Monday, January 25, 2010

Planned February Dinners

Tonight was boring old chicken noodle soup, Campbell's Chunky with a pinch of tandoori seasoning for me and Amy's No-Chicken Noodle Soup for Pie, with organic white bread from Trader Joe's on the side. Since I have nothing exciting to report from tonight, here are dinners I'm planning on making in February. J will be going vegetarian for Lent, so dinners after Mardi Gras will reflect that.

-Hobo stew, rolls, fruit
-Baked tofu (Veg Boy's choice for two nights, sides up to me)
-Carne con papas, rolls, fruit
-Philly cheese steaks, dill-artichoke potato salad, green salad, chocoholic smoothies
-Matzo ball soup, if I can figure out how to make the matzo balls vegan (another veg boy request)
-Goulash, corn, salad, chocolate mousse brownies
-Mardi Gras food (probably either jambalaya or etoufee with king cake)
-Broiled mahi-mahi, frituras de garbanzo, arroz amarillo, avocado salad, lemon cheesecake
-Hoisin lime veggie burgers, salad, fried edamame with garlic & chiles
-Cheese polenta, asparagus with romesco sauce, stuffed baby eggplants
-Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (another Veg Boy special)
-Cajun-spiced catfish, macque choux, fried potatoes, lemon mousse
-Palak paneer, matar pulao, salad, bhatura, gulab jamun

Yes, Another Casserole!

Last night's dinner was quite simple and yummy. I made a sort of Italian cheeseburger casserole with corn, Italian bread and salad on the side. It's based on a recipe called "The" Casserole in the "Church Socials" cookbook Pie got me for Christmas. However, the cookbook version is considerably longer and the extra time and effort didn't make sense to me. J had to arise at 4 this morning to hit the road for Chicago, so we needed dinner on the table fairly early. So, I just played around and found that a significantly shorter cooking time with an upped oven temp turned out just fine. I also couldn't resist using three times the garlic recommended. This is my adaptation:

1 & 1/2 lb. burger
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
32 oz. diced tomatoes, drained
12 oz. tomato paste
A good shaking of oregano
Garlic salt
16 oz. macaroni, cooked & drained
16 oz. American cheese (the sliced kind...I got the deli sort that isn't individually wrapped)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brown burger with onion and garlic. Drain. Mix tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano and pepper into the macaroni. If you have a vegan dining with you, set aside a portion of the mixture and mix it with soy crumbles (I used Morningstar Farms), put in a small baking dish and top with soy cheese, if you have found a kind that melts well. I used some that seemed to melt well but quickly hardened into yuckiness. Add the burger to the macaroni mixture. Put half in the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish. Top with a layer of cheese slices. Repeat. Bake 15-20 minutes, until cheese is all melty and casserole is heated through. The vegan one can go in for the same amount of time.

Suppers for Eight, Part Une

At church, we are doing Suppers for Eight. Our first round took us to the home of church friends in Cleveland Heights for Boeuf en Daube from the Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World, Paris cookbook. We walked into the casually elegant house and were immediately enveloped in the sensuous scent of the stew. We started with the artichoke dip I couldn't help bringing even though we were assigned a side. We'd been talking with our hosts at church and artichoke dip came into the conversation. Both of them practically swooned, so I knew taking it along would be a move that would make them very happy. J adores it, too, and I don't make it all that often, so it was a nice treat for her, too. We served it by the fire with pita chips and white wine. Here's what I do for the dip:

2 14 oz. cans of quartered artichoke hearts, well-drained and chopped into small pieces
1 c. grated parmesan
1 c. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. garlic salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix everything together in a loaf pan or small baking dish. Bake 25-30 minutes.

After some good conversation, our hosts announced that the main course was ready for us, so we moved to the table, which was laid with simple off-white plates and sumptuously intricate silver our hostess had picked up on a whim in the early years of their marriage. The boeuf en daube (which I suspect was made from the recipe I found at went atop the garlic smashed potatoes I'd made between my art group's meeting and dashing off to dinner. The designated salad and bread pair had brought all kinds of lovely crisp vegetables to adorn a sturdy lettuce base dressed lightly in vinaigrette. Orange peppers, cucumbers, mmm! Our bread was French bread. After the delicious meal, we were presented with a choice of coffee or green tea to accompany the gorgeous 3-layer chocolate cake with cream cheese icing and chocolate curls the dessert designees had baked. It was a wonderful evening!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Burger Night with Teenage Boys

Okay, so one would assume that burger night would be hugely popular with teenage boys. With the teenage boys in our house, you would be wrong. Boot is visiting for the weekend. This happens to be a weekend when he "can't eat" because of wrestling. Apparently, he can drink anything at all, including chocolate banana peanut butter smoothies. He just can't eat. This whole wrestling ethos seems bizarre to me in the first place. But the not eating thing seems like a great way to make teenage boys either anorexic or bulimic. It makes more sense to me to tell the boys that they should be eating lots of lean proteins and fruits & veggies to drop weight. But what do I know? I am the crazy one who doesn't think the coaches should recommend steroids on the sly and hand-pick a group of boys to encourage into participating in Mixed Martial Arts (AKA cage fighting) as soon as they turn 18. Oh, boy, am I proud that my boy's gonna be a cage fighter! Enough ranting. Pie is easier. He was willing to eat a veggie burger with soy cheese, although he was much more excited about playing PS3 with his brother than about eating. I believe he left the special vegan-safe roasted potatoes I made on his plate, as he promptly fell asleep as soon as his brother & mom left for Liquid Planet or Robek's. Oh, well, J and I enjoyed our dinner. I made onion soup burgers, ranch roasted potatoes and cucumber & red onion salad. The salad was my favorite.

