Thursday, October 22, 2009

Samosas? More like Sa-GROSS-As.

The other day I found what I thought would be a new and improved way to serve ground beef...samosas! If you don't know what these are, basically it's a pastry stuffed with savory filling, either meat or vegetarian. But I knew that traditional samosas had a snowball's chance in h-e-double-hockey-sticks around here, so I thought I'd get crafty. Why not just season half of the mixture with spicy curry powder for me, and keep the other half plain for the boys? What's not to like?

Plenty, as it turned out. Jack actually spit it back into his napkin, twice! And Henry muscled through it just to make me happy. And I thought I really had something! Oh well, at least it didn't end in tears.

Outta the park, Mom!

Best meal ever, Mom!

I mean, come on! Just look at 'em! I even folded them up differently so that I wouldn't mix up the spicy ones with the plain ones.


Well, I thought they rocked, and if Mike'd been here he'd've said the same thing.

1 small onion, diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 T oil
1 c. frozen peas
1 lb. ground meat (optional)
1/4 c. ketchup
1 T curry powder (optional)
1 package prepared pie crust (should contain two crusts, rolled up)

Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the potatoes and sauté until the potatoes are nearly done. If you want to speed up the process, add about 1/2 c. water and cover the pan with a lid. Add the ground meat and peas and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Remove the pan from the heat, add the ketchup, and mix well. If you want spicy samosas, add the curry powder now.

Unroll the pie crusts and cut them into quarters. Moisten the edges of each quarter, and fill with the stuff you just cooked. Fold the crusts over and pinch them to seal or use a fork to crimp the edges. Put the samosas on an ungreased baking sheet and cook at 450° for about 18 minutes or until the crusts have browned. Let them cool for a few minutes, then serve and wait for the compliments to start rolling in.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Roast Turkey the Lazy Way

When I was a kid I remember my mother reorganizing the refrigerator every year a couple of days before Thanksgiving to make enough room for the huge honking turkey that had to thaw out before it could be cooked. Heck, I've gone to great lengths myself to thaw out a turkey...even setting it in a cooler full of warm water (which is now discouraged due to the increased intelligence of bacteria these days). Oh yeah, I've done the whole Silver Palate turkey roasting routine. Been there, done that.

Well, these days my time is much more precious than it used to be. I don't have time to oversee the days-long thawing process. Who needs it? Not me, since I learned that it's possible to roast a turkey from stone cold frozen.

How? Easy! All you have to do is unwrap the frozen bird and plop it breast side up into a roasting pan with a cover (or a shallow roasting pan covered with aluminum foil). You cook the turkey at a lower temperature (325°) and 1.5 times longer than you normally would. At about the second hour, the bird heats up enough for you to remove the goody bag, which is usually stuffed where the neck once was.

About an hour before it's done, take the pan out of the oven and remove most of the juice (there will be a lot!) with a turkey baster. There's your gravy base. Then coat the bird with a light misting of cooking spray, hit it with a little salt and pepper, and put it back in the over uncovered so that the skin gets nice and brown.

Sure, you can't cook the turkey with the stuffing inside using this method, but who cares? Just do a stovetop or oven-baked stuffing in a casserole and you're good to go.

So here are the approximate cooking times for frozen turkeys. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°, taken with a thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the thigh. Set the oven to 325°.

Cooking Frozen Turkeys
8 to 12 pounds 4¼ to 4½ hours
12 to 14 pounds 4½ to 5½ hours
14 to 18 pounds 5½ to 6¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 6¼ to 6¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds 6¾ to 7½ hours

PS This works great for frozen chicken, too!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Market Basket Saves the Day

Here in New England, there is but one choice for the frugal grocery shopper: Market Basket. Their products are consistently less expensive than those of other area supermarkets. This enables me to justify the 25-minute drive to the closest one a couple of towns away and not to shop at the Stop and Shop just five minutes from my house.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I bought a store-brand frozen Shepherd's Pie from Market Basket. It was kind of pricey--$7.00--which I didn't notice until I was at the checkout line. But my fears of having overpaid for a frozen dinner were banished last Friday as I basked in the glory of another home-run meal for the kiddos.

At first Jack didn't like it, since "Shepherd's Pie" doesn't exactly resonate with a three-year-old, but after Mike christened it "Potato Pie" Jack couldn't eat it fast enough. Plus, Henry's friend Justin was over and he loved it, too!

So for a measly $7.00 (everything's relative), not only did I serve a popular, mildly nutritious meal, but I realized how easy it would be to make a bunch up on my own, freeze them, then reheat them for a quick weeknight meal.

Of course, the Market Basket Shepherd's Pie was kind of bland so that it would have broader appeal. But it wouldn't be difficult to tailor the recipe for any family's tastes, for example by:
  • Using a vegetable mixture instead of corn
  • Making it "Mexican Pie" by using chili or Miracle Mexican Filling for the meat layer
  • Adding a can of condensed tomato soup to the meat mixture
  • Covering the top with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Cheese Mashed Potatoes, etc.
Shepherd's Pie
1 lb ground meat (beef, pork, chicken)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can yellow corn, drained
2 c. mashed potatoes

Sauté the meat, onion, and garlic in a skillet until the meat is cooked through and the onions are soft. Drain off any fat, then put this mixture into an aluminum pie pan. Pour the corn over the meat mixture and smooth it out. Finally, cover the pie with a layer of mashed potatoes, flattening it out across the top of the pan.

At this point you can either bake it at 400° until the potatoes are browned and serve it today, OR you can cover it tightly in plastic wrap and freeze the pie for later. To heat, bake it at 400° for 45-55 minutes until heated through.