Thursday, December 22, 2011

Must Haves and Go-To's: The Essentials

As you saw in my Pantry Raid post, I am usually well-stocked in the food department.  The same goes with my freezer and fridge, too.  There are some things I always have on hand, and if you combine 2, 3, or 4, of these ingredients together, you can usually make a meal.  It's all about testing out different flavors and mix and matching.  Have fun with it!  Here's some of my favorite standbys.


  • Eggs.  I LOOOOOVE eggs.  They're great for breakfast, for stir fried rice, for baking, and for use in the breaded [whatever] conveyor belt.  Other options: egg salad, hard boiled eggs, "French" burgers (inspired by The Met Bar & Grill), breakfast for dinner.  A great protein substitute if you're bored with beef or chicken.
  • Cheese.  I always have at least 3 kinds of cheese on hand: One sliced variety fresh from the deli, any variety of shredded cheese (usually Mozz or Mexican blend), and American slices (they're the best melting cheese).
  • Salsa.  Use it in omelets, on baked potatoes, or for unexpected guests (everyone loves chips & salsa!)
  • Milk.  I hate drinking milk but I use it for cooking occasionally, and for the ever-necessary late-night bowl of cereal.
  • Sour Cream.  It's just great on everything.  Baked potatoes, pierogies, and Taco Tuesdays....bam. 
  • Butter.  Duh.
  • Condiments. My fridge is basically 70% condiments.  I ALWAYS have the following on hand:  ketchup, Dijon mustard, Italian dressing, Siriacha, Red Hot, mayo, marinara sauce (yes I consider this a condiment), Worcestershire sauce, and relish.
  • Ground Turkey.  Since I don't eat a lot of red meat, I use turkey in everything.  I always have at least 2 packages ready to go.  Uses (just a few):  tacos, burgers, stuffed peppers, meatballs/sauce.  We also have a ton of turkey bacon, too.
  • Chicken Breast.  So versatile.  We stock up on the big pack when it goes on sale!
  • Edamame.  I stock up on the shelled edamame whenever I go to Trader Joe's.  It's so versatile and takes 3 minutes to defrost.  Great for Asian-inspired dinners and cold in a salad.
  • Chopped Onions. The frozen bag of chopped onions is such a time-saver and super cheap.  
  • Frozen Veggies.  I love using these for omelets, pasta dishes, and fried rice.  We usually have the "fiesta" blend on hand, and a mix of the peas/corn or broccoli/cauliflower.  The possibilities are really endless with these.
  • Pierogies.  I love Mrs T's pierogies because they come in a variety of flavors and they're a great meal alone or as a side with my next go to...
  • Kielbasa.  We eat a TON of this stuff (probably not the healthiest...but most of the time it's the turkey or chicken variety).  Use in stir-frys, as the Polish do (see above go-to), or grill for a super-quick meal.  Great for BBQs.
  • Hot Dogs.  Sometimes you just don't feel like cooking.
  • Pasta.  Whether it's orzo, cavatappi, spaghetti, or farfalle, I always have at least 2 boxes of pasta. It's like a blank canvass.  Go cray.
  • Canned Veggies.  Corn and artichoke hearts are my favorite.  Add to everything.
  • Beans.  Garbanzo (chickpeas), black, and  kidney are the most common in my pantry.
  • Baking essentials.  Flour, baking soda, and baking powder, vanilla extract.  More recently, chocolate chips.  You never know when the mood will hit ya!
  • Breadcrumbs.  I use these to make home made burgers, and anything, well, breaded.  Just a great item for your arsenal.  You should keep regular and Panko on hand.
  • Marinades.  Always have an Asian, BBQ, and lemony one on hand.  So easy. 
  • EVOO.  Probably the most essential item in my whole kitchen.  Self explanatory.
What do YOU always have around the kitchen?  SHARE your pantry must-haves below!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recipe: Butterrnut Squash & Black Bean Chili

Last weekend I hosted a gift swap for my girlfriends and made this delicious, hearty chili to enjoy while we swapped gifts. (We also enjoyed artichoke dip, buffalo chicken dip, PB chocolate chip cookies, fruit salsa, a hummus dip, a rotisserie chicken, stir-fried rice, macaroni and cheese, cheese/crackers, aaaand an ice cream trifle.  It's fine. I'll diet in 2012.)  One of my friends is a "mostly vegetarian", as I like to call her (hi Al!), and another friend doesn't eat cheese.  I just call her weird (hi Doodle!).  Finding an entree to satisfy both--as well as the rest of my party-- was a challenge!  But I like challenges, and this recipe is super easy and full of flavor.  I found this online and can't remember where, but I just have to give the inventor prrops for this one.  Perfect for winter.  Enjoy :)

2 lbs peeled & chopped butternut squash (BJ's has a 2-lb containter all ready to go, if you're looking to save time!)
2-3 onions, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced (remove ribs & seeds for milder flavor)
4 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 bell peppers (I used one red and one orange for a sweeter flavor)
2 14.5 oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes (The "fire-roasted" is key! use Hunt's brand)
3 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1/4 c. EVOO

Cook onions & garlic in EVOO in a skillet until transparent.  Add bell peppers and continue cooking until tender.  Meanwhile, add all other ingredients (besides squash) to a slow cooker.  Add onions and peppers when ready.  Stir to combine.  Finally, add butternut squash on top of other ingredients.  Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours.

