Monday, December 03, 2007

Banana Goodness

The 17 hours I'm taking this semester haven't prevented me from cooking, but they have eaten away at my time to blog. Thought I'd quick pop in and share my breakfast-for-dinner from last night. J snoozed on the couch while I cooked and awoke to a full breakfast set before her. I made the Lone Mountain Ranch's banana granola pancakes with bacon on the side and dished up some of the pear apple sauce I made last week to go with it.

Banana Granola Pancakes
1 1/2 c. flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch salt
1 c. granola
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
2 bananas, sliced very thin
3 tbsp. melted butter

Mix dry ingredients together. Beat eggs with milk. Pour over flour. Stir to moisten. Add bananas & stir. Add butter & stir. Spray a skillet with cooking spray & heat. Ladle the batter into the skillet to form pancakes. Cook until bubbles form in the cakes and flip. Cook another minute or two. Keep warm as you repeat with the rest of the batter. Good with maple or hickory syrup. Serves 4.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Little Zap of Caffeine

For some reason, my chosen class to bake for this year is not as interested in eating as last year's choices. I wonder if it's because break is at 10:30 as opposed to 3:30. Anyway, I just baked for them & it's a morning-sounding treat, in name if not in practice. They taste just like a mocha cappuccino.

Cappuccino Chunk Cookies
1 1/4 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted & cooled
4 oz. white chocolate, 3 oz. coarsely chopped
1/2 c. chocolate-covered espresso beans

Mix the dry ingredients together. Beat butter, sugars and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add melted chocolate. On low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture, mixing just until blended. Stir 3 oz. chopped white chocolate into dough along with the espresso beans. Chill at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets. Shape dough into 1" diameter balls. Place 2" apart on cookie sheets. Bake 13 minutes. Melt remaining oz. white chocolate and drizzle onto the cookies. Let stand 1 hour.

This recipe came from an old issue of Ladies Home Journal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Harvest Treats

Friday night, we had a wonderfully autumnal veggie stew for dinner. While I didn't serve any dessert with it, the gingerbread cake I made for class Thursday would go well with it. My prof said, "Mmm, tastes like Fall!" when he bit into it. I served it plain for class, but I heartily recommend some real whipped cream to dollop on top.

Fall Veggie Stew
1 lb. acorn squash, cubed
2 potatoes, cubed
4 carrots, chopped into 1" lengths
4 ribs celery, chopped as above
1 c. sliced zucchini
1 c. green beans
1 c. peas
2 c. beef broth
2 tbsp. red wine (I used burgundy)
A good grinding of pepper
1 tsp. herbes de Provence (or rosemary)
1 lb. kielbasa, cut in 1/2" pieces (you could also use regular pork sausage links)
1/4 c. chopped green pepper
2 onions, quartered
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 c. warm water

Put squash, potatoes, carrots, celery, zucchini, green beans, broth, wine, pepper, herbes de Provence in crockpot. Brown sausage with peppers & onions. Add to pot. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Add peas. Whisk flour into water until smooth and add to pot. Cook on low 1 more hour. Serve with good, crusty bread like the tomato-basil bread from Lakewood's Breadsmith we found at the Farmer's Market this weekend.

Gingerbread Cake
1 c. sugar
2 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ginger
4 1/2 tbsp. melted butter
1 egg
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix first 7 ingredients together. Beat in egg. Sift flour and soda together and add alternately with buttermilk. Butter 8" square pan. Pour batter into pan and bake 35 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving. Serves 9. I actually doubled this recipe and baked it in a 13x9 pan for about 7 minutes longer than this recipe calls for. This recipe comes from the fabulous Susan Branch, who included it, along with a recipe for lemon sauce that sounds delicious, in her Autumn cookbook. The recipes are wonderful, but the illustrations, watercolors by Branch, are even better. It's a delight to look at even if you don't cook.

Welcome Fall!!!

Ah, I just love seasonal changes and I especially love Fall! For our first Fall dinner this year, I roasted a chicken (slather with butter, sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and herbes de Provence, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes per pound plus 10 minutes...and let it rest 10 minutes before cutting), jazzed up some leftover mashed potatoes (spread into baking dish, topped with 1/2 cup heavy cream and a bunch of grated parmesan and broiled until it was all golden & bubbly on top), steamed some green beans and made an apple crisp. Of all the desserts I remember from my childhood, apple crisp and chocolate chip cookies are the most vivid memories. Every time my mom made apple crisp, I would help, but I would also be excitedly waiting for the curls of peel that I would get to snack on! I found some gorgeous Granny Smiths and used those along with MacIntosh, Pink Lady and some sort of homegrown Ohio apples.

Apple Crisp
10 apples, peeled and sliced
Lemon juice
1 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. cold butter, cut into bits
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 2-qt. casserole. Layer the apples in it. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix the other ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over apples. Bake half an hour.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Using Up The Basil

I had a bunch of fresh basil left from another cooking project, so I made a simple basil cream sauce for spaghetti tonight. With it, I served Caesar salad (bagged, definitely not Dole!) and Pillsbury garlic breadsticks with some extra Grana Padano grated over the top before baking.

Spaghetti with Basil Cream Sauce
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
A handful of basil, cut in chiffonade (or a couple tbsp. dried)
1 tsp. lemon juice
Pinch salt
Pinch garlic powder
12 oz. spaghetti

Gently boil the cream for about 10 minutes, until it is thickened. Add the basil, lemon juice, salt and garlic powder. Cook the pasta and drain. Toss with sauce. Serves 4.

Spicing Up Lunch

Since J was here until noon, there was no need for me to take lunch to her. That's a favorite way we stay connected during the work week, but sometimes it's nice to be free to simply play in the kitchen without concern for anyone else's preferences and especially without any concern for how to transport and serve the food! So, I made myself a pot of creamy Tex Mex mac & cheese. I've put the leftovers in containers for the neighbors & J's dinner later in the week.

Tex Mex Mac & Cheese
1 lb. shell pasta
2 1/2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. milk
8 oz. shredded Jack cheese (or a "Mexican blend")
4 oz. can green chiles, drained
11 oz. can Mexicorn, drained

Cook pasta al dente. Mix flour and salt in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in the milk and heat on medium-high heat until boiling, whisking all the while. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add cheese and stir until melted. Add chiles and corn and heat through. Mix with pasta. Next time, I might toss in some salsa, too.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chicken Enchilada Soup

The other night, the three of us chowed down on this good comfort food, much needed that night.

Chicken Enchilada Soup
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 c. diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
4 c. chicken broth
1 c. masa harina
3 c. water
1 c. enchilada sauce
16 oz. Velveeta
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin

Brown the chicken in the oil, 4-5 minutes per side. Set aside. Add onions & garlic to pot and sauté on medium until translucent. Add broth. Mix masa harina with 2 c. water and whisk until blended. Add to pot. Add rest of water, sauce, cheese, spices. Bring to a boil. Shred chicken and add to pot. Simmer 30-40 minutes, until thickened. Serve with tortilla chips and shredded cheese. Serves 12.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Make It Snappy!

When I was a kid, my favorite kind of fish (besides Long John Silver's) was red snapper. I was a big fan of shrimp, too. One of my family's traditional celebratory meals was shrimp in beer. Anyway, when we would go down to the Gulf Coast of Florida, there were a couple of restaurants we frequently visited. One was called The Admiral's Wardroom and it was there that I discovered the joy of munching on radishes. The red snapper we had there was simply broiled, nothing like the Cuban recipe I made tonight for red snapper with capers. Tonight's dinner was rounded out with rice and a simple traditional Cuban salad with avocado and artisan leaf lettuce sprinkled with Spanish olive oil and cider vinegar, along with a scattering of salt and pepper.

Red Snapper with Capers
6 tbsp. oil
1 1/4 c. chopped onion
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 c. toasted almonds (I used slivered ones, I am sure chopped would work equally well)
2 tbsp. capers
1 1/4 c. fish broth (I actually used chicken broth, though...easier to obtain pre-made)

1 1/2 lb. red snapper fillets
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. oil

Cut fish into 3" pieces. Marinate in lime juice, with some salt sprinkled over, for 10 minutes per side. For the sauce, heat oil. Sauté onion & parsley until the onion is soft. Add capers and almonds and cook about 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook gently about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Fry the fish golden on each side in the 2 tbsp. oil. Pour the sauce over the fish and bring to a boil. Cook another minute or two, then serve fish with sauce ladled over it.

This is my adaptation of one of my favorite Cuban cookbooks, A Taste of Cuba.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Back To School Cooking

Seminary started again this past week, which means I am again cooking for my grandies and for my classmates. This week's dinner for the grands was chicken paprikas with egg noodles (recipe adapted from December 2003 issue of Gourmet) and lima beans. This week's class treat was Kahlúa bars. They were supposed to be served right out of the freezer, but they were actually eaten about 3 hours later. Oops. They still tasted great, they were just incredibly goopy.

Chicken Paprikas
3 lb. chicken pieces
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. oil
1 lg. onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely-chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. paprika
16 oz. tomato sauce
1 1/2 c. water
1 c. sour cream

Rinse chicken and blot dry. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Heat the oil and add the chicken, skin side down. Brown on all sides, then set aside. Sauté the onion and garlic in the same pan until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add paprika, tomato sauce and water. Add chicken, skin side up. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Uncover and cook 10 minutes, to thicken sauce. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Put one cup of sauce in a bowl and cool slightly. Whisk the sour cream into the cooled sauce. Blend with the rest of the sauce. Adjust seasonings. Serves 4.

