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!