Monthly Archive: September 2015

Chopped Baskets Revealed

I love Chopped! At least to the extent I have watched about 30 episodes of it on Netflix. Here is an article/interview that tells us about the selection process.

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Poor Kids

Using the other half of a large pack of kielbasa

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, yesterday I made “kielbasa and cabbage.” This was inspired by my grandmother having served that now and then. It was kind of an alternative to boiled dinner.

I included a cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and seasoning. I loved it. Two of the kids wouldn’t touch it, even though all three kids love kielbasa in the form of sweet & sour, and one of them loves potatoes and carrots. The one who tried it liked it OK, except I gave her just a bite of cabbage and it apparently had a piece of red pepper flake or something else strong in it. Two of the kids have eaten salad at school that included cabbage along with lettuce, so they weren’t as weirded out by cabbage as they might have been. Just by it being cooked.

The wife has yet to try it. She snacked too close to supper, too much to be hungry. She enjoyed the smell, though.

Sweet & Sour Kielbasa

Is this frugal? Maybe, or maybe not, but it is something I make regularly, much beloved by everyone in the house. It’s a rare meal that all three kids eat. I don’t have a recipe, but it’s straightforward. I was inspired by a dish of the same name by my sister, as more of a party appetizer, using whole berry cranberry sauce. Mine is more savory.

I put a tiny bit of water in a saucepan, and add a can of jellied cranberry sauce. Brand makes no difference, so I’m always delighted to get store brand for 99¢, or less in the case of an extended sale Hannaford had last fall. I like to use a small whisk to break it up, as the goal is to reduce it back to liquid. For a heavier batch, you can use a second can of cranberry. For thinner sauce, more water.

I add ample dry mustard (tablespoon?), some ginger and plenty of allspice. To be honest, between the flavor of cranberry sauce and kielbasa, I am not sure how much influence the seasoning even has. I think the mustard helps make it more savory, and I can tell the allspice is there. Ground cloves could probably sub for allspice, but I’d use less. They go well in homemade cranberry sauce, so it makes sense.

The other ingredient for the sauce is brown sugar. A lot of it. That’s the sweet. The cranberry without it is pretty tart. It also acts as a thickener, but too much would need to be balanced back out, if only by more mustard.

To the sauce I add pieces of kielbasa, thinly sliced coins, as much as I can manage. Cooked kielbasa! Obviously if you were starting from uncooked, you would want it to cook before saucing and finishing it off. I like the kielbasa to simmer on low heat in the sauce for long enough to darken and add its flavor to the sauce. How the sauce tastes before adding kielbasa is nothing like how it will taste, so use caution when you taste it before adding the meat and want to panic. The kielbasa, after a while, almost candies in the sauce.

I serve it over white rice. The beauty of this is you soak the rice with lots of sauce and put limited kielbasa on top, then the flavor is all in the rice and the rice becomes like eating meat. To add some kind of veggie, I normally have corn as a side. Tonight I also made butternut squash. I love this time of year! Butternut for 79¢ a pound yesterday.

I use Hillshire Farm kielbasa. One package, 14 oz, will do, but I generally use 1.5 to 2 packages worth. The beef kind can be used but has a different taste and texture. This has gotten rather high in price. Before Market Basket essentially shut down last year, it was routinely $2.99 and sales could be less. Once they opened, it was one of the things that was higher , be it because of supplier issues or needing to make up for the cost of being closed. Now a rare sale is $2.99, but they have large packs, equivalent to three regular ones, that are a much better buy. That makes it easier to make larger amounts.

Rice is cheap and overall it’s a reasonable, easy to stretch meal. It’s also quick and easy to make, and hard to mess up.

Allergy Update

Allergies became part of the focus of this site because my son, now eight, turned out to have multiple allergies. Even before we knew that, he had sensitivity to salicylates, which he outgrew. Until he did outgrow them, it border on being “allergic to food.” Not good. He still tends to prefer the things he could always eat, like potato, beans, corn and peas. Worse, he was also sensitive to azo dyes, the degree varying depending on the color. Since he could not drink fruit juice, and could not drink things like Kool-Aid that were colored, we relied heavily on clear Kool-Aid, the watermelon kiwi flavor.

