Monday, December 14, 2009

Blustery Cleveland Night Chili

Thursday night, I'd planned chili for dinner as a nice welcome-home for J when she arrived from Vegas. Her plane was coming in late and I liked the idea of having something we could eat at dinner-time and I could reheat for J if she was hungry when she got home. I am ever so glad I did have chili in mind because the weather was atrocious and I really needed something warm and comforting. The wind was blowing like all the fiends of hell, rattling all the windows as though it wanted desperately in from the cold as much as I did. I tried macaroni in my chili, not something I'd ordinarily try, but a good choice nonetheless. Of course, my chili was chili mac by the time I was ready to eat some leftovers, but it was delicious chili mac. I am not a chili purist, just someone who likes yummy dinners. I mixed up a box of Jiffy corn muffin batter and poured it into a butter-slathered iron skillet to bake. It was perfect.

Blustery Cleveland Night Chili
1 lb. burger
1 onion, ch.
1/2 green pepper, ch.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato soup (the condensed sort)
16 oz. can diced tomatoes
15 oz. can kidney beans, drained
2 tbsp. chili powder
A good shake of salt and a good grinding of pepper
15 oz. can beef broth
2/3 c. macaroni
Sour cream & shredded cheddar for garnish
Spray pot with cooking spray. Brown meat with onion & pepper. Add garlic, tomato soup, tomatoes. Add beans, chili, salt & pepper, broth. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni. Lower heat & simmer 10 minutes. Serve with garnish & hot cornbread.

The Candy Kitchen 2009 is Open!

Friday night, I played in the kitchen into the wee hours, baking Pie's birthday cake and making candy for my Art Gang Ohio buddies. For years, Pie wanted the same birthday cake as his brother, a 4-layer cake. 2 layers were white, 2 were chocolate. The chocolate ones had white icing and the white ones had chocolate icing. They invariably leaned at a scary angle and the white-iced layers had chocolate crumbs in the frosting most years. Two years ago, he decided he wanted pumpkin pie instead of cake, last year J made his cake in a 13x9 pan, this year, he decided he'd like to try my flourless chocolate cake for his birthday this year. I was delighted. I am rather picky about cake and this is my favorite of favorites. I happily went about purchase of the ingredients and fought off my wife's attempts to take on the task to help me out. This is my adaptation of the original recipe from the late, lamented Gourmet Magazine.

Chocolate Nemesis

2 sticks butter, cut into slices
12 oz. good bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (this was Ghirardelli)
5 eggs
1 c. sugar
7 tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter a round 10" cake pan and line bottom with parchment. Butter parchment. Melt the chocolate with the butter just until it can be stirred smooth. I do this in the microwave, but you can use a double boiler. Beat the eggs with 1/3 c. sugar on high speed until tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Heat 2/3 c. sugar with the water over moderately low heat, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved. Pour into chocolate and mix well. Allow to cool 10 minutes, then pour gradually into the eggs, beating on medium speed until fully incorporated. Pour into cake pan. Place in roasting pan lined with a dish towel. Fill with boiling water until the level is 3/4 of the way up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until just set, 50-60 minutes. Allow to cool at least 2 hours. Loosen the edges of the cake with a knife and invert onto a cake stand. Remove parchment and decorate, if desire. I like to put raspberries along the edges and pile a bunch of them in the center. This is especially good with freshly whipped cream. I like mine unsweetened, with a hint of vanilla. You could also flavor it with the merest bit of orange or raspberry. It's also nice to sprinkle the whole shebang with powdered sugar.
While the cake was baking, I made treats for the gift bags I presented to the Art Gang Ohio gals. Every year at our Christmas tea, everyone brings wonderful gifts to exchange. Since most of my art is being made in the kitchen these days, and since my skill level with visual art is nowhere near that of my culinary ability or that of the other women in the group, I decided to give everyone candy. My idea was for them to take a rest for a cup of tea and a little snack during this busy season. Each bag contained a clementine (reminiscent of stockings from our childhoods), a little peanut brittle (which I gave my granddad every Christmas from the time I was tiny and now give my mom's partner), a couple packets of chamomile tea, a couple lemon drop tea spoons, a packet of cocoa, a candy cane (to stir the cocoa) and some homemade marshmallows. It was my first attempt at marshmallows and I was much-chagrined when I discovered, after the ingredients were already mixed, that my candy thermometer had the tip broken off sometime in the last year. Following my life coach's advice about cheesecake, I challenged myself with this question: "What will happen if they don't come out right? The ingredients will be wasted either way, so you might as well try it!" I just followed the time guideline and they turned out great! They are particularly delicious in Equal Exchange spicy hot cocoa (or your own cocoa spiked with cinnamon and chili). I used Martha Stewart's very simple recipe, which can be found here:
I think next time I make them, I'll try cutting out snowflakes or hearts. What fun!
The lemon drop spoon recipe came from my friend, Sam, and they make great gifts with mugs & tea. They're also simple, if a smidge fiddly. I used hot pink plastic spoons, but you could play around with colors. One year, I'd like to get a bunch of old spoons from an antique store and use those, tying beautiful ribbons around the ends for presentation. I also want to play with other flavors, like orange and butterscotch.
Lemon Drop Tea Spoons
34 lemon drops, crushed (although I completely forgot this step this time and it just took a little longer than usual for them to melt)
2 tbsp. Karo syrup (any brand is fine, I just like Karo)
Line a jellyroll pan with wax paper and spray with cooking spray. In a small, heavy pan, mix the candy with the Karo over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until melted completely. Fill the bowl of each spoon with the mixture. (you could also just dip the spoons into the mixture for a different look and to eliminate the fiddly bit) Place with the handles on the rim of the jellyroll pan and the bowls of the spoonds level. Let harden. This makes 20-24 spoons. They are nice wrapped in cellophane and tied with pretty twist ties.

Clyde's Peanut Brittle
(Clyde was my granddaddy and he loved peanut brittle)
2 c. sugar
A little baking soda
1 c. peanuts
Grease a pizza pan or cookie sheet. Get a high-sided pan good and hot. Add the sugar and stir constantly until the sugar is all gone to syrup. It will look horrible & ruined for awhile. Keep stirring. Your arm will get tired. Keep stirring. All of a sudden, it will be a lush, golden syrup and you will smile. At this glorious moment, add the soda and nuts and stir it just a little more, until everything is well-mixed, and pour out onto the prepared pan to cool and harden. When it's fully hard, break into bits.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Breakfast for Dinner, Tex-Mex Style

Last night, after a hectic weekend which left me completely knackered and a late arrival home by J & Pie, I was happy to make a simple dinner. I'd planned to make refried beans and a salad with our migas, but completely forgot the beans and had J wrinkle up her nose at the idea of salad. So, we had this Tex-Mex tortilla and egg scramble with bacon for the sole accompaniment. Migas most closely resembles chilaquiles, but the chilaquiles we had at our friend Carla's outshine the dish I made last night by far. Perhaps it was my chicken-hearted omission of the jalapenos, perhaps Carla's superior cooking skills, perhaps these needed some black beans instead of bacon. Whatever the case, I wouldn't hesitate to make this again, but it was not the droolsome dish it could have been.

3 slices bacon
6 small corn tortillas, slightly dried out,
torn into smallish pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 finely-chopped jalapeno
6 sliced plum tomatoes
1/2 tsp. cumin
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 c. Monterey Jack, grated
Salt & pepper
Cook the bacon crisp and drain on paper towels. Wipe out skillet and heat the oil in it. Fry the tortilla pieces golden and drain on paper towels. Cook the onion, garlic & jalapeno about 5 minutes. Add bacon, tomatoes, cumin. Cook a few minutes. Add tortillas and stir. Add eggs, cheese, salt & pepper. Cook on medium-high until just set. Serves 3-4.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wild Mango Queens Harvest Feast

Tonight, our Wild Mango Queens gathering was a "practice Thanksgiving," an idea gleaned from my dear friend Andi's family. Every year, the weekend before Thanksgiving, they invite all & sundry to an early Thanksgiving dinner. I am not sure how the tradition started, but I have always been utterly charmed by it. I figured it was as good a theme as any for the November Mangofest, so I requested that each guest bring either a favorite Thanksgiving dish or one they'd love to try. Not sure who was coming or what they would bring (I like the "luck" aspect of potluck & prefer not to dictate what people bring), I went with the information that I had, which was that one guest is a vegetarian. Considering that, and thinking ahead to future Thanksgiving gatherings with my veggie mama & stepdad, I decided to make several vegetarian-friendly dishes. A couple of my contributions were personal holiday favorites of mine. I made green bean casserole and cranberry sauce (using the recipes on the Campbell's soup can---with 2 cups of fresh, steamed green beans instead of the canned I usually use in deference to tradition---and the cranberry bag, respectively). I also did a vegetarian take on sausage-based stuffing, using Yves brand soy crumbles. I was unhappy that I couldn't find soy sausage crumbles or even sausage patties that weren't maple-flavored. I think the stuffing would have been better had I been able to do so. However, it was quite good anyway. I used this recipe: and thought the hazelnuts worked particularly well. We started with Winter squash soup (recipe at:, a salad of mixed baby greens tossed with pear (red Anjou and Bosc) and apple (Winesap) chunks, walnuts, dried cranberries and gorgonzola (served with good extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic for drizzling) and egg knot rolls from the bakery. That alone would have been plenty, but in true Thanksgiving style, we moved on to another course of the dishes I had made and a yummy "chicken" mashed potato casserole (vegetarian, too) Kelly invented a few weeks ago when her cupboards were nearly bare. Course number 3 was the very most beautiful, a delicious pumpkin-gingerbread trifle Marcy brought. She says Paula Deen's recipe on the Food Network site ( ) is very nearly the same as the one her friend gave her several years ago. I may just have to try that for our family Thanksgiving this year. It was lots nicer than pumpkin pie or even pumpkin cheesecake.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Artichoke Dip Lasagna

Last night's dinner was not remotely healthy, but man, was it good! The white lasagna I made reminded me of nothing so much as the artichoke dip I make every year for our tree-trimming party, the delicious artichoke dip I have to force myself every year to stop eating so I won't make myself sick. I actually have made myself sick on it, years ago when I first started making it. I exercised due caution with this lasagna and so should you. We ate it with bread to soak up all the fat. Ha ha! Oh, and add some salad! Italian dressing pairs well with this.

