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: