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:

Monday, May 04, 2009

Salad Supper

Tonight, we had a simple, refreshing salad for our dinner, accompanied by crescent rolls.

Chicken & Tangerine Salad
12 oz. cooked chicken breast, cut in cubes
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
3 c. escarole, torn into bite-size pieces
3 c. red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
4 tangerines, peeled & separated into segments
1 orange bell pepper, julienned (I used a green pepper, though, since they're $2 cheaper per pound at our grocery)
3 thinly-sliced scallions
Saute chicken in a scant drizzle of olive oil in a non-stick pan. Season with salt & pepper. Break asparagus into bite-size pieces. Steam 3 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Toss everything together and serve with your favorite dressing. I highly recommend citrus poppyseed dressing or any citrus vinaigrette. J loved hers with her plant's cranberry orange vinaigrette. Delicious & perfect for a May supper.