Artichoke Dip Lasagna
10 oz. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 & 1/2 c. shredded Italian cheese blend
16 oz. ricotta
4 oz. chive & onion cream cheese
A good grinding of pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
10 oz. alfredo sauce
14 oz. artichoke hearts, chopped
3 oz. shredded parmesan
1/8 c. mayonnaise
12 oven-ready lasagna noodles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix spinach with 1 cup of the Italian cheese, ricotta, cream cheese, pepper and egg. Mix half the alfredo sauce with artichoke hearts, parmesan and mayonnaise. Spread the rest of the alfredo in the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Top with 3 lasagna noodles and 1/2 the spinach mixture. Repeat with 3 noodles and the rest of the spinach mixture. Top with 3 noodles and artichoke sauce. Bake 40 minutes. Sprinkle with mozzarella and bake another 5-7 minutes to melt cheese. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Friday Night Flank Steak

Last Friday night, it was just us grown folks for dinner, with Pie spending the weekend at his friend's house. I started marinating a flank steak in the morning and by evening, it was saturated with good flavor & ready to be broiled and accompanied by baked potatoes and a salad.

Marinated Flank Steak
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tsbp. olive oil
3 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. dry red wine
1 tsp. thyme
Salt & pepper
1 & 1/2 lb. flank steak, trimmed of fat
Mix everything but the flank steak in a ziploc bag. Add the flank steak & squish it around to make sure it gets coated nicely with the marinade. Marinate at least 2 hours, turning every so often to coat. Preheat broiler. Place steak on broiler rack and spread marinade on top. Broil to desired doneness, about 5 min/side for medium-rare.

Getting a Little Chile

Last night, I tried out a new pork chop dish and it turned out fantastic! We very nearly ordered pizza because I didn't get home until 8:30, but we decided to push forward with my planned meal, which was chile-rubbed pork chops, sweet potato hash, lima beans and applesauce. It's really quite simple, although the veggie chopping is a little time-consuming.

Chile-Rubbed Pork Chops
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped ( I used white sweet potatoes, but I think orange ones would be more aesthetically pleasing)
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, seeds removed, diced
1 yellow pepper, seeds removed, diced
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. each salt & pepper
A handful of chopped fresh sage
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. chile powder
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. each salt, pepper, coriander, cumin
6 thinly-sliced boneless pork chops
2 tbsp. olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all the hash ingredients except sage and butter in a baking pan (I used 13x9). Roast 1/2 hour. Meanwhile, mix first 7 pork chop ingredients into a thick paste. Spread on pork chops, covering both sides. Heat the 2 tbsp. olive oil in 2 skillets on medium-high heat. Sear pork chops on both sides. Cook, turning often, until cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Toss hash with sage and butter. Serves 3.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Foods Class Chicken

This morning when he went to school, Pie left us a recipe his Foods class made this week with a request for us to make it for dinner tonight. We did and it was pretty dang good! I think she does a really good job with the kids---makes class fun and teaches them some substantial foods instead of all desserts or something like that. I chose not to go with the "option" of instant mashed potatoes for which there was a recipe at the bottom, figuring that the real thing would be far tastier. Corn served as our veggie. We made absolutely certain to follow the recipe to the T so that Pie wouldn't be aggravated with us for making it wrong. Here is the recipe, exactly as his Foods teacher gave it:

Oven-Barbecued Chicken
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
4 chicken pieces (Pie amended this to 3 and noted "chicken breast only" meaning boneless)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 medium onion, chopped
6 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine first 4 ingredients; stir well. Dredge chicken in flour mixture. Pour butter into a 9x9. Arrange chicken in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients, stirring well. Place in bowl and leave in your lab. Remove chicken from oven, turn; spoon sauce over chicken. Bake an additional 30 minutes. Yield=4 servings

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Sweetheart of a Dinner

I made a very simple, but very delicious dinner this evening. J was skeptical when I told her I was making white beans & kielbasa, but she ended up liking it very much and we both adored the hearts salad. That was all we had and it was all we needed. Pie did not love it, but he ate a little of the bean dish.

White Beans & Kielbasa

15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained
14 oz. stewed tomatoes
1 lb. kielbasa, cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 c. dry breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 2 qt. casserole with cooking spray. Mix everything but breadcrumbs and olive oil. Put in casserole. Top with breadcrumbs and drizzle with olive oil. Cover and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 minutes. Serves 4.

Hearts Salad

6 tbsp. mayonnaise
A generous pinch of dried mint (or, if you have fresh, about 3 tbsp., chopped)
A smidge over a tbsp. of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
12 oz. marinated artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
1 c. chopped hearts of palm (Trader Joe's has a very good jarred variety)
Salt, to taste
Pomegranate seeds/dried cherries
Spring mix or other salad greens (since J chose the house salad this week, we had romaine and that was just fine but if I were serving this for company, I'd use spring mix so that's what I recommend here)

Mix together the mayo, mint and lemon juice. Add the hearts of palm & artichoke. Taste and salt, if needed. Serve on greens, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds or dried cherries. Serves 4.

Praline Lusciousness

Last night, we had breakfast for dinner. I am a huge fan of real maple syrup, but I decided to try something new and it turned out great. I made Belgian waffles, following Emeril's recipe at and we topped them with praline syrup. J fried up some bacon and we also had fresh pineapple. Good stuff.

Praline Syrup
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. light Karo
3 tbsp. water
A dash of salt
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. chopped pecans
Mix everything but butter and nuts in a pan. Bring to a boil. Simmer 2-3 minutes. Add butter and nuts and stir to melt butter.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Lemon Heaven

Tonight, dinner was ideal for all the lemon lovers in the house. That would be me. Luckily, J really loved dinner despite not being a fan of anything sour. Pie was grumpy because we are actually expecting him to do his school work or not play video games, so nothing would have tasted good to him...not that he would admit, anyway! But he ate every scrap of his dinner nonetheless. I made chicken picatta and served it with Trader Joe's lemon pepper pappardelle tossed with butter and an iceberg salad dressed with maple balsamic vinaigrette from J's plant.

Chicken Picatta
Salt & pepper
1 lb. chicken scallopine
3 tbsp. butter
Juice of 2 lemons
A little over 1/3 c. dry white wine
1 heaping tbsp. capers
Mix flour with salt & pepper to taste. Dredge the chicken in the flour mix. Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a skillet set on medium-high. Brown half the chicken on both sides. Keep warm on a plate in a low oven. Add another tbsp. butter to skillet and brown the rest of the chicken. Mix half the lemon juice, half the wine and half the capers. Add to chicken in skillet. Cook about 1 minute, turning chicken once during that time. Set chicken aside & keep warm. Return first batch of chicken to skillet. Mix remaining lemon juice, wine and capers. Add to skillet and cook 1 minute, turning chicken once. Add this chicken to the other batch and keep warm. Add 1 tbsp. butter to sauce in skillet and swirl to melt completely. Serve chicken with this sauce. Serves 2-3.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Halloween Fondue

Finding myself celebrating Halloween all by my lonesome, I wondered what I could make for dinner that would be special and celebratory so I wouldn't feel so blue about not getting to go visit my auntie with J & the boys. I settled on a Cheddar & Ale fondue recipe of Sandra Lee's. I skipped the homemade bread part, opting instead to eat it with pumpernickel and pretzel rods. This would be good for a party, too! A perfect accompaniment is Winesaps, sliced and served with caramel dip. I have a stash of caramel that my mom's neighbor made. Mmm. The fondue recipe can be found at: I used Wychwood Brewery's Hobgoblin Ale and it was perfect.

A Cozy Stew for the Crockpot

Monday evening, I walked into the house and gave thanks for the crockpot, from which a delicious odor of pork stew wafted! This is a tasty melange of winter veggies & pork loin, easy to throw together and soul-satisfying to eat. We just had some buttered bread with it.

Hearty Pork Stew

1 1/2 lb. pork loin, cut in chunks

3 parsnips, peeled and sliced

5 carrots, peeled & sliced

1 1/2 c. butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 onion, chopped

4 c. chicken broth

Salt & pepper to taste

3 tbsp. butter

3 tbsp. flour

Put pork and veggies in crockpot. Add broth, salt, pepper. Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours or on high 3-4. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Gradually stir in flour until you have a smooth paste. Add to stew, stir well and cook another 30-45 minutes on high, stirring occasionally. Serves 4-6.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Going Old-School with Caraway & Kraut

It was with great fear and trepidation that I decided to make German meatloaf for dinner. I knew the Amish-style fried noodles would be a hit, but I was fairly certain both wife and child would balk at meatloaf with sauerkraut, caraway and rye crumbs. Amazingly, the boy ate it and the wife actually really liked it, liked it enough to pack herself some for tomorrow's lunch. The boy is asking for more noodles as I type. With these German-y dishes, I served the Trader Joe's blend of edamame, corn and red pepper they refer to as "soycotash." Good stuff!

