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.