe without mashed potatoes in it as well (something about taking the "edge" off...hopefully that's not really necessary), so I checked online and found one. I washed the mud (and whatever else might have been there, given that they were in a horse pasture) from the turnips. Being the genius that I am, I cleaned the kitchen sink before washing them.

I peeled them and chopped them up. I tasted a little piece raw and thought it was ok. I boiled it in a pot until soft, and drained it. Then I threw some milk and Smart Balance in. After starting into it with the electric mixer, I realized I should have waited on the milk, since it seems the turnip pieces were holding quite a bit of water. The result was a very watery puree. I tasted it and thought it was a little bitter (so maybe Joy of Cooking was right). I seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder. It was ready early, so in an effort to cook some of the liquid off I put it in the oven for a while.

The result: it looked good. In quantities larger than a little forkful while cooking, however, I found I couldn't eat it. Though it was still a little bitter for him, N could eat it. He even liked it better than Brussels sprouts. According to this article, the varying degree of bitterness a person tastes in turnips has to do with the gene that regulates the ability to detect cyanide. So the bad news is, I can't stand turnips. I guess the goods news is that if someone ever attempts to poison me with cyanide a la Agatha Christie I have a better chance of detecting it before it's too late.

These were very large turnips and the bitterness may have something to do with that (if anyone knows anything about that, let me know). It was an interesting experiment. I don't think that I will be making them again, but I'm glad I gave it a try.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cooking this week

Meatloaf (turkey), sweet potatoes, and vegetable- I used this recipe, but I accidently included 2 tsp. of Worcestershire sauce in the meatloaf itself and I used dried thyme instead of marjoram. I had low expectations of turkey meatloaf but I was very pleasantly surprised. It had great flavor and I will be making this again. I used my new Pampered Chef stoneware mini loaf pan. Because of my concern about the meatloaf actually tasting like much, I made this mushroom gravy to go with it. I sort of made 2/3 of the recipe, though I added onions as well. I used store brand Smart Balance instead of butter. It was very good, and really not terribly unhealthy.

Pizza and salad- dough from the freezer makes this an easy one, plus turkey pepperoni also from the freezer. I should have saved a few mushrooms for this but didn't.
*Edit: This morphed into a pizza roll type thing, with spinach inside of it.

Pulled pork- this recipe is one of our favorites and I haven't found a pork roast to make it for a while. I found a big 8 1/2 lb one today. I was tempted by the whole shoulder blade roast that was cheaper but it was too big. Now that I think about it I could have asked if the meat counter folks could cut it up for me, but maybe next time. I will make the whole thing at once in the crockpot. Then shred the meat and chill it with the juices, skim the fat, and freeze in smaller portions. The shredded pork absorbs the juices again when it's reheated and the flavor isn't too spicy but it is so good. We've eaten it on buns either with or without barbeque sauce (North Carolina, vinegar based, is our favorite) or on flour tortillas with salsa, and it's good by itself too.

There are also leftovers from last week for meals and lunches, and all of these will make leftovers for lunch and and some suppers.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


...or the lack thereof.

I have attempted two posts this afternoon, and deleted both. We'll see how far this one gets. Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, and tomorrow is the March for Life. Appropriately, but coincidentally, I just finished a novel by Karen Kingsbury, called Shades of Blue. It was typical Christian fiction in some ways, but not typical in others. It is a story about abortion and its aftermath, about grief and forgiveness. The author's original inspiration was the sad song from a few years back by Tim McGraw, "Red Ragtop." It wasn't a book that I "couldn't put down" and I found it very heavy. But it was powerful. I thought some of the characters were more believable than others, and maybe the story was slightly sugar-coated (what Christian fiction isn't?). I thought overall, however, that it was a good fictional treatment of a very difficult issue.

