Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Autumn Breakfast For Dinner

Last night, I made a simple but delicious dinner of pumpkin pancakes, peppered bacon and fresh apple slices. It's a good thing it was simple, too, because my church meeting ran over and I was late getting started. This got us fed before 10 and gave us the chance to use some of the locally-produced maple syrup we bought while we were visiting my auntie over the weekend. The pancake recipe is my adaptation of the one served at A Cambridge House Inn in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Pumpkin Sour Cream Pancakes
1 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
A dusting of cinnamon
A dusting of cloves
A dusting of allspice
1 egg
1 c. milk (you could also use buttermilk)
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. canned pumpkin puree (I toyed with the idea of using pumpkin pie filling, which I may try at some future juncture)
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tbsp. vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the rest together. Slowly whisk the liquid mixture into the dry mixture. Coat a skillet with cooking spray and heat it. Ladle about 1/3 c. batter per pancake onto the skillet. Cook on medium heat until little bubbles form on the surface. Flip and cook a few more minutes. Keep warm in a low oven, repeating until all the batter is used. Serves 2-3 (it made 8 pancakes for us).

Ice Cream for My Baby

For my sweetie girl's half-birthday gift in August, I had her list 12 ice cream flavors she would like to eat. Voila, instant ice cream club! The plan was to make her one a month until her next half-birthday, but I had a hard time finding a good recipe for chocolate peanut butter ice cream. I did succeed, though, and boy oh man was it good and creamy! Here's the link:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wood You Like A Salad?

Last night, we were supposed to go to dinner at Vintage House Café, where I'd already planned to have chicken paprikash and a slice of pie. Sadly, J had to work late and by the time she got off, the hour was late. So I just drove until I found a place that looked promising and open. I was hoping for some fresh, light food and I picked the wrong place. I'd forgotten that last time we'd been to Behind the Woods, the menu was largely heavy Italian dishes and burgers. Sigh. J was very happy with the menu, ordering (after much debating and some die-rolling) the Sicilian Trio, a plate of cheese and tomato-sauced smothered goop. Okay, so she loved it. Not me. Every bite I tasted was just like the last, regardless of the fact that one bite was lasagna, one was manicotti and the third was veal parm. Not only did it all taste the same, it all tasted boring. Ah, well, perhaps it was just my mood. J was delighted with her dinner. Mine was actually pretty good, too. I ate the French onion soup that came with J's dinner. It was fine, but with no depth and sort of blah. They need some sherry or some herbs or something to liven it up. My buffalo chicken salad, on the other hand, was good. The lettuces were fresh and crisp, the chicken actually had some good heat to it (although it was different from the usual buffalo sauce) and the blue cheese dressing was well-made if not stand-out.

The service was quite good and the atmosphere is pleasant. We sat again at a booth with a framed picture from Dean Morrissey's delightful children's book, Ship of Dreams, about a little boy who gets to spend one night on the Sandman's ship, making his rounds with him. The booths are made from old church pews, wood is everywhere and there is a lovely pressed tin ceiling above. There are also a number of stained glass lampshades hanging down, their light muted by the pink bulbs used.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fall Soup Supper

I have decided to start a new tradition. I read in a magazine about a woman who makes a batch of gingerbread cookies on the first rainy day of Fall every year. When I read it, I instantly decided I liked the idea. However, I put a twist on it and decided that I would start making a pot of soup on the first rainy autumnal day each year. Yesterday was it and I already had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on the menu. Perfect! Since I already had most of the ingredients and could have J pick up a can of corn and some beef broth on the way home, I decided to make alphabet soup. I also served the kettle chips I'd bought specifically to go with the sandwiches (which, by the way, are just grilled cheese with some ham thrown in-peppered ham, this time) and some Pink Lady apple slices drizzled with lavender honey in honor of Rosh Hashanah. I haven't yet figured out how to keep the soup from becoming casserole upon standing, but it makes a tasty casserole, too. I'd thought maybe pre-cooking the alphabets would help, but no. So, I guess I'll keep tinkering away on that. In the meantime, give this a try.

Alphabet Soup
6 c. beef broth (you could also use water, but the flavor won't be as rich & I might add another cup or two of broth next time)
1 big handful fresh green beans, broken into small pieces (canned or frozen could be subbed)
A couple/few peeled & diced carrots
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 diced onions
A couple/few diced stalks celery
1 tsp. basil
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 can corn (or a heaping cup of frozen-or you could cut it off ears, too)
An overflowing cup of frozen lima beans (I like Fordhooks, but if you like the baby ones, use 'em)
1 can diced tomatoes, not drained
2 c. water
3/4 c. alphabet noodles (I might take it down to half a cup next time to avoid the casserole effect)
Salt & pepper, to taste
(Keep in mind that you really can use whatever veggies you have on hand. I'd've thrown in a diced potato if I'd had one around. You can change up spices, too. I would not omit the tomato or the onion, though)

Bring the broth to a boil in a soup pot. Add green beans, carrots & bay leaves. Cover & cook on medium until carrots are just tender, then cover & lower to a simmer. Heat oil in a skillet, then add onion, celery & basil. After 2 minutes, add green pepper & sauté until tender, taking care not to overcook. Add to soup along with corn, limas & tomatoes. Bring the water to a boil. Add noodles and cook 5 minutes. Drain & add noodles to soup. Cook another 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings before serving.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Salad and Muffins for Dinner

Last night, I made avocado chicken & rice salad, steamed broccoli and onion walnut muffins for dinner. The salad is my adaptation of a Paula Deen recipe and the muffin recipe came from my Russian friend, Kira.

Avocado Chicken & Rice Salad
1 c. cooked, diced chicken
1 & 1/2 c. cooked jasmine rice
1 diced avocado, tossed with a little lime juice
Half a medium red onion, chopped
1/2 c. mayonnaise (I used olive oil mayo, to good effect)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Mix everything together & serve. Serves about 4.

Walnut Onion Muffins
4 onions, quartered
1 c. butter, melted & cooled
3/4 c. sugar
4 lightly beaten eggs
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
3 c. flour
3 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 425. Coat the cups of 2 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray. Pulse the onions in a food processor or blender until puréed. Mix 2 cups of the onion purée (reserve any excess) for another use) with butter, sugar and eggs. Add salt. Add baking powder. Add flour. Add walnuts. Put in prepared tins and bake 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from tins.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mmm, Curry

J brings home gigantic bags of extra sauces and soups from her plant. I am usually happy to see them, but I was especially happy when she made chicken with their Thai curry sauce last night. The last time she brought it home, we added extra coconut milk and some heavy cream to cool it down and give it that nice coconut hit. This time, they've tinkered with it and it had a much better coconut flavor. Last time, J made the chicken with potatoes & carrots and we served it over rice noodles. Last night, she heated up some Trader Joe's lime rice (with coconut & lemongrass) and stir-fried a frozen asparagus stir-fry blend with some toasted sesame seeds to go with it. Good stuff! Of course, now that the blend is just right on the curry sauce, the restaurant that was using it is dumping it in favor of a teriyaki sauce J says isn't even worth bringing home. Bummer.

Kid Lunch

Today, J asked me to bring her a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and milk for lunch. So, I put strawberry preserves & Jif peanut butter on Wonder Bread. I grabbed a Paula Red apple & stopped by the convenience store, for the other components, on the way to her office. I picked up some milk, a bag of Fritos and a Hostess cherry pie. She was beyond excited. I chose Fritos and iced tea to go with mine. I also picked up a guava pastelito, which I am heating up for my afternoon snack. Yum!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Quesadilla Me!

Since I know my grandmom likes quesadillas, I decided to try a quesadilla pie tonight. We had a salad with it, very simple dinner, very tasty.

