Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sassy Tuna Salad

Seems rather simplistic and silly to talk about how we make tuna salad at our house.  But I love tuna salad.  After years of making, adding, taking out, subbing and tasting, we (passionate kids actively involved in said process) have hit upon our favorite.

Tuna Salad.  It's the stuff you spread on bread or toast for a sandwich.  It is NOT mixed with pasta and served cold.  That is Tuna Pasta Salad.  Only to be served in the summer, with sliced tomatoes on the side.  And iced tea or lemonade.

Anyway, back to Tuna Salad.  Here's the recipe.  Just to make everyone nervous, it's an "amounts up to you" recipe.  You have to taste and feel and see for yourself, and suit it to what you like.

We serve this on bread, toast, or crackers.  Sometimes it becomes a Tuna Melt (toast, tuna salad, cheese, under the broiler).  It goes great in pitas or tortillas, too.

This makes a LOT.  I used FOUR 6 ounce cans of tuna.  I have a big crew.  And this is about two lunches for most of us.

Sassy Tuna Salad

4, 6-ounce cans of chunk light tuna in water
3-4 ribs of celery, chopped
1 shallot, minced (or a few tablespoons minced yellow onion)
2-3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish, with a bit of extra juice (or chopped sweet or dill pickles)
2 tablespoons dijon mustard (or other mustard you like)
3/4 - 1 cup mayonaise
a handful of celery leaves, chopped OR a handful of parsley leaves, chopped
generous grinding of black pepper
sprinkling of seasoned salt
sprinkling of regular salt
big squeeze of lemon or lime juice

Pretty much mix it all together in a large bowl.  Taste.  Add more mayo if you like it creamier.  More pepper if it needs.  I always end up adding more of just about everything.  The kids all taste it and ask to add even more.  Learnt the flavors YOU like best!


There's something about piles in a bowl on food blogs, isn't there?


Homeschool kid doing math and waiting to be a taster.


This'll be lunch in about 10 minutes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meal Plan Monday, March 28

Now that's a good idea, right?

I've been a meal planner for ages.  If I didn't have something planned, thawed or started each day, I would either a) make convenient and less healthy food; or b) call my husband and ask him to pick up something.

We'd either be poor or chubby or both. 

Plus, I am so very obsessed with food and what and when I will make and eat and how and why and oh, it's gonna be good. 

Then there's that whole grocery shopping deal, being planned and organized and all.  It really does help and it really does save money. 

I know I've preached before.  So I'll hush my Sassy mouth and post my weekly menu, each Monday.

Have a great and tasty week!

For March 28, 2011

Monday:  Sesame Chicken, Carrots & Green Beans; Brown Rice

Tuesday:  Grilled Bacon and Cheese Sandwiches; Pickles; Veggies and Dip

Wednesday:  Enchiladas (from a freezer cooking spree last month); Green Salad

Thursday:  Pasta Bolognese; Crusty Bread; Green Salad

Friday:  (company)  Grilled Whole Butterflied Chicken; Oven Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Leeks; Wild Rice with Cranberries, Walnuts and Orange Peel; Green Salad; Double Chocolate Almond Brownies and Vanilla Ice Cream

Saturday:  Pizza!  (either home made, or Home Run Inn frozen)

Sunday:  Leftovers (this is almost always the case)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Italian Meatballs - Red Sauce Likes a Party

Spaghetti and Meatballs - what could be more American?  It sure ain't Italian!  But it sure is a family favorite.

A while back I wrote a post about Red Sauce.   If I could figure out how to make a link to it, I'd make your life easier.  Otherwise, look under "Sauces" or "Ramblings" if you are so inclined.

Italian Meatballs ought to be moist and garlicky and flavorful, with plenty of cheese and eggs and fresh parsley.  If you think it's fun to stand and fry them in oil in a skillet, then go for it.  If you have better ways to spend your 30 minutes, try oven-browning.  Less mess, less work, all done at once.  They cook til "barely done" and then finish up in the big pot of Red Sauce.

Most every meatball I can find in the freezer section of the grocery store is full of MSG or soy or other funk.  Why, oh, why, can't they just be simple and good?  No one really knows the answer to this mystery.  So make your own.  Do you really not have 20 minutes to mix up and shape the meat into cute little rounds?  While you're at it, make a double or triple batch and freeze some.  These can be used in sandwiches, quartered and used as pizza topping, sliced and added to lasagna or other baked pasta.  Heck, I'd shape the whole mess of meat mixture into a loaf for some tasty Italian Meatloaf.  Slathered in Red Sauce, of course.

Below is a single recipe.  It makes about 24-26, 1-inch meatballs.  You can make whatever size balls you like - the huge ones are fun, they just take a bit longer to bake.  Tiny ones can go straight into baked pasta without slicing.  One inch is a great size for spaghetti. 

Serve with a good sauce, pass the grated Parm and let your kids slurp and slop the noodles however they choose.  Life is short and dinner should be fun.  If your family walks away from this meal perfectly clean, something is wrong.  And it's not with them :)

Where's my Chianti?

Italian Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup bread crumbs or Panko
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
olive oil for the baking sheet

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients (except oil) in a big bowl with your HANDS, but gently.  Shape into 1 inch balls, or whatever size suits your needs.  Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, 1/2 inch apart. 

Bake for 20-30 minutes (20 if they will simmer in sauce, 30 to fully cook).  Remove from baking sheet and either cool and freeze, or add to your pot of sauce, or slice for pizza or pasta, you choose. 

Makes 2 dozen meatballs.

Baked and ready for a swim in the pot.

Saucy and Sassy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sausage and Potatoes with Lemon

This was pretty tasty.  A recipe where you get to eat whole slices of lemon.  Sure, why not?

Choose your sausage carefully, because I didn't love the one we used.  It was a "mild Italian" from my local store and it was too spicy.  Find a good and flavorful mild Italian sausage that you've tried before and liked.  They brown whole first, then get sliced, so make sure the casing is good quality and will hold up.  Mine didn't, but it didn't ruin the dish.  I'll definitely make this again with a different sausage.

I think it would be great to mess around with the flavors in general.  It could go very summery, with oregano, mint, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and maybe some interesting chicken sausage.  Or it could go Spanish with chorizo sausage, and those red peppers, and maybe some lime or orange instead of lemon.  This recipe is a great base to jump from, I think.


Sausage and Potatoes with Lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds mild Italian sausages
2 pounds fingerling potatoes, or other small potatoes, halved or quartered
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup pitted green olives
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 large lemon, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
fresh lemon wedges, for serving

In a large Dutch oven or other pot with a cover, brown the sausages in the oil, turning to color evenly.  Remove to a plate.  Cook the potatoes in the fat remaining in the pot, turning to brown on all sides.  Add the onion and the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.  Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot, getting up all the good brown bits of flavor.  Slice the sausages into 1/2 inch slices, and add back to the pot with the broth, olives, sliced lemon, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce temperature to low.  Simmer for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve with the extra lemon wedges on the side.

This served our family of 8 plus a friend that came for dinner.  There was one serving leftover for Mister to take to work for lunch.  Not all the kids were jazzed about eating the lemon slices, but I sure was :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saint Patrick Didn't Eat Like This

(NOTE:  Typed this up on March 16th.  Computer crashed.  St. Pat's is over.  Make the food anyway, it's good stuff.)

Rule number one:  Do NOT dye anything green tomorrow.  Not your mashed potatoes, oatmeal, or beer.  Please.

Rule number two:  You can pretend you're Irish and enjoy the day, but don't do anything foolish.

Rule number three:  The Irish are not known for their food, so you have to make the best of the situation.


What I'd really like to eat tomorrow is an Irish Farmhouse Breakfast.  Rashers, sausages, eggs, scones, black and white pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomato, potato cake.  Yes, please.

But since I'm the cook and I live with a bunch of half-breeds, we do what we can to please the crowd.  At the Sassy house, it means Irish Oatmeal for breakfast, Soda Bread for lunch, and Beef In Guinness over Boxty for dinner.  Then put the kids to bed and head to the pub.  With a cop named Sullivan.

Here's the recipes.  Irish Oatmeal is nothing more than steel cut oats, cooked slowly, and we serve them with butter, cinnamon and maple syrup.  Much more toothy and hearty than regular oatmeal.  Soda bread is good for breakfast, too.  It's kinda like a big scone or biscuit.  There are a million "authentic" recipes out there, but I can only offer you mine.  The Beef In Guinness is a stew, and Boxty are a hearty potato pancake.  There must be potatoes on SPD, of course. 

And why no Corned Beef and Cabbage?  Because my Swedish husband ate it once and said, in the most passive way possible, "You don't need to make this again."  Okey dokey.


Soda Bread

4 cups flour (I do 3 white and one whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons sugar
2 cups buttermilk or sour milk (or milk with a splash of vinegar)
1/2 cup currants, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Add the currants if using (I do two smaller loaves from this, one with currants and one without).  Stir in enough of the milk to make a soft dough.  Working quickly, knead gently a few times just to bring it together.  Shape into a somewhat flattened, round loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cut a deep X into the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.  Bake in the upper third of your oven for 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 400 and let it bake for another 10 minutes.  Loaf will be golden brown on top and will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Let it cool for a while before slicing.


Boxty

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 beaten egg
1 or 1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 or 2 1/2 cups flour
butter and/or bacon grease for frying

If you are starting with plain mashed potatoes, you will want to amp up the seasonings.  My potatoes were already mashed with butter, milk, sour cream, salt, pepper and parsley.  Plan accordingly :)  It will make a difference in how much milk and flour you add to the batter.
Put potatoes, melted butter, egg, salt, baking powder, and 2 cups flour in a large bowl.  Add enough milk to make the batter how you like:  less milk will make more of a soft dough, which you can drop on the griddle like a biscuit to fry, more milk will make more of a "very thick" pancake batter, which you can ladle onto the griddle to fry.  You choose.  I make mine more along the thick batter variety.
So mix in the milk, adding more flour if the batter gets to thin.  Heat a large griddle and add some butter or bacon grease (a combo is really good).  Fry until golden brown on each side.  Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.
This amount made about 2 dozen Boxty.  My family was horribly sad that I did not make more.  Next time I will double, because leftovers are great for breakfast with fried eggs and sausage, or just warm with butter for a snack.  They're also delicious served German style, with some sort of sausage, and a side of sour cream and some applesauce!


Beef In Guinness

2 1/2 pounds of beef stew meat
1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
oil for frying (I added bacon grease for flavor)
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups Guinness or other dark Irish beer
1 cup water
6-8 large carrots, peeled and sliced thickly
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and halved (optional)
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
fresh chopped parsley, about 1/4 cup

Toss the meat in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.  In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, brown the meat in batches in the oil.  Just a few minutes is all it takes here.  Remove to a plate.  Add a bit more fat to the pot if necessary, and turn the heat down.  Add the onion and cook for 7 or 8 minutes until it is slightly softened.  Turn up the heat again, pour in the beer and water, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen all the goodness.  Add the beef back in, plus the carrots and mushrooms.  If the liquid does not come to the top of the meat and vegetables, add a bit more beer and water JUST to barely cover.  Season with salt, pepper and thyme.  When it comes to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes to thicken slightly.  If, during the cooking time, the liquid reduces too much, add a bit more.  Stir in the parsley at the end and serve either with Boxty, mashed potatoes, or plain boiled potatoes.
This made a large pot of stew, fed our family of 8 nicely, with a few servings left for lunch the next day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pasta with Chicken, Tomatoes, Capers and Fontina

You know those days you say, to your dog, yourself, or no one in particular:  "Hey, I've got pasta, chicken, canned tomatoes, and some other stuff.  What would be good?"

