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.