Tag Archive: cooking


The Smells of Home

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This is the week when we walk into the house and it smells good.

It is the smell of favorite holiday dishes cooking, simmering, and baking. As we walk through the door, even if it is the door to our own home, there is something wonderful and comforting about those smells.

It tells us that when life has handed you lemons, you have chosen to make lemon bars or lemon meringue pie or sangria with lemons, green apples, and grapes.

Movies over the years have provided us with so many images of food and drinking.

Eat drink man Woman IMDb comI think about Eat Drink Man Woman directed by Ang Lee about an Asian family who are about to go through many changes and all of these changes are announced over sumptuous dinners prepared by the father who used to work as a world class chef.

His three daughters live at home but all that changes as each one makes an announcement that forces changes. The movie is a wonderful tour-de-force of emotions that people want or don’t want known. But this movie comes with sub titles, not everyone wants to read at the movies. And it is really meant for adults, context wise.

But if you do get it, make sure to view in the letterbox formatting, it really is better that way.

Tortilla Soup Poster IMDb com

Image from IMDb.com

There is an American version of this movie called Tortilla Soup. It stars Hector Elizondo as the retired chef. And true to form there are announcements during the weekly suppers. But his three daughters prove to be up for the challenge of growing up, becoming wiser, and learning how to enjoy their father.

There are wonderful moments such as when a pumpkin becomes a soup turine and a suitor tells the father about his connections to Dodgers’ stadium over a bowl tortilla soup. It is the young man’s reaction to the soup that makes the father realize he is ok. Again, this movie is for grown-up. And that is OK, we need movies meant for us.

ratatouilleThe kid’s movie I should recommend that is all about food is Ratatoille. Maybe you’ve seen it. It’s the movie about a rat who wants to be a chef. Crazy, I know. If I were to be incredibly non-biased, I would have to say that the bones of this movie is very good although the idea is preposterous to say the least.

But I can’t.

I know this is a good movie but I hate rats. Can’t stand them. I get the willies watching this movie so why would I recommend it?

I can’t, just can’t.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Chicken Parmesan Meat Balls

One of the joys of Facebook is seeing great recipes that you are never quite sure will work.

This weekend I made a new dish from a recipe I saw on Facebook called Chicken Parmesan Meatballs. It was a cool video that showed a pair of hands dumping in ingredients and mixing it all together before cooking it all.

chicken-meatballs-ingredientsI can’t say that the video gave exact measurements but the ingredient list was easy to follow. And let’s be honest, those of us who cook a lot can make meatballs from scratch without a measuring cup.

So first I had to make the ground chicken. That took two and 1/3 lbs. of skinless, boneless chicken breast which I put through my food processor. After that I mixed in in mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, panko, and two eggs. You can put in spices such as garlic or Italian seasoning.  I added some garlic but I could have done more. I wish I had but at least I did not over salt it. I hate overly salted food.
After rolling up the meatballs I put them in a 13×9 baking pan chicken-meatballs-before-bakingthat had been sprayed with Pam. I actually had to use a 8×8 for some extra meatballs. Those went into a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes to cook. I know that most people like to fry their meatballs but I don’t. I prefer to bake them and that is what I did.

During this time I simmered tomato sauce starter (that my husband made with his bounteous tomato harvest) and a small can of tomato paste, adding small basil leaves from our herb pots. Because I did not grab enough of the starter from our freezer, I added a jar of marinara. This is when I also got the water for the pasta going.

chicken-meatballs-coveredOnce the chicken meatballs were done in the oven, I transferred them to a different 13×9 pan, squishing in all 39 meatballs. I covered the meat balls with sauce, covered that with mozzarella cheese and put back in the oven until the cheese was fully melted.

Now during this time I forced asked my daughter to set the table. I put the small green beans in the microwave, put the pasta in the water, and waited for it all to finish. During the waiting I chopped some parsley in case anyone wanted to sprinkle it over their meal. Yep, just me and the husband did that.

Now, you eagle eyed readers might note that I used an organic paste that is supposed to be better for you. I did have to cook it a little longer than the package said and I prefer a slightly softer pasta anyway.

chicken-meatballs-platedIt looked pretty on the plate and tasted good too. In fact, the left overs were gone by the following lunch time. You might be wondering why there is so little pasta on the plate. As some of you know I have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Smaller pasta portions keep my body happy.

Yep, this is a recipe I will probably make again. I hope no one asks for exact amounts on the ingredients.

What are you making for supper?

 

 

Just Another Week

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

This has been a few weeks of big ups and low downs in the Bowman household.

It started with a call from my mother stating that my father died in the early morning hours. He wasn’t sick, it wasn’t expected. He was there and then he was gone, just like that. Since then there has been his cremation, trips to Missouri and back, and a memorial gathering in my home town. Family and friends came to remember my father, some that I haven’t seen in years. A few I knew off the bat, others were different in my memory. They all had something to share about my dad that made me smile and cry all at the same time.

I received a lovely phone call from some regular readers who enjoyed a recent column that touched on a favorite movie of their mother’s. It is a reminder that while I sit alone in my office surrounded by disorder and the chaos of family life, the words I write do have meaning for others. I am glad that what I write can bring back such happy memories for a family who have lost a loved one.

Things were beginning to settle down when my 17-year-old received word that he had gotten into his first choice of colleges. The one he wanted is the one he got! There was much celebration.

While I am tremendously sad about losing my father, and I will write about that at a later time, I can see all around me that life goes on. My world stopped for a bit but all around things kept moving on. One of the grown-up girls from my youth group just had a baby. Another girl is about to have her first child. I saw in the paper that one of my former neighbors recently passed; some friends from church are dealing with the sudden loss of their son.

In this time, I guess it would be expected that the movies I would choose to watch are the old favorites. They can be comforting because you know what to expect. We did that this week with Monsters Inc. and the first Harry Potter movie.Chef - cover

But a movie I really wanted to watch was Chef starring Jon Favreau and Sofia Vergara. In this movie, Favreau plays a chef who’s restaurant is about to be visited by a big time blogger food critic. His owner wants him to play it safe and to make the man happy, the chef does just that. But when the two star review comes out and a twitter war brews between the chef and the reviewer, the chef loses his job and self respect.

Not that he didn’t have issues before. He allowed his job to get in the way of being with his son. He allowed past hurts and a divorce to build up a wall. That is until his ex wife throws out a lifeline, a chance to do something different, which the chef grabs onto and follows.

I love movies like this one, the slice of life that is willing to be honest and raw at times. It’s not enough that the Chef and his son have honest conversations, they seem to follow through on them. The Chef admits to being a bad dad and loves when his kid shows him how to be better. The relationships with Vergara and the other people feel true with their bits of honesty and dysfunction.

But here is the warning. If you do not like swearing, if foul language sets you off, this is not your movie. I loved how the cooks in the kitchen interacted with Favreau because it spoke of deep friendships. I knew/know these guys. But the way they spoke to each other is harsh, especially to a stranger. Funny enough, as the movie went on the swearing decreased.

Chef - food truckWhile Chef may not get nominated for any awards, movies like this just don’t because they are not flashy enough, it is worth your time. If the last scene of the movie had been cut, the movie might have been better. But we love to know the whole story, don’t we?

I allowed my high schooler to watch it but not my eighth grader. I am not ready to share a movie with this much swearing in it with her just yet even though the rest of the story would have been Okay for her to watch. All I know is that I felt great after watching this movie and how a movie makes you feel is perhaps the most important indicator.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

A Tasty Dish of Guisada

About a month ago my niece mentions that she is making comfort food, a dish called Guisada.

Of course, I asked about it. And then my other niece gave me a recipe. So when I got the chance, I made Guisada using this recipe.

The Ingredients

 
I cut up a two-pound chuck roast along with the stew meat, diced the potatoes and covered them with a flour mixture of chili powder and cumin.
 

Meat and potatoes in the flour mixture

 
The recipe did not call for the meat to be browned first so I put everything in the crock pot with the onions, garlic and broth. Then I left it there for hours.
 

Guisada with Rice

 
What surprised me was that my kids, who can be very picky, liked this dish and asked me to make it again.
 
And I plan to do just that.
 
 
What are you experimenting with in the kitchen?

 

 

Some days, you just know what you are going to write for that day’s post. And it is going to be brilliant. Then your daughter, who is having her birthday says she wants you to do something.

Sara with her birthday fruit tart.

When it is her birthday, you cave just a little. Because it is her tenth birthday and she is your only daughter. Someone suggested to me that I should have another baby since I enjoy playing with a friend’s newborn.

The problem with that is I am 47 and my friend is 32. fifteen years of energy that I no longer have. Those late nights of crying and fussing. Those days of complete exhaustion. I prefer playing with Emma now and again.

But back to my daughter whose birthday is today. Ten years ago, I went to the hospital for an inducement. (Ladies, don’t do it if you do not have to.) A couple of days later I took home a girl. Later this week she will get her ears pierced. She has been begging me to do it for the last two years and I promised when she hit ten we would do it. Today, she hits ten.

As you may remember, each Sunday a different family member at our house chooses the menu and makes the meal. So this Sunday’s supper was her choice which she traded in order to have it. It was the perfect meal for a cold spring day. Roast beef that had been in the crock pot all afternoon along with potatoes and carrots. Biscuits were on the side. But dessert, dessert was the kicker.

It was a tart made in my smallest springform pan. We did not have the cute fluted sided pan but the springform allowed for easier removal. But once the pastry was ready, we put down a layer of melted chocolate chips, a layer of sugared neufchatel cheese and topped with fresh halved strawberries.

Written by Liz Franklin; Image from Borders.com

The recipe came from Cooking Italian with Kids by Liz Franklin. Ever since I have had this book, it has been nothing but a godsend of recipe ideas. Rosemary potatoes, tomato and bread soup, and sugared ricotta with fresh fruit are just a few of the recipes we have made and enjoyed.

This time around it was the Summer Fruit Tart and here is the exact recipe.

For the Pastry

12 Tablespoons of butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra to sprinkle

Chocolate Base

2 1/2 oz Semi-sweet Chocolate

Filling

8 oz Marscarpone cheese

2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/4 lbs mixed summer fruit

a 9-inch loose-bottomed tart pan

a pastry brush

I have to admit we changed a few things around. Without marscapone, we went for the neufchatel cheese. We may have spread more chocolate than needed on the tart. Just strawberries were requested because the b-day girl did not want blueberries.

The recipe was fairly easy for my daughter to make on her own for the most part. I showed her how to cut the strawberries and corrected her form a few times. Then I had to stop watching because I kept imagining the worst.

When it came time for eating the tart, we were ready. None of that tart lasted beyond a half an hour. Which means it is on the list of desserts to make again.

I can’t imagine what it will taste like when we get berries from the berry farm. The crust makes enough for two tarts.

We might have to make several.

Sunday Roast Beef

Sunday evening for our family is the big dinner night. One member plans the meals. All except for the youngest cooks the meal.
 
This week was Sam’s turn and his suggestion was deer meat. Alas, no deer wandered by my husband’s deer stand this year and we have no deer meat.  I quickly suggested Pot Roast and he thought that was a great idea. So here is the recipe and the steps.
 

Roast Beef Ingredients

I started with a three-pound chuck roast, coating it with a spiced flour mixture that includes salt, pepper, cinnamon and garlic. That is when it goes in the fry pan to brown the outer portion. I also quartered 8 medium-sized potatoes, sliced 3 carrots and 1/2 purple onion, and added some leftover quartered mushrooms. 

Roast Beef in the crock pot

While the meat is browning, I load the crock pot. First the onions, then the potatoes to be followed by the carrots. The meat goes on top of the vegetables and the mushrooms top the meat. I add water to the top of the vegetables, cover and place the crock pot on high for hours. For this meal, it was a total of six hours. At hour five, I add red wine for more flavor.

Roast Beef in the Serving Dish

Right before I took the meat out I placed biscuits in the oven. Then I put the dog in the office so he will not make an attempt to steal our dinner (he would if he could). That is when I scoop the meat onto the serving dish with the potatoes, carrots, onion and mushrooms surrounding the meat.

By the time we finished supper, there was enough food for one person to have lunch the next day.  It is the kind of meal that is simple and satisfying. Comfort food at it’s best.

The real winter begins

Winter has arrived.

Snow scene

Saturday the snow fell and fell and fell.
 
It looked like  four or five inches by the time it was over. The kids are loving it. We have a small snowman in the back yard.
 
While I was inside church helping with the blood drive, my husband was watching as the kids go down the hill in their snow disks. At some point, snow went down someone’s back and there was crying and complaining.

Another snow scene

We got over that disruption to get into a warm car and head home. Hot showers, hot chocolate and pizza warmed the rest of the day.

Now starts indoor life. 

When the weather is warm, I feel the need to be outside every moment possible.  Once the snow and drop in temperature occurs, we are inside. Tasks, such as finishing the closet of doom and cleaning up of rooms, come to the forefront.

Another tradition of our family’s becomes even more important – that is the Sunday dinner. Every week, someone has a turn in making it. They choose the menu, find recipes, plan the purchases and cook it up. A parent helps the kid in charge or, in the case of the six-year-old, makes the meal.

Not as pretty as elly's but quite tasty with cinnamon and allspice in the meatball.

Last night, it was my turn and I made a greek meatball dish with rice and tomato sauce. It was a meal in which I has to make a variety of substitutions. The ground lamb was replaced by ground beef. Cloves of garlic became a limited amount of garlic powder.  Sour cream was used instead of greek yogurt and the rice was leftover white rice instead of basmati rice.

The recipe came from the wonderful cooking blog, Elly Says Opa. Her pictures are closer and probably shows of the dish better.  And I am not sure how she would appreciate what I did with it.

However, let me say that my kids ate it up. They loved the meatballs and rice; loved pouring the tomato sauce from a gravy boat. The touch of sour cream was a tasty addition as well. I was not thinking otherwise I would have served a traditional Greek salad with this meal. Instead, I had cranberry sauce on the side.

The next time I make this dish, I will more than likely bake the meatballs and have a fruit like pears on the side. And next time when I make cake with cherries on the inside, perhaps the cake will not fall apart when I take it out of the bundt pan.

It was a great evening that ended with a Wii bowling tournament and early to bed. When it is too cold, the best place to be is under the covers.

In this world of eating healthy, I have made the effort to cut out those foods I know are bad.

Years ago I cut out soda to lose weight and make my rosacea ease away. And I gave up red wine that made my skin just flame up. That effort was totally worth it.

To make that transition easier I began drinking more tea, especially green tea in the morning.

So far, so good.

I have added more fruit and vegetables to various meals. I have added a regular exercise routine. But the next step is to start cutting out the ‘white’ elements of our diet – white sugar, white bread and white rice.

So I bravely picked out a whole-grain pasta from Barilla. I like Barilla pasta as it has fun shapes and does everything I want from pasta. My Mac-and-cheese owes everything to the cork screw shaped macaroni from Barilla.

This night I knew I was changing things up and no one in the house was looking forward to it. They had seen the slightly different colored box and knew I was trying to make them eat healthy. Four kids and a husband were not happy about this. I do not count the dog because he can – and will – eat anything.

That is why I picked up Encor’s Chicken Parmesan, aka red things, to go along with the meal. You always need to make sure there is something they do like matched with the unknown food. Most of the time, I make it biscuits. They may not eat the goulash but they will fill up on biscuits. Since this night the new food was pasta, I decided to make the alleged protein the familiar item.

I cooked the pasta and it was not the familiar yellow color. To make matters worse, it was a bit crunchy despite my over-cooking it. Barilla pasta normally floats over the tongue, is easily crushed by the teeth and leaves a pleasant after-taste. The crunchy-ness was not acceptable.

It was a disaster.

The kids hated it, my husband proclaimed we would never buy whole grain pasta again. The dog wondered how much he was going to get.

I have friends who say they love whole-grain pasta, that their kids eat it willingly. Well, at least mine willingly eat the red things.

Karyn Bowman is also known as Mom Goes to the Movies. She lives in Kankakee County with her outdoor writer husband and four children. Become friends with Karyn on Facebook.