Thursday, December 08, 2011

Red Devil

With Jeannene away in Detroit for the week, I am free to make things she might very well turn up her nose at upon being offered them. Red Devil is one of those. While she is not completely opposed to meals made with cans of soup, she is definitely opposed to saucy foods served on toast---no Welsh rarebit (one of my favorite foods ever), no chicken a la king, and very likely no red devil. So, I made some just for me tonight, with a romaine salad topped with Maytag blue cheese crumbles (, blue cheese dressing and garlic croutons. Dessert will be a sumptuous Harry and David pear (

To make red devil, heat together 1 can of tomato soup (I used Campbell's), 1/2 c. milk, a generous handful of shredded sharp Cheddar (about a cup) and a healthy dash or two of Worcestershire sauce. Stir the concoction until the cheese has melted. While you are stirring, let the toaster do its thing with some bread. Now, you can use a beautiful, chewy multigrain bread, of course. Whatever you like. But, the very nature of this recipe does rather call for Wonder Bread. And you really ought to cut the toast into points. When the sauce is ready, ladle it over the toast points and garnish with a sprinkle more shredded Cheddar. This makes enough for 8 slices, which will serve 4 people. It'll reheat nicely for lunch, though, if you are dining solo or there are only 2 of you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Scrumptious Soups (and sundry other yummies)

Playing catch-up! I've been having a ball cooking in the swoony kitchen, even though my at-home time is limited by a daily 3-hour commute. Here are some of the things I've been making lately:

Broccoli Rabe & Bean Soup

8 tbsp. olive oil

1 lg. onion, chopped

7 cloves garlic, minced

2 potatoes, peeled & diced

4 tomatoes, diced

2 cans cannellini beans, drained

8 c. chicken stock

1 bunch broccoli rabe, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

Grated parmesan for garnish

Saute onion a minute or two in heated oil in a large soup pot. Add garlic & cook, stirring, another minute. Add tomatoes & potatoes and cook about 5 minutes on medium-low heat. Add beans & stock. Bring to a boil. Add broccoli rabe, cover & cook on medium for about half an hour. Adjust seasonings, then simmer another 10 minutes. Serve with parmesan. Serves 4-6. (This is my adaptation of a recipe from 12 Months of Monastery Soups, one of my new favorite cookbooks, along with d'Avila-Latourrette's similar book on salads.)

Taco Soup

1 lb. ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

3 c. water

2 16 oz. cans stewed tomatoes, broken up

2 16 oz. cans dark red kidney beans

16 oz. tomato sauce

1 envelope taco seasoning

1 avocado, diced

Shredded Cheddar

Tortilla chips

Sour cream

Brown the beef with the onion in a soup pot. Drain grease. Add water, tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, taco seasoning. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Garnish with avocado, cheese, chips & sour cream. Serves 10-12.

Spicy Squash Stew

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. curry powder or garam masala

1 tbsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cayenne

4 c. diced butternut squash (I highly recommend buying this already peeled)

2 parsnips, chopped

2 c. chicken broth

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can butter beans, drained

1 can garbanzos, drained

6 oz. baby spinach

1 can light coconut milk

Lime for garnish

Heat oil in soup pot. Saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic & 1/4 tsp. salt. Saute, stirring, 1 minute. Add spices and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add squash, parsnips, broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over a reduced heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 tsp. salt, butter beans, garbanzos. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Add spinach & coconut milk and heat through. Serve with lime wedges. Serves 8. (This is my adaptation of a recipe from the April 2005 issue of Cooking Light.) We had this with rolls and the below salad:

Avocado, Endive & Carrot Salad

1 lg. avocado, diced

2 Belgian endives, separated into individual leaves

A few handsful arugula (watercress if you can get it. I couldn't, so subbed what I had)

1 large carrot, peeled & sliced into very thin half-moons

6 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

A good shake of dry mustard

Salt & pepper

Place veggies in a salad bowl. Whisk the rest together in a small bowl until thickened, then toss with veggies. Serve promptly. Serves 4. (This is based on St. Martin Salad in the aforementioned salad cookbook.)

Grouper with Lemon Marjoram Butter

1/2 stick butter, room temperature

1 tsp. lemon zest

2 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. chopped marjoram

1/4 tsp. salt

A good grinding of black pepper

4 grouper fillets

Olive oil

Preheat broiler. Line a shallow baking pan with foil. Mix everything but the fish & olive oil together. Brush the fish with the oil. Put into the pan. Salt & pepper. Broil 4-6" from heat until cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Serve topped with butter. Serves 4.