Ultimately he tested allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, bananas, egg (whits and yolks), and dairy. Peanut was the only one for which we never saw evidence outside of testing. Bananas were particularly bad, but as much in a digestive way as anything.

He ultimately outgrew everything but the tree nuts, which are just as clear cut as ever…

In June this year, last day of school, we had to use an epi-pen for the first time in all these years. On the way to school, the crossing guard was giving out Munchkins, and he ate a chocolate one. I am not sure of the veracity of this, but he says his mouth itched during school. After coming home, he had mint chocolate chip ice cream. That’s his favorite, which he has had many times. Later still, he had a fudgesicle from a local supermarket chain, store brand. Following that, he got red faced, hives, had trouble swallowing, and may have had a little trouble breathing. It took two of us to overcome his objection to being injected. Then we had an ambulance ride, somewhat greater treatment than normal, and a rapid recovery and return home. I hadn’t known before then that ranitidine is an antihistamine and is used for allergy treatment. He hated it. Also had trouble with the nebulizer.

Anyway, that was kind of weird, since it appeared he’d reacted to the fudgesicles, which were a new thing, but which weren’t even co-processed in a facility where they could have been exposed to allergens. That was a Friday.

The next Monday, he had more mint chocolate chip ice cream and got covered in hives, but nothing some Benadryl couldn’t handle. Still, that was one of the same foods, all three of which had contained chocolate. Smaller amount of chocolate… smaller reaction?

We took him for allergy testing for chocolate. In practice this included the entire standard panel of sixty tests, so there were some he’d never been tested for before.

He remained allergic to tree nuts, reacting to three of those, rather than merely two as happened the previous three tests. He was back to reacting to peanut and banana. We’d avoided both of those, just because (actually, he refused to try them, but not a bad idea). He did not react to chocolate/cocoa, but he did test positive for peas and soy. That’s funny, as he eats peas regularly and loves them, and he still uses soy milk, soy butter, and soy margarine. The only time he has ever reacted to soy, long past, was from consuming spoiled soy milk. Fascinating, given the test result, but these are two positives we can ignore.

Since he didn’t test positive to chocolate but we wanted to be sure, he then got the blood test. That was fun. His veins are even harder to find than mine, and he screamed a lot. It took three trips to try getting blood drawn before it actually happened.

Chocolate was negative. Yay! This left a mystery, though. The most logical thing, given the clues and that the prime, overwhelming allergy that remains unambiguously is to tree nuts, is that the mint chocolate chip was contaminated. Perhaps it was worse the first day because so was the Munchkin. Or perhaps because the contamination was fresh. In retrospect

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, I can picture ice cream with nuts getting scooped, then the same scoop getting reused in the other flavor without being fully cleaned. Kitchen things are the gift of choice for Dad, so for my birthday the kids got me the superlative ice cream scoop of their dreams. One, which takes it rapidly out of service. However, it can be rinsed and used in a second container right afterward. And that’s what must have happened.

There have been no further scares. We’re being more careful about cross-contamination. It’s never been that much of a problem before.

Banana and Peanut Butter

Second daughter has become fond of peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Thought they sounded good when I described eating them as a kid. Most people are horrified. I don’t really eat those now , but I love PB and banana together… small gob of PB on each bite of banana. The flavors are completely natural together, in my opinion.

Sadly, peanut butter can give me severe indigestion. Sadly, bananas can give me severe indigestion, only more so. Which makes me wonder if my son gets his banana allergy from me, since the way he reacted to banana was mainly digestive, but over the top. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s essentially a minor allergic reaction on my part.

Anyway, anyone else out there love peanut butter and banana? How about other unusual combos with peanut butter, on bread or not?