Kahlúa Bars
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs (I used cinnamon graham crackers to make mine)
1 c. chopped toasted almonds (I used the slivered kind and it worked out just fine)
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. cocoa (I used Ghirardelli)
1 slightly beaten egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 tbsp. Kahlúa (I imagine you could use another coffee liqueur like Tia María)

6 tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. milk or cream
3 tbsp. Kahlúa

1 1/2 tbsp. butter
4 oz. chocolate chips

Mix crumbs and almonds. Melt butter on low. Add sugar, cocoa, egg, vanilla. Cook 4 minutes, until the mixture is thickened. Mix with the graham crumbs. Sprinkle with Kahlúa and mix gently. Press evenly into a 13 x 9 pan. Freeze. To make the icing, beat the butter with the powdered sugar. Add the milk/cream and Kahlúa. Spread over bars and freeze 2 hours. To make the topping, melt the butter and chocolate together (I used the microwave to good effect) and spread over the frozen icing. Serve while still nice & solid!

Trying Again

Well, the last Friday night Boot came to visit, I made a crappy Cuban dinner. Tonight, I had Latin food on the menu again. I wasn't terribly worried, but the thought did cross my mind that bad things might happen again. They didn't and we had a delightful dinner. I made burgers, plain for the boys and "Argentine burgers" for the grown folks. For those, I just mixed a pound of 90% lean hamburger with 1/4 cup of chimichurri from my sweetheart's plant. If you don't have access to pre-made chimichurri, it's really easy to make.

Traditional-Style Chimichurri
1 & 1/2 bunches curly parsley, finely-chopped
3 tbsp. minced garlic
1 c. olive oil
1/2 c. white vinegar, lime juice or lemon juice
Salt & pepper

Whisk everything together & let stand for at least 2 hours before using. This is great on steaks. It's also a good dip for chips or bread. You can also make it with green onions added in.

So, I made patties & J broiled them. She put American cheese on the boys' burgers and queso blanco on ours. I made fried plantains, very, very ripe, and they were fantastic. We had fruit salad from the grocery and two different kinds of chips. We'd been to Jungle Jim's and I picked up Goya yuca chips and Donita plantain chips. I made brownies for dessert and it looks like Boot & J have wiped out half the pan already! I'd better have one or I will be out of luck!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Minimalist Cooking

I had a miserable cooking night last Friday! I somehow did succeed in making 2 complicated dishes beautifully. I made 2 great loaves of Cuban bread from the 3 Guys from Miami recipe found at Not as good as in Miami, but far better than anything I've found north of Tampa. I think the trick really is making it with lard, no substitutions. I've never had success with it before & I've never used lard before. I also made a quartet of gorgeous chocolate espresso soufflés. I can't figure out why those dishes turned out and I couldn't make rice for shit. I can always make good rice, have never screwed it up. J says I was distracted. I burned it the first time because I forgot the second cup of water. The second time, it came out all mushy and gross. The bistec empanizado I tried turned out crappy, too, again my fault.I didn't look carefully at the recipe and bought the steak too thick, so I couldn't pound it to the thinness it requires. We ended up with this very thick, very chewy breaded sirloin. Yuck! Especially disappointing after the fabulously tender filet with béarnaise J made Thursday night. The plantains for the maduros weren't ripe enough so I just scrapped that plan. Thank goodness I got pre-seasoned Cuban-style canned black beans. I make them all the time & have never bought them pre-seasoned, but I spotted them at Trader Joe's & decided to give them a try. They, along with the bread and dessert, were the saving grace of the meal. If I'd tried to season them, I definitely would have gotten it wrong somehow.

The rest of the week, aside from J's pork chops Tuesday, we've just had very simple meals. Tacos Saturday, Marie Callender's pot pies Sunday, Pizza Hut Monday (we always order whatever kind of pizza the kids want on the night before school starts...Pie requested sausage & mushroom pan pizza), chicken sandwiches Wednesday and sloppy joe pizza last night. I have only really cooked twice since Friday. Tuesday, J made fried pork chops, mashed potatoes, peas and pearl onions and applesauce (the Trader Joe's chunky is great). I made some cinnamon monkey bread and we all loved it. Last night, I made sloppy joe pizza. J and Pie both were skeptical since they both abhor sloppy joes. It turned out to be a hit, though. Next time, I will call it hamburger pizza. Geez.

Bistec Empanizado
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt & pepper
1/2 c. sour orange juice (or 1/4 c. each sweet orange juice and lime juice, if you can't get sour oranges where you live...I can't)
1 lb. sirloin or flank steak, cut 1/2" thick (and no thicker or you'll screw it up like I did!)
2 eggs
1 c. dry bread crumbs
2-3 tbsp. oil
4 lime wedges

Mash the garlic into a thick paste with the salt & pepper. Mix with the orange juice. Pound the steak to 1/4" thick and cut into 4 pieces. Marinate in the garlicky orange juice 20 minutes. Blot dry. Beat eggs with salt and place in a flat dish. Dip the steaks in the eggs, then dredge in the breadcrumbs. Fry a few minutes per side, until golden brown. Serve with lime wedges. This is truly scrumptious if you have the meat the right thickness. It's not at all hard to do if you are paying attention! LOL.

Chocolate Espresso Soufflés
1 tbsp. butter
1/3 c. plus 1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. instant espresso powder (if you want to be very Cuban & can get instant Cafe Bustelo, use it instead)
2 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
10 1/2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (2 1/2 oz. chopped, 8 oz. cut into 8 chunks)
2 egg yolks
5 egg whites
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter 8 3 oz. ramekins & dust lightly with the tablespoon of sugar. Chill in fridge on baking sheet. Heat cream on low until it's steaming. Add the coffee, stirring to dissolve. Remove from heat and add all the chopped chocolate, stirring until it melts. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, along with half of the 1/3 cup of sugar. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Add the rest of the sugar and beat to stiff peaks. Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the chocolate mixture and mix well. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites. Spoon into the ramekins, filling almost to the rims. Put a chunk of chocolate in the center of each. Bake 7-10 minutes. Sift powdered sugar on top and serve immediately.

Cinnamon Monkey Bread
1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar (packed, of course)
3 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar
2 (12 oz. size) tubes biscuits, cut in quarters

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt the butter with the brown sugar and a tablespoon of the cinnamon. Cook it until it's bubbly. Mix the sugar with the rest of the cinnamon. Roll the biscuits in it & arrange in a greased bundt or tube pan. Pour the brown sugar mixture over the top. Bake 1/2 hour or until golden. Let stand 5 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate. This is at its best warm, so serve it that way. Of course, kids don't care and will happily eat any leftovers stone cold, as they stand at the counter (or over the sink once you harrass them about getting crumbs on the clean counters or floor).

Sloppy Joe Pizza
3/4 lb. burger (I used 90% lean to good effect)
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 can diced tomatoes with garlic & onion
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. white vinegar
12" pizza shell
8 oz. cheddar cheese (the recipe called for "taco cheese" but I had cheddar & think it goes better with sloppy joes anyway...I used 2% cheddar but I think the regular kind melts better)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook burger with onion until burger is browned. Add tomatoes, sugar and vinegar. Cook & stir until sugar melts. If it is too runny, like mine was, stir a little cornstarch into a smidge of cold water and stir it in to thicken the sauce. Spread on the pizza shell and bake 12-15 minutes.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hoisin Scallion Pork

I served this with jasmine rice and steamed snow peas...very good, just a little time-consuming. If you have projects around the house, though, it's great because you just throw it in and forget about it aside from an occasional check to see that there is enough liquid.

Hoisin Scallion Pork
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 lb. boneless pork shoulder
3/4 c. hoisin sauce
3 small bunches scallions, white and light green parts only, cut in 1" pieces
1 tsp. peppercorns
1/4 c. dry white wine
3/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Brown the pork on all sides in the oil, starting with the fatty side down. Remove from heat and pour sauce over top. Sprinkle with scallions and peppercorns. Cover and bake 2 and a half hours, or until pork is cooked through. If the liquid level gets too low, add water, starting with 1/4 cup. When done, place on a cutting board, tented with foil, and let stand 15 minutes. Add wine and water. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. If it doesn't cooperate, you can mix a couple teaspoons of cornstarch with a little cold water, then stir it into the hot liquid. Slice the pork and serve with sauce. You can use the dark green scallion parts as garnish, if you like. Serves 6.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rainy Afternoon, My Wife Had A Bad Day Meal

One of my wife's ultimate comfort foods is cocoa and toast. The other is mashed potatoes mixed with corn. Tonight, I made Swiss steak, mashed potatoes and corn just so she could mash hers all together.