Pepper Jack Dip

10 oz. shredded Monterey Jack

10 oz. shredded pepper Jack

1 can chopped green chiles

1 2/3 c. mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix everything together in a small baking dish. Bake 25-30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Kielbasa, Potatoes & Peppers

1 package kielbasa, sliced 1/2" thick

2 onions, sliced

5 potatoes, diced

1/3 c. water

1/2 tsp. salt

1 red pepper, sliced into thin inch-long strips

1 green pepper, sliced as above

Salt & pepper

Cook sausage & onions on medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in potatoes, water and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook 10 minutes. Add peppers. Cook, covered, 5-7 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Serves 4-6.

Apple Crisp

10 apples, peeled and sliced

Lemon juice

1 c. flour

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. cold butter

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place apples in greased casserole and sprinkle with a little lemon juice. Mix the other ingredients, cutting the butter in with a pastry blender or two knives. Sprinkle over apples. Bake 30 minutes. This is my go-to apple crisp recipe, the one I spent my childhood helping my mom & grandmom make. It is delicious.

Cappuccino Truffles

12 oz. chocolate chips

6 tbsp. butter

3 tbsp. heavy cream

1 1/2-2 tbsp. instant espresso (preferably Medaglia d'Oro)

In a large microwavable glass bowl, cook everything 1-1 1/2 minutes, until almost melted. Stir until smooth. Freeze 1 hour. Shape into balls. Roll in cocoa powder. Chill. This is my go-totruffle recipe, the one I make every Christmas. They are awesome & easy. Makes a bunch.

I also make chocolate rum balls at Christmas-time. I learned to make them while assisting my almost-grandma, Mary Monk, with her "cookie factory," which gets underway early in December every year and provides friends & neighbors all around the holler and up on the ridge with yummy treats. This is my favorite of all:

Chocolate Rum Balls

1 c. chopped pecans

1 c. Oreo crumbs (if you find a source of the pre-crumbed sort, let me know! Used to be able to find them easily & now, they are nowhere)

1 c. powdered sugar

1 1/2 tbsp. light Karo syrup

1/4 c. light rum

Sugar in which to roll the rum balls

Mix everything but the granulated sugar. Shape into 1" balls and roll in sugar. Makes 2-3 dozen. My grandmom's friend, Jean, once ate so many of these she made herself sick and my "Second Grandma" Genevieve Klyce included them in the Dayton Women's Club cookbook. If you make these once, you will have to make them every year. Fair warning!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cookie-Baking Fuel

Tonight, Jeannene and I were in full-bore cookie & cupcake making mode, having a blast with gel food colors to tint the icing & sprinkles to scatter across the cupcakes. We needed some fuel, a supper that would be easy to throw together and delicious amidst the sweets-sampling. So, I made a simple lentil & pasta stew, which was delicious with ciabatta and fresh fruit. If I were serving it to company, I would add a big, leafy green salad. If I had a crew going out trick or treating, I would serve it to them before we left.

Lentil & Shells Stew

1/2 c. olive oil

1 lg. yellow onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

64 oz. chicken stock

1 lb. dried lentils

16 oz. tomato puree

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp. ginger

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 c. small pasta shells

Grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Saute the onions & garlic over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Add stock, lentils and tomato paste. Stir well and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer. Add bay leaf, ginger, salt & pepper. Cover & simmer gently about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf. Add pasta, cover and simmer 15 minutes more. Serve dusted with parmesan.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Stuffed Shells & Spooks-Begone Stew

I took advantage of my day off yesterday to tackle a couple of semi-fiddly recipes I wouldn't normally try on a working day. I made spinach & cheese stuffed shells with a salad and a loaf of La Brea Bakery ciabatta. I had never made stuffed shells before because of the task of stuffing each individual shell, but I actually found it very relaxing and enjoyable. Not only that, but the end product was delicious! Dessert was another fiddly thing. I am not much of a baker and had never, that I remember, bothered making brownies from scratch. While brownies (at least the fudgy, chewy variety) are one of my very favorite sweets, I tend to be perfectly pleased with the results of the box variety. Furthermore, I have so often had brownies from scratch that are not so awesome. Add to that the monotony of unwrapping 24 miniature York peppermint patties and this recipe is not one I would usually make. However, it sounded so yummy when I saw it in the York ad years ago and I had the spare time, so I made York brownies and they were well-worth the effort! As Paula Deen says, any recipe that starts with 3 sticks of butter has got to be good!

Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Shells

12 oz. box jumbo pasta shells

18-20 oz. frozen creamed spinach

16 oz. ricotta

8 oz. shredded mozzarella

1 jar spaghetti sauce (I used Trader Joe's roasted garlic marinara)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the spinach according to the directions on the box. Mix with cheeses. Pour some of the sauce in the bottom of a 13x9" baking pan. Stuff uncooked shells (you likely won't use the entire box...the remainder might be nice to cook & serve with butter & parmesan to family members who don't dig the sauce/spinach so much) with spinach & cheese mixture. Place the shells in the baking dish and cover with the rest of the sauce. Cover with foil (or not...I forgot & the edges of a few shells got kind of crunchy, but it was just fine) and bake an hour and a half.

York Brownies

3 sticks butter, melted

3 c. sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla

5 eggs

2 c. flour

1 c. cocoa

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

24 mini peppermint patties (a 12 oz. bag fit the bill with one left over for me to pop in my mouth while the brownies baked)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter with sugar and vanilla. Add eggs. Add dry ingredients. Set aside 2 cups of the batter. Spread the rest in a greased 13x9" baking pan. Add the peppermint patties. Spread the remaining batter over the top. Bake 50-55 minutes. Cool before cutting. Makes about 36.

We haven't eaten yet tonight, but when the stew is done, we'll have it with rustic rolls from Whole Foods and slices of honeycrisp apple. On my commute, I am listening to a rather silly but fun novel by Jeaniene Frost called, I believe, "This Side of the Grave." In the book, we learn that, while garlic doesn't repel vampires, it does, when combined with marijuana carried on the person, repel ghosts. While I was smashing & peeling the entire head of garlic, I was thinking of this. So, in honor of the story & the season, I named the stew:

Spooks-Begone Stew

4 lb. beef chuck roast, cut in 1 and a half inch cubes

1/4 c. flour

12 oz. tomato paste

2 and a half pounds new potatoes (or small red potatoes, larger ones halved)

2 onions, diced

32 oz. beef broth

15 oz. Guinness (or other Irish stout)

1 head garlic, separated, peeled and smashed

Salt & pepper

18-20 oz. frozen peas, thawed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a big, ovenproof pot, toss the beef with the flour. Add tomato paste and mix. Add potatoes, onions, broth, stout & garlic. Season. Cover and bring to boil on stovetop, stirring occasionally. Put in oven and cook until meat if fork-tender, 2 and a half to 3 hours. Add peas. Adjust seasonings & serves. Serves 10. (I am hoping Jeannene will break her no meat but fish rule to help me eat it!)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Garden Potage & Caramelized Onion Quiche

I actually had a 2-day weekend this week and it was amazing the difference in how much time I felt like I had off! I'd better not get used to that feeling, but it was lovely for a change of pace. I spent most of the time enjoying Jeannene, some of that time while cooking. Our lunches over the weekend have been simple soup and bread lunches. Tonight, I'm getting a little fancier, with a caramelized onion, cheddar & caraway quiche accompanied by mixed baby greens with Maple Grove Farms strawberry balsamic dressing (available at my local Kroger, but also through their website: is truly fabulous) and a baguette from La Chatelaine in Dublin (really lovely French baked goods & bistro fare: Dessert will be honeyed boozy fruit & camembert.

The soup I made, which we ate accompanied by peasant bread from La Chatelaine, was a wonderfully cozy garden vegetable soup, my adaptation of a soup from the delightful Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, which cookbook I strongly recommend you pick up.

Garden Potage

32 oz. chicken broth

1 onion, julienned

1 zucchini, julienned

1 carrot, julienned

1 celery stalk, julienned

3 rainbow chard leaves, stemmed & torn into bite-size pieces

1/2 c. acini di pepe pasta (stellini would be nice, too)

Salt & pepper, to taste

Grated Emmentaler cheese for garnish

Cook veggies in broth in stock pot about 45 minutes. Add pasta & seasonings & cook 10 minutes. Serve hot with cheese. Serves 4-6.

Caramelized Onion Quiche with Cheddar & Caraway

1/2 stick butter

8 onions, thinly sliced & salted

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 c. flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. caraway seeds

2 c. half & half

1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

9" pie shell

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place pie shell into pie plate & scallop edges. Prick several times. Bake 10 minutes (use pie weights if you've got 'em) & set aside. Turn oven down to 350 degrees. Melt butter in large skillet. Add onions & caramelize to a rich brown, 15-20 minutes. Mix eggs with next 6 ingredients. Add onions & pour into pie shell. Bake 35-45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serves 6-8.

Honeyed Boozy Fruit

3-4 cups mixed berries (I used strawberries...which I hulled & quartered....blackberries, raspberries and blueberries)

4 pears, diced

2 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. sugar

1/2 c. dry white wine

3 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. demerara sugar (regular, brown, powdered sugar fine, as is honey or agave instead)

Mix fruit with 2 tbsp lemon juice & 2 tsp. sugar and allow to macerate at least 1 hour in fridge. Mix rest of ingredients & gently stir into fruit. Return to fridge for another hour. Serve with camembert, brie or another double/triple creme cheese. Serves 6.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September is for Soup!

I have been coughing and hacking so much in the last week that Jeannene has threatened to sleep in the guest room. I don't feel terrible, but I definitely feel like soup! Monday, I had MCL Cafeteria's vegetable soup, which I refer to as crack soup because of its addictive yumminess, with a roll and some cranberry Jell-o (my grandmom used to make me Jell-o when I was sick) for lunch and made a pot of Southwestern Corn Chowder for dinner. It was wonderful to spend time in my new kitchen chopping vegetables and enjoying the bright splash of cumin & cayenne against a white prep bowl. Jeannene was spending the night at her work-home, but got to enjoy a bowl last night when she got home. The recipe is my adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe.

Southwestern Corn Chowder

5-6 slices bacon

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 poblano pepper, chopped

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. cumin

Pinch cayenne

1 c. dry white wine

1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & chopped

5 cups chicken broth

Corn cut from 5 ears corn (I would have used 6, but one of my ears had gone bad) (canned or frozen corn can be subbed, but your chowder will be a different soup altogether than if you use fresh corn. If you sub, use about 3 cups of corn)

1 c. heavy cream

Hot sauce

Cook the bacon in a soup pot until crisp. Drain and crumble. Cook the onion, carrot, celery and poblano in same pot about 10 minutes over medium heat. Add seasonings. Over high heat, add wine and cook a few minutes until it is mostly evaporated. Add potatoes & broth. Bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat 20 minutes. Add corn and cream. Cook 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Garnish with bacon and serve with hot sauce. If you don't hate cilantro, snip some of that over the top, too. Serves 4-6.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cooking in the Swoony House

Now that we've gotten the kitchen mostly unpacked after our move, I am once again cooking. It feels so good! It feels especially good in our new kitchen, with its Viking stove & Subzero fridge. The first meal I cooked in the swoony house was Russian sandwiches and sweet corn, in tribute to my grandies. Every August, they had this for dinner almost every night, taking advantage of the farmstand bounty of this time of year. So, I toasted my Health Nut bread, sliced tomatoes and Cabot extra-sharp cheddar, fried up bacon and broiled the whole shebang two nights in a row. The tomatoes I used came from a parishioner's garden while the sweet corn came from the farmstand in North Ridgeville that I'd always meant to stop by when we lived in Westlake. I finally made it on my penultimate trip to Oak Leaf Cottage.

My first "real" dinner was a roast chicken, rubbed with herbes de provence, pink Himalayan salt & olive oil before being popped in the oven, surrounded by potatoes, carrots & onions. Since Jeannene is mostly a pescatarian now, I treated some halibut in the same manner as the chicken for her. We had some cucumber salad from Whole Foods with it. It was a nice homey meal for our first dinner together here.

Sunday night, I sauteed some shrimp with olive oil, lemon pepper & salt. These went on a bed of butter lettuce, along with chunks of buttery avocado, which was then all drizzled with fresh lemon juice and olive oil and sifted with salt. It made a wonderful dinner, especially with a loaf of rosemary bread to accompany.

Monday night ended up being grab it & growl, as I attended my friend Adam's ecumenical council (he was approved for ordination pending an approved call!) but I cooked again Tuesday. I made basil & lemon chicken (Quorn faux chicken fillets for Jeannene...and they were actually rather good) with Trader Joe's multigrain pilaf and steamed broccoli. It's been so long since I had access to a steamer that I overcooked the broccoli, but Jeannene likes it that way so all was well.

Basil & Lemon Chicken

1/2 c. chopped scallions

1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, cut in chiffonade

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt & pepper

6 chicken breasts

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix everything but chicken & oil. Rub into the chicken. Place in a well-greased baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and bake 30 minutes. (honestly, though, I think this would be better if the chicken were just drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with a little salt & pepper before baking, then topped with the scallion/basil/lemon mixture after baking. I think the flavors would be brighter)

Last night, I made myself a meatloaf. Pie is no longer eating with us, now that he has his own kitchen. Jeannene was at work all night and would have eaten an Amy's vegetarian meatloaf entree had she been home. So, I have lovely leftovers for meatloaf sandwiches! This meatloaf, based on one of Paula Deen's, wasn't the best meatloaf I've ever made, but it certainly was tasty. I did not dig the sauce and had my lunch lefovers today just plain. Ketchup would be good, too. But you might like the sauce. Jeannene thought it sounded good.

Cheeseburger Meatloaf

2 lb. ground beef

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 chopped onion

1 chopped green pepper

1 c. shredded cheddar

1/4 c. worcestershire sauce

1 c. sour cream (I had never thought of using this as a binder...I used light sour cream & it worked fine)

1 c. crushed Ritz crackers

1 tsp. seasoned salt

8-10 slices cheapo white bread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix everything but the bread. Shape into a loaf. Line a rimmed baking sheet with the bread. Place the meatloaf on the bread. Bake 1 hour. Let stand at least 10 minutes. Discard bread. Serve meatloaf with a sauce made of 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 can milk and 1 and a half cups of shredded cheddar, mixed together and heated through.

Jeannene has asked if I want to have "a nice dinner " tonight. I am not sure what this means, but perhaps we'll explore one of the restaurants in Columbus. If she ends up letting me cook, I intend to make Southwest-style corn chowder & pick up some sourdough rolls at Whole Foods to go with it.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Atlanta Eats

On the Confirmation Pilgrimage to Atlanta, I wanted to make sure the kids got to experience a wide array of dining options. My rule was no chains but local chains and Mary Mac's Tea Room and The Varsity were musts, being local institutions. I knew barbecue needed to be in the line-up, too. While some of my plans went awry, we did end up finding some good meals. Here's where we ate:

Wednesday: I wanted the barbecue to be the night we arrived. My friends, Kit & Joyce, live near Atlanta, so I consulted with Kit on the best bbq joint in town. She came back with Fat Matt's Rib Shack. After looking at their website, I was a little concerned that the pork sandwiches were chopped pork rather than pulled, but I decided not to be nitpicky and scheduled it for our first Atlanta meal. I was swayed not only by Kit's recommendation, but also by the prospct of live blues. Unfortunately, when we arrived with our two vanloads of kids & chaperones, there was not a parking spot to be found. I sent chaperone Geoff in to suss out the possibilities. He came back outside smelling absolutely amazing and making our entire van's mouths water. I can still conjure the smell in my head with ease. His report was not favorable. It smelled like heaven but was tiny and packed, not likely to ease up in time to appease our hungry crew. Sometimes, it just doesn't pay to require a table for 11. I have vowed that I will eat there at a future date. For that night, though, I opted to swing by the Taco Cabana we had passed earlier. It's a no-frills, counter-service Mexican place located in a former gas station. The service was friendly and remarkably speedy. We enjoyed the food, especially the handmade tortillas, and I especially enjoyed the lively Latin music. I wouldn't recommend it for remarkable food, but it fit the need. I promised the kids that we would have BBQ before leaving, but that it might not be Fat Matt's. I never heard the end of that promise, even though I followed through. But I get ahead of myself.

Thursday, we tried really hard to find enough to do in town that we could have dinner at The Varsity without having to go back to the church where we were staying. Since the kids whizzed through the Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola (where we got to sample international flavors both divine and vile) and Underground Atlanta didn't have much to recommend it, we had to go back out. The Varsity is a giant drive-in (the largest in the world, with capacity for 600 cars), but with its reputation for required snappy ordering ("What'll ya have, what'll ya have?" is a constant refrain), I thought going inside might work better with our large group. I was quite pleased with my coney dog, onion rings and frosted orange (although I think I might have preferred the simply cold Varsity Orange better...basically just their own version of HI-C) but some of the kids were less than impressed. The boys had expected much larger burgers, the sort they are accustomed to getting at places like Red Robin, rather than standard fast food-sized burgers. Those who got ice cream reported that it was very good, but I was disappointed with my fried peach pie. Light on peaches, heavy on dough, which tasted of not terribly fresh grease. I got spoiled in Nashville, I guess. I am glad we went simply for the history (The Varsity has been in operation since 1928) but the food was unremarkable, nothing you couldn't get at the local Tastee Freeze or Dairy Shed.

Friday was a great food day. I'd made early lunch reservations at Mary Mac's. I was a little worried that it would be all hype, with little about the actual food to recommend it, so I was pleased to find that wasn't the case. Our waitress, Keisha, polled us to see who had eaten there before. New folks are given a small dish of potlikker, which is actually greens with potlikker, that sumptuous and rich cooking liquid prized across the South. I was delighted with mine and the kids surprised me by enjoying theirs, too. Who knew teenagers would like greens with potlikker? I sure wouldn't have when I was in 7th or 8th grade. Chaperone Becky, who'd been there before, had praised the fried chicken, so I ordered that and was glad I did. Crunchy & flavorful skin, marvelously juicy meat. The mashed potatoes were good (although mine have got them beat) as was the fried okra, although my friend Teresa's okra is much better. Theirs was just a tinch limp. The sweet tea, however, was so much like Teresa's achingly sweet version, I was instantly transported to her Fairview, TN living room, watching the Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles go head to head. The peach cobbler was delicious, too. Most of the group got country-fried steak and reported being very happy with their lunch. Everyone also really enjoyed the complimentary cracklin' cornbread, moist and yummy. After sampling that, I was shocked at the dryness and blah flavor of the yeast rolls. Overall, though, I was quite favorably impressed and ended up buying the cookbook as a souvenir.

I'd spotted a Cuban place, Papi's, across the street and wanted to return there for dinner that night before heading to Stone Mountain. I had slotted one of our dinners for Las Margaritas, but Papi's promised true Cuban food rather than generic Latin food with a hefty dose of Mexican. However, no one felt they'd be able to eat dinner so I decided on simply allowing them to get concession food at Stone Mountain if and when they got hungry. However, the weather had other plans. When a huge wind storm blew in, threatening hail, we determined that it would be better to save Stone Mountain for Sunday night than to risk getting into a thunderstorm during the laser show. So, I moved the Landmark Diner to the Friday night slot from Saturday, after attempting to find a BBQ place that turned out to be a BP station.

That turned out to be a good move. Located inside a decent facsimile of a real diner, the Landmark is run by a Greek family and thus has a good selection of Greek options on the huge menu. They also had breakfast 24 hours a day, much to the delight of several of the kids. There was a bit of a tiff over some leftover French toast after the meal, in fact, so luscious was their rendition. I opted for the gyro sandwich and was delighted that I had.

Saturday night, I saw the opportunity to uphold my BBQ promise when we passed a number of BBQ joints, most pretty homely-looking (always a good sign, in my experience, that the BBQ served therein will be excellent), on the way to Andersonville. The one we ended up experiencing was a drive-in called Piggie Park in Thomaston, Georgia. it looked like a complete dive and did not disappoint. The boys, all of whom (with the exception of Bobby) had been clamoring for ribs the entire trip, uniformly bypassed that choice in favor of cheeseburgers. Most of the rest of us ordered the pulled pork sandwich, which came all flavorful meat with a smattering of sauce that had a much greater zing than the BBQ I am accustomed to getting in Nashville. Delicious! Too bad the boys missed their chance. As it was, we did get to find out what it meant on the sign when it said, "All burgers are served scrambled." That just sounded crazy to me, but Jan reported that the burgers were like sloppy joes without the sauce. I will have to do some research on that odd custom. I was disappointed not to spot any promising-looking "boiled peanuts" or "peaches" signs on the road back. I'd hoped to treat the kids to this very Southern way of doing peanuts and to pick up some peaches for home. Ah, well.

Sunday, we tried to go to Papi's, but it was very crowded and if we had waited the half-hour it would take to seat us, we might have missed the last sky ride to the top of Stone Mountain. I suspect that we could have made it, but I wasn't willing to risk it. It would have been very bad for my determination to introduce the kids to Cuban food to ruin the Stone Mountain experience. I was bitterly disappointed about missing this opportunity to eat it myself, too. Dayton really needs a good Cuban place. But, I am really glad, in a way, that we didn't get to eat there because our experience at Miss Katie's, inside Stone Mountain park, was a lot of fun and delicious, too. How many other places will throw your dinner rolls at you? And, oh, were those rolls amazing! Among the best I've ever had, fresh from the oven, all piping hot and lushly yeasty. Some of the kids dug into heavy meals, but I opted for the Southern fried chicken salad. Not the healthiest salad, especially with bleu cheese dressing, but it was good to have something fresh and green to eat. It was very good. We skipped dessert, the blow of being denied dessert made easier for the boys by my promise that we'd get some Krispy Kreme doughnuts on the way back to the church after the laser show. Oh, how I wished I hadn't promised, because the GPS took us back a different way. I found myself in an unfamiliar part of Atlanta at 11:30 at night in order to honor my promise. I seldom make promises to kids unless I know for sure that I can keep them, and I was damn sure going to provide those guys with doughnuts! But imagine my joy at seeing the "Hot Now" sign all ablaze when I rolled up. So, I was able to return like a conquering hero with meltingly fresh glazed doughnuts. And I first discovered the wonder of "Hot Now" while living in the South, so it seemed appropriate to provide it as part of the kids' southern experience.

Monday morning, we were low enough on cereal that it seemed easier to take the kids out for breakfast instead of buying a whole new round of cereal. So, we loaded the vans, tidied up the youth rooms in which we'd lodged for the week and headed for the IHOP across the street. This broke my "no chains" rule, but there is no IHOP in the Dayton area, as far as I know. The service was incredibly slow, especially for a Monday morning, and we ended up having to eat appallingly fast when our food finally arrived nearly an hour after we ordered it. The poor boys didn't even get the maple syrup they requested with their pancakes, having the option of either dry pancakes or the syrups provided on the table. Me, I'd've gone for the pecan syrup, but I ordered all non-sweet food. We had a rendezvous with the river, so we had no time to wait for Christmas to come along with our syrup.