Maybe you don't have conversations in your head about food, but I sure do.  I am always thinking about the next meal while I'm eating or even cooking the current one.  Food obsessed, that'd be me.

We'll call it "advance planning" and leave it at that.  Therapy is too expensive.

I don't often have boneless skinless chicken breasts, but Mister bought a big bag at Costco and they are awfully handy to have around.  Hence last week's Sesame Chicken, and tonight's pasta dish.  I always have various canned tomato products, pasta, and all the usual things like onion, garlic, white wine.

Today I happened to have some other goodies.  My grocery store has, in their cheese department, a small basket of odds and ends from various cheeses.  I am in heaven.  I get to try all sorts of things, or just buy a bit of something I love.  Today I uncovered Dubliner cheddar, cream Havarti, and fontina.  I was in the mood for fresh parsley, figuring I'd use it in several other things, and I had a bottle of capers in the fridge.  Wheeee!

This recipe made a LOT of food!  When don't I cook big, though?  This fed all 8 of us, plus lunch for the man to take to work tomorrow, plus a few servings for some of the kids for lunch at home.  The others can eat p-b-j.

Note:  Some recipes say to rinse your capers before using.  I don't.  I happen to LOVE the briny, salty taste they have and don't want to waste it on my drain.  Decide for yourself.

Pasta with Chicken, Tomatoes, Capers and Fontina

1 1/2 pounds penne, rigatoni, or other medium pasta shape
salt and pepper
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 or 2 more tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 - 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained (save the juice for soup or something else)
3 tablespoons capers, undrained
1/2 cup or so of the pasta cooking water
1/4 cup fresh, flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup fontina cheese, diced

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until no longer pink, about 8 minutes.  If a lot of liquid has accumulated, pour some of it off.  Remove the chicken to the serving dish.  Add a bit more oil to the pan and reduce the heat to medium.  Add the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring, until they soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and stir, scraping the nice bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add in the tomatoes and capers, plus the reserved chicken, and cook on low for a few minutes. 

Meanwhile, have the pasta cooking in a large pot.  Right before you drain it, ladle out a couple of scoops of the water and add it to the skillet with the chicken.  You'll use about 1 cup of the water.  Drain the pasta and add it into the skillet with the sauce, tossing to combine.  Stir in most of the parsley.  This is not a "soupy" sauce.  Taste for seasoning.

Pour the pasta into a large serving dish and sprinkle with the diced fontina cheese.  Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lemon Curd

You don't have to be English and hold a high tea to partake of the bliss that is Lemon Curd.

You also don't need a bunch of fancy ingredients or advanced cooking skills.

Do you know Lemon Curd?  Oh, you should!  It is the thick, sweet, tangy, golden, creamy and heavenly spread that is best known as on of the elements of afternoon tea.  Lemon Curd, jam, Devonshire Cream, scones, tea, cucumber sandwiches, and other dainty and delicious things.

Lemon curd goes way beyond tea, though.  It makes a terrific filling for a cake, it's great on toast or bread (how we most often eat it), or as an addition to strawberry shortcake.  This summer, find some fresh-picked strawberries, split a biscuit, spread on some lemon curd, top with sliced strawberries, the other half of the biscuit, and a dollop of whipped cream.  In fact, skip dinner that night and just have the strawberry shortcake.  Plenty of food groups represented there.

Alright, let's take the mystery out of Lemon Curd.  Once you are convinced of your love, you'll be thrilled to know how quick and easy it is to make at home.  Cost may also work it's way into your heart - at my grocery store, an 8 ounce jar of lemon curd costs anywhere from $6-8.  Usually on the higher end.  That's a buck an ounce - ouch!