Swiss Steak
1 lb. beef round steak, cut 3/4" thick
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
1 tbsp. oil
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 small onion, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1/2 tsp. thyme

Trim the steak and cut it in 4 pieces. Mix the flour, salt and pepper. Pound the flour into the steak. Heat oil in skillet. Brown steak in hot oil. Add tomatoes, onion, celery, carrot and thyme. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 1 hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half. It's good with noodles, too, but I like mashed potatoes best. You could also do rice.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The High Muckety-Muck of Pimiento Cheese

A few years ago, J and I had out of this world pimiento cheese sandwiches at The Winds. I have been a fan of pimiento cheese ever since I stayed with my godmother for a week in St. Pete the summer I turned 21. She had a tub of Price's in her fridge and packet of Wasa or Ryvita crackers in the cupboard. I was hooked, although up until then, I had eschewed the stuff. I had been terribly afraid of pimientos as a child (talk about your weird childhood fears) and thought it looked nasty and processed once I was grown. The pimiento cheese I made last night for our dinner in bed resembled the pimiento cheese at The Winds much more than it did Price's. I'd never done it homemade before, but wanted to try it, using Tillamook extra-sharp cheddar because The Winds had. J asked me today to make more. It's so easy and tastes so yummy! We had it on flax and fiber bread, with kettle chips and big fat pickles. By the way, did y'all know that people soak pickles in Kool Aid and actually eat them??? Sounds utterly revolting to me! But then, so did pimiento cheese. Anybody ever tried it? I don't think I'm brave enough but Alton Brown's show was the second time in the last 2 weeks I've heard about this odd food twist, so I am curious. Not curious enough, though, to ruin a jar of perfectly good pickles.

Tillamook Pimiento Cheese
1 lb. extra-sharp cheddar, grated (You can, of course, use other brands than Tillamook. If you are determined to do that, at least make it good. Perhaps Cabot's?)
7 oz. diced pimientos
2 tbsp. grated Vidalia onion (I imagine something like Walla Walla or Bermuda would also work)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Dash cayenne
2/3 c. mayo (I like Hellman's best of the storeboughts)

Mash everything together with a fork, to the consistency that pleases you most. I like mine fairly chunky. Let sit in fridge at least 2 hours, if you can bear it. It tastes good before you let it sit, but nothing to what it will taste if you exercise patience.

Coq au Vin Trés Bien

For some reason, coq au vin has always intimidated me. I decided to make it anyway, adapting a Gourmet recipe, and found it easy, if a little time-consuming. The family loved it and so did I. I boiled some gorgeous little fingerling potatoes from the farmer's market and rolled them around in chive butter, also from there. I also steamed some fresh green beans with a few sprigs of thyme.

Coq au Vin
10 oz. pearl onions, peeled if you don't get the jarred kind that are already peeled, as I did)
10 slices bacon, chopped (I might try using some diced pancetta next time)
1 4" piece of celery
6 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
8 pieces of chicken (I used 2 breasts and 6 drumsticks)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 c. Burgundy
3/4 c. chicken stock
1 lb. small mushrooms, halved
1/4 c. Cognac
3 tbsp. flour
1 1/2 tbsp. butter, softened

Cook bacon in boiling water 4 minutes. Put in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes. Drain and dry. Cook in skillet until browned but not crisp. Drain on paper towels. Wrap celery, parsley, thyme & bay leaf into a bouquet garni (or, you can just toss it in, but getting it out is more of a pain in the neck). Salt and pepper the chicken. Brown in the hot bacon grease, in 2 batches. Remove to plate. Brown the onions, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Put in a big pot with the bacon, wine and stock. Add the bouquet garni and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Cook the mushrooms in the hot bacon grease until they release their liquid, about 5-8 minutes. Add the cognac and cook until thoroughly absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add to chicken in pot and simmer, covered, until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Set the chicken, bacon and veggies aside on a plate, discarding bouquet garni & keeping chicken warm. Mash the butter and flour into a paste with a fork (beurre manié). Bring the braising liquid to a simmer and whisk in a little beurre manié at a time. Simmer and whisk until smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Adjust seasonings and serve over chicken. Oh, man, is this good!

Make Mine Fried

The other night, I decided to try the Weight Watchers recipe I had for fried catfish to see if it compared favorably with my usual. It did. I tipped the balance way out of favor with the WW program with the accompaniments, however. I made fried okra, fried green tomatoes and spoonbread to go with it. It was all good and I really didn't use much was olive oil, at that. I should say it was all good except for the spoonbread because I don't think very highly of that dish at all. But my darling wife, who was raised on it, whose mother claimed it as one of her specialties, proclaimed it "perfect!" So, if you like that sort of thing, I guess this is a pretty good recipe for it. To make the okra & tomatoes, you just slice them (pretty thick for the okra, real thin for the maters), dip them in egg wash, dredge them in well-seasoned cornmeal and fry golden.

Fried Catfish
1/4 c. cornmeal (some people use white, I'm partial to yellow)
2 tbsp. plain dried breadcrumbs
Salt & pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne (I tend to dash a little more in)
1 egg
1 tbsp. water
1 lb. catfish, cut in 4 pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
Lemon wedges, if desired

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Beat the egg with the water. Dip the catmeal in the egg, then dredge in meal, shaking off the excess. Spray skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Add oil and swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Add fish and cook 3 minutes. Flip and cook until opaque and nicely-browned on both sides, another 3-4 minutes. Serve with lemon. Serves 4, 6 Points each.

Spoonbread Like Lucy's
1 1/4 c. light cream (or half & half...I used the fat-free kind)
1/2 c. cornmeal (again, you can use white, but J's mama always used yellow)
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. butter
3 eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat the cream in a deep pan. When hot, slowly add cornmeal, stirring constantly. Cook on very low heat, stirring, until very smooth. Do not boil. Add salt and butter and mix well. Remove from heat. Add the yolk of each egg, separately, beating well after each addition. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Slowly and gently fold whites into meal mixture. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Smooth the top. Bake 30 minutes or until golden. Serve hot, slathered with a ton of butter, says my wife. She also says it's good for breakfast with butter, milk and white sugar. I'd rather have Cream of Wheat at breakfast and soft parmesan polenta at dinner. But, that's just me.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Holy Cayenne, Batman,These Cookies Are Amazing!

I am a big fan of chocolate and cayenne together. One of my favorite ice creams in the world is from Jeni's in Columbus (, Queen City Cayenne. Lucky for me, she ships her ice cream so I don't have to wait until I'm in Columbus to eat it. Gravel Road, salty caramel with roasted almonds thrown in, is another favorite. But, I digress. I was copying down some recipes I've torn out of magazines over the years and discovered an intriguing recipe for chocolate spice cookies, containing a decent amount of cayenne, cut out of an old copy (Nov. '04) of Real Simple, one of my favorite magazines. Pie and I made them today for baking day at Camp Daria and they are spectacular! My current favorite cookie of all cookies! And I keep everything to make them on hand. Woohoo!!! Pie loves them, too, and he usually hates anything spicy. When he was eating the dough, he said, "Okay, for some reason, the back of my throat is starting to burn a little." But, he kept eating. I can't wait to try them on Boot, who puts hot sauce on everything.

Spicy Chocolate Cookies
1 & 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne (I used 1/4 and highly recommend doing likewise)
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add egg & vanilla and beat until fluffy. Gradually add flour until just incorporated. On wax paper, roll dough into 10" by 1 & 1/2" to 2" cylinder. Wrap tightly and chill at least 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/4" slices. Place 1" apart on cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Makes 2 dozen.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

2-Cup Casserole

Food snobs, beware! This post is not for you! However, it is for busy moms & comfort food aficionados. Tonight, I made a hamburger casserole I call 2-Cup Casserole (for reasons which will be apparent as soon as you read the recipe), with corn on the cob and garlic basil sautéed zucchini. The whole family, even Boot who asked me today, "Why do we have so many casseroles?" loved this. The boys ate theirs on buns...Casserolewiches, I guess.

2-Cup Casserole
1 lb. 80% lean ground beef
1 tsp. butter
2 c. chopped onions
2 c. chopped celery
1 can 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
1 can 98% fat-free cream of celery soup
2 c. fine egg noodles, cooked
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown the burger in the butter. Sauté onions & celery until tender. Add the rest and put into casserole dish. Bake 1 hour, removing lid for the last few 5 minutes so that it can brown.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

When Unable to Go to the Loveless...

...attempt fried chicken at home. Some of the best homestyle fried chicken I've ever had is at The Loveless Café, right near the Nashville terminus of the Natchez Trace. Not only is the chicken great, but the ham with redeye gravy & the biscuits are superb. Since Nashville is a bit of a fur piece for us these days, I decided to make real fried chicken for the first time in my life. It's one of those foods I've always been intimidated by the idea of cooking, for some reason. It turned out just great, though. The gravy, not so much, but the chicken had a gorgeous golden crust and a fabulously juicy interior. I served it with skin-on mashed potatoes and organic sweet corn.

Real Fried Chicken
8 pieces bone-in chicken (whatever your family likes...I made 3 breasts & 5 drumsticks)
Cold salt water (about 1 tbsp salt)
1 c. flour
1 & 1/2 tsp. pepper
1 &1/2 tsp. salt
A good shake of cayenne
Oil for frying (you'll need enough for about 1 & 1/2 inches of oil in each of 2 12" skillets. To be
honest, I ran out of oil and tossed in lard to make up for the rest. Never said it was

In large bowl, cover chicken with salt water and soak overnight. If you forget to soak it overnight, though, you can do what I did and start soaking it in the morning for cooking around 7. Drain. Mix flour and seasonings in a pie plate. Coat the chicken thoroughly in the flour. Pour about 1 & 1/2 inches oil into each of 2 12" cast iron skillets. If you haven't got cast iron, go get a couple! Seriously, you should have at least one cast iron skillet in your kitchen. But, if you have very good non-stick skillets, they will work, too. Heat on medium-high until very hot. Add chicken (tongs are helpful here), being very careful not to spatter yourself! Make sure the chicken isn't crowded in the pan. Cover and turn heat to medium. Make sure the chicken keeps sizzling. If you can't hear it sizzling, you'll want to turn up the heat a bit. Check after 15 or 20 minutes to see if the chicken has browned. If so, turn it over and continue cooking with the lid on until all of it is nicely browned, probably another 15-20 minutes but perhaps not as long for the breasts. After checking carefully to make sure the chicken is cooked through, drain on paper towels and then serve.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Memphis + Italy = Yum

You'd think that barbecue sauce and spaghetti sauce shouldn't appear in the same dish. My Beloved sure did. But, the pasta dish I made tonight had both and it was good! Served with steamed broccoli and berries Romanoff (the Romanoff sauce being from J's plant), it was a dinner liked by all. Boot didn't even add any hot sauce to his.

BBQ Chicken Pasta
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 c. chopped red onion
1 minced clove garlic
1 & 1/2 lb. chicken, cubed
1 c. chopped green pepper
2 c. spaghetti sauce (we had some leftover homemade sauce from J's cooking night last week)
2/3 c. BBQ sauce (I am partial to Sweet Baby Ray's)
8 oz. rigatoni, cooked
Plenty of grated Jack cheese

Heat oil on medium-high in skillet. Cook onions & garlic in oil 2-3 minutes. Add chicken and cook through. Add green pepper and cook 4-5 minutes. Add sauces, cover and simmer 5-10 minutes. Toss with pasta and sprinkle each serving with cheese. Serves 4-6.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

It's Got Everything Breakfast Pizza

My youngest child loves breakfast food. He loves breakfast casserole, specifically. This breakfast pizza contained everything he needed to make him happy, even at dinner-time. He exclaimed, "It's got everything!" as he happily munched on his second slice. We had it with honeydew melon purchased from Amish folks at the farmer's market this morning, not as sweet as their sample, but still not bad. I wish, though, it had been as superb as the sample melon!

Sausage Potato Pizza
2 c. Bisquick (the heart healthy kind works fine)
1/2 c. water
1 lb. sausage, cooked
1-1 & 1/2 c. frozen hash browns, thawed (I think the Southern-style, in chunks, gives a nicer consistency than the shredded sort, but it all depends on what you like)
6 oz. shredded sharp cheddar
3 large eggs, well beaten
2 tbsp. milk
A few grinds of pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix Bisquick & water. Knead 4-5 times and pat into a circle on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top with a layer of sausage, then of potatoes, then of cheese. Whisk the milk and pepper into the eggs and pour over cheese. Bake 30 minutes.

It would be really easy to turn this into a Mexican breakfast pizza by using chorizo and pepper jack and adding a little cumin and chile powder to the eggs. Mmm. Throw some salsa on that bad boy and eat up!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Terrific Beer Cheese Soup

Seems kind of weird to make soup in August, but it sounded good...and man, was it! I love the Cheddar Bay Biscuits at Red Lobster, so I tried to approximate them. These weren't exactly like them, but pretty close. Pretty good, too!

Beer Cheese Soup
1/4 c. onions, finely chopped
1/2 c. celery, finely chopped
1/2 c. carrots, finely chopped
1 stick butter
32 oz. reduced-sodium chicken broth (I used fat-free, like that matters with all that butter!)
1 c. Bisquick
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar (I'd like to try this with Tillamook or Cabot extra-sharp, but I just used Kraft 2%)
12 oz. beer (I used some of J's Bud Select)
1 pint half & half (I used fat-free)
Pinch of oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne
A dash or three of hot sauce

Sauté the vegetables in the butter, in a large stock pot, until translucent (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and add spices and Bisquick, stirring until smooth. Over low heat, slowly add broth, stirring all the time. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat and add beer, cheese and half and half, stirring until cheese melts. This is easier if you add the cheese a little at a time.

Garlic Cheddar Biscuits
1 & 1/4 c. Bisquick (I used the heart-smart variety & it was just fine)
1/2 c. shredded sharp Cheddar (I'd be interested to see what Manchego would be like)
1/3 c. water
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix Bisquick & cheese. Add water and mix ust until combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Combine the rest of the ingredients and brush on cooked biscuits. Makes 8. I probably should have made twice as many, judging by how these were received...voraciously! I might use a smidgy bit of cayenne next time.

Anniversary Dinner In

Since we ate out so much over the mid-weeks of July (on which more later), I decided to make steak in for our anniversary. We found some beautiful Delmonicos at a good price and J broiled them. I added a caramelized onion sauce that needed something else. It was too sweet for me on its own, but I think some good blue cheese would have improved the effect. I think, though, that if you like sweet flavors with your meat, you'll love this sauce. I baked some potatoes and did a salad of baby greens with warm goat cheese rounds.

Caramelized Onion Sauce
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 onions, halved and thinly-sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. plus 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. brown sugar (I may omit this next time & see what happens)
Salt to taste

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in skillet. Cook onions until they are light brown, about half an hour. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the rest and cook 2 minutes. Makes enough for 6 steaks. This recipe is from Susan Branch's wonderful Autumn cookbook, in which she suggests serving this with roasted veggies, which might be considerably better than with steaks. If you have not seen Susan Branch's cookbooks, they are absolutely charming, with delightful illustrations, wonderful little stories and musings and great recipes. They're the sort of cookbook you feel you must own, and buy for all your foodie friends, once you have seen them.

Baby Greens with Warm Goat Cheese Rounds
1 egg white
1 tsp. water
1/2 c. panko
4 oz. log goat cheese, sliced (I used one with garlic & herbs)
4 tsp. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
7 tbsp. olive oil
Mixed baby greens

Whisk egg white with water. Dip cheese slices in egg, then dredge in panko. Stick in freezer 20 minutes or so. whisk vinegar, salt, sugar, Dijon and pepper together. Add 1/4 c. oil in a slow stream, whisking all the while. Heat the other 3 tbsp. oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Cook cheese in oil until lightly browned on each side, about 1 minute per side. Toss the greens with the dressing. Divide between 2 salad plates and top with warm cheese. This recipe is my recreation of one I had several years ago, perhaps at The Winds, perhaps not. Can't remember for sure. Maybe in Monterey?

Chicken for Scamps

Okay, so it's chicken scampi. Sort of. This isn't the best dish I've ever made, but J & the boys seemed to like it & it's filling. I would probably use more chicken next time and double the sauce recipe. I served it with olive oil bread, dipping oil and a strawberry spring mix salad with poppyseed dressing that was fab.

Scampish Chicken
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1" cubes
1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. thin spaghetti
1 tsp. olive oil
1 each red, yellow & green peppers (I subbed orange for yellow), sliced
1 red onion, slivered
2 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 & 1/4 c. Alfredo sauce
1/2 c. chopped parsley

Cook spaghetti, reserving 2/3 c. cooking water (1 & 1/3 if doubling sauce recipe). Shake chicken and flour together in a large Ziploc bag until chicken is thoroughly coated. Heat 2 tsp. oil in large skillet. Shake excess flour off chicken. Sauté chicken in oil until golden & cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside. Heat 1 tsp. oil in same skillet. Sauté peppers, onion and garlic about 3 minutes. Cover and simmer 3 more minutes. Add Alfredo sauce, cover and heat 1-2 minutes. Mix reserved pasta cooking water, sauce, chicken and pasta. Sprinkle with parsley to serve. Feeds 6-8, I think.

Strawberry Spinach Salad
1 bag prewashed baby spinach (I used spring mix because Giant Eagle only had crappy spinach)
1 pint strawberries, halved (quartered if very large)
1/2 c. toasted slivered almonds
1/4 c. oil
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. chopped onion (I would use red next time)
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Mix spinach, berries and almonds. Put the other ingredients in a blender and mix well. Toss with salad and serve right away. Alternately, you could serve the dressing on the side and the salad would stay fresh longer. Not only that, but if you have picky eaters like I do, they can drench the whole damn thing in ranch on their OWN plates.

The Return of the Boys

I made a boy-friendly welcome home dinner last Friday when the boys returned from their father's for a two-week visit with us: cheeseburgers, tater tots, salad and plum-nectarine cobbler. The boys had their burgers plain, but I smushed up some guacamole for ours and we topped them with that, salsa and crunched up tortilla chips. Pie loved the cobbler so much that it was gone promptly. I had worried that we wouldn't finish it, but when I removed the lid a couple of days later, I found that he had been stealth-snacking on it. It's well worth stealth-snacking, too!

Plum Nectarine Cobbler
3/4 c. plus 1 tbsp. sugar
1 & 1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. flour
10 peeled, sliced nectarines (peaches, if they look better)
2 peeled, sliced plums
1 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 & 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 stick cold butter, cut in pieces
3/4 c. buttermilk
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix 3/4 c. sugar and 2 tbsp. flour. Add fruit, then lemon juice. Gently stir. Pour into a casserole dish and bake 10 minutes. Mix 1 & 1/2 c. flour, brown sugar, baking powder & soda, salt together. Cut in butter. Add milk. Stir just until a very soft dough forms. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto top of hot fruit. Mix sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of dough. Bake 45 minutes or until topping is cooked through and browned on top. Serves 6 (or one 12 year old sweet tooth).

Old Clothes for Dinner

My beloved likes to tell people that I hooked her with my Cuban cooking. Personally, I think she was hooked well before I ever cooked for her, but that's her story. Last week, I took the time to make Ropa Vieja, the classic Latin shredded beef dish named for its appearance, like old clothes. Of course, we also had black beans and rice and fried plantains (I tried the frozen Goya ones and they are quite, they aren't nearly as much work) as we usually do when I am cooking Cuban. Since I had a gorgeous avocado ripe and ready that day, I also made a Cuban classic, avocado salad.

Ropa Vieja
1 lb. flank steak
2 qts. water, at least
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1 & 1/2 c. sofrito (found jarred in Hispanic section of most groceries...I like Goya brand)
1/2 c. water reserved from cooking steak
1 tbsp. dry white wine
1/4 c. cooked peas
2 oz. pimiento, in strips or chopped
Salt to taste

Boil meat in large pot with about 2 quarts of water, carrot, onion, garlic and green pepper, for about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 2 hours, until meat is tender and well-done. Remove meat from pot and allow to cool, reserving 1/2 c. water. Pound the meat, shredding into thread-like strands. Put in pan with sofrito, broth, cooked carrot, wine and peas. Salt and cook about 5 minutes. Add pimiento juice and pieces. Mix well and heat through. Serves 4.

Avocado Salad
Lettuce, as desired (I used butter lettuce)
4 ripe avocados, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, sliced
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 c. Spanish olive oil
3 tbsp. white vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Line 4 salad plates with lettuce. Arrange avocado and onion slices on top. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Whisk together the oil and vinegar, drizzling over salad. Serves 4-8.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bagel Chip Dip

This is a Sandra Lee recipe that is supposed to be served with bagel chips, but I couldn't find any in our grocery, so we picked up some good crackers and took this along to my cousin's annual Canada Day/4th of July bash. I have lightened the recipe somewhat. I would probably go easier on the seasoned salt next time.

16 oz. light sour cream
1 c. finely-chopped scallions
3/4 c. light mayonnaise
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
2 tsp. seasoned salt

Mix together and serve with bagel chips.

Sweet Treats

On his last day with us this month, Pie and I baked together. He was so excited to make a cake from scratch that he asked me to write the recipe down for him to take to his grandma's & try to make there. He is a great kitchen helper, measuring everything with scrupulous care and making sure he has clean hands at all times. We had fun licking the batter from the bowl and utensils, too! The recipe came from the February 2003 issue of Gourmet.

Everyday Cocoa Cake
2 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa (we used Ghirardelli)
1 & 1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 & 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 & 3/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 & 1/3 c. water
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9" round cake pan. Dust with flour. Whisk all the dry ingredients (except powdered suagr) together. Beat butter with sugar until pale & fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Add flour & water alternately, beginning and ending with flour, mixing just until combined. Bake 55 minutes-1 hour. Allow to cool 1 hour. Remove from pan and dust with powdered sugar. Perfect with a cold, cold glass of milk.

A week later, I made J a long-promised batch of granola, original recipe from the same issue of Gourmet, but modified to her tastes. The original called for crystallized ginger & apricots.

Maple Red Fruit Granola
1/4 c. flaxseeds, ground
6 c. old-fashioned oats
2 c. sliced almonds
1 c. raw green pumpkin seeds
1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. oil
3/4 c. maple syrup
1 c. dried Rainier cherries
1 c. dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all but fruit together. Spread evenly on two baking sheets (I didn't grease mine, but think I maybe should have). Bake 15 minutes. Stir granola & switch pans' positions in oven. Bake another 15 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool completely. Add fruit. Makes about 10 cups. We shared ours with the downstairs neighbors, which was a fun delivery!

Back in June, I made a refreshing non-alcoholic drink called a Lemon Daisy. Here's how:

1/2 c. grenadine
1/3 c. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 c. club soda
2 c. Sprite Zero (the original called for lemon soda)

Mix grenadine & lemon juice. Pour into ice-filled wine glasses. Top each with 1/2 c. club soda and 1/2 c. Sprite. Cheers!

Mississippi Gorilla and Arkansas Chicken

Sounds like some kind of bizarre joke, but it's actually a couple of good recipes I've tried recently. The gorilla comes from the Sweet Potato Queens' Big Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner), which is an absolute stitch and has a bunch of good recipes. If you have not yet encountered Jill Conner Browne's world, get thee to a bookstore right away & pick up her books! This is my adaptation of Precious Darling George's Gorilla Casserole:

1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
1 tbsp. oil
1 chopped onion
1 sliced stalk celery
1/2 package grated carrots
28 oz. canned Italian-style tomatoes
1 generous pinch each salt, oregano, basil and Italian seasoning
1 good grinding of pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
3/4 lb. macaroni, cooked
5 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
A couple handsful of shredded extra-sharp cheddar

Cook beef, onion, celery & carrots in oil until beef is thoroughly browned. Add tomatoes & seasonings. Let simmer half an hour. Mix spinach with macaroni. Add to meat mixture. Put in a greased 13x9 baking dish. Top with cheese and bake 1/2 hour at 350 degrees.

The chicken comes from stellar children's book & cookbook author and innkeeper Crescent Dragonwagon's Dairy Hollow House Cookbook. She has other great cookbooks, such as The Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread Book and The Passionate Vegetarian. The recipes are wonderful, but the storytelling is even better. These are cookbooks you will want to sit down and read. Get them! Dairy Hollow House is an inn in Eureka Springs, Arkansas & I am dying to stay there. In the meantime, I will console myself with the books & cooking things like Chicken Nouveau'zarks, of which this is my adaptation:

7 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 large lemon
Plenty of fresh pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
2/3 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. chicken broth
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 bunch scallions, sliced
A generous handful of sliced baby portabellas
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. thyme
Salt to taste

Mix 2 of the garlic cloves with the lemon juice & pepper. Toss into a large ziploc bag with the chicken & marinate at least 1 hour, turning every so often. Ina large skillet, heat butter & oil. Brown the chicken on both sides. Mix rest of ingredients together, stirring until smooth. Cover & simmer about 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and tender. Remove the chicken and keep it warm. Remove the bay leaf and mash the garlic into the cooking liquid. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until reduced and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. I served this with egg noodles, a big salad and Italian bread. It was wonderful!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cooking up a Storm

I've been having so much fun cooking these days...feels great to be back in the kitchen. I made a positively abysmal pork chop casserole Monday night. J was nice enough to say it was good, but it was not. At all. Ptooey. I ended up having a peppermint chip hot fudge brownie sundae at Mitchell's to get the revulsion out of my psyche. However, I have been very pleased with the past two nights' efforts. Tuesday night, I made an amazing polenta casserole, an Emeril recipe from his terrific potluck cookbook, and served it with salad. Last night, it was a zucchini frittata with corn and tomato bread pudding, both Better Homes & Gardens recipes. The polenta casserole & bread pudding recipes below are my adaptations of the originals.

Polenta Casserole
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage (I used turkey sausage), removed from casings and crumbled
1 c. onion, chopped
1 c. green pepper, chopped
1/2 c. red pepper, chopped
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. Italian-style Essence seasoning mix (I used 1/2 tsp. each basil, oregano & Italian seasoning)
2 c. crushed tomatoes
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 recipe creamy polenta (below)
2 tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c. freshly-grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil on high temperature in skillet. Cook sausage in oil until browned. Drain & set aside. Cook onions & peppers in same skillet for 2 minutes. Add garlic & Essence. Cook another 2 minutes. Add sausage & cook another minute. Add tomatoes & cook until liquid is evaporated, about 7 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Put into 13 by 9 baking pan. Spread polenta over sausage mixture. Top with butter & parmesan. Bake 1/2 hour. Serves 8-10. If serving 8, 16 WW Points with pork sausage, 11 with turkey, assuming 1% milk in either case.

Creamy Polenta
4 c. milk (1%)
2 c. chicken stock (I used canned, low sodium, fat-free)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper (I used black)
1/8 tsp. + pinch of mace
1 3/4 c. polenta
1 c. freshly-grated parmesan
3 eggs
2 yolks

Mix milk, stock, seasonings. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Whisk in polenta. When it starts to thicken, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring constantly, until tender, about 10 minutes. (Watch out! Hot flying polenta plops hurt!) Add parmesan. Remove from heat & stir, allowing to cool, about 3 minutes. Whisk eggs until frothy. Add 1/2 c. polenta to eggs and whisk. Gradually add the mixture back to the rest of the polenta, stirring. Stir vigorously 2 minutes.

Zucchini Frittata
1 small zucchini, thinly-sliced
1 leek, well-washed and thinly-sliced
1 tbsp. butter
6 eggs
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. water
1/8 tsp. rosemary
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. freshly-grated parmesan or 2 oz. sliced Camembert (I used both)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In 10" ovenproof skillet, cook zucchini & leek in hot butter just until tender. Beat eggs & seasonings together. Pour over veggies. Cook on medium-low like an omelet until almost set. Put in oven. Bake 4 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan or top with Camembert. Let melt. Serve in wedges. ( I have a theory that this would be improved by putting the cheese in the egg mix rather than on top, but have not yet tested my theory)

Corn and Tomato Bread Pudding
7 sundried tomatoes in oil, snipped into bits
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. light cream (I used 1% milk)
1 tsp. basil
4 c. dry French bread or English muffins, torn into pieces (I used ciabatta)
1 1/2 c. corn
1 c. extra-sharp cheddar or pepper jack, shredded

Preheat to 375 degrees. Cover tomatoes with hot water and let stand 15 minutes. Drain. Beat eggs, cream and basil together. Toss the bread, corn, cheese and tomatoes together in a casserole dish. Pour the egg mixture over top. Bake 45-50 minutes. When a clean knife inserted in the center comes out clean, it is done. Cool slightly before serving.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What I'm Eating in July

1: Buffalo chicken macaroni salad, green salad, fruit
2: Lemonade chicken, rice, salad with oil & vinegar dressing
3: J's Choice
4: Independence Day Picnic
5: J's Choice
6: Gorilla casserole, salad, fruit
7: J's Choice
8 & 9: Cooks' Days Off
10: J's Choice
11: Chicken Nouveau'zarks, noodles, salad, marinated cherries
12: J's Choice
13: Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, almond green beans, plum sorbet
14: J's Choice
15: Brandied French toast, strawberries with Grand Marnier, bacon
16: Omelets, English muffins, mesclun with tarragon dressing, boozy fruit
17: Birthday dinner
18: Steak w/caramelized onion sauce, baked potatoes, baby greens with warm goat cheese, blue mojitos
19: J's Choice
20: Ropa vieja, rice, maduros, avocado salad
21: J's Choice
22: BBQ shrimp, matchstick potatoes, brown-buttered corn with basil, greens with hot garlic dressing, Rangoon Rubies
23: Meatloaf sandwiches, veggies & dip, fruit
24: J's Choice
25: Mexican burgers, chips, salad, plum-peach cobbler
26: J's Choice
27: Curried pork kebabs, baguette with sundried tomato spread, salad, cinnamon applesauce
28: J's Choice
29: Chicken scampi, good bread, strawberry spinach salad, chocolate sorbet
30: Anniversary dinner out
31: J's Choice

Monday, June 25, 2007

Ragout & Popovers

Last night, when we returned from our water park weekend, I made beef-vegetable ragout, noodles, salad and chive popovers for dinner. The ragout recipe came from a Better Homes & Gardens 1-dish dinners cookbook. I was very pleased with the ragout and J loved the popovers. It was the first time I've cooked in weeks, since before I left for Santa Fe! It feels good to get back into the cooking swing again and nice to be using fresh, summery veggies! For dessert, I rolled some bittersweet chocolate chips in Pillsbury reduced-fat crescent rolls and baked them as the package directs. Those were delicious, almost as good as the ragout.

Beef-Vegetable Ragout
12 oz. beef tenderloin, cut into 3/4" pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 oz. sliced shitake mushrooms (although I used a blend of shitakes & oyster mushrooms)
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. flour
Salt & pepper
14.5 oz. can beef broth (reduced sodium, 98% fat-free)
1/4 c. port or sherry (I had burgundy on hand, so I used that)
2 c. sugar snap peas (I used fresh, but you could use a 10 oz. package of frozen ones, as the recipe calls for...just thaw them before you put them in)
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved

Heat oil in a skillet. Cook meat in oil. Set aside. In same pan, cook mushrooms, onion and garlic, until tender. Add flour, salt & pepper. Add broth and wine, cooking & stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Add sugar snaps, cooking and stirring 2-3 minutes. Add meat & tomatoes and heat through. Serve over egg noodles. Serves 6. 6 WW Points.

Chive Popovers
1 c. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/3 c. fresh chives, snipped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. milk (1% fat-free works fine)
1 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix flour, salt, pepper and chives. Add the rest and stir with a fork, just until mixed together. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and divide the batter evenly among the cups. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 20 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 12. 1 WW Point.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Key West Cafe

While I am certainly not one to wish ill on anyone, it would be no great dining loss if a hurricane swept Key West Cafe right out of existence. We ate there last night and will never return. The ambiance was pleasant, with fun beachy music, pineapple & palm tree lights and pictures of old Key West spots on the menus. The evening started out perfectly promising, in fact. There were a number of yummy-looking items on the menu.

Sadly, the evening tanked from there, although our spirits remained high despite the crappy dining experience. In fact, we were nearly giddy with hilarity over how bad the experience was. It started with drinks orders. They had no Bud Select or Modelo for J. She was happy with the Dos Equis she got, though. I was disappointed that they had run out of mint for mojitos, but even the great Casa Juancho sometimes runs out of mint so I ordered a strawberry daiquiri instead. It wasn't a great daiquiri by any means and I wished I'd just had water because it was such a waste of money. It was unpleasantly pulpy, great not-remotely-flavorful lumps of unprocessed berry. Gack.

We vacillated about an appetizer. I was all for the grouper nuggets while J was interested in the grilled shrimp cocktail. I am generally opposed to eating cold shrimp and J didn't want the grouper, so we decided to try the hog dip. A mix of cream cheese, seafood and herbs and served with tortilla chips, we assumed it would be served hot. It was ice cold and rampant with horseradish from the cocktail sauce liberally poured over the top. It was beautifully presented, but tasted no better than chip dip from a 1960s bridge party given by a hostess more interested in cards than in cuisine. Definitely not something we wanted to consume, much less pay $10 for. When the waitress arrived to ask us how it was, we told her it was not good and that also we'd expected it to be warm. Her response was, "Oh, that's too bad. Do you want me to box it up for you so you can maybe munch on it at home later?" What?!? Hell, no! If it's not good, how is taking it home going to improve it? Twit.

I responded that since it was bad, we had no plans to eat it in any environment. I told her it didn't need to be boxed up, it needed to be thrown away and that we'd like to try the nachos instead. Further, if she wasn't comfortable with that, I'd be happy to speak to the manager. With a funny little head shimmy that looked like a remnant of her junior high getting-ready-to-scrap persona, she reluctantly took it away. I saw her talking to three or four other people in the kitchen, pointing our way with more head weaving and bobbing. She finally came out & asked if we'd like to order our entrees. I reiterated our desire to try the nachos, although I wondered if we should just pay for our drinks and go next door to Carrabbas for dinner. We definitely should have. Mmm, calamari...

We waited an interminably long time for our nachos, chatting about vacations we'd like to take and the fact that the cooks were probably spitting in our food. Exasperated, I said to J, "How long do nachos take to make???" Her response: "A long time if you're jacking off in 'em!" We dissolved into fits of laughter, taking up a bit more time as we waited. When the nachos finally arrived, they were quite cold and soggy and unquestionably mediocre in flavor. We were hungry, though, so we ate them, giggling over how hostile our waitress was and how much she seemed to despise us. We sat and sat after finishing our nachos, speculating on the reason our waitress was in this line of work when she so obviously should be doing something that involves no mental acuity or social skills. Mean us. But, it was really quite ridiculous.

I said, "She's not going to come back over here" but, after an age of waiting, she finally meandered our way. I believe she had one other table, so it's not like she was slammed. I think there were three tables in use the whole time we were there, from about 7 until about 9:45. Yes, it took that long. When she arrived at our table, she sullenly asked if we were ready for our check. Why no, we actually would like to split a Cuban sandwich. All of a sudden, she perked right up, gushing about how it's her very favorite. I told our new best friend, whose Prozac must have kicked in, that she should have one in Miami and she gushed that she'd love to. Then, she gushed about her upcoming girls' getaway to Myrtle Beach in July and how "pumped" she was about it. When she brought the Cuban, she also brought us some Cajun mayo, telling us that we'd been ordering just like she orders all night & she thought that we'd like the Cajun mayo just like she does. She gushed about how she'd eat it on anything. The whole experience was just so odd. I am left wondering if the gushing and friendliness was in order to get a tip. Busing our appetizer dishes at some point during the meal would have helped toward that, too. The Cuban was passable, but really, Cuban food shouldn't be spicy. They did it with jerk pork rather than plain pork. But, it was fine. I ate my half, but J was already feeling poorly. Today, she is sick. I felt a little off, but generally have a cast iron digestive system so no more than a little off. No more Key West Cafe for us, though. Not ever.

Scrambled Eggs and Fry Bread

Saturday night was J's night to choose dinner, but she was too exhausted to make choices, so I made what I'd planned for last night. It was easy and quick and enabled me to watch Volver and still get to bed at a reasonable hour. I made scrambled eggs with a pinch of thyme, a handful of fresh baby spinach and some shredded 2% cheddar. They were delicious. I love to try new things with scrambled eggs. I also made some fry bread. I have been promising to make J fry bread for years, ever since she tried it at the CityFolk Festival in Dayton the first summer we were dating. For some reason, I have continually put it off. It's not at all hard, but I had some kind of block about it. I'm not really a baker, I guess, and although there is no baking to be done, it is bread. We had some plain, some with powdered sugar and some with regular sugar. I didn't think the powdered sugar worked well with the fry bread, but the other sugar was yummy. I like it best plain, though. It was not as good as the stuff my uncle, who'd spent a lot of time on the rez, used to make, but it was good.

