Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Black-Eyed Pea, April 7, 2018

On April 7, 2001, my wife and I went on our first official date, at The Winds Cafe in Yellow Springs, Ohio. We indulged in brie and steak and all sorts of other wonderful things. We talked and talked. On April 7, 2018, we had a considerably less fancy dinner to celebrate our anniversary. We took our wee boy with us. At nearly 2 1/2 years old, he is not currently fit for fancy restaurants. I'd been curious about Black-Eyed Pea and had just gotten a gift card in my Easter basket, so it seemed like a logical choice. I was a little nervous it wouldn't be that great, but figured if it wasn't, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Luckily, though, it was yummy, indeed.

We shared the fried green tomatoes and the Buffalo chicken tenders for appetizers, although most of it came home with us. The tenders were, in fact, very tender inside and perfectly crisp outside. The sauce was a bit sweeter than I prefer my Buffalo sauce, but still good. The fried green tomatoes were stunningly good, just the right thickness and cooked just right. I was a bit surprised that they were served with ranch instead of a remoulade sauce or something like that, but it was good.

For my main course, I chose the chicken-fried chicken with cream sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy, and fried corn. I'd been planning to order fried okra, but was convinced by the waitress to get the corn because I "can get fried okra anywhere." I was a bit puzzled by that statement, since we're in Colorado, not Tennessee, but figured, "Yeah, fried corn isn't that common out, either." My wife had ordered it and I was worried I would have dinner plate envy, if it was as amazing as the waitress suggested. Well, it wasn't much my cup of tea. I was actually a bit shocked when it arrived at the table, to be perfectly honest. My wife and wee boy loved it, but I was somewhat appalled. Somebody had decided it was a good idea to batter an entire ear of corn and fry it! I mean, the batter was good batter, but it was way over the top for me! I ended up peeling it off and leaving it behind on my plate. The corn underneath was pretty good for restaurant chain corn on the cob and for this time of year, but I wouldn't order it again. My chicken, though, was delicious and the mashed potatoes were very flavorful, all lumpy and earthy.

My wife's ribeye was very, very juicy and full of goodness. She had a broccoli rice casserole, along with the fried corn. It seemed a bit loose, for lack of a better word, to me. Wee boy wanted fish and chips, with a side of mac and cheese. He was the most excited about the big fries, dipping one after the other in tartar sauce.

We were happy to see that they offer their desserts in either cup or bowl size, so we were able to get smaller versions of two different desserts. I was deeply disappointed in the cherry cobbler, in which the cherries had turned into a weirdly congealed, chewy mess. However, the banana pudding was smooth and yummy, if a bit short on the Nilla Wafers.

Blintz Casserole with Strawberry Orange Mango Sauce, Brunch, April 7, 2018

I don't actually love blintzes, but it seemed like it would be fun to try my hand at a blintz-like breakfast casserole, anyway. My poor wife was expecting it to be like the scalloped pineapple I made for Easter, so she was a bit disappointed with it. I liked it pretty well, although if I'm going to indulge in a sweet brunch, I want it to be outstanding. Our wee boy ate it with great gusto. I'm happy to have some leftover strawberry orange mango sauce. I think I'll have to pick up some good vanilla ice cream to finish it off. It would be easy to make with any kind of berries or frozen fruit. I'm thinking I'll try it with straight-up mangoes next, perhaps over some big, fat waffles.

Blintz Casserole
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (neufch√Ętel would work nicely here, too)
8 oz. ricotta
4 eggs
1/2 tbsp. sugar + 1/8 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 c. orange mango juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the cream cheese, ricotta, 1 egg, 1/2 tbsp. sugar, and vanilla together until well-mixed to make filling. For batter, beat butter with 1/8 c. sugar and 3 eggs. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and juice. Beat well. Pour half the batter into a greased 8x8 baking dish. Top with filling, spreading as evenly as you can. Cover that layer with the remaining batter. Bake until firm and golden on top, about 45-50 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with sauce. Serves 4-6.

Strawberry Orange Mango Sauce
16 oz. frozen strawberries (sub any fruit you like), thawed
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. orange mango juice

Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, mashing berries with a wooden spoon as they cook. Simmer, whisking, until thickened (about 5 minutes). Cool before serving. 

Long Ziti with Meat Sauce, April 6, 2018

My wife loves making pasta for dinner. Recently, I can't recall where, she found long ziti. Friday night, she made it with doctored Classico red sauce. She added onions, peppers, garlic, Italian seasoning, sweet Italian sausage, and shredded parmesan. It was heavenly, although the thick noodles were a bit unwieldy. She served it with a bagged Caesar salad and some grocery store ciabatta which she slathered with garlic butter and parmesan before baking. Delish!

