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2008/02/11 Chicken Curry with Lentils and Rice

A couple weeks ago my friend Amy came over to sew. She brought some leftover chicken curry for her lunch. Instead of eating it over rice, her husband had cooked lentils and rice together. I thought that sounded really good. Then I saw that Meredith at Like Merchant Ships had found a blog called Lentils and Rice and the lady who write that blog makes a big pot of lentils and rice every week.

I took this as a sign that it was time to try making lentils and rice together. I put a pound of lentils and a pound of brown rice in a pot with some salt, covered with water (maybe an inch or two over the level of the lentils and rice), brought it to a boil, then simmered it until it was done.

We ate it under my standard chicken curry sauce. It was so much more filling than regular rice and I thought it was really delicious. Only the youngest kid would eat it, so I let the others eat bread.

It made a lot extra, too, so I will have to figure out a way to eat the ~8 cups of leftover lentils and rice.

2008/02/02 Lunch: Navajo tacos

Today was bread-baking day. Usually when I bake bread, I try to time it so that we can have warm bread either for lunch or dinner. I didn't have any lunch meat to make sandwiches, but I did have ground beef in the freezer, so I decided to make Navajo fry bread with some of the dough. I had never done it before so I consulted a few websites to double-check my method. Instead of deep-frying, I shallow-fried them in about 1/4" or less of oil. I served the fry breads with taco fixings, and the fry bread was definitely a winner. The girls ate their tacos better than they eat tacos made on tortillas, and both Frugaldad and I thought it was fabulous. Despite the fact that the dough was about 2/3 whole wheat, they were still delicious. Often whole-wheat bread products aren't as tender or tasty as their white counterparts, but as fry bread, the whole wheat dough was definitely usable. The fry bread is almost as much work as tortillas, but will make it into our regular menu rotation.

Eat well

Last spring I saw a recipe on the PBS series Everyday Food and once I made it, I was hooked. You'd never believe that something with a name like bulgur could taste so fancy and fabulous. I started making variations on the recipe and almost every one has turned out great. The original recipe says it serves 2, but trust me, you'll eat it all yourself! This is actually quite inexpensive to make as well. The feta and nuts are the most expensive ingredients, but are used sparingly and are optional.

My basic formula is as follows

1/2 cup bulgur, reconsituted in 3/4 cup boiling water and 1/2 tsp salt
a fruit (1/2 an apple, diced with the skin on, grapes cut in half, strawberries)
onions (I prefer green onions, but regular are fine if you use less. I use 2 green onions, sliced, or a tablespoon of chopped onion)
nuts (about a 1/2 cup of pecans, walnuts, sliced almonds, cashews)
other veggies (celery, cucumber, bell pepper)
crumbled feta cheese (1-2 tbsp is enough. I buy this at Costco for less than $3/lb so while this is a "splurge" ingredient, it really isn't all that much)

for the dressing
2 tbsp citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange) or vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil

I love the original recipe, but some of my other favorite combinations are:
apple, celery, walnut for a "Waldorf"version
cucumber and tomatoes (no nuts) for a delicious straight-from-the-garden version. You can also add some fresh basil from your herb garden

The one I made with raisins and curry powder didn't turn out too well, but I'm sure could taste better with some tweaking.

I just finished a dish of the Waldorf version, and I wish there was more!

Anniversary pasta

I'm becoming a regular reader at Frugal Hacks. On Fridays, the DeputyHeadmistress posts an article about using what's in your hand wherein she talks about using what you've got to make the best of your situation.

We're still trying to figure out the Christmas traditions that we want to have in our family. Growing up, my family ate our big Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, and snacked all day on Christmas. When Frugaldad was growing up, they ate their big meal on Christmas Day. Once we moved to Idaho, since we live close to members of his family, we ate with family on Christmas Day. For a couple years, we decided to have a nice steak and potatoes meal on Christmas Eve. Then we started getting invited to Christmas Eve dinner at his brother's in-law's house, so we moved the steak dinner to the 23rd, which is our anniversary.

This year, the 23rd fell on a Sunday. When you take 4 children to 3 hours of church, the Sabbath certainly isn't a day of rest! Add to that the fact that I had to arrive an hour early for music practice, and then conduct the Christmas program during the service, I was exhausted by dinnertime. I had steaks in the fridge and potatoes in the pantry, but I just didn't have the energy to pull that meal together. Plus it was freezing, and dark, and snowing, so I didn't really want to grill those steaks outside! So I went to the fridge and the pantry to see what was in my hand.

I invented what I now call Anniversary Pasta and it is one of my better concoctions. In the freezer, I had a pound of bulk sausage in the spicy variety. I found some bell peppers, onions, and cream cheese from the fridge, and some penne pasta from the pantry. All of these ingredients are those that are easy to keep on hand and can be used in a variety of ways. I've made it three times in total now, each time a little bit different, but always delicious. Feel free to substitute what you have in your hand. I serve the sauce separate from the noodles to appease my picky children, but I would mix them together in a perfect world. We ended up with a very nice anniversary meal and a winner for the recipe box.

Anniversary Pasta
1 lb penne pasta, cooked according to directions
1 lb bulk sausage, regular or hot variety
1/2 large onion, sliced or chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch by 1 inch pieces
1 8 oz package cream cheese
1/2 to 1 cup milk
Parmesan cheese for serving

Cook sausage in a skillet until browned. Add onion and peppers and cook until softened. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Add milk until sauce is as thick as you like. Serve sauce with noodles and grate Parmesan cheese over the top of each serving.

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