Or, rather, they had a rendezvous with the river. Katie, Erin and I had sensibly opted not to go whitewater rafting, preferring not to engage in risky behavior. However, we risked our noses and our sanity when we drove through Calhoun, TN and were confronted with a long assault by one of the worst smells ever. I finally figured out, Googling later, that it was emanated by a newsprint mill. Blech! I'd feared it was coming from Mayfield Dairy, where we were headed for a plant tour and ice cream. But, no, Mayfield was fresh as a daisy. We had our ice cream, rich and delicious, while we waited for the tour. I chose a mint chocolate chip hot fudge sundae. Yes, Jeni's is still my favorite, but for plain old ice cream, Mayfield is pretty dang good. The tour was fascinating. Being a food plant manager's spouse makes me even more interested in checking out food facilities. They even make their own milk jugs there and it was especially cool to see them being made, big blobs of gooey yellow plastic plopping out of the dispenser and becoming a jug!

That night, Eddie Rico, proprietor of the Ocoee Riverside Lodge, suggested Papa's Pizza in Cleveland, TN. Upon hearing it's an all-you-can-eat sort of place, I knew that was the place for us, especially our crew of hungry boys. The pizza was tasty (my favorite was the chicken bacon ranch), the sweet tea was the perfect level of sweet (as it had been at Miss Katie's) and everyone got their fill. There were even candy & temporary tattoo machines, as well as video games, & the kids had fun using those. In the morning, we had McDonald's before hitting the road and stopped in Kentucky by accident (literally) for lunch at a Mexican joint called El Cazador. There had been an accident on the interstate and it seemed prudent to stop there for lunch, allowing the traffic time to clear out while we had our lunch. My chile verde was much spicier than anticipated, but still fairly good. I decided that I am going to cease ordering it anywhere but Los Mariachis, however, because I am invariably disappointed and end up coveting my table mate's tacos. Bobby's had a healthy dose of gorgeous shreds of Mexican cheese, too, making my drool avoidance task even harder than usual.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Early June Bites

A few more recipes from this month:

Tortilla Roll-Ups

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 oz. can chopped green chiles

5 scallions, sliced

2 oz. can sliced olives

Flour tortillas

Mix everything but tortillas. Spread a light layer on each tortilla and roll tightly. These make a great dinner when you have about 15 minutes to change clothes, make dinner and get on the road for your women's spirituality group. You can slap 'em together, wrap in a paper towel & fling yourself out the door with a bottle of Dry lavender soda, a handful of Rainier cherries and some sugar snap peas, enjoying a tasty dinner in the car. They also make a fine breakfast.

Council Bluffs Morels

Oh, the indulgence of buying morels. I didn't go looking for them this year, but I stumbled upon them in Jungle Jim's & simply could not resist. I normally don't dig mushrooms one tiny bit, but I am pretty much helpless in the face of morels. And as far as I'm concerned, the only decent way to eat them is the way my grandmom (who was from Council Bluffs, Iowa) and my mom have always made them. We soak them in heavily salted water, generally overnight. Then, we pat them dry and dip them in beaten eggs before dredging them in saltine cracker crumbs. I reckon you could use another kind of cracker, dry breadcrumbs, cornmeal or even panko. I wouldn't but you could. Then, you let them sizzle in hot, melted butter until they're nicely browned and you eat them hot. Swoon. This was the only component to my dinner one night while my auntie and Andy were away at Jessie's SCAD graduation. Mercy, was it good!

Greenie Noodles

My great-grandma Mil's nickname was Greenie and green was her favorite color. I think she'd've loved these noodles:

Cook & drain 12 oz. extra-wide egg noodles. Throw in the following:

A bunch of chopped parsley (maybe a cup and a half)

About the same amount of chopped fresh spinach

A stick and a half of butter, in which has been cooked a few cloves of garlic (oh, yeah, goin' for the Paula Deen effect here)

About a half-cup each of shredded Parmesan & Romano cheeses (use good'll be glad you did)

1 tsp. or so of salt

1 tsp. or so of basil (or chop up the fresh stuff and throw it in)

Mix well & eat with a big green salad and perhaps some garlic bread. Serves 4-6.

Fried Rice For Visiting Cousins

My cousin Jessie spent a couple nights with us between graduating magna cum laude and striking out for Bonnaroo. I made this for her the night we stayed up way too late laughing about nail polish color names and eating Jeni's Splendid Goat Cheese and Red Cherries ice cream. It's based on a Nigella Lawson recipe, but altered to the point where I don't expect she'd claim it. I didn't adore it, but everyone else seemed to like it and it sure made the house smell homey.