You need five food ingredients (actually four), a double boiler and your stove top, a citrus zester or grater, a whisk and a strainer.

Lemon Curd

5 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3-4 lemons (the zest from them, plus a 1/3 cup of juice)
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)

In the top of a double boiler, OR in a bowl that you can set over a pan of simmering water, combine the egg yolks, sugar, zest and juice. 

Today, 3 lemons provided the amount of juice needed.  Size and weight matter, so make sure you have 4 or even 5 lemons around, in case they are small or not as juicy.  Conventional lemons have wax on them, so either scrub them well or buy organic and just rinse.  You don't want wax in your lemon curd :)  I use a "zester" to remove the outer yellow skin from the lemon (no white, please), then chop the strands with a knife.  You can grate them on the small holes of a grater, same effect.  After you remove the zest, cut the lemons in half and squeeze or ream them to remove all the juice (I do it over a small strainer set in my measuring cup, no seeds that way).

Place the double boiler over simmering water, kept on low, OR place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, not letting it touch the water.  You don't want the egg yolks to scramble, only to cook very slowly and thicken.

Using a wire whisk, stir the mixture continually, and the process takes about 10-15 minutes.  At first it will get thinner and you'll believe you've messed up and it will never get thick.  Do not despair!  Keep whisking slowly and in a while it will start to thicken.  Once it gets to the consistency of thick cream, remove it from the heat.  Add the butter in 5 or 6 pieces, whisking each time to combine.  Now it will be nice and thick!

Depending upon your eggs, lemon curd may be a pale yellow (factory eggs with light colored yolks) or a much darker shade (organic eggs, farm raised chickens).  Mine is a lot darker than the curd I see in the grocery store.

Using a fine mesh strainer, push the curd through to strain out all the lemon zest.  Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.  It will keep for a couple of weeks, but it won't be around that long!

This recipe makes about 1 and 3/4 cups.  I was reminded that doubling the recipe is the smart thing to do, with the size family I have.  They all love it, and it disappears rapidly

In the double boiler.


Don't worry, the end product will be smooth and creamy!


Lovely, yellow joy.
Had to do a taste-test.


When the kids came upstairs for lunch, they could all smell lemons.  That's a good thing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sesame Chicken

I love "Chinese Food."  That's in quotations because what we eat and make in America, and especially in my part of the country, is enough to make Chinese people giggle politely.

So, then I love the "flavors" of Chinese or Asian cooking.  Ginger, soy, sesame, garlic, rice vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce.  Give me all sorts of noodles, sticky rice, and crispy vegetables. 

Chinese take-out is fine.  I could eat it every day, actually, but there's the whole cost thing, and the whole MSG thing (I know I can get it without MSG at many places), and there's the whole over-cooked-soggy-veggie aspect.  I'm sure there are great Asian places in smaller neighborhoods in bigger cities, but not near me.

We like a basic stir fry with lots of vegetables (colorful, please!), served over rice or noodles.  Beef, shrimp, chicken are all good, we're not picky about that.  I will not eat tofu.  Soy ought to be fermented to be healthy, as far as I've researched, and tofu isn't fermented.  Besides, the Sassy crew enjoys meat.

Most people think of Sesame Chicken as deep fried chunks of chicken, slathered in a medium-spicy, gooey-sweet glaze, and perhaps a few small vegetables thrown in for good measure.  Often, you're lucky to get a green onion or two, maybe a sliver of red bell pepper.  If that's the case, you might as well get some chicken nuggets, dip them in ketchup, munch a carrot stick and call it dinner.

Not this recipe!  This is a tasty, tangy, spicy glaze, chicken that is unbreaded, but rather lightly stir fried, and a medley of  crunchy vegetables.  It's more about the sauce than anything.  You can use whatever veggies you and your family enjoy best.  We tend to like the crispy-sweet things, like carrots, bell peppers, and sugar snap peas.  I tried to find baby bok choy at my store, but they were out.  It's a great veggie to add to stir fry and soup - think "dark green leafy."  Feel free to add broccoli, celery, summer squash, mushrooms, and anything else you like!