My mom sent me the link to the website for an upcoming documentary about another side of the abortion issue. I encourage you to watch the trailer. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

I have studying to do. We have youth group tonight. The Ravens are playing on TV. Both of us here are supporting them- me because I always do, N because they're playing the Patriots. As I said, focus isn't my strongpoint today. But at least I finished a post!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tentative Meal Plan

Here it is for the week. The lentil soup is already in the crockpot. Friday and Saturday are "to be determined" still, but I am planning to find something to cook so we have leftovers for early next week.
Monday- Lentil soup (sausage, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic)
Tuesday- Spinach and Sausage Quiche (the rest of the sausage)
Wednesday- leftover Pasta with Chicken/Feta/Olives
Thursday- leftovers/on the go

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pasta with Chicken, Tomatoes and Feta

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 pound/box rotini (or some other short pasta)
2 cups cherry/grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese (6 oz)
1/2 c. pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 chopped fresh parsley

Pat chicken dry with paper towels, season with salt and paper. Cook in olive oil in skillet until browned and cooked through. Transfer to cutting board and tent with foil. Let rest 5 minutes, slice thinly crosswise and reserve.
Cook pasta until al dente in salted water. Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water, drain and return to pot. Stir in sliced chicken, feta, olives, parsley and 1 cup pasta water. The hot water will melt the feta and create a light sauce, so add additional water as needed. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

*Above is the real recipe, that I found somewhere on the internet a few years ago. I cut the chicken up beforehand and then cook it. Not as elegant, but much faster. Plus, with the extra chicken broth they inject into boneless skinless chicken breasts, you end up cooking the chicken in broth instead of actually sauteing it, so it doesn't end up browning very well anyway. Whole wheat pasta works great in this recipe, so because it doesn't generally come in a pound box I use 1 box. More veggies and less carbs is a good thing, right? I use more tomatoes than called for, if I have them, 1/8 cup dried parsley if that's what I have, and less feta if I only have a 5 oz container. I also sometimes use green olives, since they are cheaper and come pitted. Plus they're smaller so you can get away without cutting them in half if you want. They don't have the subtlety of the kalamata olives, but they still taste good.*

This is always a hit around here. In fact, it is essentially the same dish we ate recently at an Italian restaurant at the rehearsal dinner for a friend's wedding. It isn't exactly a quick meal, and it uses several pots. If I'm planning to make this, I have to plan on buying the ingredients, since feta, grape tomatoes and olives aren't regular pantry-stocking items for me. It is a good meal, however. Leftovers work fine, though the tomatoes do end up more cooked when reheated.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Resolutions- meal planning

It's that time of year (or it was a couple weeks ago) when we think about New Year's resolutions. I never do this very formally, but it is something that bounces around in my head as I go about life.

My main/mundane one this year is to get back into the habit of meal planning. It really does make life so much easier when I have some idea of what I'm going to cook, instead of rummaging through the pantry at 4:30 (though some of those meals turn out very well). Planning doesn't have to take much time, either. I tend to beat myself up about it if I am not doing a good job organizing meals, cleaning, or generally keeping up with life. That is another issue, but at least if I can keep up with meals my life will have some semblance of order.

I like to cook, but for some reason I just haven't been very motivated to do it over the past few months. My husband bought me a new cookbook for Christmas, which has given me something new and fun to look at when meal planning. No matter how many wonderful food blogs and recipe websites there are, I still love getting a new cookbook. If they didn't take up so much space, I would probably have many more than I do!

This week, due to traveling and general craziness, has been the first week I've really gotten to any actual planning.
- Monday: Chilli from the freezer
- Tuesday: Quinoa with black beans (from the new cookbook)- very simple (not much different than the typical black beans and rice) but surprisingly unique
- Wednesday: Taco salad- I threw in chopped carrots when I cooked the meat to make it go further (and lower cholesterol/fat, of course), and froze half of the finished and seasoned meat so I will have something quick and easy to pull out when I need it.

That's as far as I got. Baby steps, right?

- Today, I think it will be frozen pizza. (Yes, I'm copping out. Remember, baby steps.)
- Friday- Pasta with chicken, feta and olives. I haven't made that recipe in a while, since it's not the cheapest or quickest, but it's so good.

Sometimes I will cook 2-3 times and plan leftovers the rest of the nights, but rather than do that this week, I designated leftovers as lunches. The pasta should make enough for both, however.

Anyway, we will finally be home over the weekend, so I should have more time to plan ahead. I'm actually little excited about that. Who knows? Maybe I'll try to post my plan each week, to give myself a little accountability (since my wonderful husband is happy and thinks I am doing a fantastic job even when I pull something together at the last minute).

On a more serious note, I very much appreciated this post from Nancy Wilson about contentment. Point number 8 really struck home, but they are all good reminders.

Happy New Year!