Category Archives: Food

Chicken soup can be quite a bargain!

Chicken soupThis was the 4th or 5th meal that we got out of one of those cooked chickens you can buy at Costco for $4.99.

These are a real bargain (apologies up front to our vegan friends!).

The first night, we just had chicken, rice, and a vegetable plate, as I recall. On night #2, I made a pasta in a sherry-garlic white sauce, and mixed in pieces of chicken. Meda made a romaine salad.

Then we had at least one lunch of chicken sandwiches, maybe two?

And then I boiled down the bones into a hearty chicken soup with carrots, garlic, kale, onion, and a couple of hot chili peppers. On the side, sliced fresh tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, and a few slices of whole wheat bread.

It made for a tasty end to the day.

You can click on the photo to see a larger version.

Another quick meal (with photo)

We were coming home late a few days ago and stopped off to shop with an eye towards something quick and easy that would also use lots of what we already had on hand at home.

I ended up grabbing some ground turkey, and here’s what emerged.

We ended up with a turkey patty and brown rice. They were served with onions, mushrooms, sweet peppers, and garlic sautéed until the onions were browned, along with side of cooked spinach, onion, and garlic. Then Meda added a plate of sliced tomatoes, carrots, olives, and a small avocado.

Oh, did I mention a bottle of red wine, in this case I think it was a Rosemont Shiraz.

Easy and yummy.

Lots of veggies

Another two-pot challenge for the cook

We try to save money while traveling by frequently eating in our room.

If we don’t have a refrigerator or cooking facilities, we’ll just order take out, buy a bottle of wine, and spread out in the room.

Here in Des Moines, we reserved a room at the Residence Inn that promised a full kitchen. Well, on arrival, I would have to say…yes, but…the cooking facilities were definitely compromised.

tiny cooktopThe first problem. The room turned out to have microwave and a two burner cooktop, one covered pot, and a frying pan that fit the same cover. So one cover, two pans. And the next problem, the two pans were too large to fit on the cooktop at the same time. For example, it was impossible to heat water and cook something in the pan at the same time. So this required a plan for serial cooking if the meal took more than a single pan.

But we persevered.

We survived the first night by buying one of those whole, fully cooked chickens that supermarkets use as loss leaders. Great price, no fuss. We picked up salad fixings, and Meda prepared a great spinach salad. All I had to do was heat up a can of baked beans. It wasn’t fancy, but we were tired after the long flight from Honolulu.

Not too shabbyThe next night we tried again, this time with fresh chicken thighs cooked with garlic, onion, and a canned of diced tomatoes. Meda made another salad. And I prepared some penne pasta with a bit of garlic. Another straightforward meal.

We spent a couple of nights with takeout orders, one from the nearby Fong’s Pizza, the other from Thai Flavors, about a six minute drive away.

The next night we were back at Hy-Vee looking at our options. We needed up with salmon filets from Scotland. I first sautéed onion and garlic, and then added the rest of the bag of salad spinach we had bought previously. Cooked it down a bit, then took it off the stove in order to make room to heat water for the pasta. When the pasta was done, I set it aside, and put the onion-garlic-spinach mix back on the stove, added the salmon, then added a little lemon juice and a dash of white wine, covered and cooked for maybe six minutes or so. Meanwhile, Meda worked on a picky plate with carrots, avocado, and sliced tomatoes. When the salmon was cooked, it was served with the pasta. A bit of parmesan added at the end. It all came together pretty well, and both looked and tasted great.

Better than most restaurants (at least those in our price range!).



Comments on this bottle of Costco wine

Kirland Rutherford MeritageWith Kamehameha Day closing in, we indulged with a nicer-than-usual bottle of wine from Costco last night (and, in the process, exposing the cheapskate budget wine we usually restrict ourselves to).

We were walking through Costco late this afternoon, and I picked up this bottle which was $4 above the top of our normal price range.

But…it was very good for a blend of this kind. Ah, very good, I can say post-consumption.

I would put this in the “recommended” category.

So would Romeo, it seems.

2013 wine from Costco

Desperately seeking pizza

Do you make your own pizza crusts? Are you happy with your creations?

If so, I need your help!

Seeking suggestionsWhen we were in Auckland last month, we spent several nights enjoying the thin crust pizza at a little restaurant right downstairs in the building where we were staying. It was described as European style pizza. Minimal crust, minimal toppings. Wonderful tastes all around.

I was home writing yesterday, and somewhere in the middle of an edit decided that I would make another attempt to produce a thin pizza crust.

At the end of the afternoon I checked a couple of recipes, decided that their ingredient list was similar to the dough I used to make. So without much hesitation, I mixed up the yeast, flour, and water, kneaded until smooth, and set it aside while we got some toppings together and the oven heated to blast furnace, or as close as our regular home oven gets to that.

The next problem I ran into was a failure of my conceptual plan. I had a little blog of dough, and began to flatten and spread it by hand into a thin, vaguely round or oblong shape. It was going okay until I thought ahead. How in the heck do you spread some toppings, even minimal toppings, onto a very thin crust and then manage to transfer the whole thing to a blazing hot pizza stone that’s been in the oven in high heat for 30 minutes? No way.

So at that point I had to come up with an alternative. The only thing I could think of was to dig out a couple of old pizza pans that were stuck in a corner downstairs, wash them off, sprinke with a good layer of corn meal to keep the dough from sticking, and try again at shaping the crust by hand. The pan would serve as the vehicle for the crust, but it meant the crust couldn’t go directly onto the hot stone.

A necessary compromise.

So in went the test pizza. Toppings included just a simple tomato sauce, mushrooms, sliced olives, and anchovies, then a light layer of cheese.

In the oven for a total of about 10 minutes.

It came out looking and smelling good. I thought it was a success.

But then came the problem. The crust was thin, but nothing close to what we had in Auckland. And, unfortunately, the crust wasn’t yummy. Actually, it didn’t taste good. In fact, it didn’t taste much at all. It was relatively thin, and it had gotten crisp. But it failed when hitting the taste buds.

With that Auckland pizza, you would look for little bits of broken crust and pop them into your mouth as a treat. With this pizza, you put up with the crust as a way to get the toppings into your mouth, not as a good taste on its own. A very different experience.

So…what’s the trick to a thin and great tasting pizza crust? There don’t seem to be too many variables on the taste front. The choice of flour, perhaps? I used a mix of white and wheat flour. Maybe a mistake. Does a thin crust require white flour alone? Or maybe it needs a little something sweet in it? A touch of honey, perhaps? If you let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, will that improve the taste?

I just went back and reread Ernest Murphy’s classic “Pizza Essay,” first posted here back in 2005.

Perhaps I should have done this before last night’s experiment.

Here’s one of Murphy’s hints:

In all these pizzas, I first of all roll or pat out the dough and paint the entire surface, right to the edge, with olive oil before anything else goes on. The oil is essential to the flavor, color and texture of the crust and also keeps wet ingredients from soaking it. I apply oil with a brush or the back of a tablespoon.