Fry Bread
2 1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. Crisco
3/4 c. warm water
Oil for frying

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in 1 tbsp. Crisco. Melt and cool the other 2 tbsp. Crisco. Add just enough water to flour mixture so the dough holds together and is easy to handle. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth, about 30 seconds, ading only enough flour to work the dough. Roll dough into smooth 2" balls. Brush with cooled Crisco and let stand 45 minutes. In a deep skillet, heat oil to 360 degrees. Flatten the balls of dough into 6" circles and slip into the hot oil, cooking in batches. Cook until light brown (45-60 seconds) and then turn, cooking the other side until light brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Night Flank Steak

I don't know about you, but after I've returned from school late on Thursday & spent all of Friday studying, I don't always feel like making something that's labor-intensive. So, I now have a flank steak marinating. I will broil it, slice it thin, serve it with rice and steamed green beans and be done with the whole dinner shebang in time for an early bedtime so we can get on the road early tomorrow morning. I love easy dinners. After I post the steak recipe, I shall return to liturgical studies (if I can resist the temptation to read more at the Rate My Students blog...wonder if I'll see a rant by an undergrad Spanish professor on her students doing piss-poor Spanish culture final projects on beer cruises in Mexico, one of the more outrageous things I was aware of students doing when I was an undergrad) for the rest of the afternoon.

Soy Flank Steak
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. red wine
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 & 1/2 lb. flank steak

Mix first 3 ingredients. Marinate steak in the mixture 4 hours. Preheat broiler. Pat steak dry. Put on rack in broiler pan and broil 8-10 minutes per side. Serves 4. Each serving has 7 WW Points.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cranberry Sweetheart Scones

For my Dante class, I am making tiny heart-shaped cranberry scones. They are adorable and would be nice for an afternoon tea, with a bit of double Devon cream smeared on them.

Cranberry Sweetheart Scones
2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into half-inch cubes
3/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter and flour 2 baking sheets (I honestly just use cooking spray with flour). Whisk together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter until it's the size of tiny peas. Mix in the cream with a fork just until a shaggy sort of dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface & top with cranberries. Knead briefly, just until dough forms a ball and cranberries are incorporated, taking care not to overwork the dough. Quickly and gently pat out into a 3/4" thick round. Cut out scones with a one and a half inch heart-shaped cookie cutter. Place one and a half inches apart on the prepared sheets, continuing the patting out and cutting process until dough is used up. Brush with a little cream. Bake 10-15 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen. Each piece is 1 Point.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Trying New Cuban Recipes

I've had a batch of Cuban recipes sitting around untried for ages. I always tend to slip into cooking my very favorites (masitas de puerco, maduros, moros y cristos) & don't get to the new stuff. I'm glad I did tonight, although I did stick with pork. LOL!

Costillas de Puerco
6 pork chops, cut to 1" thickness
4 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 c. orange juice + 1/8 c. lime juice (or 1/3 c. sour orange juice, if it's available in your area)
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/4 c. oil

Mash garlic with seasonings into a paste. Mix with liquids and pour over pork chops. Chill 1-4 hours. Blot dry and brown in oil. Add marinade and simmer, uncovered, about an hour, until liquid is gone. Serve on a bed of machuquillo. Serves 6.

3 green plantains, peeled & cut into 2" pieces
1 tbsp. lime juice
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. smashed chicharrones (pork rinds)
1 tbsp. oil

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Toss plantains with lime juice. Mash garlic and chicharrones into a paste. Drop plantains and lime juice into boiling water. Boil 25 minutes, then drain. Mash, then add garlic mixture. Heat the oil and cook plantains, stirring (or they'll really stick!), for about a minute to heat through and evaporate excess moisture. Serves 6.

I served this with salad. By the way, the pork is 6 Points per serving and the machuquillo is 3.

A Simple Pasta Dinner

Instead of doing the Mother's Day meal out thing, we decided to inaugurate the grilling season. So, Saturday dinner was brats & burgers by the pool (with the silly bitties IN the not-at-all-well-heated pool during our 60 degree weather) and Sunday lunch was bbq pork ribs. For our dinner last night, then, I made a very simple pasta dish I found in a Rick Bayless cookbook, adapted just a smidge.

Tuscan Pasta with Tomato Sauce
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
Salt & pepper
12 oz. tri-color rotini
17 basil leaves, cut in chiffonade
1 c. grated asiago cheese

In blender, blend tomatoes until mostly smooth. Heat 1 tbsp. oil. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until it starts to brown. Raise the heat to medium-high and add 2 cups of the tomatoes. Cook about 10 minutes, until it starts to look like a medium-thick sauce. Add salt & pepper. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil. Keep warm while you cook the pasta to a very firm al dente. Drain and toss with sauce, basil and cheese.

I served this with garlic bread (an Italian loaf spread with our local grocery's garlic butter) and Italian-blend bagged salad. To go with the salad, I made Maytag blue cheese dressing. I could eat that with a spoon!

Blue Cheese Dressing
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 oz. blue cheese (do splurge on the good stuff!)

Mix sour cream & mayonnaise together. Add milk, vinegar and salt. Crumble in blue cheese. Stir to blend. This is even better the second day.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Chile Evening

Oh, how lovely it would be to travel to Chile someday! In the meantime, though, I can at least cook delicious Chilean food. Last night, I made chancho a la chileña (pork loin Chilean-style) and served it over jasmine rice, with a salad on the side. If you're doing Weight Watchers, this recipe is 7 Points per serving. The dish is a little stew-like and is particularly good served with a squeeze of lime over the top.

Chancho a la Chileña
3 tbsp. oil
1 lb. lean pork loin, cut into 3/4" cubes
1 large red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 c. fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp. white vinegar
Salt and pepper

Heat oil on high heat in a skillet. Turn down heat to medium-high and brown pork in oil (10-12 minutes). Add onion, garlic & tomato. Cook a couple minutes. Add broth, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cook 5-10 minutes on high, until thickened. Serve over rice. Serves 4.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Few Good Crafters

I love to use hand-crafted items in cooking and around the house. I wanted to share a few websites of crafters whose wares I particularly like to use.

Stan & Sue Jennings, of Allegheny Treenware, produce wooden cooking implements that are just delicious to use. In addition to things like wooden spoons & spreaders, I have a wonderful cherry measuring spoon & cup set that is not only useful, but a great addition to kitchen decor, as well. Check out for more info on how to get some for your own self!

The folks at Horton Brasses have a wide selection of simply gorgeous reproduction hardware for cabinets, doors and the like. The hand-forged ironwork is especially lovely. They can be found at for more info.

Some of my very favorite pottery has come from the kiln of Riffle Pottery. When I talk about drinking a mug of tea, it is likely from the green-glazed mugs I have picked up from them. See for your new favorite mug or serving piece.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Beef Burgundy American

This is my adaptation of Melia Himich's Beef Burgundy recipe in the Gooseberry Patch Blue Plate Specials cookbook. It's very easy to throw together & is a great meal for those times when you're at home, but don't have time to cook in any sort of active manner. It's probably health-friendliest served on brown rice, but I will be serving it on egg noodles tonight, with a salad and some peaches. Serves 6-8.

Beef Burgundy American
1 1/2 lb. extra-lean beef sirloin, cubed
2 pkgs. dry onion soup mix, 1.5 oz. size (I used Knorr)
2 cans 98% fat-free condensed cream of musroom soup
1/2 c. burgundy wine
1/2 c. water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix everything together in Dutch oven. Cover and bake 2 and a half hours. Easy, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Of Morels and Pancetta, Anchovies and Lemons

Reading week is here, the last of the school year. It's the week when I should be finalizing papers, getting ahead on my reading for the next three weeks, pre-writing sermons. But, no. Not me. Well, I am certainly doing some of that. But, I am also indulging in cooking that is slightly more complicated than my fare of late. Sunday night, I made chicken with morel Madeira sauce, baked potatoes and lemony green beans. Tonight, I fixed tilapia with anchovy caper butter, roasted red potatoes with lemon and petits pois with pancetta. For me, the morel Madeira sauce was a little too sweet, but I am picky about sweet and meat together. It was inspired by one of the recipes of the great Ina Garten (if you do not have her cookbooks & do not watch her show, you must remedy that!) and J loved it. Otherwise, I was very happy with the meals.

Chicken with Morels
1/2 oz. dried morels, soaked for 30 minutes in 3 cups of very hot, salted water
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Salt & pepper
Flour for dredging
1/4 c. butter
1/4 of a Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. Madeira
1/2 c. sour cream (light is just fine)
1/2 c. half and half (subbed for heavy cream to make it a little lighter)
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse morels well and pat dry. Season chicken, then dredge in flour. Melt half the butter in the skillet and brown chicken well. Place in casserole and set aside. Add the rest of the butter to the skillet, along with the morels, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook on high until reduced by half. Add the rest of the ingredients & bring to a boil. Allow to boil until it starts to thicken, 5-10 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Pour oven chicken and bake until just heated through, about 10 minutes. Serves 3.

Lemony Green Beans
1 lb. green beans, stems & strings removed
1/4 stick butter
A few drops of olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt & pepper

Cook green beans using your preferred method. I like mine steamed lightly & I use an electric steamer, but do whatever you like best & find easiest. Heat butter & oil together until butter is melted. Stir in lemon juice, salt & pepper. Add beans and toss to coat. Serves 4.

Tilapia with Anchovy Caper Butter
1 lb. tilapia filets
1 clove garlic
1/8 tsp. salt
1 stick butter, room temperature
2 tsp. minced capers
2 anchovy filets, minced & mashed to paste
2 tsp. lemon juice
Pepper to taste

Make the anchovy butter first, starting by mashing garlic and salt into a paste. Add the rest, mashing with a fork until thoroughly combined. Roll into 6" long log and wrap in wax paper. Chill an hour before serving. If, like me, you are inclined to forget that you need to start things far in advance, though, you can pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes or so and it will be tolerably solid. You may even prefer it less hard so that it melts wife does! Bake fish, drizzled with a little olive oil, in a 350 degree oven until tender and flaky and utterly lacking translucence. Serve with anchovy caper butter. This served the three of us, but J & Pie ended up growling at each other over the last piece of fish and we all wanted more. There will be plenty of butter, so make as much fish as your crew will eat! I should think it would be delicious on any kind of fish. J wants to try it on steak next.

Roasted Red Potatoes with Lemon
6 small red potatoes, quartered
A tablespoon or two of olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
2-3 tsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss potatoes with oil, salt & pepper. Put on baking sheet and roast for about an hour, stirring every so often. Sprinkle with lemon juice & stir. Roast another minute or two. Serves 3.

Petits Pois with Pancetta
1 oz. pancetta, chopped
1/2 c. chopped Vidalia (any onion will do, I just like Vidalias & had them on hand)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 c. frozen petite peas
1 c. chicken broth (I use canned, the low fat, low sodium kind)
Scant 2 tsp. sugar
Salt to taste

Sauté pancetta in pre-heated skillet on medium-high heat until crispy. Remove from pan. Sauté onion & garlic in grease until tender. Add the rest, setting aside the pancetta. Simmer 5 minutes, or until peas are tender. Toss in pancetta and serve hot. Serves 6. J is a big fans of peas & says these are the best.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Cooking for John & Nola

My cousins came down to my grandies' house for dinner last Wednesday, bringing their sweet baby boy with them. Since I had a mid-term Thursday & knew I wouldn't have a ton of cooking time, I got out a slow cooker recipe for boeuf bourguignon, adapted from "Barbarians at the Plate". As soon as I returned from class Tuesday night, I prepped the ingredients & tossed the whole shebang in the fridge before going to bed. In the morning, all I had to do was take it out & let it come to room temp while I got dressed, then start it before I hit the door.

When I got home about 4, the whole house smelled wonderful and dinner was almost ready. I turned the beef down to the "Keep Warm" setting and studied for awhile. About 6:15, I made a batch of mashed potatoes and prepped the salad. Everything was ready just when they arrived at 7. I served the beef on top of the potatoes (Nola is not eating wheat until she's done nursing) and the salad, adapted from an August 2003 Bon Appetit recipe, alongside. Easy and delicious!

Slow Cooker Bourguignon
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 lb. boneless lean beef, cut in bite-size pieces (I saved time by buying pre-cut beef for stewing)
8 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 c. dry red wine
1 onion, chopped
8 oz. sliced mushrooms (bought these pre-sliced)
1 tsp. herbes de Provence

Spray crockpot with cooking spray. Toss flour with seasonings to coat. Cook bacon on medium about 10 minutes and drain on paper towels. Put in crockpot. Cook beef in bacon grease until well-browned. Put in crockpot. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours. Good over mashed potatoes, rice, noodles. Serves 6.

Spinach, Apple and Cheddar Salad
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
6 oz. baby spinach (I used Fresh Express' bagged, although I prefer Earthbound Farms)
2 Granny Smith apples, cut in bite-size pieces & sprinkled with lemon juice
8 oz. extra-sharp cheddar, cut in small cubes (Cabot's or Tillamook, if possible)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts, toasted

Whisk the first three together, adding salt and pepper to taste. Chill. Mix the rest together and either toss with enough dressing to coat or serve with dressing on the side. I like to serve the dressing on the side so that a. the salad won't get soggy if we have some left over and b. people who are picky about dressing aren't distressed.

What I'm Eating in May

1: Grab & Growl
2: El Meson with seminary buddies
3: J's choice
4: Chicken with morels, baked potatoes, lemony green beans, crème brûlée
5: Cinco de Mayo dinner out
6: Amish cabbage soup, beer biscuits, fruit
7: Fish with anchovy butter, roasted red potatoes with lemon, spring peas with pancetta
8: J's Choice
9: Pie's Choice
10: J's Choice
11: Chancho a la Chilena, rice, salad
12: J's Choice
13: Tuscan pasta, salad with blue cheese dressing, garlic bread
14: Costillas de puerco, machuquillo, salad with lemon dill vinaigrette
15: Grab & Growl
16: Basil beef stew, rolls, fruit
17: J's Choice
18: Soy flank steak, rice, green beans
19: J's Choice
20: Spinach & cheddar scramble, fry bread, fruit
21: Tuna noodle casserole, peas, salad, brown sugar bananas
22: Grab & Growl
23: Ham, peas & noodles casserole, salad, fruit
24: J's Choice
25: J's Choice
26: Chicken & tofu curry, rice, salad, pineapple
27: Dinner with my mom
28: Anniversary dinner out
29: Grab & growl
30: Pork chop casserole, salad, fruit

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter Dinner

We went quite traditional, although we missed the potatoes au gratin because the casserole J was going to cook them in shattered, full of potatoes, after the burner it was sitting on was accidentally turned on. That was a little too much excitement for me! We did a spiral ham, steamed asparagus, broccoli cheese casserole, reheated mashed potatoes from the other night and biscuits. I also made a lovely 3-layer citrus cake. I jotted the recipe down from some magazine or book and forgot to write down which one. How frustrating! But, it turned out delicious!

Broccoli Cheese Casserole
6 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tbsp. flour
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 & 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets & steamed
3 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. dry breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter. Add flour and mix until smooth. Add soup. Cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add cheese & stir to melt. Remove from heat. Add broccoli & eggs. Put into greased casserole or 13x9 baking dish. In small pan, melt 1 tbsp. butter. Add breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake 30 minutes.

3-Layer Citrus Cake
1 c. butter, room temp
1/4 c. Crisco
2 c. sugar
5 eggs
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter and Crisco with sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix the flour, baking soda and powder and salt together. Add to butter mixture, alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry mixture. Add extracts. Pour into 3 greased & floured 9" round cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Frosting (I actually had to double this recipe to cover the whole cake, which gave me extra for the kids to eat between graham crackers):
1/2 c. butter, room temp
3 tbsp. orange juice (freshly-squeezed)
3 tbsp. lemon juice (you can sub some key lime juice for part of this)
1-2 tbsp. fine orange zest
1-2 tbsp. fine lemon zest
1 tsp. lemon extract
5-6 c. powdered sugar

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add juices, zests and extract. Gradually add powdered sugar until you have a good spreading consistency. I actually also added just enough red and yellow food color to make a beautiful pale orange color. It was a beautiful Easter cake, seeing as I didn't have my lamb pan out of storage.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Viva La Comida Latina!

We've had two meals this week that were of Latin origin, the first at Viva Barcelona in Westlake and the second at home. Viva Barcelona ( advertises its fare as being Spanish & Mediterranean. It's definitely a more upscale sort of place, very dark and staffed by tuxedoed waiters. The atmosphere was pleasant, but was marred by the basketball game on in the bar area adjacent to the dining room. I am on a mission to find a Cleveland area restaurant that will be an acceptable replacement for my beloved El Meson. Viva Barcelona is not that restaurant. The food was perfectly acceptable, but I will probably not return because it's just not what I am looking for and if I want to spend the kind of money one spends there, I'd just as soon head elsewhere. The kind of Latin cooking I am interested in comes better from my kitchen than theirs.

I had intended to go in for a few tapas, hoping to find things like tortilla espanola and choripan. I didn't see anything like that, so had decided that we could get the camarones al ajillo and the chorizo. J suggested, at that point, getting an appetizer and an entree. I would have been happier not to, but agreed. She ended up liking the food much more than I did, I am afraid. The camarones were fine, and certainly plentiful, but I like mine with a pure olive oil and garlic sauce, no tomato added. The bread and salad were both boring. I wanted to order the pork chops in garlic sauce, but the waited informed me that they were tough that night. I don't know if that was fair consumer warning or an attempt to get us to spend more money. If it was the latter, it worked. We ended up ordering the filet with Cabrales sauce. It was kind of a weird combination for me, the strong and very salty cheese sauce overwhelming the filet. J was very happy with it, however, so all was well. The dessert was the best part of the meal, a creamy flan with an impeccable sauce.

Tonight's meal made me happier, good home cooking. I made fideos with chorizo and zucchini, accompanied by corn, romaine salad and spiced peaches. I had no idea I was getting spiced peaches, but they were good. I meant to get plain old canned peaches. I can't find the wonderful raggedy O'Sage ones I usually get and love, so I had settled for Del Monte. The spiced ones were a nice change of pace.

Fideos with Chorizo and Zucchini
1 lb. chorizo, removed from casing
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cans chicken broth
16 oz. salsa
1 chipotle chile, finely-chopped (from small can of chipotles in adobo)
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
10 oz. bag fideos (or 10 oz. regular vermicelli)
1 zucchini, chopped
8 oz. queso blanco, grated
1/4 c. minced parsley

In stock pot, brown chorizo with garlic. Drain fat. Add next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover & simmer 15 minutes. Add pasta & zucchini. Cook 5 minutes more. Add 1/3 c. queso blanco and parsley. Serve topped with remaining cheese.