The sauce recipe makes two full cups.  I only use one for the finished dish, which leaves plenty left over to pour over a whole chicken while it roasts, brush on salmon as it finishes, stir into a pot of Asian chicken soup, or use as a sweet and spicy meatball glaze.  It will keep just fine in the refrigerator for a few weeks, at least.  You could definitely freeze this sauce.

You might not have all the ingredients in your pantry.  I didn't!  That's ok, I needed a walk to town.  The chili paste can be omitted, but add some heat from cayenne or red pepper flakes instead.  You'll miss the rich depth of the fish sauce component, but it won't ruin the sauce.  If you don't have sesame oil, no biggie, but you'll only get sesame flavor from the seeds sprinkled at the end.  Note on both these items:  READ LABELS.  At my store, one chili paste had MSG and cost a dollar less, one had good ingredients and was that dollar more.  Spend more for better health, friends.  Sesame oil comes in regular or toasted.  Toasted is about twice the price!  I got regular.  And sesame oil will keep forever in your fridge.  Buy a little bottle, it's so tasty!

This recipe will make plenty of dinner for the kids and I (man is dining out), plus leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  We're serving it over brown rice tonight. 

By the way, we started giving our kids chopsticks when they were tiny, 2 years old, and all they did was spear the food.  Today, most of them can use chopsticks with fairly decent skill.  It's a fun way to make a meal special, and it makes me slow down and taste my food :)

Sesame Chicken

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili paste
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 clove of garlic, minced or crushed
3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water

In a sauce pan, combine all ingredients except cornstarch and water.  Bring to a boil.  Add cornstarch-water mixture, lower heat slightly, and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Sauce should thicken nicely.  Taste to see if you want more heat (chili paste) or salt.  This sauce can be made hours or days ahead of time.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips or chunks
3 tablespoons peanut oil
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large red bell pepper (or other color), cut into chunks
8 ounces sugar snap or snow pea pods
8 ounces bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped scallions (green onions)
3 tablespoons sesame seeds

In a large skillet or wok, heat the peanut oil until it's very hot.  Add the chicken and quickly stir fry, keeping it moving.  When it is JUST done, remove from pan.  Add a bit more oil, and add the carrots to the pan.  Stir fry for 3-4 minutes, add the bell pepper, stir fry for 3-4 more minutes.  Add the pea pods, stir fry for 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken back to the pan, and fry it all together for a minute.  Pour one cup of the Sesame Sauce over the mixture, and cook for a minute.  Stir in the bean sprouts and scallions, cooking for another 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve immediately over rice or noodles.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Salmon Patties, Mustard Shallot Cream Sauce, and Cooking with Kids

I feel so very 1950's when I make Salmon Patties.  Loaf.  Croquettes.  I think I should host a ladies' luncheon, serve the food on trays in the Sun Room, and then play bridge.  In pearls and high heels, of course.

"Salmon is heart healthy."  Yes indeed, it is.  It's also darn tasty.  And the real deal, the wild-caught fish, is usually rather spendy for a large (or medium) family.  Have you ever bought canned salmon?  Get ON it.  It's good stuff. 

Salmon patties makes an otherwise expensive dinner into an affordable, delicious luxury.  It's also a really, really good reason to eat something that's fried in butter and olive oil.

Most of you know I have a half-dozen kids in my house.  They all belong to me, they are all adorable and well-behaved, and they all bring constant joy and pleasure to my life.  I am always organized and cheerful with them, homeschooling, crafting, exploring and enjoying every single day with them.

Or not.  Reality?  Seven people in the house, 24/7, joined by Mr. during the non-work hours.  They get sick, they fight, they make buckets of mess and noise, and generate endless rounds of meals and laundry.  Yet, somehow, every single day we get up and start all over again.  Because, truly, the fun and joy part is true.