*This chili is a bit spicy so if you want to omit the jalapenos or use less chili powder, feel free.  I added a dollop of sour cream to my bowl before eating, which helped to balance out the spiciness.  

Special thanks to my loves Jamie, Allison, Jenn, Lou, OJ, Jam, Bin, and Court for coming by and bringing all of the other deliciousness we devoured.  Love you all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Recipe: Chicken Tarragon

Hi Friends!

When I first started this thing, I promised to blog one of my favorite recipes from childhood: Chicken Tarragon.  Today's the day! This recipe NEVER comes out the same way twice.  Sometimes it's soupy (perfect over brown rice) and sometimes it's creamy (again, perfect over rice).  There are no exact measurements to this one; it's the ultimate "eyeball it" meal so you really can't screw it up!  Thanks for the recipe, mom!

1-2 lbs. boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-in. pieces
dijon mustard
Italian dressing
garlic powder
onion powder
splash of lemon juice
mushrooms, sliced (optional)

Turn broiler on LOW.  Place chicken in casserole dish.  In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, Italian dressing, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon juice and tarragon until mixed well.  Pour over chicken and mix until coated.

  Broil for 30-40 minutes, checking and turning chicken every 10 minutes or so.  Serve over rice.  For an extra kick, add a little Siriacha hot sauce to your plate!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pantry Raid.

Let's talk about my favorite part of my apartment.  It's not my bed, or my incredibly comfy sofa, or even the fact that I live so close to the water that I can smell the ocean almost every day.  No, it's none of those things.  It's my pantry. 

The shelves were there when we moved in and I didn't waste any time filling them.  Like, TO THE MAX.  For those of you who have ever seen my pantry in the flesh, you know that I keep it stocked to feed at least a family of 6.  I can't help it.  I just keep buying canned goods and condiments and baking supplies for all those times I won't bake.  I'm a pantry hoarder and I don't care who knows it.

Today I decided to reorganize the pantry because I really couldn't stand looking at it anymore.  There was crap everywhere and nothing was strategically organized and therefore everything was a hot mess (I tried to take a video to show you the monstrosity but I'm having some technical difficulties...just try to imagine it).

Here's how it turned out after I was done.  It took me 2 hours, I broke and cleaned up an entire HUGE bottle of balsamic vinegar, and now the apartment smells like shit.  Even after giving away a  bag full of canned goods for the food pantry, I still have all of this left:

(Top shelf: cookbooks, random bowls I have no room for anywhere else, K-cups for days.  Middle shelves:  cereals/snacks, pastas/rices, condiments galore.  Bottom shelf: Baking supplies, canned goods, and anything I think I'll use in the next 2 weeks.)

(Side shelves:  spices, sauces, mixes)

I know I'll use most of this eventually.  My next step is to clean of the freezer and fridge, but let's not get carried away today....

In other news...please tell you friends to follow me on Twitter! @dsmolokoff

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recipe: Pulled Pork Nachos

I had every intention of making tacos with this pulled pork recipe, but we just decided to throw everything on top of a bed of nachos.  Wasn't the worst idea we've ever had.

2 lbs. boneless pork tenderloin
12 oz jar of salsa (I used chipotle flavor for some smokiness)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
3 gloves minced garlic
splash of red hot

Place pork in slow cooker.  Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl and mix until blended.  Pour over pork.  Cook on LOW for 8 hours.  Shred with a fork and cook on WARM for another 15-20 minutes.

Top your nachos with the shredded pork and any or all of these (we chose all...):
-cheddar cheese

-diced chiles
-diced tomatoes
-black olives

-black bean salsa
-dollop of sour cream


Friday, December 2, 2011

Recipe: Tomato-Pancetta Linguine

Welp. It happened.  I got laid off.  But let's not dwell.  All that means for you is more (and cheaper!) blog make sure you stay tuned :)

I found this recipe in my "Almost Vegetarian" cookbook and it was too easy to leave alone.  I used my own measurements and it came out delish...enjoy!

1/4 lb. pancetta, sliced thick at the deli and chopped into bite-size pieces at home (You can use bacon too if you can't find or don't like pancetta)
1 medium shallot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 springs fresh rosemary, chopped
white cooking wine (about 1/4 cup)
sherry cooking wine (about a splash)
1 28-oz. can of chopped tomatoes, juices reserved
1 lb. whole wheat linguine
shredded parmesean cheese

Heat pancetta in a dry, hot saute pan for about 5 minutes, until crispy.  Transfer to paper towels and reserve.  

Add shallot to leftover pancetta fat and saute until transparent.  Add garlic and rosemary and cook about 3 minutes.  Add sherry and white wine and cook until there's almost no more liquid.  Add tomatoes and juice.  Simmer on low for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package.  Transfer about 1/4 cup of starchy cooking liquid to the tomato simmer before draining the pasta.  Add pasta to tomato mixture.  Add cheese and pancetta back into the pan and toss to coat.