Thursday, December 14, 2017

Swedish Meatballs, December 13, 2017

Being of Swedish stock, I like to celebrate St. Lucia Day. St. Lucia is the patron saint of Sweden and her feast day is traditionally celebrated there, in part, with the oldest daughter of the family, clad in a white gown with a red sash, wreath of candles on her head, starting the day by bringing special coffee cake to the family in bed. I didn't get my act together to make the coffee cake (I actually usually do sweet buns) this morning, so I decided to skip the Van De Kamp fish I had planned for dinner and make the Swedish meatballs we picked up the last time we were at IKEA. I'd also gotten the sauce packet they sell, so I was able to use that cheat, too. I usually make my meatballs and sauce from scratch, using my cousin Lenore's recipe. However, it was great to be able to throw this together in no time, with very little effort. 15 minutes in the oven for the meatballs, 5 minutes to mix up the sauce, boil some egg noodles & season them with butter & dill, toss a bag of salad in a bowl, and done.

Chile Cheese Egg Bake, December 12, 2017

It was breakfast for dinner last night, with a scrumptious and super cheesy egg bake, sausage patties, fresh fruit, and maple cornbread with molasses maple butter. Boot adores cornbread--I wish y'all could have seen the two giant wedges he has. One great benefit about having your kids move back in with you for a bit is that there's much, much less food waste. Honestly, I would skip the maple syrup in the cornbread next time and just serve it with the butter, which is sweet enough for anyone. The bread and butter recipes came from Bon Appetit, although I modified the butter.

Chile Cheese Egg Bake
10 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
Grinding of pepper
8 oz. diced green chiles (I prefer Hatch chiles)
16 oz. lowfat cottage cheese
16 oz. colby jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add dry ingredients to eggs. Mix in everything else. Place in greased 13x9. Bake 30-35 minutes. Cut into squares for serving. Serves 8-10.

Maple Cornbread
2 1/3 c. cornmeal
1 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 1/3 c. buttermilk
4 eggs
3/4 c. maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 12" cast iron skillet (you can also use a 9x9 baking pan). Pulse dry ingredient briefly in a food processor or mix well by hand. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse meal. Whisk the buttermilk, eggs, and syrup together. Add dry mixture and stir just until moist. Put in skillet. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serves 10-12. 

Maple Molasses Butter
1 stick butter, softened
1/8 c. maple syrup
1 tbsp. dark molasses

Mix well and serve with the above cornbread or any other sturdy bread. 

Orecchiette with Garden Sauce, December 11, 2017

I very seldom make pasta sauce from scratch. I almost always get a jar of Newman's sauce of some sort or another, brown some ground beef, and add some parmesan and extra seasonings while warming the sauce. I really like my pasta that way. However, I was inspired by an Ina Garten recipe from her Cooking for Jeffrey, orecchiette with farm stand pasta sauce. I am a much lazier cook than Ina, however, and she would probably be appalled to see what I did with her creation. Ah, well. Sorry, Ina! I served it with a complete bastardization of her kale salad, as well as some crusty Pugliese bread from the local grocery. It was tasty and made a ton. Luckily, Boot really loved it and made it vanish in just a couple days. I'd been looking at it, as I put away the leftovers, and wondering how on earth we were ever going to eat it all. By all means, try her recipe, but this is quite serviceable.

Orecchiette with Garden Sauce
Good olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 small carrots, peeled & finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced (or a couple tbsp of the pre-chopped stuff my wife likes to keep on hand)
28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 c. dry red wine (I used Pinot Noir)
6 oz. tomato paste
A handful fresh basil, cut in chiffonade
A handful Italian parsley, minced
1 tbsp. sugar (normally, I would be resistant, but I've been reading about how it helps tame the acidity of the tomatoes)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper
24 oz. orecchiette
Good quality parmesan, shredded

In large, heavy pot, heat some olive oil on medium heat. Add onion, celery, & carrots, cooking until they are tender, 10-15 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add tomatoes, wine, tomato paste, basil, parsley, sugar, red pepper, a pinch of salt, and a good grinding of black pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer about an hour. Cook the pasta, drain, and add to sauce, stirring to mix completely. Heat through. Serve with cheese. Serves 8-10. 

Kale Salad with Pancetta
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1 large clove garlic
1 tbsp. Dijon
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt & pepper
2/3 c. olive oil
1 bunch Lacinato kale, stems removed
2 oz. pancetta, diced
A handful of garlic croutons
A handful of shaved parmesan

Whiz everything up to the kale in a food processor until it emulsifies. Stack the kale leaves and slice them into thin ribbons. Toss with just enough dressing to coat the kale. Cook the pancetta in a little hot olive oil until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Add croutons to the pan and toast. Toss pancetta, croutons, and shaved parmesan with the kale. Serves 2-4. 

Kielbasa and Kraut, December 10, 2017

My wife and I spent Sunday afternoon trying to wrap up shopping for Wee Boy. When we arrived home and realized we needed to figure out supper, neither of us could figure out anything that sounded very good. She'd been talking about getting barbecue and I pored over the menu online, trying to find one thing that didn't make me feel ill just thinking about it. I often enjoy barbecue, done well, and especially pulled pork. When we lived in Cleveland, we'd often venture out to Bubba's Q. In Columbus, it was trips to City Barbecue (with their alluring banana pudding). In Michigan, we'd discovered Union Woodshop, in Clarkston, and were impressed. However, I just was not feeling it, even though I think Dickey's is okay. I finally decided I could manage a kielbasa sandwich, even though I was secretly (okay, maybe not so secretly) hoping she'd just bring me a chicken sandwich from Burger King.

What she came home with, however, was something that made me very happy, indeed. She'd managed to stumble upon something we both actually felt like eating. Kielbasa and kraut! She got two different kinds of smoked sausage, actually. She and Wee Boy cut them up and chucked them into a pan with a big ol' jar of Vlasic sauerkraut. She was sorry she forgot to put in the apple. I was relieved! I don't like apples in my kraut. She served it with leftover mashed potatoes and more corn. Y'all should have seen Wee Boy shoveling in the potatoes, the kraut, the corn, the sausage! He completely loved the meal. I expect him to be a big fan of my annual New Year's Day White Dinner, too.

Oven-Fried Chicken, December 9, 2017

By Saturday, Jeannene was feeling well enough to cook. I think the cold affected what she was hungry for because all she wanted, all weekend, was comfort food. Saturday night, that turned out to be oven-fried chicken, with Bob Evans mashed potatoes and corn. She loves to mix the corn and potatoes together. In this case, they were all mixed together and covered in chicken gravy! She was in heaven! Me, I like to keep mine separated and I am happy as a clam.

The chicken was incredibly flavorful. She usually does Shake & Bake, which I don't find terribly memorable. She tried a different kind, one we'd never seen before, because neither of us can resist trying something we've not had. I think it was maybe called "Kentucky Colonel's" or something along those lines, just hinting at the 11 herbs and spices without slipping into the dangerous territory of copyright infringement. The coating tasted delicious, but didn't quite achieve a crisp texture. It was a bit floppy and my wife was disappointed with it until she tried it and realized the chicken inside was very juicy and the coating tickled the tastebuds very pleasantly. Me, personally? I would definitely use it again, but for chicken that's actually fried. I think it would be the perfect combo of great taste and pleasing texture.

Taco Loco, December 8, 2017

My wife arrived home from work on Friday completely bushed. She's been fighting a sinus infection, but hasn't been willing to miss work. By Friday, typically her night to make or obtain dinner, she was totally done. She walked in the door and asked if I'd be willing to run out for Mexican food, she didn't care where. The easiest thing to do would have been to head for the 24-hour drive-thru Mexican place in town. However, I've been wanting to take her to Taco Loco ever since Wee Boy and I met Barbara & Les there before going to the concert on the lawn with them over the summer.

Barbara says each place in town is good for a particular thing. For me, Taco Loco is definitely a carnitas joint. I was so impressed with their deliciousness! So, I got a carnitas platter, a chicken chimichanga with sides of beans and rice because Wee Boy adores beans & rice, an order of chips & salsa with guacamole, and a chorizo and cheese dish I thought was going to be like the cheesy dip you usually see at Tex-Mex places. It was not at all like that, but it was yummy tucked into a tortilla. The carnitas were as luscious as I remembered. The chicken chimi, on the other hand, was not very great. It was fine, but nothing special at all. I wasn't nuts about the salsa, either. It was the very liquidy sort that's brownish and vaguely red. But those carnitas! Worth the trip!

Pizza & Wings, December 7, 2017

We had this great plan to have every Thursday be Leftoverpalooza night. We would waste less food & clear out the fridge for the weekend grocery shopping. I came up with the idea a few months ago, but hadn't written it into my formal menu planning until this month. We have yet to do it. Either we end up with no leftovers or we don't feel like eating them or something else comes up.

Last Thursday, when I told my wife it was Leftoverpalooza, she said, "I've got dinner." She came home with two huge pizzas from Papa Murphy's, one with spinach, chicken, and sausage, the other with pepperoni. She added extra cheese. She loved the chicken one, I loved the pepperoni one. Boot's girlfriend and I often joke about how similar Boot and his mother are--and how much alike we two are. Sure enough, she loved the same pizza I did, while Boot sang the praises of his mom's favorite. However, she and Boot were aligned on the hot wings Jeannene brought home from the grocery to have with the pizza--they weren't that hot and they didn't know what we were talking about!