What on earth does this have to do with Salmon Patties??????

My 7 (almost 8) year old daughter loves to do what Mom is doing.  Poor kid, she'll never be crafty or learn to sew, but she'll cook well, read lots of books, and dance in the kitchen.  Tonight, as in most nights, she wanted to "help with dinner."  At the Sassy house that means the real deal, not just setting the table.

Don't ever hesitate to get your kids in on the action.  They CAN handle knives!  We give our kids pocket knives for the 5th birthdays, and teach them how to use them, so why can't they use a good knife in the kitchen?  It's no more dangerous than riding a a bike or climbing a tree.  The sooner they learn proper technique and careful handling, the sooner they will be safe AND helpful.

Last week, I was under the weather.  And I needed soup.  My 10 year old boy peeled and chopped all the carrots, onions and celery for the soup.  Fine young man, he is.

My girly minced shallots tonight, whisked the roux, added each ingredient, and tasted the sauce.  She likes good food and knows what things ought to taste like, so she can take a bit and say "more salt, add some lemon, too thick" with fairly accurate results.  Often, we call the 15 year old boy into the action, because he has a highly developed sense of what good food is all about.  At 12 months, this kid was eating hot salsa and snacking on sardines.  These are the people you need to trust.  When he says "more pepper" we add more pepper.

It's repeated often, but when kids help cook and taste, they will be more likely to eat.  If they make the salad dressing, they will eat the salad.  If they chop the vegetables, they will eat the vegetables.  Go ahead and say nay, but have you really put it to the test?

Here's tonight's dinner.  This recipe uses two 15 ounce cans of salmon, and it makes plenty of patties for my family of eight.  You can make them larger, like hamburger, patties and serve them on buns, or make them smaller like I do and serve them with a sauce.  We also had rice and a salad, and it all got eaten and we walked away satisfied.  I'll say that a patty or two leftover is bliss the next morning, next to a fried egg and a slice of toast. 

One word about canned salmon.  I drain it, but I do NOT remove the skin or the bones.  Yep.  It all gets mashed up and formed into patties, and there are soooo many good things in the skin and bones.  Good fat, calcium, and most of all - flavor.  If you want to spend the time peeling off the skin and picking out the bones, go right ahead.  You'll get over it the next couple of times you make this. 


Salmon Patties

2 - 14.75 or 15 ounce cans pink salmon, drained
2 beaten eggs
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup bread crumbs (I used panko)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried)
grated zest and juice of one lemon
big pinch of salt, grinding of black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, mix all except the butter and oil.  Use your hands!  Shape into desired size - "burger" sized for buns, or smaller.

In a large skillet, on medium-high heat, melt the butter and oil together.  When it stops foaming, add as many patties to the pan that will fit without crowding.  If they crowd, they won't brown.  It usually takes 3 batches to fry all the patties.  After 4-5 minutes, carefully turn each patty and brown on the other side for a few minutes.  Drain on paper towels and keep warm until serving.  Tonight, my recipe made 16 patties.


Mustard Shallot Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons butter
1 - 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
1 tablespoon Dijon or grainy mustard
a pinch of dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice to finish, optional

In a sauce pan on medium heat, saute the shallots in the butter.  Add the flour and using a whisk, stir, cooking for a minute or two.  Add the wine and whisk to incorporate.  Add the cream, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium low, stirring, for 3-4 minutes.  If the sauce seems to thick, add a few tablespoons of water.  Taste for seasoning.  Add a splash of lemon juice at the end if you want to brighten up the flavor.  Serve over salmon patties.  This sauce is also great over chicken, any fish, or pork tenderloin.

(NOTE:  If you prefer a traditional "tartar" type of sauce, simply mix 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish.  My younger kids prefer the tartar sauce!)