To make the burgers, mix 2 lb. of hamburger with an envelope of onion soup mix and 1/2 c. water. Form into patties (this will make 8) and cook (broil, grill or pan-fry) until cooked to desired doneness. We had ours with cheese.

To make the potatoes, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut up about 5 potatoes. Toss with an envelope of ranch dressing mix (I am partial to Hidden Valley) and 1/4 c. olive oil. Bake 30-35 minutes, until slightly browned. Serves 4-6.

To make the cucumber salad, wash 2 cucumbers well. Run the tines of a fork down the sides, piercing the skin (if you want the cucumber slices to look frilly and fancy...otherwise, just skip this step). Slice thinly. Mix 2/3 c. rice vinegar, salt & pepper, 1/3 c. olive oil, 1 tsp. dill, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. sugar in a medium bowl. Cut a red onion into wedges. Add to vinegar dressing with cucumbers and toss until everything is thoroughly coated. Allow to marinate in fridge 1/2 hour to overnight, overnight being preferred. Toss before serving & serve with a slotted spoon. Serves 4-6.

Winter Night Stroganoff & Roast Chicken

After a few days of allowing J to handle dinner, letting me rest my aching back, I have made a couple of cozy winter dinners. Both of these require plenty of cook time, but neither is much prep at all. Last night, we had beef stroganoff with egg-style noodles (no actual egg, so our fledgling vegan could eat them), peas and Italian bread. The night before, it was roast chicken with veggies, salad and sourdough. The chicken was a departure from my usual olive oil & butter slather, instead using broth and orange juice. I didn't enjoy the chicken skin as much as I usually do, finding it soggy rather than deliciously crisp, but the meat was incredibly juicy & flavorful. This is my adaptation of a Swanson recipe:

Wednesday Night Chicken
3-4 lb. roaster
2 tbsp. butter, melted
4 potatoes, cut in eighths
1/2 package baby carrots
About 1 & 1/2 c. butternut squash chunks (I subbed this for celery in the original's what I had around)
4 small onions, quartered
1 tsp. rosemary
Salt & pepper
1 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. orange juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub butter all over chicken. Put in roasting pan with vegetables. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt & pepper. Mix broth and orange juice and pour half over chicken. Roast 1 hour. Add rest of broth mixture. Roast 30 minutes, or until done. If a vegan is dining with you, simply put more of the veggies in a small baking dish & put it in to roast when you put the chicken on, with a mixture of veggie broth & orange juice. When you add more broth to the chicken, add a piece of tempeh, seasoned with salt, pepper and rosemary, to the veggies. Drizzle with veggie broth and bake 1/2 hour.

Slow Cooker Stroganoff
2 lb. round steak, cut in 1 inch cubes
2 minced cloves garlic
1/4 c. flour
Salt & pepper
1 small onion, chopped
4 oz. sliced baby bella mushrooms
3 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 c. milk
2 beef bouillon cubes
8 oz. cream cheese, cut in chunks

Put steak in ziploc bag with flour, salt & pepper and shake to coat. Put beef in crockpot with everything but the cream cheese. Cook on low for 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Half an hour before serving, stir in cream cheese. Stir until melted and allow to finish cooking. You can halve this recipe & cook only 3 hours on low. If a vegan is dining with you, get a pack of faux beef strips from Trader Joe's (or wherever you like to buy vegan products). Chop half a small onion and a clove of garlic. Saute until softened in a skillet with a little preheated olive oil. Add 4 oz. sliced baby bellas.Season with salt & pepper. Add a drizzle of vegetable broth, a splash of soy milk, a dash of soy sauce and a sprinkle of flour. Cook until heated through, with a slightly thickened sauce. J & Pie both loved this treatment & he had it right on top of his noodles just like our stroganoff.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dijon Dinner

As I type this, J is putting soy slices on veggie burgers for our darling boy, who has gone vegan this week, as she cooks blue cheese burgers for us. Tuesday night, she made goulash (what much of America calls Johnny Marzetti) and set aside a portion for Pie to which she added soy crumbles rather than the burger she put in our portion. Last night, he had miso soup and veggie eggrolls while we had chicken feta patties on buns. Monday night was his final non-vegan meal, unbeknownst to us. I made chicken with Dijon cream sauce, egg noodles with caraway butter and green bean salad with walnuts, fennel and goat cheese. It was a very good meal, although I found the sauce for the chicken to be just a tad too salty for me. J thought it was perfect. It's a fairly easy, elegant meal.

The chicken recipe came from a Rick Bayless cookbook, one he wrote with his daughter, Lanie. It can be found at the San Diego Union-Tribune website:
I used whipping cream and the sauce was plenty thick. I think creme fraiche might have made it too thick.

The egg noodles, which turned out to be my favorite part of the meal, were from the February 2005 issue of Martha Stewart Living and can be found here:
I used a package of broad egg noodles we picked up while visiting Amish Country and they were perfect.

The green bean salad was also phenomenal and could easily be vegan with the omission of the goat cheese...or the goat cheese could be served on the side. It's from the Novemeber 2004 issue of Real Simple and can be found here: