Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Accidental Awesomeness - Tuna and Quinoa Cakes

As some of you know, I've been bachelorette-ing it up here in Bigfork while I music direct shows for the Bigfork Summer Playhouse. It's tough being away from Caenaan, but we make it work. One of the most difficult parts for me is boredom, and with that comes laziness. I often find myself not wanting to do anything, and therefore I make bad decisions about what I eat. It is hard to get the motivation to cook for one at home, but up here it is even harder, as I am away from my own kitchen and my stocked pantry. Making dinner is sometimes frustrating, because I am missing common pantry items and kitchen tools (like a grater... Found that out tonight).

However, I'm always up for a challenge. When I'm here in Bigfork, making a tasty dinner sometimes feels like I'm on an episode of "Chopped" or the episode of "Top Chef" where they have to make a great dish using only items they find in a vending machine. My fridge consists of beer (SO important!), lunch meat, bread, mayo, mustard, relish, yogurt, milk, cheese and a few vegetables thrown in so I can feel healthy. My pantry has an array of nuts and dried fruits that I used to make trail mix, some granola bars, cereal, tuna, coffee and quinoa. That's it. Add that to the spice cabinet, which includes a bunch of plain ol' herbs, salt, pepper, flour and oil (most of which are ancient and some of which are unusable).

Tonight, I went for a run/walk and when I was done, the last thing I wanted to do was cook for myself. But I also felt bad going out to eat, when I had food at home and would inevitably get a burger and fries if I went somewhere. So I forced myself to head back to the Plastic Palace (the trailer that the directors live in) and rummage around for some food. I thought of making a turkey sandwich or a PB&J, but that all sounded so boring. So I put on my thinking cap and came up with these tuna and quinoa cakes. They turned out great, and were quick and cheap. I impress myself sometimes.

Tuna Quinoa Cakes

1 can tuna, drained
3/4 cup cooked quinoa (be sure to rinse it before cooking or it will be bitter)
1-2 T Mayo
1 T Mustard
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2-3 T canned green chiles
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste
2 T cornstarch or 1 egg, beaten
Flour for dredging
Light oil for frying

Mix all ingredients except flour and oil in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle some flour into a shallow dish or plate and season with salt and pepper. Form tuna mixture into medium sized patties and dredge in flour mixture. Pan fry in a few tablespoons of oil over medium heat. For crispier patties, flatten them in the pan with your spatula. Fry until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Drain on paper towels and enjoy with ketchup or tartar sauce.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ShoutOut: Feeding the Dragon

Ooh, look... sexy dumplings
House of Hatfield has been on multiple hiatus's (hiat-i? No.) for the past few months. Mainly because I hate dealing with the blogger interface. Well, they have updated their software on the 'net as well as adding a mobile app! So now I can write blog posts during rehearsal... I mean. After rehearsal. This is the maiden voyage on the mobile app, so we'll see how it goes! Hopefully you will hear a lot more from me in the coming weeks. (Update: Mobile blogger app not so good... yes, I can blog. But I can't put pictures where I want them. Or add captions. Or do any formatting whatsoever. Grr.)

My first order of business is to give a MAJOR shout out to my cousins, Mary-Kate and Nate Tate. Aside from having rhyming names, they're two of the coolest people I've met and their cookbook, Feeding the Dragon, has transformed my kitchen in the past few months. Their super awesome Chinese cuisine is so easy but authentic. And their book is beautifully written and photographed. I love sitting down with it and just flipping to a section, drooling over the food and laughing at the stories of their travels through China. I'm so glad that my family is awesome... Check out their blog/website for all the info on their book. Then buy the book. Then prepare to have your cooking transformed and be inspired well beyond the kitchen.

My favorite part about Feeding the Dragon so far has been learning to make dough for dumplings and noodles. There are no leaveners, and most of the dough consists of flour and water. You can fill dumplings with anything you want, from pork to potatoes. The best part is that they are SO CHEAP! I recently made 50 potstickers for $4. Shyeah. Then I froze them and can eat them whenever I want. Take THAT, Costco.

Perfect pleats
Now, I would hand out the recipe here, but then you might not buy the book! Head over to feedingthedragon.com and check out some of the recipes they have posted there if you are skeptical. Then buy the book.

Pretty little potstickers, all in a row
Since I simply can't leave you hanging, though, here is an insider tip on how to take your Chinese dining to the next level, whether you are eating greasy takeout (still delicious), expensive potstickers from the grocery store (silly), or becoming a master of Asian cuisine in your own kitchen. Buy Koon Chun black vinegar. It is, hands down, the best Asian sauce I have ever come across. You can pour it on noodles or vegetables, dip dumplings in it, use it as salad dressing, drink it... It is THAT good. This ain't no soy sauce, folks. You can slather it on your sushi and not feel guilty because there is a minuscule amount of sodium - 15 mg or 1% DV per serving. Compare that to a whopping 38% DV from ONE TABLESPOON of soy sauce... And be honest with yourself, when have you EVER eaten just one tablespoon of anything? You can buy Koon Chun black vinegar in Asian specialty stores. We tried other brands, and one tasted like burnt molasses. Not good. Koon Chun is the way to go.

If you are from Missoula, go check out "A Shot of International Foods" in the Paxson Plaza behind the mall. It's a fun little store. They have tons of dry goods and a deli case with sausages, cheese from around the world and other specialties from all over. My mom and I bought the last bottle of black vinegar, but since they are a small specialty store, they will order more if there is a demand. Please! I don't want to travel to Canada every time I want black vinegar. It's either that, or buy it for $12 a bottle on Amazon... Not cool.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Back to the Blog

Hi everyone! I know I've been gone for a LONG time. But there are good reasons! As you may remember from my Frugal Foodie post, Caenaan and I were trying to buy a house... And we did! So, this is the first post from the REAL House of Hatfield! This summer, we also got a puppy, who has since grown into a dog. I also had a super busy summer, playing piano and music directing all over the state of Montana. Then, in September, I went to New York for six weeks to music direct a show over there! To learn more about that, visit my other blog, Montana Made Musicals.

So, since this is the first post in a long time, I decided to take it back to basics and show you guys a recipe that I have loved for my entire life. It's my mom's spaghetti and meatballs. Now, you should know that this recipe is almost always doubled, tripled, quadrupled or more! It's a great crowd-pleaser and also freezes well! You can make the meatballs, then freeze them on a sheet pan lined with parchment. When they are frozen, transfer them to a Ziplock freezer bag and use them in other recipes!

Mama Gina's Spaghetti and Meatballs

For the meatballs:

1lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/3 c parmesan cheese (finely grated)
1 clove garlic (can use 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each oregano and thyme
1/2 tsp basil
1 T parlsey flakes
1/8 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Mix together in a large bowl with your hands! Shape into balls!
Place on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil
Bake until browned and cooked through

For the sauce:
1/2 onion sliced
2 T olive oil
2 cans tomato paste
3 or 4 cans hot water
1/2 cup red wine
2 tsp basil
Dash cayenne pepper
1 tsp sugar

Place olive oil and onion in a stock pot over medium high heat. Saute till tender. Add two cans tomato paste and saute, adding the water after everything is heated through. Add red wine, basil, cayenne pepper and sugar and bring to a simmer, adding the meatballs at the end. Even better on the second day!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Easy Bread Pudding

The other night, Caenaan and I went to Famous Daves and used up an old gift card that we've had for a year. My friend Sarah was our server, so she hooked us up with lots of goodies, including some bread pudding to take home. Caenaan scarfed it for breakfast this morning, and I thought to myself, "I can make this, easy!." So I did. Since Caenaan and I will (hopefully) be moving into the new house this week, it was the perfect recipe to use up some more of our dwindling pantry.

Yesterday for breakfast, I made some pretty awful biscuits so I decided to use those. I also had some rolls that had been in my freezer since Christmas. Finally, there was a sad little hamburger bun shoved in the back of my refrigerator. These, combined with some other less-than-fresh ingredients, made a ROCKIN' dessert. I recommend it for anyone looking to clean out their fridge.

Easy Bread Pudding

1 cup sugar (I didn't even have this, so I used a cup of corn syrup)
5 large eggs (Only had one egg.... I substituted cornstarch. 2 T. Cornstarch + 1 T. Water or milk = one egg)
2 cup Milk (no milk... used expired Coconut milk. Shh.... don't tell Caenaan)
2 tsp Vanilla (I definitely had this. Have had a giant bottle for about 4 years)
3 cups old bread (I used 3 biscuits, 3 rolls and a hamburger bun - it was more than 3 cups)

1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk together sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Add bread. Let soak for 10 minutes.
Pour into greased 13X9 (or oval) casserole dish.
Crumble together brown sugar, butter and pecans. Sprinkle on top of bread mixture.
Bake for 45 minutes or until center is set.
Try not to eat the entire pan before your husband wakes up.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year's Hoppin' John

A southern tradition is to eat black eyed peas on New Years day to bring good luck. This recipe is something I have eaten on New Year's day for as long as I can remember. It's easy, cheap and tasty. Caenaan likes it so much that he requested that it become a regular meal in our house. We even ate it for breakfast with a fried egg and toast. If you read my previous "Frugal Foodie" post, you'll notice that almost every ingredient in this recipe is included in my inexpensive pantry items!

New Year's Hoppin' John
Recipe from: Gina Webb

1 cup uncooked rice
4 slices bacon
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced green pepper (I omit this ingredient due to allergy, and replace it with an extra 1/2 cup of both onion and celery)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 can Rotel tomatoes
2 cans drained and rinsed blackeyed peas (4 cups cooked)
2 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste

Place rice and two cups water in a rice cooker or medium sized pot with a lid. Cook for approximately 30 minutes, or until all water is absorbed and rice is tender.

Meanwhile, fry bacon until crispy in a large saute pan with high sides. Remove bacon, cool and crumble. Leave bacon grease in the pan.

Saute onion, celery, green pepper and garlic in reserved bacon grease until tender.

Add tomatoes, blackeyed peas, sugar, bay leaf, salt and crumbled bacon. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes.

Remove bay leaf, stir in rice (should be about 2 cups, but you can add it all). Test for seasoning.

Can be served as a side-dish or entree, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack!

The Frugal Foodie

Something exciting is happening at the House of Hatfield, and I am going to make a New Year's resolution in order to help this change successfully take place. Caenaan and I are trying to change the House of Hatfield from "rented" to "owned." Yep, folks, we are trying to buy a house! In order to save as much money as possible over the next few months, we have to seriously cut back on our spending. We don't spend much money on "things" - clothes, movies, household items, etc. We spend almost all of our money on food. We love food. We love cooking, but even more, we love eating out. This will have to change A LOT both before we buy a house and after. So, my new years resolution is to make cheap meals at home. I am going to start by giving you some tips that help me save money on food.

1. Build a pantry
No, I don't mean get out your hammer and nails and build a closet to house your food. I mean stock up on non-perishable items that you can use to make cheap meals. Non-perishables tend to be very cheap and go a long way when it comes to cooking. And no, I also don't mean items like stove-top stuffing, macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper and ramen. I'm talking flour, sugar, spices, canned vegetables, rice, pasta and beans. While it may feel like you're dropping a big chunk of change to get a good pantry started, it will last you for SO long. I have powdered sugar and rice that is a couple of years old. (And still perfectly good!) Here are items that are almost always in my pantry:

Flour/Sugar/Baking Soda/Baking Powder/Corn Starch - Obvious choices. Just learn a few recipes like biscuits, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, waffles and bread and you can stop buying expensive boxed items. You can even make your own Bisquick mix for a fraction of the price! Cornstarch is great for thickening anything.

Corn Meal - Make your own cornbread. Make it with bacon grease. Love it. Also... Polenta? It's a fancy word for cornmeal mush, whose recipe is on the side of the bag, and includes: corn meal. water. salt. Add parmesan cheese and you can impress your friends with "polenta."

Kosher/Iodized Table Salt - Kosher is tasty for cooking and finishing dishes, and has less bite than iodized table salt. Use table salt for baking. Contrary to popular belief, both have the same amount of sodium by weight. However, because iodized salt grains are smaller, you get more per teaspoon, therefore more sodium. HA!

Pasta - Whenever the whole wheat stuff goes on sale, I buy it in bulk. Whole wheat = more fiber = more filling = you eat less. Most of the time, you can get it for very close to the price of the bleached enriched stuff.

Beans - Both canned and dry. Canned are convenient, but more expensive. If you have time, buy the dry stuff and cook them yourself. Be sure to DRAIN AND RINSE your beans, canned or dry. Non-rinsed beans = farts. No bueno. Rinse them in cold water until there are no more bubbles in the strainer.

Canned Vegetables - Most importantly, TOMATOES! Living in Montana, the growing season is very short and honestly, most tomatoes that end up in our grocery stores are gross. Mealy and not ripe and expensive (if you can afford $4.50 a pound for those gorgeous heirloom tomatoes at the Good Food Store, well... screw you.) Canned tomatoes are great. While they do have a slight metal taste from the can, they are great when cooked. Throw them in soups, pasta, casseroles. Use diced, whole, stewed, paste, sauce... Learn to love ROTEL (Diced tomatoes with green chiles). You can pretty much throw it in anything to add some Mexican flair - scrambled eggs, cheese, rice and beans, chicken soup. Good stuff. Other canned vegetables I love are green beans, corn, pumpkin and squash.

Rice - If there is one "uni-tasker" in the kitchen that I approve of, it's my rice cooker. Almost all rice cooks at a ratio of 2-1, water to rice. You don't even have to use a real measuring cup. Throw it in your rice cooker, push the button and it stops cooking when it's done. CRAZY! The only thing I would suggest is to get a large rice cooker. I have a 4-cup cooker, and it is way too small. One of my favorite treats is hot rice with honey. Rice is CHEAP.

Spices - I have WAY more spices than necessary... I have a spice rack in addition to an entire shelf that is consumed with spices. I have my typical Simon & Garfunkel spices like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme... but I also have cumin, poultry seasoning, lemon pepper, dill, cloves, nutmeg, bay leaf, oregano, chili flakes, curry powder, cinnamon, dehydrated onions, ginger. The list goes on. And on. And on. I buy little baggies of spices at the Good Food Store for about 85 cents a piece and can transform boring rice and beans into Lemon Curry or beef and vegetables into Hungarian Smoked Paprika stew. One of my personal favorites is from my mom. Add onion flakes, dill and pepper to your canned tomato soup. I made this for myself the other day, and after Caenaan tried some, he asked for it the next time I made grilled cheese. Thanks mom! Buy your spices from a place that sells them in bulk. It's SO CHEAP. Oh, and I know that they say that spices have a shelf life of a year, but I keep mine forever. Sometimes you have to add extra to get a stronger flavor, but big deal.

Canned Fish - TUNA! Tuna sandwiches are SO cheap, and you can add onions and celery to your mix and get at least three sandwiches out of one can of tuna! I'm going to start "Tuna Tuesdays" where I find interesting ways to use this cheap pantry product. I'm thinking fried tuna cakes with remoulade... tuna casserole.... tuna burgers. MMM... sometimes you can get cheap salmon in a can too. My mom's salmon cake recipe will soon be on here.

Crisco - Yeah, yeah yeah.... it's partially hydrogenated and bad-for-you. But it's really cheap and (in my opinion) the ONLY way to make good biscuits and pie crust. And I don't know about you, but I would eat almost ANYTHING in a pie crust.

Perishable Must-Haves - Onions, Garlic, Potatoes, Celery, Carrots, Lettuce, Bananas, Apples, Oranges, Eggs, Butter. Stick to produce you can get for less than $1 a pound and you'll be good to go. Try to shop seasonally and you can slash your grocery bills.

Okay, this has turned into a REALLY long post, so I'm just going to quickly name some other tips.

2. Your freezer is your friend - freeze almost ANYTHING. Milk, bread, meat, cheese. Learn how to properly package these things to avoid freezer burn. Also, rotate your stock, so oldest stuff is at the front/top of the freezer.

3. Only grocery shop with a list - AND eat a snack before you shop. That way you're not tempted to get crackers, chips, frozen meals, etc. so you can eat them immediately when you get home. Stick to what you absolutely need.

4. Use coupons - I'm actually going to adopt this tip MUCH more than I used to. I watched a show called "Extreme Couponing" on TLC that was absolutely amazing. If you are smart, you can pay next to nothing for groceries. One woman paid $2.50 for $600 worth of groceries. I also use club cards... I save the most money at Albertsons. On a typical grocery trip I can save over $20 when I pay attention to sales.

5. Make extra when you cook - This is what gets Caenaan and me into trouble. We are hungry, but don't have anything readily available in the fridge. So we go out, or grab a sandwich or other fast food on our way home from work to avoid having to make something. I'm going to be better about making extra and forcing Caenaan to eat leftovers.

6. Make coffee at home - Even if you drink the cheap stuff from the convenience store or coffee shop, you're still spending at least $1 on a cup of coffee. Coffee was $7.50 a pound at Safeway yesterday. I would guess that a pound of coffee would make me AT LEAST 10 pots of coffee in my 10-cup coffee maker. That's 100 cups of coffee. For $7.50. That's 8 cents a cup. Even if you have to go buy a $20 coffee maker, you will pay for it in about 20 cups of coffee. That's TWO pots of coffee. Go. Do it now.

Hope that was enlightening! Up next: some recipes that use your cheap pantry ingredients!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Perfection Bars

The other day I got obsessed with stumbleupon.com. It's a website where you flag topics that you are interested in, then click "stumble" and you are directed to sites that it thinks you will enjoy. It's like crack... I couldn't stop. I was directed to lots of food blogs, and one that came up had a recipe for pumpkin pie bars. Here it is. I made them, and Caenaan LOVED them. I was on the fence about them, as they were very soft and the flavor was a bit off. I decided to create my own recipe based on these pumpkin bars, and if I do say so myself, they are AMAZING. Here is the recipe!

Pumpkin Pie Perfection Bars

Crust Ingredients:
2 1/2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 Cup Sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
3 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Cups chopped pecans

1 Cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup brown sugar

Filling Ingredients:
1 (15 oz) can Pumpkin Puree
1 (12 oz) can Evaporated Milk
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4-1/2 cup cinnamon chips (I found mine at The Good Food Store, but Hershey's also makes them)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 9X13 aluminum pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over the sides.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together butter and sugar until combined. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Sift together flour and salt in separate bowl, and then add to the butter/sugar mixture. Add the pecans and mix on low speed until combined and dough starts to come together (it will be slightly crumbly, but will hold together when you press it). Press about 2/3 of the dough into the parchment lined pan, reserving the rest for the topping. Bake for 18-20 minutes (you want it firm but not browned).

While the crust bakes, assemble the filling. Combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar/spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

Add oats and brown sugar to remaining crust mixture and crumble it together. Set aside.

When you remove the crust from the oven, turn the oven up to 425 degrees F and immediately sprinkle the crust with the cinnamon chips. Then pour the pumpkin filling over the top. Return to oven, bake for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the pan and gently sprinkle with the oat/brown sugar/crust mixture. You want an even layer, but might not use all of the mixture. (Save the extra and use it as a crumble topping for baked apples or berries. Yum.) Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bars cool for about 15 minutes, then remove them from the pan, cut and serve. Ice cream might be necessary. O. M. G.