German Meatloaf
2 c. fresh rye crumbs
1 14 oz. can sauerkraut, drained well
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 tsp. caraway seeds
A good grinding of pepper
Salt to taste
2 tbsp. ketchup (I served this with ketchup on the table, too, but it didn't need it)
2 lb. burger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix everything but meat together. Add the meat and mix gently with your hands. Pat into a foil-lined loaf pan. Bake 1 hour & 15 minutes. I like to put a pizza pan underneath just in case. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Fried Noodles
3 1/2 c. fine egg noodles
3 tbsp. ch. onion
2 tbsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. hot sauce (I just eyeballed it & probably used closer to half a tsp.---I like Lousiana hot sauce, but use whatever you like)
1/2 stick butter
Cook & drain noodles. Add all but butter. Melt butter in skillet. Add noodles to skillet & pat into an even layer. Cook on medium 15-20 minutes, until golden. It may take longer than did for me, but I started my noodles on low.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Homey Dinner for a Chilly October Night

J loves chicken casserole, as well as broccoli casserole, so every so often I try to make something like that for her. Last night, I made a chicken & stuffing casserole, mashed potatoes with chicken gravy and corn. I was a little iffy about the casserole, but we both really liked it. Not so much the boy, but he picked the chicken out and had plenty to eat with the sides. He and his brother are not really casserole people, particularly if there is a creamy element to the dish. But, if you're a casserole person and you're not too high & mighty to cook with cream soups, I think you'll like this one.

Chicken and Stuffing Casserole

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced and cooked

14 oz. can chicken broth (I use the lower fat, lower sodium kind)

1 can cream of chicken soup (98% fat-free tastes just fine)

1 can cream of broccoli soup

8 oz. sour cream

1 bag herb stuffing mix (whatever kind you like is best. I used Pepperidge Farm in the red bag)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken in an even layer in a 13x9 baking dish. Mix the soups and sour cream together. Pour over chicken layer. Top with stuffing & pour broth over the top. Brown the top. This will take about 15 minutes. Turn the heat up to 375 degrees and bake another half hour. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. This will feed 6-8. By the way, if the damn ring on the soup can comes off before you get the can open, do not attempt to open it with a can opener. It doesn't work on either end. Instead, get out a meat mallet and pound the top a good few whacks until it cracks open and then pry it the rest of the way up with a butter knife.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Meatballs in Red Wine Sauce

Okay, the idea sounds a little odd, I admit, and the last time a dish like this was popular was probably when I was in middle school. However, I made it for dinner the other night and it was utterly delicious. I found it in an old garden club cookbook from who knows when under the appetizing name "Beef Balls Burgundy" and decided to give it a try, with a couple of modifications. My wife loved it so much she ate it for breakfast the next morning and it was a big hit with the 14 y.o., too. It tastes like being taken care of. I served it over egg noodles with steamed broccoli on the side.

Meatballs in Red Wine Sauce
1 1/2 lb. burger (I used ground round)
1 egg
1 slice of bread's worth of soft breadcrumbs
1/4 c. milk
2 tsp. Paula Deen's House Seasoning
3 tbsp. butter
1 lb. frozen pearl onions, thawed
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. sugar
1/3 c. flour
1 can condensed beef broth
1 c. dry red wine
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
Mix beef, egg, breadcrumbs, milk and 1 1/2 tsp. seasoning together gently. Shape into 24 meatballs. Melt butter in Dutch oven. Add onions & mushrooms. Sprinkle with sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly browned. Set aside. In same pot, brown the meatballs. Add to onion & mushroom mixture. Blend flour & 1/2 tsp. seasoning with drippings in pot. Add broth, wine and carrots and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add meatballs, onions & mushrooms back into the pot and heat through. Serves 6.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hot Dog Saturday

On Saturday, I made hot dogs for both lunch & dinner! Okay, so the ones at dinner were a soup ingredient. Nonetheless, it was a very hot diggety dog day. I'd planned to make hot dogs for dinner Friday night, but then J and I went out to 87 West Wine Bar for dinner. We shared 3 small plates and a small pot of chocolate fondue as we sat on the patio and watched kids play in the fountain. The chocolate fondue was tasty, but not very warm, so it was more like dipping our strawberries, pretzels, graham crackers and such in chocolate syrup. I think I'll skip it next time and just pick up dessert at Rocky Mountain Chocolate. The small plates, however, were all good. I do think they overcharge for the cheese plate, especially considering that they boast of homemade lavash and serve crackers we've bought at the grocery ourselves. They had 2 sorts of Tillamook, some anonymous brie and some anonymous gorgonzola, along with some dried cherry compote, and charged $15 for it. I am still not sure why I was willing to pay that price when I could get amazing artisan cheeses (an more variety) at The Winds for half the price. Probably just drunk on having a paycheck. The tempura asparagus with roasted red pepper dipping sauce was spectacularly good this time, just as last time, when we had the disappointing cheese fondue. The chevre & Granny Smith quesadilla was also outstanding, if more like dessert than an appetizer or dinner piece. I had a glass of gewurtztraminer while J enjoyed some Magic Hat beer.

Saturday, when J got home from work, I made some Hebrew National dogs, boiling them and steaming the buns in a covered colander atop the boiling water for the last few minutes of cooking. We topped them with ketchup, mustard, relish, chopped onion, diced tomato, celery salt & pepper. Our second dogs were lavished with chili from J's plant and sprinkled liberally with cheese before we downed them. Cheetos accompanied this fine entree. Pie avoided the hot dogs and stuck with the coffee cake I'd made in the morning until his mom took pity on him and fried up a cheeseburger. He is not terribly picky, but hot dogs go too far even for him. He adored the coffee cake, though!

Lazy Saturday Coffee Cake
1 c. + 2 tbsp. flour
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk
1 egg, well-beaten
1/2 stick butter, melted +1 tbsp. melted butter
1/4 c. ch. walnuts
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease an 8x8 baking pan. Mix 1 c. flour, 1/2 c. sugar, 1 tbsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. salt together. Beat in milk and egg, then 1/2 stick butter. Put in prepared pan. Mix 2 tbsp. flour, 2 tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tbsp. melted butter and nuts together. Sprinkle over batter in pan. Bake 20 minutes.
Saturday night, we hosted a favorite fall foods potluck for the Wild Mango Queens. J's contribution was chili and some nuts & cheeses for snacking. I made a pot of Nigella's split pea soup and an apple crisp, my grandmom's recipe. The split pea soup can be found here:
I could not find yellow split peas, but the green sort sufficed nicely. The apple crisp goes like this:
Grandmama Apple Crisp
7-8 large apples, peeled, cored, sliced (mix up the variety a bit, making sure they are really stellar cooking apples---I love Winesaps, but had to settle for Galas, Granny Smiths and a Pink Lady)
Juice of one lemon
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour
1/2 c. butter, cut in bits
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place apples in a 2 qt. casserole. Dot with butter & sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix remaining ingredients together with a pastry blender (or very lightly with fingertips, taking care that it doesn't become oily). Sprinkle over the apples. Bake half an hour and serve piping hot from the oven. Mmm!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fancy Eggs

Really, they were not so fancy, but my 14 y.o. thought they were too fancy. He'd just made scrambled eggs & omelets in his Foods class and thought his eggs were much better. "What is this stuff in the eggs? Mayo or something?" Ha ha! Had I put mayo in the eggs, I could understand his consternation, but it was cream cheese. J and I loved them. I served them with Bob Evans mild sausage, english muffins & peaches. I love breakfast for dinner!

Scrambled Eggs with Cream Cheese & Chives
9 eggs
A handful of fresh chives, minced (I think it came to about 2 tbsp.)
Salt & pepper
A hunk of cream cheese (probably 3.5 oz.)
2 tbsp. butter

Whisk the eggs with the chives, salt & pepper. Add the cream cheese, cut up. Melt the butter in a skillet & cook to your desired consistency. Serves 3 generously.

Last night, I made a very simple & delicious roast chicken. I rubbed a chicken with olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground pepper & herbes de provence. I put it in a baking pan & tossed in halved new potatoes & baby carrots, then roasted in a preheated 350 degree oven until it was done. At J's request, I also made a box of Stovetop chicken stuffing. So not my thing, but it was her night to pick dinner. Pie ate that quite happily.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Curry Pies

I had been nervous about putting the beef & curry pies I found in Gourmet's February 2006 issue on the menu. I wasn't sure J liked curry much at all and was fairly certain that Pie would not. However, they sounded so delicious that I decided to go ahead, regardless of the palates of the rest of the family. I was heartened when J chose a curried egg salad with lavender as part of our tea sandwich menu in the Victorian tea she did for our V date on Sunday. Last night, I served the pies with jasmine rice and salad, a very simple backdrop for a rather complicated main dish flavor. Pie happily ate rice & then made himself a sandwich, saying, "No, thank you" very politely after taking a couple bites of the pie. He said it tasted "wet." I thought the pies were absolutely delicious, as well as beautiful, all puffed and golden. For those of you more like me than like my 14 year-old, the recipe can be found at

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hakuna Frittata!

