Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Save hundreds of dollars each year with a salad spinner

We eat a lot of salad at my house. Mostly because it's the one of the few vegetables I can serve at dinner with no complaints or turned up noses (as a Caesar salad, but still).

I relied heavily on bagged salads most of the time until I read this blog. The listeria scare started my doubts about bagged salads - and then I ended up home with a few that were a bit on the brown side (which I couldn't see through the colorful packaging).

So I was ready. Ready to try Tamie's experiment. Romaine lettuce at my Kroger is about $1.50 and it gives me about 1 1/3 of the amount of a bagged salad (which is about $2.99 if you're lucky...sometimes more if it's not on sale).

Unlike Tamie, I go ahead and put the lettuce in small bags to take to work (where I don't have to eat Caesar salad anyways).

I bought the OXO Salad Spinner, and I have loved it. Strangely, spinning salad is a bit therapeutic. (Go ahead and laugh. But buy your own. You'll see. You'll find yourself giving that salad one more spin...just to be safe!)

We eat salad at least twice a week, and I am now saving at least $4 each week. I'm thinking with the money I've saved I can buy a Soda Stream and a pressure cooker next! I think those are the only two kitchen gadgets I do not currently own.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bread Maker King Cake

I finally did it! After Mardi Gras seasons and seasons of trying, I mixed enough recipes together to make the PERFECT (and relatively easy too) king cake.

First, you start out with Mam Papaul's King Cake mix. (In the Jackson area, you can buy this at Kroger.) You won't follow any of her directions though. Except the ingredients. Mix the ingredients for the cake as directed and put it in your bread machine on the Dough cycle.

Once the bread machine is through doing all of the work, roll the dough into a long rectangle on lightly floured parchment paper (but remember that you need room for the filling). Prepare the cinnamon mixture that comes with the mix and pat it down the middle. Prepare the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling.

(I stole the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling and the Lemon-Sugar Icing from this recipe in Garden & Gun magazine.)

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
½  cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Dollop the cream cheese down the middle of the long rectangle. Fold the dough over to close. Pinch and seal. Form into king-cake-shaped oval. Flip the parchment over so the cake will be seam-side down. Cut four or five slits into the cake for venting.  Bake according to the king cake mix directions.

After the cake has cooled, top with lemon-sugar icing and the Mardi Gras-colored sprinkles included or colors of your own choosing. (For Super Bowl, we generally pick the colors of the team we are rooting for, but you could also have silver and red for Christmas, black and orange for Halloween, etc. - because you are gonna want this king cake year round, for sure.)

Lemon-Sugar Icing:

1 ½ cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Combine icing ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until it achieves desired consistency (adjust with more liquid or more powdered sugar if necessary).

The mix also comes with a baby. (And, yes, you should use that - just don't bake it in the oven!)

Happy Mardi Gras!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Lynn Rosetto Kasper - 1, Shawn - 0

So we were listening to the Splendid Table after our Sunday trip to Lowe's, when Lynn insisted that you could cook black-eyed peas in the crockpot without soaking them. This perked my ears up because I had a bag of dried black-eyed peas in the pantry I needed to cook. (I panicked a bit at New Year's when I couldn't find black-eyed peas in one store and I MAY have overcompensated a bit when I finally found some. By a bag. Or two.)

I have always heard that you need to pre-soak beans and peas, even if they tell you not to. Don't fall for it. So when Lynn said you didn't have to soak the peas - just put them on high for four and a half hours - I'll admit I was a bit skeptical. Even of Lynn.

But I do have some bad juju to blame. My first kitchen failure involved a "quick soak method" and red beans and rice. I learned my lesson. Well.

So Lynn was right. It worked. But I had nothing to put in with the peas because I wasn't planning on it working. (I'm no Lynn Rosetto Kasper and all.)

In the spirit of Lynn, I raided my refrigerator to see what would work. I had leftover cherry tomatoes from stir fry last week and a brand new jar of Brooklyn Brine Damn Spicy Pickles that I bought in a moment of weakness (and what moment isn't there?) at Whole Foods. I chopped up about three of the pickles and put them in with the peas after they cooked and poured in some of the brine too. I added the diced cherry tomatoes and....yum!

(Lynn would be proud!)