Tuna Melts, April 5, 2018

I'd intended to have brisket and all kinds of yummy sides like tzimmes on Thursday, but we realized while we were out and about that we had forgotten to thaw the meat. The good news was that we were both more in the mood for tuna melts, anyway, and our wee boy eats those like a champ. He's not terribly picky in general, but he loves tuna melts! I was tired and it was wonderful to realize I could change gears from a big, somewhat labor-intensive feast to this simplest of meals--tuna melts, chips, and wedges of a glorious Cara Cara orange. Had I been feeling more ambitious, I would have dumped a salad out of a bag. Ha ha! I decided to try making the tuna salad with half mayo and half Miracle Whip, to very good effect. I liked the extra tanginess it added quite a bit. I always use chopped celery, sweet pickle relish, salt, pepper, and not much else. That night's tuna melts were either Wonder bread with American cheese or 17-grain bread with marble cheese. Me, I like mine with toasted Wonder bread and American cheese.

Fajitas, April 4, 2018

I had book group on Wednesday, so my dear wife made supper while I was away. At book group, we discussed Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, ate cheese, salami, and other yummies, and drank wine. I wasn't starving when I got home, but walking in to the yummy smell of my wife's chicken fajitas was terrific! She used a Frontera Grill sauce as the base, but she always does a lot of doctoring and this time was no exception. She also served us Goya refried pinto beans, which we'd never had before but enjoyed, and apple slices.

Bacon & Bleu Meatloaf, April 3, 2018

When winter is encroaching on spring, as it frequently does here in Colorado, a good comfort dinner is perfect. The weather's been all over the place and I'm not averse to having a great leftover meatloaf sandwich when the outside temperature is in the 70s, either, but this dinner was perfect for the snowish weather. I made a different kind of meatloaf than usual, adding blue cheese where I seldom use cheese at all and adding bacon both crumbled within and laid across the top. It was delicious! My wife doesn't like blue cheese and didn't detect it at all, while I felt like it added to the overall flavor fulness, without being aggressive. I made mashed potatoes, corn, and veggies with Caesar dip to go along with the meatloaf.

Bacon & Bleu Meatloaf
5 or so strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled (save grease)
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 lb. ground beef
2 eggs
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. dry breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
4 oz. blue cheese crumbles
3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 or 5 more slices bacon, uncooked

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook onion in bacon fat (it's fine to sub olive oil, though) until translucent and softened. Mix together everything but the uncooked bacon. Pat into a loaf, either in a regular loaf pan or in a 13x9 baking pan. Top with uncooked bacon strips. Bake about an hour and 15 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes or so before slicing to serve. Serves 6. 

Caesar Veggie Dip
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pea-sized dollop anchovy paste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh veggies for dipping (we had baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and sugar snap peas)

Mix everything but veggies together. Serve with veggies. Makes enough for 4. 

Monday, April 02, 2018

Orange Rosemary Sticky Rolls, April 2, 2018

I don't usually get too fancy with Monday morning breakfasts, but this morning, I felt like making something a little special, since we didn't have any kind of special Easter brunch, just eggs and toast. Not that eggs and toast aren't lovely. Just ask Carrie Newcomer. Anyway, I had all the ingredients for Susan Wittig Albert's lemon rosemary sticky rolls from her China Bayles novel, Bittersweet, so I decided to make those. Alas, I discovered that I didn't have the lemons called for, so I decided to riff on it by subbing an orange. I want to try the recipe the way she wrote it, as her recipes are always excellent, but for now, my version was pretty dang good! The rolls weren't terribly pretty, though, as they stuck to the pan, so were rather disheveled. I had more than enough filling and glaze. Guess I should try to figure out something else to do with them.

Orange Sticky Rolls
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. allspice
Zest and juice of 1 orange (you need 3 tbsp. orange juice altogether)
Minced leaves of 1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 tbsp. butter, room temp
7.5 oz. tube crescent rolls
2 oz. cream cheese, room temp 
1/2 c.powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugar, allspice, orange zest, and rosemary together. Add 2 tbsp. juice and butter. Mix well. Spread over crescent dough, then divide into 8 along perforations. Roll from wide end to pointy end, not sealing too tightly. Curve corners slightly inward. Place on baking sheet. Bake 11-13 minutes. Mix cream cheese and powdered sugar together, along with the remaining tablespoon of orange juice. Slather on finished rolls.