Thursday, September 28, 2006

SAHM Cooking on a Rainy Night

In the midst of hard rain & cranky kids bursting into tears in the middle of doing homework, it is so nice to have a cozy dish to serve for dinner! I'm also, frankly, glad that J is the bad guy & I am the good guy in Boot's eyes tonight. I served chicken & dumpling casserole (which my oldest probably would have loved if the word "casserole" hadn't been mentioned), lima beans and applesauce. I should have made applesauce from scratch ( I love it all warm & honeyed), but was lazy & got Musselman's homestyle instead. For dessert, I've got some chocolate bread pudding in the oven. It should be ready just in time for CSI. Both these recipes are from stay-at-home mom friends of mine.

Chicken & Dumpling Casserole
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped celery
2 minced cloves garlic
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. flour
1 scant tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cans chicken broth (or about 4 cups of the real thing)
10 oz. frozen peas
4 c. cubed, cooked chicken

2 c. Bisquick
2 tsp. basil
2/3 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté onion, celery & garlic in butter until tender. Add flour, seasonings and broth. Bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat. Add peas & cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chicken & pour into greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Mix Bisquick and basil. Add milk & stir with fork just until thoroughly moistened. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls on top of chicken mixture. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Chocolate Bread Pudding
2 c. cubes of day-old French bread
1 c. chocolate chips
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/3 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 qt. casserole. Put bread in it. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Mix rest together. Beat well. Pour over bread. Put casserole in baking pan filled with 1" hot water. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve warm.

Am I Blue?

Why, no, I am not! Although the skies are stolidly grey today, with an autumnal chill in the air, I am actually quite snug and happy. I had a bowl of fabulous soup, with saltine crackers, for lunch. I rarely go to the trouble of cooking something just for me for lunch. But, I wanted to try this soup & knew J & the boys would not be thrilled with having blue cheese in their soup or wafting through the air as I stirred the pot. So, while they are enjoying sack lunches, I have cooked just for myself.

Bleu Potato Soup
7 red potatoes, peeled & diced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 diced onion
1 minced clove garlic
32 oz. chicken or veggie stock
8 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (my mom used 4 ounces & said it was fine that way)
Salt & pepper

Boil potatoes in water to cover until fork-tender. Heat oil in skillet. Sauté onion & garlic until golden. Add potatoes & sauté a couple minutes. Put in pot with stock & cheese. Bring to boil. Cover & simmer 10 minutes. Purée in batches in blender. Heat through, bringing to a simmer. Season with salt & pepper. Serves 4.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Starchy, Starchy

Last night, after poking around the bookstore, my Beloved finally got her desire to have dinner at Buca di Beppo. She's been talking about it since we moved up here, but we hadn't made it there yet. Under serious protest from grumpola Pie, we dragged the kids there instead of feeding them at home. Pie remained grumpy through the meal, but Boot really liked it there. The fun, kitschy atmosphere appealed to him. In fact, he asked tonight if we can go there again soon. Last night, when J said something about getting it to go sometime, he said, "No, no, the whole fun of it is eating here." The food was fine, but not spectacular. I expected, based on our previous Buca di Beppo experience, nothing more than what we got: Italian the way people's white bread moms used to make it in the 1970s when I was a kid. Boot loved his cheese pizza, which he shared with Pie. Pie ordered lasagna & we all nibbed some, since he had enough for 48 people. J & I had the penne cardinale, which has chicken, cream sauce, artichokes and crushed red pepper for some bite. We had garlic bread with cheese for our appetizer and chocolate Vesuvio for dessert. I found the cake-brownie thing in the dessert to be incredibly dry and the caramel sauce to be sadly sparse, but Pie devoured it. Tonight, there was plenty left for us each to have big portions again for our dinner. The boys shared the remains of the lasagna & we had the penne, with a nice Caesar salad & some Italian bread with olive oil dipping sauce.

Monday, September 25, 2006

September Soup Supper

Tonight, I made a dinner that prompted my 11-year-old to ask, "Are we having any meat with this???" Nope. Sorry, buddy. It was a warming dinner for an early Fall night. I served this soup with a loaf of Italian bread.

Curried Broccoli Potato Soup
2 cans chicken broth (I like the reduced-sodium kind)
2 c. milk
8 small new potatoes, quartered
2 carrots, sliced
1-2 tsp. curry powder (I lean toward 2)
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. cumin
2 c. broccoli florets
2 c. shredded cheddar

Mix broth & milk. Heat through. Add everything but broccoli & cheese. Bring to a boil. Cover & simmer 10 minutes. Pour into blender & purée. Return to pan. Add cheese, stirring to incorporate, allowing cheese to melt & then adding broccoli. Cover & simmer 10 minutes. Serves 4.

Revisiting Old Favorites

While the restaurants in Cleveland are quite good, we miss some of our usual haunts in Dayton. This past week, I had the opportunity to dine at two of them. On Thursday, I had a little spare time & planned to go have pad Thai or Massaman curry at Ban Thai in Beavercreek. Their food is wonderful & they are really friendly. Sadly, when I reached the parking lot, it was completely full! I figured that there probably wouldn't be any tables, so I drove on into Kettering for lunch at Ajanta India, my favorite Indian restaurant. Their parking lot was also full, but I finally found a spot. After I got parked, I happened to notice that the license plate of the car in front of me was Evvi's mom's. Evvi & I have enjoyed many Ajanta lunches together & I ate there with them when Garnet was one week old. We spent much of that meal just staring at her darling little face as she slept. I went in & surely enough, Evvi was there, having borrowed the car for a lunch with her friend Laura. I have met Laura before & really know her best as Queen Elizabeth, who she has played at the Renaissance Faire. I had some wonderful chicken tikka masala & an even better time listening to Evvi talk about spinning & Laura about her toddler & watching Garnet daintily tip ice out of my glass with a spoon. She is cuter than ever before, just a lovely girl at 2 years old.

On Saturday, we got to have dinner at Los Mariachis in Xenia, one of my favorite Mexican places. Boot just loves it there & has had his birthday dinner there more than once. He invariably orders chicken quesadillas, while Pie usually gets a cheeseburger. A travesty! Oh, well, we went there so often for a while that he got burned out on soft tacos. We took my grands out for dinner. My grandmama had a tamale, my granddad chose an enchilada & burrito combo, my Beloved had enchiladas with a beef tip sauce on top of them. I always have a hard time choosing there because they have so much that is good. This time, I got the chile verde, pork chunks with a delicious green sauce. This is served with rice & beans. I always think I'm going to have room for flan or sopaipillas, but that rarely happens.

Swiss Steak

Swiss steak is rather old-fashioned, but I really like it. I made some in the crock pot the other Sunday & served it with mashed potatoes & lima beans.

Crockpot Swiss Steak
3 tbsp. flour
4 lean cube steaks, tenderized
1 can tomato soup
14 oz. stewed tomatoes
Dash or two of Worcestershire sauce
Couple shakes parsley flakes
A grinding of pepper
A smidge of salt
A fistful of baby carrots, halved
1/2 c. chopped onion

Dredge the steaks in flour & put in greased crockpot (I like to use cooking spray). Mix everything else together & pour over steaks. Cook on low 6-8 hours.

Practicing Hospitality

Since we are talking about various spiritual practices, including the practice of hospitality, in one of my classes (and since the facilitator of my ministry formation group is a former gym teacher & frowns upon bringing treats to that), I decided to bake some cookies for the class. I availed myself of my grands' kitchen & baked up some snickerdoodles. As I was baking, my granddad asked me, "Now, what are these doodads called?" I was delighted with his wording because I was able to answer, "Snickerdoodadles!" We talked about how the name could have come to guess was Pennsylvania Dutch or something like that. That led us into a discussion of odd food names, like the Russian sandwiches my grandmom's mom originated in our family. My grandmom said she didn't know if her mom named them for whimsical reasons of her own or if she'd seen them named that in a recipe. We agreed that you can tell the origin is pre-cold war, because Russian isn't considered a bad thing & that there doesn't seem to be anything particularly Russian about them. They are made by toasting slices of bread (1 for each person eating...or 2, if you're hungrier), topping them with tomato slices, cooked bacon & slices of cheddar cheese, then broiling them until the cheese is melted. My mom, a vegetarian, omits the bacon & adds avocado. They are often all my grands eat for dinner, along with ears of sweet corn bought at the farm stand, for weeks at a time when tomatoes are in season. Anyway, the cookies:

3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 sticks butter, room temp
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 lg. eggs
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheets lightly. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar and nutmeg together. Cream butter, 1 1/3 c. sugar and vanilla together until light & fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing to incorporate. Add flour mixture on low & mix until well-blended. Drop 2" apart on prepared sheets. Mix the rest of the sugar with the cinnamon. Sprinkle over the cookies. Bake 12-13 minutes & cool on wire racks.

This recipe made enough to take 32 to class, leave 8 for my grands' tea time and bring another dozen or so home to my Beloved, whose mommy used to make her snickerdoodles.