Tonight, we had another breakfast for dinner, this time a spinach & new potato frittata, with bacon, strawberry applesauce and toast to go with it. Frittatas are very simple to make and are elegant enough for company to dinner but also casual enough for breakfast with the fam. The ingredient possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

Spinach & New Potato Frittata
6 eggs
2 tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp. butter
7 new potatoes, sliced very thinly (mine were so thin that J asked why there were potato chips in the frittata!)
1 c. fresh spinach, torn into bite-size pieces and packed firmly into the cup
1/2 tomato, seeded & chopped
3 scallions, sliced
1 c. Swiss cheese, shredded
Beat eggs with milk, marjoram, 1/4 tsp. salt, pepper. Melt butter in 10" non-stick skillet (the size & non-stickiness matter for frittata). Add potatoes and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt. Cover & cook tender, 10-12 minutes. Add spinach, tomato, scallions. Cook just until spinach is wilted. Pour egg mixture into pan on top of potato mixture. Cover & cook on medium-low heat for 7-10 minutes, just until top is set. Sprinkle with cheese, cover & cook until melted. Slide onto serving plate and cut into wedges. Serves 4-6.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Splendid Meal for the End of a Long Week

Since my darling girl has been working crazy hours at work this week again (12 hour days minimum and I am writing this up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday as I brew her pre-work coffee), I thought it would be nice for her to have a delicious and cozy meal to come home to last night. As I stood in the kitchen, tears pouring down my face as I wielded my Wusthof over the onions, I thought, "You know, very few things are worth this kind of tears, but onions are so worth it!" I also thought of the scene in "Julie & Julia," which I saw with the church movie group last weekend, where Julia Child has been chastized at Le Cordon Bleu for her knife skills (or lack thereof). I know I am certainly way below par on that count myself. So, I could completely sympathize with Julia as she chopped an enormous mound of onions, weeping all the while, in an attempt to get her dicing just right.

Now, my heap was nothing to Julia's heap, but a pound and a half of onions felt like a bit of a big deal to peel and slice as I prepared the evening dinner, beer-braised beef and onions. While I cried over my labors, J watched some of her favorite Friday night crime shows and Pie worked on his D&D prowess. My recipe came from the February 2009 issue of Gourmet and can be found at

When I put the roast in, I threw in a few well-scrubbed potatoes as well. I was only doing half the recipe, as my roast was only half the size they recommend, so the potatoes were done perfectly right when the roast was. I also quick-roasted some green beans while I let the meat do its standing thing. Roasted green beans are incredibly simple, but the flavor is out of this world! All you have to do is toss about a pound of green beans with a tablespoon of good olive oil, a tablespoon of water and some salt & pepper. Scatter the whole mess on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in a pre-heated 500 degree oven (this is not a typo---I'll say it again: 500 degrees) for 8 minutes. The beans' flavor is pulled out to the forefront and they turn blackish around the edges. Deliciously green and a perfect counterpart to the silky depth of the beef.

For dessert, since the day's holiday was Cookie Day and I knew J was eagerly anticipating a batch of something scrumptious, I got out the familiar yellow Tollhouse bag, followed the recipe on the back and turned out a few dozen warm, gooey cookies. As I put them away last night, I wondered if there would be any left this morning, but the Night-Time Teen Marauder seems to have steered clear of the kitchen. Maybe I'll actually have a few left to take to my young friends down the street.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Chicken: Down-Home Casual or Uptown?

Whether you prefer upscale gourmet type meals or humble casseroles, I cooked chicken your way this week! I didn't actually mean to make chicken dinners two nights in a row, but things got out of whack when we ate out or ate lunch so late we didn't want dinner. So, the chicken with roasted garlic and lemon stuffing came right on the heels of a chicken casserole. No one complained.

Crunchy Chicken Casserole
1 lb. chicken, diced and cooked through
1 c. mayonnaise
3 stalks diced celery
2/3 c. dry breadcrumbs
16 oz. sliced water chestnuts, drained & rinsed
1/2 c. sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix everything but 1/3 c. breadcrumbs together. Put in a 2-quart baking dish and top with remaining breadcrumbs. Bake 20-25 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
I served this with the best mac & cheese I've ever had. I may have posted the recipe before, but I'll put it here so you don't have to go hunting for it:
Mac & Cheese for Lazy People
1 lb. macaroni
4 tbsp. flour
2 c. milk
4 c. shredded extra-sharp cheddar
Cook macaroni. Sprinkle with flour & stir to coat. Add milk and cook on low heat until slightly thickened. Gradually add the cheese and cook, stirring, until melted and creamy. Serves 8. I always make a bunch so I have leftovers.
I actually did include a veggie with this dinner, a beautiful head of cauliflower I picked up from the Amish folks at the farmer's market, cooked up wth a creamy lemon coating.
Lemony Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 c. chicken broth
Salt & pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Steam the cauliflower to the consistency you prefer...we like ours not so smushy. Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the flour and stir until smooth and lightly browned. Gradually add the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and season with salt & pepper. Add lemon juice. Add cauliflower and heat through, stirring to coat with the sauce.
Wednesday night, I went a little fancier with an adaptation of an Anne Kearney recipe, probably changes she would abhor, but agreeable to my recent bone-phobia. Yes, I have been finding bones alarming, particularly on chicken. I know all the criticisms and reservations about skinless, boneless chicken breasts, but that's what I used and they turned out juicy and flavorful. I highly recommend getting free-range chicken that hasn't been shot up with hormones. You should be able to get it at a farmer's market or perhaps even in your local grocery. By all means sub chicken on the bone, with skin, if you have no such phobia. The recipe as I made it is nothing like the one I pulled from McCall's in February of 2001. If you want her original recipe, you may be able to dig through the McCall's archives and find it as "Peristyle Lemon Chicken." Here is what I made:
Chicken with Roasted Garlic & Lemon Stuffing
1 head of garlic, roasted
3 1/2 tbsp. butter, softened
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. coarse, fresh breadcrumbs
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
A smattering of chopped parsley
4 chicken breasts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mash the garlic. Add 1 1/2 tbsp. butter, s&p, breadcrumbs, lemon juice & zest & parsley. Season the chicken. Heat remaining butter in a skillet. Brown the chicken in the butter. Divide stuffing among chicken breasts, nestling it into the meat. Bake 13 minutes. Serves 4.
I made mashed potatoes to go with this, using some buttermilk I'd picked up for banana bread in place of regular milk and Paula Deen's House Seasoning instead of just salt and pepper. I also served a romaine salad with an easy lemon dill vinaigrette---mix juice of half a lemon with 1/2 tsp. dill, 1/2 tsp. House Seasoning and 1/4 c. olive oil and you're done!

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Simple Summer Sandwich

Tonight, I tried a new variation on our old favorite, Russian sandwiches, and we all really enjoyed them. It's nice that Pie just eats whatever we're eating, without complaint or request for substitution. I usually do them with white bread, tomatoes, bacon and cheddar. Tonight, they were more like veggie melts. Pie and I had ours on rye, mine open-faced, his closed. J chose white bread, open-faced. We had pita triangles, storebought lemon hummus, corn on the cob and yellow watermelon with them.
Veggie Melts
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 Vidalia onion, thinly-sliced
1 big fat clove garlic, minced
2 small zucchini, thinly-sliced
Several fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
Salt & pepper
3 slices bread (whatever kind you like, but I'd go for a nice, hearty rye)
1 beautiful heirloom tomato, sliced
Muenster cheese (we used 4 inch-wide, medium-thick slices for each sandwich...use as much as you like...and whatever cheese you like)
Preheat broiler. Heat oil in skillet on medium heat. Cook onion, garlic & zucchini in oil, covered, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add basil and cook another minute. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Put bread on a baking sheet and top with tomato slices. Pile on some of the veggies and cover with cheese slices. Broil until cheese is melty and good. Set aside the rest of the zucchini mixture for spaghetti sauce or lasagna later in the week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nothing Like Sunday Dinner

There is nothing like Sunday dinner and I am now in the enviable position of being able to hang out and cook up a storm on Sunday afternoon. No more returning the boys on Sunday after visitation, no more rushed Sunday dinners before having to leave to get them back on time, no more super-quick meals after returning from the trip at 8 p.m. So, for our very first family Sunday dinner since Pie's return to live with us full-time, I am making Momma Neely's Pot Roast, to be accompanied by mashed potatoes and gravy and a salad. If , I will also be making a cherry pie, J's favorite. The roast recipe can be found on the Food Network website:

I had no tomato paste so I subbed a small can of tomato juice and used a couple pinches of dried thyme since I had no fresh on hand. The roast was a last-minute idea! It's doing its thing in the oven and I am about to pit the cherries for the pie. Lacking a pitter, I guess I'll just cut them out. Here's the pie recipe:

Oh My Stars Cherry Pie

1 1/4 c. sugar

2 tbsp. cornstarch

Dash salt

4 c. cherries

Pastry for 9" double crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, salt & cherries in a pan and let stand half an hour. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until thickened. Place a crust in the bottom of a 9" pie plate, trimming as needed. Add the cherry filling. Flute the edges and bake 45 minutes, taking care to cover the edges if they start to brown (I'd check after about 25 minutes). Cut the rest of the pastry into about a dozen large stars and as many small stars as you can get after that, probably 15-17. I just found my star cookie cutters, so it will be fun to use them for the first time since our move! Place the cut-out stars on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Toss randomly on top of the pie. Sprinkle the whole shebang with sugar after its cooled a smidge. Let it cool a bit more before cutting into it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Prosaic Casserole with Sumptuous Dessert

Last night, I made a very humble, canned soup based casserole, with corn on the cob and a salad. However, dessert was brilliant and lush and I could not stop eating it. I forgot to do parmesan butter for the corn, but this time of year, you scarcely need anything for it at all. Next time we have corn, I will make it.

Cheeseburger and Fries Casserole
1 lb. burger, browned
1/2 can cream of mushroom soup (the low-fat kind is fine)
1/2 can cheddar cheese soup
1/4 bag crinkle fries, baked according to package directions
Your favorite burger toppings (I used ketchup & mustard)
Place the burger in an 8" square baking pan. Mix the soups together (I don't think it would hurt to use the whole can, if you can't bear the waste) and spread over meat. Top with fries. Bake 35-40 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Serve with toppings. Serves 4.
The amazing dessert was Nigella Lawson's caramelized pineapple with hot chocolate sauce. I used the broiler rather than the grill and it turned out fine, although I suspect it would have been more magnificent still had I grilled it. I would eat the sauce with a spoon...or in a cocktail glass! Here's the link:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Planned September Dinners

-Crunchy chicken casserole, egg noodles, cauliflower with lemon
-Lemon chicken, mashed potatoes, salad with lemon-dill vinaigrette, ice cream with mocha syrup
-Noodles alfredo, salad, good bread
-Beer-braised beef & onions, baked potatoes, roasted green beans
-Chicken & dumplings, mashed potatoes, peaches
-Spinach & new potato frittata, bacon, fruit, salad
-Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn
-Beef & curry pies, rice, salad
-Scrambled eggs with chives & cream cheese, sausage, fruit, Easter bread
-Hot dogs, chips, fruit, salad, coffee cake
-Spinach-stuffed chicken, Greek potatoes, Greek salad
-Beef balls burgundy, egg noodles, broccoli

Kebabs and Fattoush

I'm so glad I planned a simple and fairly light dinner last night! J didn't get home from work until almost 11, so I was able to pop the kebabs under the broiler, with everything else already finished, and have dinner just coming out of the oven when she arrived, weary & hungry. When she was shopping for me earlier in the week, she couldn't find any lamb for the kebabs, so she brought home some filet mignon instead. They turned out delicious! By the way, if like me, you cannot find your wrought iron skewers and didn't soak the wood ones, you can always just lay the meat chunks on the broiler pan as they are, with the onions right alongside. I served these with only fattoush, but rice pilaf would be a good addition for folks eating earlier in the evening. The fattoush, incidentally, was delicious but perhaps doesn't qualify as fattoush since I was flying by the seat of my pants with ingredients! There would normally be some scallions and sumac would be used rather than za'atar.

Filet Kebabs
Enough filet mignon to feed two (8-16 oz., depending on how hungry you are)
1 lemon, juiced but with skins reserved
1/2 c. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp. za'atar
1 onion, quartered
Throw everything into a ziploc bag and squish around a bit. Let stand a couple-few hours, squishing around every so often. Thread meat & onions onto skewers (or plop on broiler pan). Preheat broiler (or grill) and cook until medium-rare. I served these with pita halves and we made sandwiches, but they're great alone, as well. Serves 2.
Fattoush-ish Salad
2 pitas, halved into 4 discs
1/2 cucumber, peeled, quartered and sliced
1 tomato, diced
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
A healthy dose of dried mint (use fresh if you have it, though)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Citrus sea salt (you can use any sea salt you like)
1/4 tsp. za'atar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put pitas, on baking sheet, in oven for about minutes, then set aside to cool. Mix the rest together. Break up pitas, putting the pieces of one in the bottom of each of two bowls. Top with salad. Break one more pita up over the top of the salad. Drizzle with olive oil or liquid from salad. Serve promptly. Serves 2.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cocktail Hour on the Porch, Cuban Food Inside

Sunday night, we had a lingering cocktail hour on the porch, something I'd like to try to do at least a few nights a week, followed by dinner inside. I mixed up a batch of Latin Lovers (pineapple-orange juice concentrate, cranberry juice concentrate, lime juice, Malibu, ice---blended smooth) and J had Mike's Hard Pink Lemonade. I cut up an heirloom tomato and took it on the porch with a bowl of tiny fresh mozzarella balls, a few stems of basil, a baguette, a bottle of olive oil and a bottle of balsamic glaze. We nibbled and sipped, blew bubbles and drew pictures with sidewalk chalk. Finally, I left J to enjoy the summer evening and went inside to cook. I made bistec de palomilla, black beans & rice, fried plantains and green salads with avocado chunks drizzled with olive oil and cider vinegar.

Bistec de Palomilla
1 top round steak, cut in half
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Juice of 1-2 limes
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
1 onion, sliced
Chopped parsley
Allow your partner to pound steak to within an inch of its life...well, a quarter-inch, actually. Mix garlic, lime juice, salt & pepper. Marinate steak in mixture for at least an hour while you enjoy cocktails on the porch with the Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack or Celia Cruz on in the background. Pat steak dry. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat until very hot. Brown each steak 2-3 minutes per side, tossing the onion in for good measure. Serve steaks garnished with onion and parsley, with a lime slice or two to squeeze over the top.

The War of the Cheeses

Last week, we had a war of the cheeses-Mexico vs. Britain. J had dinner for the night and had promised mac & cheese. I was all geared up for traditional mac & cheese, one of my most favorite foods. However, J had made a pepper-heavy queso dip at the plant that day and wanted to try it out in the macaroni. So, I was very happy we'd picked up some cauliflower at the farmer's market that J wanted me to make with cheese sauce. I am all for queso, but only with tortilla chips and the pepper flavor was too strong entirely. We had smoked sausages on buns, the mac & cheese and my very traditional cauliflower cheese, which I adapted very slightly from Nigella Lawson's recipe. I think Britain won. Even J ate more of the cauliflower than the mac & cheese & she didn't save the mac & cheese leftovers when she cleaned out the fridge, saying, "No one really liked that." Here's what I did for the cauliflower, which I found delicious but rather soupy and think would be best made without the extra baking next time, just using the sauce over the cooked cauliflower.

Cauliflower Cheese
1 lg. head cauliflower (you could probably safely either double the cauliflower or halve the other ingredients)
2 bay leaves
1 stick butter
2 tsp. English mustard (I used a grainy beer mustard)
1/3 c. flour
2 c. milk
3 c. plus 1/2 c. shredded extra sharp cheddar
A great splash of worcestershire sauce
Another great splash, this one of beer
Cut cauliflower in florets. Put in a pan with bay leaves and cover with cold water. Salt and bring to a boil. Drain and refresh with cold water. Put in 13x9 baking dish. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in a pan. Whisk in the mustard and flour. Cook on low for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and whisk in milk. Return to heat and cook, stirring, until very thick and starting to bubble. Gradually add the 3 c. of cheese, stirring between each little handful to melt. Add worcestershire sauce and beer. Pour over cauliflower. Top with the 1/2 c. of cheese and bake 20 minutes. Serves 8-10.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chicken For Two

I hadn't meant to get so chicken-y this week, but between the two of us, we've managed it nicely. It started with J's marvelous chicken parmesan Saturday night, accompanied by angel hair pasta & steamed broccoli. It ended, presumably, last night with the limeade chicken. I intend to do breakfast sausages tomorrow and steak Friday and I believe J is doing brats tonight.

Sunday night, I made a fried chicken salad with buttermilk dressing, which was refreshing considering that J made a roast for lunch on such a hot, humid day! She likes to have a big Sunday dinner while the boys are still with us, returning them home with full bellies and an appreciation of home-cooked food, and the roast was delicious, but it was rather heavy for August. I'd meant to make cheddar corn muffins to go with the salad, but my packet of locally-milled cornmeal has mysteriously vanished from the freezer! Most disheartening. So, we had Italian bread with it. The dressing was so delicious! I was rather displeased with the coating, as it tended to slip off, but the chicken was good nonetheless and I suspect I was just too hasty in turning it.

Monday night, we had a welcome break from chicken when J's plant made a sesame-rich teriyaki sauce and she got hungry for stir-fry. So, she did up a smidge of beef with a lot of delicious veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, scallions, yellow onions, carrots, water chestnuts) as a stir-fry, with teriyaki sauce to accompany. It was not by any means a traditional stir-fry, but it was quite tasty. My usual rice pan was in the dishwasher, so I used another and had less-than-felicitous results. I don't generally have trouble making rice, but then I always use the same pan. So, it was a tad undercooked and the leftovers will go to the dog, mixed in with some ground turkey, cooked up and stirred into leftover chicken pot pie filling as an alternative to canned dog food this week. She will be delighted! I have placed a Japanese rice cooker like my auntie's on my "to buy when I am getting a decent paycheck" list, which seems to grow longer by the day. Hers turns out simply lovely rice. I'd always thought a rice cooker seemed like an absurd thing to own until I tasted the rice she made in hers.

Last night, we were back to chicken, with a recipe I thought was quite sketchy. It came from a 2001 issue of Southern Living, although I had to modify it for two, rather than 8. It's certainly not something I'd ever make if I were feeding 8 people (wouldn't dare experiment quite like that with company) and I am actually rather puzzled as to why I even wrote the recipe down. It thoroughly violates my "no sweets with meat" principle with the main ingredient of limeade. Because of this violation, I was in fear of how dinner would turn out. I decided to make mashed potatoes to accompany it, rather than the rice I'd previously planned. The last thing we needed was another batch of raw-ish rice to go with revoltingly sweet chicken and I can be perfectly happy making a meal entirely of mashed potatoes, anyway. Luckily, though, the chicken was rather nice, even something I might possibly give to company. I served it with the potatoes and a mess of steamed green beans, which we discovered Harley loves while I was stemming them. I gave her a somewhat wrinkly one and she gently took it into her mouth and promptly ran to the living room with it to chomp it down, a practice she also uses with her most favorite of boneys. Now imagine, if you will, a great big Rottweiler-Doberman mix begging with sweetly tilted brown "eyebrows" for more beans! Ever so cute!

Fried Chicken Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
3 tbsp. mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3/4 c. dry breadcrumbs
2 chicken breasts (skinless, boneless)
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. sour cream
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
Spring mix salad (although I think iceberg would stand up better to the weight of the chicken & dressing---I will be trying it next time)
Coat a skillet with cooking spray and heat. Mix mayo & lemon juice. Coat chicken in mixture, then dredge in breadcrumbs. Saute on medium heat until browned on each side and cooked through. Meanwhile, mix up the dressing by combining the remaining ingredients (aside, of course, from the salad greens) and whisking well. Arrange the salad on two plates. When chicken is done, slice into strips and place atop the salad. Drizzle with dressing. Serves 2.

Limeade Chicken
2 chicken breasts (skinless, boneless)
Salt & pepper
2 oz. thawed frozen limeade concentrate
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 generous tbsp. ketchup
Coat a skillet with cooking spray and heat. Salt and pepper the chicken. Cook on medium until browned on each side and cooked through. Mix the rest together and pour over the chicken. Cook another 5-10 minutes, turning frequently and making sure chicken is thoroughly coated. Serves 2.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

"Junk Food" Supper

Okay, so if it's made from scratch (or nearly so), perhaps it doesn't really, truly qualify as junk food. But, it seems to me that any dinner eaten with Tostitos Scoops rather than silverware is pretty much in that category. Does it help that dessert was peaches? Last night, J and I were the only ones eating (had no idea that Boot is not eating red meat---aside from the enormous turkey, pastrami & corned beef sandwich he split with me today). I made a taco bake and served it with the aforementioned Scoops and corn. If you're into dinners that require no utensils but your fingers, make corn on the cob and this is your meal! It was delicious and I am, even full of J's fabulous chicken parmesan, angelhair pasta and steamed broccoli, contemplating a late-night snack of leftovers.

Taco Bake
1 lb. burger, browned & drained
1 packet taco seasoning
1 c. water
15 oz. can refried beans (I used Trader Joe's salsa style)
1 c. salsa (Newman's Own, medium for us)
8 oz. sour cream (oh, Cabot is lovely!)
1 lb. extra-sharp cheddar, shredded (I cannot speak too highly of Cabot & Tillamook. Last night, I used neither)
Tortilla chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 pan. Mix meat with seasoning, water and beans. Cook on low, stirring occasionally, 5-7 minutes, until thickened. Put in 13x9. Mix salsa with sour cream and spread evenly over the top. Top with an even layer of cheese (I think you could get away with 8 oz., J highly disagrees). Bake 20-25 minutes, until melted & bubbly. Serve with chips. Serves 6. Or more, if you want to use it for an appetizer.
Amaretto Peaches
4 large peaches
7 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 c. white wine
1 1/2 c. rose wine
1 1/2 c. sugar
5 tbsp. amaretto
Bring all but sugar and amaretto to a simmer. Simmer 20 minutes, then remove peaches. Add sugar to wine and cook to a syrupy consistency, keeping a close eye on it to make sure it doesn't bubble over. Cool. Add amaretto. Chill. Good on ice cream, with amaretti or shortbread, or all by their lonesome!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Healthy, Luscious Burgers

Last night as I was cooking dinner, I was positive it was going to be crap. Absolute crap. So, I made extra veggies to compensate. I'd planned on confetti turkey burgers, homemade cumin-lime tortilla chips and corn on the cob. I'd picked up some good-looking corn at the farmer's market. I'd also made a last-minute impulse purchase of some lovely green beans when the Amish fella who'd slipped us a few extra fingerlings gave us a sample of the slender beans. So when the burgers alarmed me, pre-cooking, I decided to steam the beans, as well. Luckily, everything but the chips turned out delicious! J was ultra-skeptical about the burgers, as well. Good thing I went ahead. Too bad the chips sucked. I have decided that I am not too keen on baked tortilla chips in the first place and am hideous at making them, secondly. Therefore, I have vowed to make pita chips the next time I am tempted to make my own chips...or just buy the damned things! Here, though, is the burger recipe:

Confetti Turkey Burgers
1 lb. ground turkey breast
1/2 yellow squash, shredded
Generous 1/2 c. cooked brown rice
1/2 tomato, diced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
A good grinding of pepper
A sprinkle of salt
A drizzle of olive oil
Mix everything but the olive oil. Form into 4 patties. Drizzle a skillet with oil and heat. Add the patties & cook until browned on the outside and cooked through, flipping halfway through. We negated the healthiness by having them on buns with mayo & Vermont extra-sharp cheddar. I highly recommend this. I wish I'd had some nice lettuces and some fat red onion slices to put on the burgers, too.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Bacon Basil Pasta

Well, J liked it, so I suppose I'll share the recipe in case someone else does. Last night, I made bacon basil pasta with Caesar salad & fricos. I found it to be quite bland and blah, but if you like your pasta plain, you may very well like this. I was winging it with the fricos & they turned out kind of weird, but not too bad. J loved them. I just mounded tablespoonfuls of good grated parmesan on a sprayed baking sheet and baked them for about 10 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. I think a coarser shred would make them turn out beautifully.

Bacon Basil Pasta
4 strips of bacon
1/2 lb. bucati, cooked al dente
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. chicken stock
1 tsp. basil (I would tear up some fresh basil if I made it again)
Parmesan (I ended up dumping a whole bunch in to try to alleviate the blandness)
Cook the bacon & drain on paper towels. In 1 tsp. of the bacon grease (maybe more would be better?), heat the spaghetti through. Add cream, stock & basil. Simmer 6-8 minutes. Season with pepper. Sprinkle with parmesan. Maybe some lemon would help?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Pie & Cake, Cake & Pie!

I've just pulled an Italian sausage & spinach pie from the oven to cool while I wake my sleeping beauty from her nap. I'll serve it with either salad or some beautiful green beans we picked up at the farmer's market this morning and I baked a chocolate cake yesterday that we'll have for dessert with Breyer's vanilla ice cream.

Italian Sausage & Spinach Pie
1 lb. Italian sausage
2 large scallions, thinly sliced
1 large mushroom, finely chopped
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
12 oz. grated Swiss cheese
4 oz. grated sharp cheddar
A good grating of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. each salt & pepper
1 tsp. sage
1 tbsp. milk
9" pie shell
Brown & drain sausage. Set aside. Saute scallions and mushroom for a few minutes in the sausage fat. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix spinach, cheeses, sausage, scallions, mushroom, milk. Prebake pie shell 5 minutes. Add filling. Put on baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes. Serves 8, but could also be done in tiny pastry shells for an appetizer.
The cake recipe can be found at:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

August Dinner Plans

Here are the dinners I plan to make in August. J and I have the month split right down the middle, 15 nights each to cook, with one dinner out. Perhaps I'll actually get to cook this month!

-Bacon basil pasta, salad, good bread, amaretto peaches
-Confetti turkey burgers, cumin chips, corn on the cob
-Taco bake, chips & salsa, corn
-Fried chicken salad w/buttermilk dressing, cheddar cornbread, fruit
-Limeade chicken, rice, green beans, peach sorbet
-Fried eggs, sausages w/milk gravy, biscuits, fruit
- Bistec Palomilla, moros y cristos, maduros, salad w/avocado
-Russian sandwiches, corn on the cob, fruit
-Lamb kebabs, fattoush, caramelized pineapple w/chocolate sauce
-Cheeseburger & fries casserole, parmesan corn on the cob, salad
-Veggie melts, pita chips & spinach-garbanzo dip, fruit
-Baked eggs w/artichokes & parmesan, bacon, fruit, toast, Mary Pickfords
-Asparagus-prosciutto bundles, fingerling salad w/sugar snaps, cheese muffins, gingersnap pear salad
-Rosemary omelets, potato fritters, artichokes w/sour cream filling, cherry pie
-Chino-Cubano wings, black bean mini-"pizzas", salad w/avocado cream cheese dressing

Also, at some point, strawberry ice cream!

The Big Night Out

My dad sent me money earmarked for a special birthday dinner. Since we didn't have time on my actual birthday for anything fancy, we went out last night instead. I considered restaurants like Henry's at the Barn, Nemo Grille and Lola, but ended up choosing The Melting Pot because we haven't yet been disappointed there. I'd love to try the others and I'm all about choosing local independents over national chains. But, if I'm going to blow $100 bucks on dinner, I'd like to have tried the place for lunch or apps first. So, on the agenda for when I am actually making some money is going out for small plates at all kinds of cool local places.

As we always do when we go to The Melting Pot, we chose to have the Big Night Out. I chose to do the traditional Swiss fondue, which was very good but not enough for all of our bread & apples. Salad was a caprese salad drizzled with balsamic---nice, but not as good as mine & it needed more basil. Then, we had mojo cooking liquid with a variety of meats, adding a lobster tail for my seafood-loving baby. I think my favorite was the chicken dipped in the mild curry sauce followed closely by the filet dipped in the blue cheese sauce. Our dessert fondue was dark chocolate with Chambord. I am a huge fan of the combo of dark chocolate with raspberry.

The food was great, we had the same fantastic waiter (Dan) as we did last year in the other Cleveland location (this was our first visit to the Westside location) but the best thing of all was the company. We had a delightful time visiting with one another and I am so in love with J. Oh, the drinks were terrific, too. I had a Hang 10 (10 Cane rum with muddled fresh basil, mango Monin syrup and pineapple juice) and J had a (really fabulous) Love Martini (Malibu, cranberry juice, peach schnapps and strawberry slices that looked like lush little hearts).

Thanks, Dad, for a great dinner out!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Keepin' It Simple

When I arrived home from the Wisconsin mission trip, J informed me that she'd gotten a great deal on a whole chicken and it was up to me to roast it. I am ever so glad she picked it up because it was delicious, filled the house with a wonderful aroma and will make some damn fine chicken salad for lunches! All I did was preheat the oven to 350 degrees, drizzle olive oil all over the chicken, dust it with house seasoning (which is included with Paula Deen's fried chicken recipe at, add a couple substantial pinches of herbes de Provence and rub it all in. Then, I baked it about an hour and 45 minutes, throwing in a couple potatoes to bake as well. We ate it with salads and leftover tomatillo/cuke salsa from Sunday night. Mmm, mmm!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back to the Stove

After about a month of being out of town and letting J cook, I finally got to cook Sunday night! I did a nice summer-y steak dish with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes on the side.

Peppered Filet on Garlic Toast with Tomatillo/Cherry Tomato/Cucumber Salsa
6 cloves of garlic, not peeled
3 c. water
10 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tomatillos, cut in small wedges
1 cucumber, peeled & diced
1/2 red onion, fine-chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
3 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 lb. filet mignon
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. coarse black pepper
4 slices Italian bread, toasted
Bring garlic & water to a boil. Simmer 15-20 minutes. Drain & cool. Peel & mash. Spread on toast. Spray broiler pan with cooking spray. Preheat broiler. Mix next 8 ingredients. Rub steak with oregano and pepper. Broil until cooked to medium-rare. Let stand 10-15 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain on an angle. Put on toast and top with salsa. Serves 4.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A Good Start on the Summer Cooking

When June arrives, I begin to be attracted to lighter, cooler dishes. To celebrate the arrival of June, I threw together a Mexicanish chicken salad, which we had with a round of sourdough, tortilla chips & fresh salsa (Trader Joe's, not mine) and big hunks of sweet pineapple. For the chicken salad, I diced and sauteed a couple skinless, boneless chicken breasts. I mixed the chicken in a bowl with half a cup of diced celery, half a can of corn (drained) and 1/4 c. sliced black olives. Then, I mixed about 3/4 c. salsa with 1/2 c. sour cream and folded that into the salad, gently tossing until everything was coated.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fish Week

We don't usually have a lot of fish here at home, but for some reason, we both made fish this week---two nights in a row! Thursday night Jeannene broiled some tuna with pineapple mango chutney from her plant. I made some Thai peanut noodles from a box and she treated us with corn on the cob. Last night, I sprayed a skillet with cooking spray and browned a couple of halibut fillets. I tehn set them aside and deglazed the pan with a splash of dry white wine. I added the juice of a lemon, a handful of chopped kalamata olives, some capers, a little salt & pepper. I then returned the fish to the pan and cooked it another couple of minutes. Before serving it with the sauce. I'd made a loaf of lemon oregano bread in the machine. Throw the following into a bread machine:
2 1/4 tsp. bread machine yeast
2 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar (scant)
Zest of 6 small lemons
1 tbsp. oregano
3 tsbp. olive oil
1 1/4 c. water

Set the machine for a large loaf and when it's done, brush with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice.

Our side, which was utterly luscious, was a tomato, basil & brie linguine:
3 chopped tomatoes
1 c. basil, torn in small pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. brie, torn into 1" pieces
1/4 c. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/2 lb. linguine

Mix everything but the pasta together and let sit about an hour. Cook the linguine and toss with other ingredients. I suspect this will also be good as a cold salad for lunch.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Baking Madness!

I did not intend to become a baking fiend over the weekend. To many of you, baking 2 desserts in one weekend hardly qualifies one for the title "baking fiend" but to me, the non-baker, it's a lot. Friday night, I made a batch of cherry turnovers and Sunday, we had coffee cake with our supper. The boys did not gobble these desserts up the way I expected, but I heard from J that when Pie did eat a turnover, he "mmm"ed all through it. Pie frequently doesn't notice what's going into his mouth, just what's on the screen in front of him. So, I consider that high praise. Both desserts were the essence of simplicity:

Cut a couple of pre-made pie shells into quarters. Plop a scant quarter-cup of pie filling slightly to one side of the center of each quarter. I do mean scant. Brush the edges with egg white and seal with a fork's tines (or, if you are lucky enough to have one, use a beautiful pie crimp like the one my blacksmith mama made for me). Brush the top with egg white, sprinkle with sugar and cut 3 slits in the top. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. By no means let your children eat them until they have cooled down because the filling is hot!

Coffee Cake-
Unroll half a tube of whomp crescents across the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish. Mix 8 oz. cream cheese (which you have allowed to come to room temperature) with half a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla and an egg yolk until it's smooth. Spread this over the crescents. Unroll the other half of the tube on top of this filling. Brush with egg white, sprinkle with sugar and top with 3/4 cup pecan pieces. Bake half an hour or so in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Dinner Friday night was a scrumptious roast with easy whomp biscuit dumplings:
2.7 lb. boneless chuck roast
A couple-few tbsps of oil
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 c. water
3 minced cloves garlic
6 whole cloves
8-count package of whomp biscuits
1/4 c. burgundy
2 tsp. beef bouillon granules
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Heat the oil in a big pot and brown the roast on all sides. Add tomatoes, water, garlic, cloves, wine, bouillon granules, salt & pepper. Cover and cook on medium heat 2 1/2 hours. Cut whomp biscuits in 4 pieces each and drop into pot. Cover tightly and cook another 15-20 minutes.

If you don't know, by the way, what whomp biscuits are, you need to read Jill Connor Browne's Sweet Potato Queens books. In fact, even if whomp biscuits makes perfect sense to you (hint: you whomp the tube on the counter to open the tube of uncooked biscuits), you still need to read her books. Go to the bookstore now. I'll wait right here. I served this roast with corn & salad.

Sunday night, I fixed a dinner I'd meant to make when it was just J and me, since I knew anything saucy with paprika and caraway seeds would be anathema to the kiddos. However, we had a big ol' package of pork chops and two hungry boys to eat them, so we switched nights and we had Hungarian pork chops inspired by a Stonyfield Farms ad. I love Stonyfield's yogurts, but I have to admit that I used Fage Greek yogurt in this and subbed in sour cream for half of it, since I didn't have enough yogurt. It was fabulous nonetheless! And the boys enjoyed their plain ol' fried pork chops. Frankly, I thought J would balk at the caraway (she despises rye bread) and paprika, too, but she loved it. I served the pork chops with egg noodles and lima beans.

1 1/2 lb. thin, boneless pork chops
2 1/2 to 3 tbsp. oil
Salt & peppered flour
3 minced shallots
2 tbsp. sweet paprika
1 1/2 tbsp. caraway seeds
1/3 c. dry white wine
2 c. chicken broth
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1/2 c. sour cream

Pound the pork chops to 1/4" thickness. Heat oil in a big skillet (or two). Dredge the pork chops in the flour, then fry in oil until nicely browned. Set aside. Add shallots, paprika & caraway seeds to skillet, along with an additional tbsp. oil if it's dry. Saute on low for a minute or so. Add wine and cook until nearly evaporated. Add 1 1/2 c. chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer a couple minutes. Whisk together the remaining broth and 2 tbsp. flour, until it's smooth. Whisk into skillet and simmer a couple minutes. Add the pork and cook until warmed through. Put on plates. Stir yogurt and sour cream into skillet. Heat through and adjust seasonings. Serve over pork.

Right now, I have the Asian-ish chicken I meant to make Sunday simmering in the crockpot. It super-simple. Spray your crockpot throughly with cooking spray. Dice a package of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Throw in crockpot with a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, 4 stalks of celery (also diced), a small chopped onion, a can of mushroom "stems and pieces" (drained) and a healthy half-cup of toasted sliced almonds. Mix up and cook on low 6-8 hours. I am serving it with Jasmine rice and steamed broccoli.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Quickie Sandwiches & Spaghetti From Scratch

Okay, so the pasta itself was not from scratch, but I did make the sauce & meatballs from scratch for our dinner last night. We skipped the salad, but did have some garlic bread to go with it. The meatballs & sauce are Nigella's, although I made some modifications. Her recipe is here:
I skipped the directions to blitz the onions etc to a pulp, just throwing them in the pot chopped. I omitted the sugar and used 28 oz. of tomato puree and 15 oz. diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning in place of the 24 oz. canned tomatoes in puree. It turned out wonderfully!

Wednesday night, we had an evening appointment, so I needed something quick but sumptuous for supper. I ended up mixing some softened butter with a minced clove of garlic, spreading it on 4 slices of sourdough, slathering on some mayonnaise, layering 2 slices with diced ham, brie and steamed asparagus and broiling it until the cheese melted. Those were topped with the other two slices of bread for a great sandwich, accompanied by kettle chips, romaine salads and fresh fruit. Yum!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's Grill Time!

Although I am not making tonight's brats that way, we did grill our ribeyes yesterday! I am delighted with the warmer weather and the sunshine! Last night, we made ribeye steaks with hot pepper-chive butter, baked potatoes, corn on the cob (first of the season) and a romaine salad with oil & vinegar. Fabulous! J liked dinner so much that she is willingly ceding all her cooking nights this week to me. I also did some chocolate banana wontons, which would have been much better had I remembered to spritz them with water before baking, but turned out to be pretty tasty anyway. The recipe can be found here:
Right now, I've got beans simmering for a Brats & Beans Casserole. I'll put a salad and some rolls with it and call it supper.

For the hotcha steaks, which were among the best I've had in a very long time:
Rub each ribeye with 1 tbsp. Cholula sauce (or whatever kind of hot sauce you've got on hand) & some salt. Let rest an hour or so. Grill to your preferred doneness. For each steak, mix up about a tablespoon of butter with about half a tablespoon of hot sauce and a goodly amount of chopped chives. Drop on the hot steaks and slather around. Heaven!

For the oil & vinegar:
Smash up a couple cloves of garlic. Pound into a paste with maybe a quarter teaspoon of salt. Toss in an overflowing teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and a generous tablespoon plus teaspoon of red wine vinegar and a couple tablespoons of good olive oil. Dress your favorite greens with this.

If you wanna get bratty, slice an onion very thin and saute it in olive oil in a Dutch oven. Then, add a pound of brats (I used beer brats) that have been cut into fat slices. Throw in a 28 oz. can of Bush's original baked beans and an 11 oz. can of Campbell's pork & beans (or about 40 oz. of whatever baked beans you love most) and bring it to a boil. Scatter half a cup of dry bread crumbs over the top and bake it in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. By the way, I bet my wife would throw in some extra molasses or brown sugar. If you have a sweet tooth like hers, by all means do that!

Quiche for the Queens

Our first Wild Mango Queens gathering was Saturday, a getting-to-know-you potluck. It turned out to be an absolutely smashing time! I made a couple of quiches, one asparagus and one ham & scallion. We set out some olives and roasted garlic, hummus, sun-dried tomato feta spread, pita triangles, Boursin cheese, sun-dried tomato focaccia, almonds (cocoa ones & regular roasted ones), a darling little angel food cake, sugared raspberries, mango chunks and a bunch of things to go with the chocolate fondue (which can be ordered at I made-shortbread cookies, pretzel rods, bananas, apple slices. I made my favorite punch and also had some orange-mango juice, mango nectar and a bottle of Riesling available. Jill, Marcy & Kelly were the charter members. I'd issued invites with rather short notice, so we were a small but mighty group. Kelly brought guacamole salsa, spinach & artichoke dip, blue corn chips and chocolate-dipped strawberries. Jill & Marcy brought a nice wedge of brie, which they baked & then topped with berries, raisins & mangoes. Yum!

My almost-grandma's quiche recipe:
"Use a Pillsbury pie crust & 9" pie pan. (this is basic---add whatever appeals. I have used spinach---10 oz. package defrosted and squeezed dry--plus sweet onion sliced 3. sliced mushrooms & onion 4. crab meat 5. shrimp 6. bacon cut in 1/4" pieces & cooked 7. a broccoli, carrot, cauliflower mix)

2 eggs plus 2 yolks
1 1/2 cups half & half (I use skinny milk) [and I, Daria, used a combo of 2% milk & half & half this time]
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3/4 c. grated Swiss cheese or Swiss and fresh ground Parmesan [I, Daria, used Cheddar this time]
2 tbsp. butter, cut in tiny pieces

Pre-bake pie crust. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. With wire whisk or beater, beat eggs, extra yolks, cream & seasonings together in a large mixing bowl. Stir in grated cheese--Put pastry shell on a baking sheet--Scatter bacon, veggies, whatever over bottom of pie shell and gently ladle the egg-cheese custard into it. Sprinkle the top with dots of butter. Bake for at least 25 minutes, or until the custard has puffed and browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Spinach and mushrooms take longer because of internal fluid."

The punch I made, which is my favorite punch ever, is the punch they always used to serve at coffee hour when I was growing up. I was horribly disappointed when they went to Kool-Aid. I call it Westminster Punch, after that church. Mix a can of frozen pink lemonade concentrate, a can of frozen limeade concentrate, a container of frozen strawberries and a big can of pineapple juice together in a punch bowl. Just before you want to serve it, add a 2-liter bottle of ginger ale.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gimme Some Dulce

I'm sitting at the kitchen table eating Near East lentil pilaf for lunch and waiting for my shortbread dough to chill enough for baking. Might as well catch up on posting recipes from last weekend. Friday noon, I prepped some ribs with dry rub and stuck them in the fridge to do their thing. Then, I got started on a knock-your-socks-off dulce de leche cheesecake from Rachael Ray Magazine, the recipe for which can be found here: . Since I'm a relative cheesecake novice, I followed the recipe almost to the letter. I chose to use full-fat cream cheese and I used Marzetti's caramel apple dip for the caramel that actually goes into the cheesecake, since I didn't have the homemade dulce de leche made yet. It turned out fine. However, I strongly urge you to make homemade dulce de leche sometime. It's what I used for the topping and it's really delicious served with fresh blackberries, too, as a dessert all its own. I picked up that idea from one of my favorite restaurants, El Meson in West Carrollton, Ohio. Their website is and if you're in the Dayton area, you really must go. Homemade dulce de leche is simple. Peel the label off a can of sweetened condensed milk, cover it with water in a deep pot, bring it to a boil. Then, continue to boil it for a couple hours, adding water as necessary to keep it covered. Remove the can from the water with tongs and allow it to reach room temperature. If you try to open it before it cools, as I did the first time I made it, caramel will shoot across the room!

I try to make meals I know the boys will like on Friday nights when they arrive and they love ribs. J usually does them on the grill with BBQ sauce. I thought it would be fun to try a dry rub and bake them, since I am not a grilling girl. I got 4 pounds of baby back ribs at Trader Joe's. Here's what I mixed together to rub on them:
1 tbsp. chile powder
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. orange zest
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Generous 3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne

I let them chill for about 6 hours and then baked them in a preheated 400 degree oven for a little over an hour. They turned out great!

Sunday, it was just me and the wife, so I could go back to "weird" spices. I made a Moroccan-inspired spice coating for some chicken breasts by mixing the following:
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tbsp. flour

I dredged the chicken pieces (skinless, boneless) in the mixture and sauteed them in a little olive oil until they were cooked through. I made a pot of rice to go with these, along with a salad and one of spring's most precious treats, fried morels. I'd found a nice big plate of them at the farmer's market. I know J thought I was nuts to pay $25 for them, until she saw a guy further along selling two big ones for the same price. Since I don't have a morel spot here in Cleveland yet (although I have since found 3 huge ones growing in my side yard!), nor did I have a chance to visit my mom's or grandparents' woods this spring, I was willing to do what it took to have a taste of these scrumptious delights. I wish now that I'd allowed myself to spring for a bag of fiddleheads, too. Mmm, mmm! Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, the only way to eat morels is the way my grandmom & mom made them. Slice them in half and soak in heavily salted water to cover for 24 hours. Drain well & pat dry. Dip in a beaten egg, then dredge in Saltine cracker crumbs. Fry in butter until golden, then drain on paper towels. Eat all & wish you had more. Eye your wife's plate jealously because she hasn't yet finished hers. Graciously decline her offer of a few extra. Spend the rest of the evening kicking yourself for being so nice.

By the way, the chocolate orange shortbread I'm making goes like this:
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla (I make my own by scraping a couple-few vanilla beans into a small bottle of vodka, tossing the beans in and letting it sit for at least 2 weeks before using)
2 1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. sugar
Zest of two oranges
2 sticks cold butter, cut into small bits
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Beat egg with vanilla. Mix the flour, soda, salt, sugars and orange zest. Cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 forks. Add egg mixture and mix until it forms a ball (I like my stand mixer for this part). Knead in chocolate by hand. Shape into a 16" long log and roll in wax paper, twisting the ends to seal. Chill 2 hours. Roll the logs to smooth out the surface. Chill another 4-6 hours. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Slice log into half-inch rounds. Bake 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets for 16 minutes. Makes 42.

J just called and found out about the shortbread, then commenced begging me to let her have it all rather than taking it to the discussion group tonight! Do I make a back-up dessert?

Oh, by the way, if you haven't yet read Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton, go buy it now! It is fantastic! I just finished it last night and found myself dreading the end of the book as I got closer. I even read it while I was pumping gas. You can find out more about it & read the first 3 chapters here: