Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 7 Week ~Turkey, Dry Milk & Pasta=Comfort

On this last day of the last meal for the Hunger Awareness Program we certainly will not look at ground turkey quite the same. While the meals were all tasty & challenging too much of a good thing does become just that...too much!! Both Bytes from Texas & Texas to Mexico (we are Mother & Daughter) thought ground turkey would be a good choice for our "Meat" of the week on our Food Pantry grocery list. I was reminded of an old episode of M*A*S*H where the character Hawkeye Pierce throws his tray down in the mess hall complaining about the same meat item they had eaten for far too many meals. No, this was not a "river of liver" Hawkeye was complaining about but variety truly is the spice of life. Even with Help from the "Hamburger Helper"; our conceptualizing for Ground Turkey was starting to stagnate. The meatless meals were actually some of our best or maybe we just enjoy Breakfast for Dinner too much at our house. As we read the other Austin Food Bloggers entries for this Blog event we thought chicken seemed to be a much more versatile meat. We enjoyed this challenge & look forward to the next Capital Area Food Bank event. The upcoming Stamp Out Hunger event is only a week away (May 8th) but I am already setting my sights on what donations I will leave next to my mail box. Whatever we take part in a Local or Mobile Food Pantry, Food Drive or Disaster Preparedness & Relief we are helping to strengthen our community.

This Florentine Meatball Casserole made a warm comforting meal. The creamy sauce, spinach & oven browned meatballs were able to be made in less than an hour. A pleasant spin on the standard Spaghetti & Meatballs.

Florentine Meatball Casserole
1 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 egg
1/4 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp fresh Oregano
1 Tsp pepper
1 cup (8 oz) wilted spinach, squeeze excess moisture out
1 cup shredded cheese, Cheddar, Monterrey Jack or Parmesean
8 oz. Spaghetti noodles, cooked & drained

To make meatballs; mix together turkey, oats, egg, pepper, oregano then form meat into 16-18 medium large meatballs (golf ball size). Bake on cookie sheet in oven at 375* for 30 minutes or till they are browned on all sides.
Make Alfredo Sauce as follows.

Powdered & Evaporated Milk Alfredo Sauce

1 (12 ounce) can Evaporated milk
2 tablespoons Powdered Milk
1/4 cup Butter
2 tablespoons Flour
3/4 cup Grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon Garlic powder
1/4 cup milk
Shake together powdered and evaporated milks; set aside.
Melt butter in medium saucepan; stir in flour to make a roux; cook until bubbly.
Gradually whisk evaporated milk into the roux; cook sauce over medium heat, stirring, until bubbly.
Reduce heat; add Parmesan cheese and garlic salt; stir until melted.
Thin sauce to desired consistency by stirring in up to one half cup milk.

Mix together alfredo sauce, spinach & noodles. Layer 1/2 into a greased 9x13 casserole dish. Lay cooked meatballs over the top of the noodle mixture & top with the last 1/2 of the noodles. Spread Cheese over this layer. Bake 20 minutes till bubbly & cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

7 Days of Breakfast.

As part of the Austin Food Blogger Hunger Awareness program we made breakfast all 7 days which fell in the guidelines of our Food Pantry, SNAP/WIC food purchases. Eating a healthy breakfast each morning really is the most important part of the day. Whether it was Cheerios, Oatmeal, Rice Porridge or Eggs the meals were simple & used few ingredients. We were able to use all of our pantry items save a can of fruit & a few potatoes. I look forward to taking part in this project again, the challenge was both a reality check & made me think grasp the concept of walking in someone's shoes if even for a week.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Soup to Share~ Enough is as good as a feast. Day 5

What can a few cans do for someone else? Have you walked though your local grocery store & noticed an elderly person with less than a few pantry items in their cart? Have you checked out in the grocery store just behind someone who is buying meat items you did not know existed or so few items for the amount of children they have with them you are baffled? When we lived in Mexico I saw hunger & need around me each day. The government programs & volunteer organizations are over run with need versus ability to meet the needs. Here in the United States we are so fortunate to have so many volunteer organizations as well as well run government programs to meet the needs of our population. No, I am not talking government expansion, more red tape or anything radical, just neighbors helping neighbors. The issue often is matching those in need to the programs which can meet their needs. The Capital Area Food Bank will help guide & assist those in need here in Central Texas.

The Soup we made from our Food Pantry items was rather like the proverbial Stone Soup. Once we added the canned Spaghetti Sauce, Garbanzo beans & the H2O the soup seemed to grow. The veggies from the Austin Farmer's Market & my garden it just seemed to be more than a meal for our family alone. By the end of the meal we were making up containers of soup for Bytes from Texas boyfriend & trying to find a place for our leftovers. Isn't it all about sharing? Grandmother used to talk about giving out food to strangers who came to the door during the Great Depression. She taught us a long time ago to use our resources wisely & take care of others along the way. Next time there is a can for donations at your local grocery store or your mail carrier puts a note in your box saying they will collect donations make sure you make an effort & help others help themselves. Let's Stamp out Hunger.

Italian Veggie Crock Pot Soup
1 Can of Hunts Spaghetti Sauce + 2 cans of water
1 cup of sliced fresh Carrots
1 Parsnip, sliced
1 small Onion, diced
1 can of Garbanzo Beans (chick peas)
1 cup of fresh green snow peas, garden peas or green beans (frozen is okay)
3 zucchini, sliced
1 small cabbage, sliced = 3 cups of cabbage
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp fresh Oregano
1 Tbsp fresh Thyme
1 cup pasta, uncooked

Put the Spaghetti sauce in the crock pot, mix in 2 cans of water. place all the vegetables in the crock pot but not the pasta. Stir in the herbs, pepper & celery salt. Cook on low in the crock pot for 5 hrs. in the last hour I placed the uncooked pasta noodles into the pot. Once the pasta is cooked serve the soup with a slice of crusty bread & garnish with Parmesan cheese.

For a simple desert we had canned pear halves with cottage cheese. A very sweet ending to our Soup Feast!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Breakfast for dinner, Day 4

Day 4 of the Hunger Awareness Blogger Project. Some of the comfort meals I remember most from childhood were those meals which my mother made which were designed to stretch the budget. As kids we loved the entire concept of breakfast for dinner. Never realizing that it was a great way to be economical & fill the belly at the same time. Generally speaking we begged for something like pancakes or biscuits. When our family moved from San Antonio Texas to Alaska in 1969 a loaf of bread in Texas was .10-.20 cents a loaf. When my mother realized a loaf of bread in Alaska was over $1.00 a loaf then she began stretching her food budget & getting creative. Moose meat & wild berries made it into our meals & she also became an excellent bread baker. Kids do not realize the budget is tight when the meals are creative. As an adult I still enjoy a simple meal of an omelet or an otherwise "breakfastie" type meal when I am needing comfort food. This Frittata is really an Italian style Omelet. Easy & inexpensive, it is fabulous for any meal.

For very little money anyone can make this simple Frittata. Any veggie will do & day old pasta is fine.

The Capital Area Food Bank has seen a 60 percent increase in usage compared to a year ago. Wonder how you can help fight Hunger? Contact Capital Area Food Bank here:

**If the Days seem out of sequence the rest of Hunger Awareness week is here*** at Bytes from Texas.

Zucchini Frittata
6 eggs
1 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. water
3 Zucchini squash, trimmed & sliced
1 small onion, halved & sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups whole grain pasta, cooked, (leftover best)
2 Tbsp. Butter
Cooking Spray
1 green onion, sliced & reserved for garnish
Salt & Pepper to taste

Place eggs in a bowl with the flour, water & beat well till smooth. Spray skillet with cooking spray, melt butter. Saute onion, garlic & zucchini 2 minutes. To the vegetables add the pasta. Stir the pasta/vegetable mixture blending all ingredients well. Over this pour the egg mixture tilting the skillet so it covers the base & is around all veggie pasta blend. Once the bottom is set & edges of frittata are lifting from the edge of the skillet well gently make certain that the bottom will lift out of the skillet in once piece. Briefly remove skillet from heat, place a dinner plate over the top of the skillet & invert the frittata onto the plate. Then gently slide the frittata (Uncooked side down) back into the skillet & cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat & place onto clean platter & slice into wedges. Garnish with green onion tops & shredded cheese.
Serves 4

**This meal uses the Pasta from our Food Blogger Hunger Awareness provisions. Fresh eggs & produce from the Austin Farmer's Market. Eggs are a wonderful protein packed value which are packed with vitamins & high in lecithin--the emulsifier that keeps fats and cholesterol from clumping together in the blood.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Uniting & Helping to Stamp out Hunger Day 2

Every community has activists & those particular activists have those they help. The Austin area is full of such people. Anyone who picks up the Austin American Statesman each Wednesday very likely reads the Life & Arts as well as take in the weekly food column Relish Austin by Addie Broyles. Addie is indeed one of those community minded people who brings concerns to the hearts & minds of fellow Texans helping to make Austin a better place. More often than not I find myself jotting down or clipping a recipe out of the Statesman from the Wednesday paper. This week she has extended an invitation for a group of fellow bloggers to come together for the Hunger Awareness Blog Project.

Austin Food Bloggers met this past week to discuss blogging as well as cooking with food the Capital Area Food Bank Recipients would receive if they were a client at a food pantry in an effort to raise awareness of the hunger crisis in Central Texas.

The face of hunger in Central Texas & across America would surprise many. There are many folks out there working, trying to make ends meet & living on a fixed income, elderly or simply needing a stop-gap to fill a short term need. In helping those around us we ultimately help ourselves.
Average Food Bank offerings for a week that we will be cooking with are as follows:
2 cans spaghetti sauce
4 canned veggies
4 canned fruits
1 meat selection example: 1 lb. of ground beef (the Capital Area Food Bank said they receive everything from hams, chickens to pig trotters)
3 drink items (choice of lg. bottle of cranberry apple juice & or powdered milk
1 bag spaghetti or egg noodles
1 bag of beans
1 bag of white rice
1 package of jalapeno slices
1 ready-made dinner (example: Hamburger Helper)
1 bag/container of oats
1 bag of cheerios
5 lb. bag of potatoes
This list can be offset by many of the food bank recipients being able to use Lonestar/WIC to help modestly augment the food at local grocery stores or even the Austin Farmer's Market.

What could you do for your family for a week with this same food? How can you get involved in the Capital Area Food Bank?

My daughter & fellow blogger Bytes from Texas: One Longhorn's Adventures agreed to do this project together since our numbers are the same as a family unit. We shopped the food pantry items & made small Fresh Vegetable/Dairy WIC selections based on the guidelines for the WIC & SNAP food benefits program. We will be posting a weeks worth of Meal choices based on the Hunger Awareness Project list.

Any spice used can be altered or omitted. Spice & flavors can be so individual.

I am posting a main meal made with Rice, Spaghetti Sauce, a Meat portion *I use Ground Turkey, it was served with mashed potatoes. Our family makes potatoes with the skin on for more nutrition. We also used a portion of a large Cabbage & Onions purchased at the Austin Farmer's Market.


1 lb Ground Turkey
1 cup Rice, uncooked
1/2 cup bread crumbs (optional)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 celery salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp.cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 Mexican oregano, Italian is fine
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 med. Onion, diced, reserve a few slices for onions
large cabbage leaves***
1 1/4 cups canned Spaghetti Sauce
Grind day-old bread in a blender(or break it up finely with fork before blending into meat), and add seasonings.
Mix bread crumbs, onion, rice & turkey well, combine all ingredients other than the cabbage.
Remove the core of the cabbage & then cut off while carefully removing the outside leaves, approximately 14-18 large leaves
Fill a large stockpot with salted water and bring to a boil & then reduce the water to simmer. Place the cabbage leaves into the Simmer for a few minutes and remove as the outer leaves begin to turn a bright green. (save the liquid as it can be used to thin sauce or add veggies & make stock for another meal.)
The object is to cook the cabbage for as little time as possible, but long enough to tenderize the outer leaves. Remove from the water and allow to cool on a dish until the outer leaves are still hot but are cool enough to handle.
Remove as many outer leaves as you can by cutting them or tearing. Reserve the rest of the leaves for other dishes or lining the pot when cooking.
NOTE: As you remove leaves, some will tear and otherwise not be suitable for using as a wrapper. Do not discard these, as they can be used to line the pot, or you can shred them to add to the filling mixture.
At the bottom of each leaf there will be a thick stem; sliver a slice off this to thin it out (I cut a V-notch to help with the roll process). The purpose is to make the base flexible so that you can roll it up.
Stuff each leaf with a healthy serving spoon of the filling mixture. Starting at the bottom of the leaf, roll up one turn, then turn in the sides of the leaf to cover the filling, then roll up some more until you reach the top of the leaf and have a little bundle.
You can now either place the rolls a slow cooker or dutch oven pan.
Layer the bottom of the Crockpot or pan with broken cabbage leaves (the ones that weren't complete or too small to use for rolling). Stack the filled cabbage leaf bundles on top of the bed of leaves, a single layer at a time. Top each layer with a few spoons of sauce or even tomato paste, and repeat with another layer of leaves, another layer of cabbage rolls, etc.
Stack the bundles in their layers carefully with the end of each leaf underneath (some people fasten with a toothpick but this is not really required). Finish off the final layer with any remaining filling.
Alternatively, you can bake these in the oven. Prior to baking I mixed in an additional pinch of cayenne pepper with my Spaggheti sauce & thinned it out slightly with the liquid I blanched the cabbage leaves in.
To bake, stack bundles over cabbage leaves in a casserole dish, pour on the tomato sauce, cover with foil, and bake in a slow oven, 300 degrees F., for about 2 hours.
Cover and simmer on the low heat setting of your stove top for 2-3 hours or in the slow cooker for 4-5 hours.
Whichever method you use to cook the cabbage rolls, be sure not to overcook, so test often and remove when the cabbage leaves are tender.

***My husband's Grandmother was one of the premiere cooks in a large family of fabulous southern cooks. She always said to buy or ask the produce manager for the leaves from the outside of the Cabbage which people often discard or pulled away from the Cabbage back years ago in order to only pay for a compact head of cabbage. Cabbages are full of Vitamins K & C as well as an excellent source of dietary fiber. Avoid the wilted or limp cabbage leaves. This combined with the nutritional goodness from the protien & the portion of mashed potatoes make up an excellent & healthy meal.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cascarones translates to: Easter Celebration!

The egg cracking, confetti flying traditions of Cascarones have been in the Southwest for a very long time but it has certainly made a come back in recent years. What are Cascarones? Cascarones traditionally were carried from Spain to the Americas over a century ago. Carlotta, the wife of Emperor Maximillian, was so fascinated by the eggs that she brought them to Mexico during her husband’s rule in the mid 1800’s. Originally the eggs were filled with perfumed powders. In Mexico people replaced the perfumed powder with brightly colored confetti. It was that point when Mexicans labeled the egg shells.... Cascarones... the word derives from the Spanish "Cascara" which means shell. In Mexico Cascarones were popular at one time, but the tradition eventually faded. Only in the late 1960s and early 1970s Cascarones regained popularity in South Texas. As a child in San Antonio Texas I can remember learning how to make the Cascarones in school. The Cascarones are a regular cottage industry in San Antonio from Easter to Fiesta time. I have seen very artistic creations which look like animals & popular cartoon characters. They are usually sold by the dozens however the more creative the Cascarones the higher the individual price. To make your own Cascarones prick a hole in one end of the egg & blow the yolk/white out of the egg through a larger hole in the other end. Once the egg is removed from the shell wash & dry the shell fill with confetti & seal the end with tissue paper. It is believed that the Easter Cascarones represent the Resurrection of Jesus & breaking the egg symbolizes Christ rising from the tomb. Also who ever receives a shower of confetti on the head will have good luck & fortune. So be not offended when you are showered with this goodness, someone is just showing you some love & sharing the luck! This year we did not make our own as I bought Cascarones pre-made & so we enjoyed hand dying Easter eggs along with our showers of confetti & Easter goodies!
Our recent meal of Ancho Enchiladas reminded me of a recipe I had years ago I had long since lost for Pork Enchiladas with Ancho sauce. I am still working on recreating that exact recipe but found this Vegetarian version of Ancho Enchiladas very nice, especially with the addition of the crumbled fresh Panela Queso.

For the recipe for those adorable Bunny Cakes check here:

Cottage industry?? Nope, just a little father/daughter egg dying hilarity & artistic creativity!

Ancho Veggie Enchiladas
1 Red Sauce recipe
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced
1 yellow Bell Pepper, sliced
2 Zucchini, sliced
1 12 oz. Panela Fresca Queso, crumbled
10 White Corn Tortillas, softened
Saute Bell Peppers & Zucchini slices in 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil till vegetables are slightly tender while still crisp. Ladle 1/4 cup of Red Sauce over bottom of greased 9 X 13 dish. Soften Corn Tortillas & fold veggie strips into the enchiladas, layer Panela crumbles into the Tortillas. Layer the Enchiladas evenly over the sauce in the bottom of the pan. Pour Red Sauce over the enchiladas, top with remaining Panela crumbles. Bake @ 350* for 20-25 min. or till cheese starts to look slightly toasted & sauce is bubbly. Serve immediately.

Red Chili Sauce
8 oz Dried Ancho Chilis,
1 quart of water
14 oz. can of Roma Tomatoes
1 Chili Chipolte, stem removed + 1 tsp of Adobo liquid*
1 small Yellow Onion, roasted under broiler or on a Comal
5 cloves Garlic, roasted briefly, peeled & finely chopped
1 Tbsp. Mexican oregano (if using fresh only 1 tsp.)
1 tsp. ground Cumin
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Remove stems & seeds from Adobos (seeds which do not remove easily will fall away once the chilis are cooked in the water.) Dry roast the Chilis Anchos for 3 to 4 minutes. Do not burn. Add to 1 quart of boiling water simmer for 10 minutes. Remove once the chilis are re-hydrated. Cool then remove rest of seeds & set aside. Reserve liquid for blending process. Roughly chop the Chilis Adobos, place in blender or food processor, to this add the Roma Tomatoes, 1 canned Chili Chipolte, 1 tsp. Adobo liquid the chilis are packed in, sugar, cumin, diced onion, garlic, oregano. Blend slowly by pulsing the blender or food processor. To this liquid I add the reserved water I simmered my Anchos in 1 Tbsp at a time. I like my sauce to be the thickness of catsup & not as thin as some of the store bought enchilada sauces. You might want a thinner sauce. It is your choice. This yields aprox 2 3/4 cups of Red Chili Sauce. Any extra sauce I have freezes well to use another day. **As with any of my more spicy recipes, this can be made with less heat, omit the chipolte if needed.