Wednesday Night Cooking

Since my grands are kind enough to let me stay with them while I am in school, cooking for them on Wednesday nights seems the least I can do. The first week I was down there, I made potato cheese soup, as detailed in an earlier post. The second week, I made Cowboy Pie, which was very good & homey, with corn on the cob & salad.
Cowboy Pie
1 lb. lean burger
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped green pepper
15 oz. can kidney beans (or whatever kind of beans you favor), drained
8 oz. tomato sauce
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1 tsp. parsley
3-5 tbsp. shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease or spray a pie plate or 8x8 baking dish. Sauté burger, onion & pepper until burger is browned. Add beans, tomato sauce & chili powder. Bring to a boil. Put in pie plate. Quarter biscuits & place on top of meat mixture. Sprinkle with parsley. Top with cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

This past Wednesday, we made chicken pot pie. My grandmom had already boiled some chicken thighs, then boiled some veggies in the broth from that. She pulled the meat off the bones & drained the veggies, saving the broth to make gravy. By the time I got back from class, all that was left to do was to mix the meat & veggies up with a can of mushroom soup & a can of cream of chicken, then toss it in a premade pie shell. I topped it, vented the top and baked it at 350 degrees for a little over an hour while we hung out talking.

What I'm Eating in October

If all goes according to plan.

1: Italian beef sandwiches, macaroni & cheese, poached fruit, salad
2: Olive, artichoke & sausage quiche, salad, fried corn, pear sauce, wacky cake
3: J's choice
4: Pizza, salad, fruit (Boot's choice)
5: J's choice
6: Dinner out
7: J'c choice
8: Mexican casserole, papas a la Huancaina, salad, dulce de leche
9: Potato soup, good bread, fruit
10: J's choice
11: Cheeseburgers, fries, corn (Pie's choice)
12: J's choice
13: Red snapper a la Santa Barbara, boiled potatoes, artichokes w/tarragon drizzle, wilted lettuce, pear dessert
14: J's choice
15: Veal scallopine, penne w/vodka sauce, avocado & grapefruit spears, good bread, marshmallow cake
16: Alphabet chili veggies, fruit salad, corn & pepper scones
17: J's choice
18: Fried chicken, french fries, corn (Boot's choice)
19: J's choice
20: Chicken w/40 cloves of garlic, potato salad, cinnamon peaches
21: J's choice
22: Steak Diane, baked potatoes, roasted winter veggies, chocolate chip chess pie
23: Banana chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, toast
24: J's choice
25: Clam chowder, sourdough bread, fruit (Pie's choice)
26: J's choice
27: Roast chicken, roasted veggies, fruit w/dip, oven s'mores
28: J's choice
29: Cheese & sausage stuffed zucchini, penne w/asparagus & parmesan, garlic bread
30: Dinner out
31: J's choice

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Despite my bleoved having made tacos Saturday night, I went ahead and made carnitas last night as planned. Am I glad I did! The kids enjoyed them, J enjoyed them and so did I. I served them with warmed flour tortillas, Spanish rice and an iceberg salad with salsa dressing. Salsa & sour cream on the side are a nice touch, too. I have heard from a couple of people about how much of a pain in the butt it is to make carnitas, but I found it to be a breeze.

3 lb. pork, cubed (I used boneless country ribs)
2 large onions, halved
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. lard
1 1/2 c. milk

Cover pork with water in pan. Add onions, garlic and salt. Bring to boil and then simmer for 1 hour. Drain. Heat lard, milk and salt together. Add pork and cook, stirring often, until milk cooks away completely.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Fish Fry

The first time I can remember being aware of catfish, or of people frying it, was when I was 7 years old. We were visiting my aunt Jeannie in Vermont and went fishing. I caught 7 trout and my mom caught several trout and a couple of catfish. The catfish were so ugly, even somewhat frightening, that I couldn't believe my mom would eat them! Worse, she had fried catfish for breakfast!!!

I spent the rest of my younger years avoiding catfish scrupulously. The opportunity to eat them, frankly, didn't arise much. It wasn't until I was living in Nashville that I tried fried catfish for the first time. My then-partner & I were seated at a table right by Merle Haggard's table in Uncle Bud's. I decided that since Uncle Bud's specialized in catfish, it would behoove me to try it. I loved it. I have since learned to make it, not as well as they do at Uncle Bud's, but not too badly, either. Last night, when my beloved indicated that she would just as soon not have Jamaican beef patties and when my oldest said, "No, thank you" when I said that's what was for dinner, I decided to fry up some catfish. Neither child liked it & they chose to eat the enormous chicken breast we had baked as a precautionary measure. However, we adults quite enjoyed our dinner. We had the fish with just-shucked sweet corn and spicy steak fries. J made Ghirardelli brownies, as well. Mmm. This recipe feeds a bunch of people, but you can always cut it down. Just make sure you keep the proportions right.

Fried Catfish
3 eggs, beaten
Salt & pepper
Dash of cayenne
1/2 c. milk
2 c. flour
2 c. cornmeal
24 catfish fillets
Oil for frying

Mix together the eggs, salt, pepper, cayenne and milk. Put in a shallow dish. Mix the flour & cornmeal together. Dip the fish pieces in the milk mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture. Shake off the excess batter, then fry. You can deep fry it at 350 degrees until the fish is golden, about 5 minutes, or you can fry it in a skillet, flipping after the first side is golden. You want to make sure you drain it on a paper-towel-lined plate before serving it, either way.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Soup & Stew Season is Here

The weather is starting to cool down some here in Ohio, so I have started making soups. I made creamy potato cheese soup for my grandparents the other night. We had some fabulous rye bread from Big Sky bakery in Centerville and a delicious cantaloupe from the local farm stand. Then, Friday afternoon, I threw some beef stew in the crockpot & we had that with Italian bread & salad. It was perfect for a cool Friday evening at home.

Creamy Potato-Cheese Soup
3 tbsp. butter
2 c. chopped onions
1 lg. clove garlic, minced
5 medium potatoes, peeled & coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped (or a handful of baby carrots, quartered)
3 c. chicken or veggie stock
1 tsp. dill
4 oz. cream cheese, diced
1 1/2 c. milk
1 c. grated cheddar (I am partial to Cabot's extra-sharp or Tillamook)
Salt & pepper, as needed

In a large soup pot, sauté onions & garlic in butter until onions are translucent. Add potatoes & carrots & sauté 5-10 minutes. Add stock and dill. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Purée the vegetables with the cream cheese and milk in a blender. Return to the pot. Adjust seasonings. Add cheddar & reheat gently. If you don't have a blender handy, as I didn't in my grandmom's kitchen, the soup turns out nicely with the veggies just mashed with a standard potato masher.

Beef Stew
2 pounds bottom round, in 2" pieces
1 c. flour
1/3 c. olive oil
2 large onions, diced
6 oz. tomato paste
1 c. dry red wine (I used merlot)
1 lb. potatoes, in 2" pieces
1/2 lb. baby carrots (I halved mine, but you don't really need to)
2 c. beef stock
1 tbsp. kosher salt
Pepper, to taste
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
1 c. frozen peas, thawed

Coat beef in flour. Heat a few tbsp. olive oil in a skillet on medium-high. Brown the meat. Put in crockpot. Cook the onions in same skillet until tender. Add tomato paste & stir to thoroughly coat onions. Put in crockpot. Deglaze the skillet with the wine, pouring everything in it into the crockpot. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the peas. Cook on low 7 1/2 hours or on high 4. Add peas & heat through.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

End-of-Summer Shortcake

...among other dishes. The other night, I made a gorgeous shortcake to end our dinner. The rest of the dinner was just fine, but I would have been happy just to eat the shortcake. I made Cuban-style braised chicken, oven-baked mashed potatoes, thyme green beans and peach shortcake. Here are the recipes:

Braised Chicken Cuban-Style
3 lb. chicken pieces
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 minced cloves garlic
1/4 c. each orange juice & lime juice
1 thinly-sliced onion
2 tbsp. olive oil

Mix seasonings together. Add garlic & juices. Put in a gallon Ziploc bag. Add chicken & onions & marinate at least 2 hours. Pat the chicken dry. Heat oil on medium-high heat. Brown the chicken well on all sides. Cook 10 minutes on medium-low. Drain the fat, set the chicken aside & add the marinade to the pan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Return chicken to the pan and simmer 30 minutes. Remove chicken, keeping it warm. Bring the pan juices to a boil, cook until slightly thickened & serve over chicken.

Oven-Baked Mashed Potatoes
6 servings worth of instant mashed potatoes, prepared with cream cheese instead of butter
8 oz. cream cheese, cubed
2 tbsp. chopped scallion
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Add scallion & parsley to potatoes. Spoon into small casserole. Dot with butter & sprinkle with paprika. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Thyme Green Beans with Almonds
1 lb. fresh green beans
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. thyme
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp. slivered, toasted almonds (I suspect that smoked almonds, chopped, would be extra-good in this)

Steam the green beans (I use the electric steamer my uncle Vic & aunt Nyoko gave me all the time. Of course, regular pan steaming works fine, too, but I never thought I'd use an electric steamer until I had one & I love it!). Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add all but the almonds & heat through. Sprinkle with almonds before serving.

End-of-Summer Peach Shortcake
3 c. flour
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. Crisco
3/4 c. milk
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease 9" cake pan. Sift dry ingredients together. Cut shortening in by hand. Add milk & egg, kneading until well-mixed. Put into greased pan. Bake 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Remove from pan & cool on wire rack. Cut in wedges, slice wedges in half, fill with peaches & whipped cream and place top half of shortcake on top. Add another dollop of whipped cream, for a truly decadent touch. By the way, I like to whip my cream with a smidge of sugar and a dash of vanilla. A little amaretto would be a nice addition to the whipped cream, if your beloved doesn't find it hateful, like mine does.
8 fresh, ripe peaches
1/3 c. sugar
Peel & slice peaches. Sprinkle with sugar & let stand for half an hour or so before spooning over shortcake.