Quesadilla Pie
Crust for 2-crust 9" pie
1 c. chopped onion
1 tbsp. butter
1 chopped tomato
4 oz. can sliced olives
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 eggs
2-3 drops hot sauce
4 oz. shredded Monterey Jack
4 oz. shredded Cheddar
Sour cream
Salsa (I am partial to Newman's Own)
Put crust in pie plate. Put oven rack in lowest position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook onions in butter until tender. Add tomato, olives, seasonings. Beat eggs with hot sauce. Reserve 2 teaspoons of egg mixture. Add 1/2 cup of each cheese to eggs. Put rest of cheese in bottom of pie crust. Spoon onion mixture in. Pour egg mixture over and spread evenly. Put on top crust and seal. Vent the crust (it's fun to do this with mini cookie cutters). Brush with reserved egg mixture. Bake 45-55 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before cutting. Serve with sour cream and salsa. (I think some green chiles would be good in this, too, just a little can)

Barbecue and Banana Pudding

Today, my aunt Jeanie and I went shopping and then had lunch at City Barbecue in Beavercreek. I'd been wanting to try the Centerville location since it opened several years ago so I was glad when Jeanie said barbecue sounded good to her. When I first moved back to Ohio after living in a little farm town west of Nashville for a few years, I loudly bemoaned the lack of good barbecue. This has been remedied. I have found three spots that have the real thing now. Rudy's Smokehouse Barbecue in Springfield is up to par, as is Bubba's Q in Avon. Now, I can add City Barbecue to the list. I'd heard good buzz on the place and expected it to be decent, but was surprised by how very good the food was, how perfect the sweet tea and how kind the staff.

It's strictly casual, with a counter for ordering and big round metal trays to carry your sandwich, on waxed paper, to a table. The fact that there are tables sets it apart from a number of great joints I used to hit in Tennessee, but that didn't diminish it for me. Had the weather been a smidge warmer, we could have sat outside, but it was comfy inside, too, with old signs on the walls and the blues playing on the sound system. As far as I'm concerned, blues and country are the only proper music for a barbecue joint.

We both chose the pulled pork sandwiches, but Jeanie got hers North Carolina style, with vinegar sauce and slaw on top, while I had mine straight up. They were piled high with extremely tender meat that really had been slow-cooked and had acres of flavor. The tables were graced with a number of sauces to try. I went for the original, a red-brown sauce with a nice balance of sweet and smoky. I had a side of mac & cheese, one of the world's most perfect foods. It was the creamy kind with a heavy hint of cheese, tasting like someone's mama made it. I also had a side of thin-sliced cukes and onions in a sweet vinegary sauce, a refreshing accompaniment I found at add-a-dishes during my Tennessee tenure.

When I'd finished my meal, I found that I really did want to try that banana pudding. Banana pudding is something I wouldn't even touch until I lived in the South. Now, however, I am very fond of it. My auntie had been smart and picked up a serving with her meal. I went back for it, saying, "I decided I need the banana pudding." Amazingly, the woman at the counter told me, "It's okay. You're fine" when I opened my purse to pay. It was almost like hanging out with family and boy, was that pudding good! It wasn't fancied up at all, but just like something from a southern grandma's kitchen. While I adore the Max and Erma's yankeefied rendition of banana pudding, this was, like the meat, the real deal. Beautiful!

Fish Night at Clyde's Dale

Last night, I tried a Bon Appetit recipe for tilapia with balsamic butter sauce, had steamed rice and green beans on the side. The fish turned out lovely. My auntie has a rice cooker from Japan and the rice was splendid. I'd always kind of pooh-poohed the whole rice cooker idea since my rice usually turns out good, but the texture was very nice and it kept the rice warm for us while I finished the rest. Jeanie made an absolutely delicious strawberry spinach salad to go with it all. That made a great dessert for me!

Tilapia with Balsamic Butter Sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil
6 (4-5 oz.) tilapia fillets
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 minced clove garlic
1 stick chilled butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
Simmer vinegar and garlic until reduced to a thick syrup, about 5 minutes. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in each of 2 skillets, on high. Salt and pepper the fish. Sauté until golden, about 2 minutes per side. On medium-low heat, whisk the butter into the balsamic reduction, 1 piece at a time. Serve over fish. Serves 6.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Light Dinners

Since my aunt Jeanie and I are both trying to lose weight, I made a couple of light dinners this week. Last night, we had garlic shrimp with jasmine rice and spinach salad. I like the Cuban version better, but this was pretty good and terribly easy. It was also easy to do so that my grandmom didn't have to have garlic in hers. Tonight, it was a not-completely-traditional version of sopa de albóndigas, Mexican meatball soup. It's rainy in Ohio tonight, so it was a good soup night.

Garlic Shrimp
2 lb. large frozen, cooked, ready-to-eat shrimp
2-3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. butter
Pinch cayenne
1/2 c. minced flat-leaf parsley
Thaw and rinse shrimp. Pat dry. Put in microwave-safe bowl. Top with garlic. Dot with butter. Microwave on high for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Stir well. Sprinkle lightly with cayenne and add parsley. Makes about 50. I added a little fresh lemon juice, too.
Mexican Meatball Soup
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 eggs
2 oz. diced pimiento
1/3 c. chopped parsley
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. cumin
Salt & pepper
4 (14 oz.) cans reduced-sodium beef broth
1 tsp. hot sauce
2 diced carrots
2 diced zucchini
2 diced tomatoes
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
3 c. shredded cabbage
Mix beef, eggs, pimiento, parsley, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper together. Shape into 1" balls. Bring broth and hot sauce to a boil in a large pot. Add meatballs. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and skim off any foam that has formed. Add all the vegetables but cabbage. Simmer, covered, on medium-low heat for 25 minutes. Add cabbage and cook 5 minutes.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Chicken Fattoush

This is my adaptation of a WW recipe. I think their version has 8 Points per serving. This is probably the same. I served it with red grapes, Marcona almonds and Boursin cheese.

2 tsp. + 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken breast, scalloppine-style, cut in thin strips
3 pita rounds, toasted and cut in thin strips
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 English cucumber, sliced
1 red onion, sliced very thin
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. mint, cut in chiffonade
3/4 tsp. cumin
Salt & pepper

Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in skillet on medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken and add to skillet. Sauté until cooked-through and golden. Put in large bowl with pita strips. Add rest and toss thoroughly. Serves 4. Easy and fresh-tasting! I don't think this is completely authentic because there is no sumac or za'atar, but it is good and doesn't make my mouth itch the way sumac does.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Ridin' the Range Once More

Just a quick one, though, before I hit the mall with my wife and boys. I made a Bolognese sauce that turned out not so great for Friday night. It was fine and my 15 y.o. really liked it, but I was disappointed with it. I guess I expected more since I followed the recipe to the T and put a lot more effort into it than I usually do spaghetti sauce. It was just kind of boring. Oh, well, the bucati from Trader Joe's that we had it over was fabulous. That's my new favorite pasta shape. Last night, we had burgers with chili and cheese, Cowboy burgers. Pie chose to eat his plain, but I would definitely eat them with chili again. I was lazy and just opened a can of Campbell's chili. I think they'd be much better with my own chili, but it was easy and quick, which is always good when the fam's been swimming at the rec center and is really hungry. I served a baby greens and herbs salad, fries and tangerines with the burgers and we had a Sara Lee cherry pie for dessert at the request of my oldest.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Souping and Caking

When I got done arting with the girls on Saturday, I went home and commenced to cook. I made a pot of spicy cheeseburger soup, which we had for dinner with bread, and a chocolate raspberry cake, which we had after being disappointed by the newest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie. The soup was nearly too spicy, even with the toning down I did. The boys and J raved about the cake long after they'd finished their pieces and gone on with life. I would add a touch more jam next time, but J said, "Don't change a thing!" I've had these recipes for so long that I have no idea where I got them.

Spicy Cheeseburger Soup
1 1/2 c. water
2 peeled, cubed potatoes
2 sm. carrots, grated (I actually used a fat handful of baby carrots and match-sticked them)
1 sm. onion, chopped
1/4 c. chopped green pepper
1 seeded, chopped jalapeño (I used half)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. beef bouillon granules (I used a Knorr cube, crumbled)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 lb. ground beef, thoroughly browned & drained (I used 90% lean)
2 1/2 c. milk (I used 1%)
3 tbsp. flour
8 oz. Velveeta, cubed (I used 2%)
1 tsp. cayenne (I used half, tasted, then added the rest. I would simply use half next time)
1/2 lb. crumbled, cooked bacon (Frankly, I don't think this added anything, really, and the texture was a little awkward, so I would skip it next time)

In a soup pot, mix water through salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes. I found that 15 was fine, but I cut my veggies small. Add beef and 2 cups of the milk. Heat while mixing flour with half a cup of milk until smooth. Add gradually to pot, mixing well. Bring to boil. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Reduce heat and add Velveeta, stirring to melt. Add cayenne. Top each serving with bacon on the way to the table.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake
1 chocolate cake mix (I used Devil's Food)
12 oz. chocolate chips
1/4 c. raspberry liqueur (optional & I skipped it)
1/2 c. raspberry jam
8 oz. sour cream (I used light without any texture or taste issues)
2 tbsp. chopped, toasted pecans (I subbed hazelnuts with no regrets at all...they seem right)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir up the cake mix according to the directions on the box. Add 1 cup of the chocolate chips to the batter and pour into 2 greased and floured 9" round pans. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350, using the toothpick test to determine doneness. Cool on wire racks 10 minutes, then remove from pans to cool completely. Brush top of each layer with liqueur, if using. Spread one layer with jam. Add second layer. Melt the rest of the chips, cool and gradually add sour cream. Spread the frosting on top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle with nuts. Chill 2 hours. (It did seem as though the frosting would have done just fine if eaten right away rather than being chilled, but I went ahead and chilled it anyway)

Apparently, the boys were still raving about this cake in the car on the way back to PA. It wasn't my favorite cake ever, but the rest of the family sure loved it. I have been spoiled by my chocolate nemesis, I suppose.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Operation 10 by 40

My wife and I have decided, after a week indulging in Miami, to try and get fit. She is calling her project Operation Size 12, for her goal size. Mine is size 10 by age 40. Not sure I can do it that fast, but we shall see. Last night, she broiled some tuna steaks she'd marinated in Old Bay Lemon & Herb, lemon juice, cayenne and a smidge of olive oil. On the side, we had a big salad with light Italian dressing and some steamed veggies. Tonight, I made a big salad and some pita sandwiches. The salad was an iceberg blend with cubed avocado, pieces of crisp turkey bacon, chopped tomato and light vinaigrette. I put a small amount of Jack cheese in the pitas, along with baby spinach, broccoli sprouts, sliced black olives, cucumber slices and light vinaigrette. It was a nice light dinner that was plenty filling. Now, I am going to have a Valencia orange and watch "Georgia Rule." When J gets back from class, we'll hit the treadmills for a half hour walk. Last night, we did the same and it was actually fun, with someone along to keep me company.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chili & Pasta for a Chilly Night

Oh, boy, do I love chili! Last night, I put it over pasta for our supper and it was delicious! This is my adaptation of a Weight Watchers' recipe:

Rotini with Turkey Chili
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 minced cloves garlic
1 chopped onion
1 lb. lean ground turkey
28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 lb. rotini

Heat skillet on medium-high heat. Add oil and heat. Cook onion & garlic in oil for a couple of minutes. Add turkey & cook until browned. Add tomato & spices. Bring to a boil. Simmer while you cook the pasta, 15-20 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Tonight, my Beloved is cooking, but I am throwing some bread machine bread together & making amaretto peach crunch for dessert.

Garlic Herb Machine Bread
1 1/4 c. water
1 tbsp. butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 1/4 c. bread flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. basil
1 1/2 tsp. bread machine yeast

Add to machine in order and set for large loaf of white bread.

Amaretto Peach Crunch
1 lb. sliced peaches, fresh or frozen
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. amaretto
20 amaretti cookies (I really only like the Lazzaroni ones)
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/8 c. brown sugar
1/2 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put peaches in 8x8 baking dish. If frozen, defrost before putting in dish. Sprinkle with lemon zest and juice and amaretto. Grind amaretti into crumbs in a few short blender pulses, adding almonds in last couple of bursts (or whack it all to crumbs in a zipper bag). Add sugar. Put in bowl & add melted butter, mixing with fork. Sprinkle over peaches and bake 25 minutes.