Post-Holiday pressures…

We all have pressure around the holidays with travel, entertaining and this year with all the snow days. After the holidays the pressure seemingly goes away, but now its keeping new year’s resolutions, getting organized and turning a new leaf. Cooking for your family should not be another source of stress, although I know for many it is. I hope through this blog to help make it less stressful by pointing people in the direction of easy recipes and providing tips from my (and my friends’) experiences.

I have a few new blog ideas “cooking” (pun intended) for this year: helpful substitutes (recipe calls for marsala wine and you don’t have it in the house or don’t want to use alcohol, so use…), bringing food with you while your traveling by plane, train or automobile, my go to cookbooks (not specifically for kids) for making weeknight meals and many more!

One of my New year’s resolutions is to stop impulse buying at the grocery store. I have been successful so far this year in not buying items for the sake of buying them because they’re on sale or I may need them for a recipe in the future. That usually leaves me with a pantry and fridge full of items that don’t necessarily go together and makes me spend more than I need. So, now I am trying to take 10 minutes away from Facebook and instead I pick 5 recipes for the week that I will aim to cook those meals. Then I make a list of ingredients I don’t have, buy them and stick to my list, which is hard!

Some of the things I cooked this week: lemon cod (another one of my resolutions is to eat more fish) with potatoes and spaghetti squash, beef stew, potato leek soup, polenta and sauteed lima beans with roast chicken.

Lemon cod, fingerling potatoes and spaghetti squash: Take about a pound of cod (or other white fish) and 1st coat with mixture of 2-3 tbs melted butter with juice of 1/2 a lemon and then coat with mixture of about 1/3 cup flour, salt and pepper to taste. Put the covered cod into a baking dish and into a 400 degree oven, after dousing it with the rest of the butter and lemon mixture, for about 10 minutes or until flakey.

I bought the bag of fingerling potatoes that you get at Trader Joes, where you just cut the corner and microwave for 4-5 minutes. While they are cooking in the microwave, I put a couple of tbsp of butter in a large glass bowl with some fresh herbs (rosemary, sage are what’s left in my garden), salt and pepper and then put the hot potatoes in the bowl, cover with aluminum foil and shake to cover potatoes.

The spaghetti squash, I cut in half, take out the seeds and put about an inch of water in pan. Place the squash rind side up and poke a few holes with a fork. Cook in a 425 degree oven for at least 45 min. When done, scoop out squash with a fork and mix with butter and fresh herbs.

Beef stew: Take about a pound of stew meat (good deal at Fred Meyer this weekend) and mix it with salt, pepper and ground coriander to taste. Dice one medium size onion (yellow, white, red, whatever you have on hand), peel, dice 2-3 carrots; dice one leek and a couple of handfuls of fingerling potatoes (probably about 1/2 lb of potatoes -diced) [you can ad lib for most veggies you have on hand. Use sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes or add some frozen green beans]. In microwave safe bowl mix about 2 cups chicken stock (or beef or veggie stock, whather to you have on hand) with a few dashes of worchestershire sauce and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar. Microwave sauce for about 3-4 minutes until hot. Take a small bowl and mix 1-2 tbsp corn starch with 1/4 cup of the sauce. Pour back into sauce and mix. Place stew meat, veggies and sauce into slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours. If sauce is not thick enough mix 1-2 tbsp cornstarch with 2-3 tbsp of softened butter (using a fork), until blended. After cornstarch and butter are blended, add mixture to stew and stir.

Leeky Potato Soup: 2-3 tbsp butter, 1tbsp olive oil, 3 leeks chopped, 1 shallot chopped (you can use a white onion as well), 1tbsp minced garlic (I buy the already minced garlic in jars from the grocery store, great time saver), 1/3 – 1/2 bottle white wine (or about a cup of white wine vinegar), palmful of coriander, 1 tsp lemon pepper, lemongrass (I buy the tubes from the grocery store and used one squeeze), salt to taste, about 6 medium potatoes (peeled and sliced thin or diced), 3 1/2 cups veggie stock (or chicken stock) and a bay leaf. Melt butter and olive oil in soup pot over medium high heat. Add leeks, shallot, coriander, lemongrass, salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add wine and reduce for about 5 min. Mix stock and bay leaf in microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for 3 -4 min. Add potatoes to soup pot and cook (stirring ever 3 min or so) for 12 min. Add stock and bay leaf mixture to soup pot and cook for about 25 min, stirring occasionaly. When pototoes are cooked, use an immersion blender (or transfer to blender or food processor) and blend until smooth. Mix in more stock or spices to reach desired consistency and taste.

Roast chicken: melt 3 tbsp butter in microwave. Mix salt, pepper, coriander, lemon grass with butter. Rinse chicken, pat dry with papertowel. Insert one onion (cut into 5- 6 sections) and 2 tbsp chopped garlic into cavity of bird. Rub butter and herb mixture all over the chicken. Place into 400 degree oven covered with foil for about an hour (I had a 3.8 lb chicken) and cook uncovered for 30 min. Let rest under foil outside the oven for about 15 min before serving. Here is a link for safe handling/cooking of poultry.

Polenta: I buy the tubes (Safeway or Trader joes) and cut it into cubes cook it with butter, milk (keep adding until desired consistency, 1/3 cup or more). Keep stirring until smooth, then add shredded parmesan for flavor.

Sauteed lima beans: I usually keep a frozen bag of lima beans to make in the microwave for Karina (a great source of fiber!), so I used what was left and put in in a non stick pan with some butter, olive oil, fresh herbs (I had sage on hand) and salt and pepper. Sautee for a few min until cooked. Serve immediately.

Best wishes for stress free cooking for the new year!

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