1 & 1/2 c. cooked Jasmine rice

A bunch of cooked shrimp

A smidge less cooked chicken

A cup or so of corn

1 tbsp. garlic oil

3 scallions, sliced

1 egg, beaten

Soy sauce

Mix the first 4 together. Heat the oil in a skillet or wok. Stir-fry the scallion a minute or so. Add the rice mixture. Stir well & briskly until hot. Add egg and stir cook half a minute. Scatter soy across the dish just before serving. Not too much, as you don't want it to get all soggy. Good with salad and orange Jell-o with mandarin oranges in. No food snob here.

Griots de Porc

This is a traditional Haitian recipe, similar to my beloved Cuban masitas de puerco. I skipped the traditional final fry. It was tender and yummy even without that step...and probably better for me! I am chicken of too much heat, so I used a jalapeno, but by all means use the more traditional Scotch Bonnet pepper if you like it hotter.

1 lb. pork loin, cut in 1" cubes

1/2 c. lime juice (I favor key limes myownself)

1/2 c. fresh orange juice

5 chives, minced

1 hot pepper, minced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, minced

Salt & pepper, to taste

Mix everything but the pork together and marinate 4 hours or overnight. Put in a heavy, non-reactive pot. Add just enough cold water to cover. Bring to boil over medium heat. Simmer uncovered until liquid evaporates and all that is left is a thick sauce. Serve hot over rice with a salad of romaine or butter lettuce, sliced sweet onion and avocado chunks. I like to dress this salad with a simple vinaigrette made with olive oil, lime juice, a little garlic, salt & pepper.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Scrumptious Salmon Cakes (and a meringue rant)

I made myself a delicious dinner tonight. I love cooking so much and tonight, I played around with 4 different new dishes. I adapted a couple of WW recipes for salmon cakes and "French" baked beans, made Green Goddess dressing from scratch for the first time and had it with hearts of romaine (it was good on the salmon cakes, too) and threw together an Eton mess, having tracked down meringues at Trader Joe's. Thursday, I went to 6 different stores looking for meringues. 1 person knew what I was talking about. At no less than 3 of the stores, I was pointed in the direction of the lemon meringue & chocolate meringue pies when I asked for meringues. At Dorothy Lane Market, the bakery clerk looked at me as though I was speaking in a foreign tongue and had three heads. Another person there knew what they were but told me they are a seasonal item and that I could find them at Christmas. Christmas??? If meringues are, indeed, seasonal, it would seem that now is the season, for pity's sake! I was also asked by no less than three people if "meringue" was the brand-name of the cookie I was looking for..."Um, no, it's actually a type of cookie. Made with egg white? Kind of like a chocolate chip cookie? Or oatmeal raisin? You know, it's the sort of cookie?" Is asking for meringues in a 2011 grocery like walking into Rave Motion Pictures and asking if they have an Ingrid Bergman film playing or something? And really? Everyone should not only know what a meringue is but also who Ingrid Bergman was. And you know, it's alarming that saying, "You know, Isabella Rossellini's mom" is not remotely helpful. But enough creaky old lady griping. I didn't have to attempt meringues in this humidity, thanks to good ol' Trader Joe. I even got a good giggle this morning when Brian walked into my office and said, "Ah, merengue...goes well with flamenco guitar!" He had seen my Facebook meringue rant, I expect.

Salmon & Corn Cakes

6 oz. can salmon

1 c. corn

1/4 c. dry breadcrumbs

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp. minced onion

1 tbsp. chopped parsley

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. chili powder

2 tbsp. oil

Mix everything but the oil together and chill 10 minutes. Heat oil in skillet and form 4 patties. Brown on either side. Serve with salsa & sour cream or, as I did, Green Goddess dressing. Serves 2.

French Baked Beans

15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained

14 oz. can stewed tomatoes

3 minced cloves garlic

1/2 tsp. (heaping) fennel seeds, crushed

1/4 tsp. thyme

1/4 c. dry breadcrumbs

1 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8" square baking pan or casserole with cooking spray. Mix together everything but breadcrumbs & oil. Put in pan. Top with breadcrumbs and drizzle with oil. Cover with foil and bake 10 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 minutes. (honestly, I think you're better off skipping the foil and just popping it in the oven half an hour) Serves 2.

Green Goddess Dressing

3 crushed cloves garlic

1/2 large bunch parsley, chopped (about a cup, well-packed)

1 bunch basil, chopped (about half a cup, well-packed)

About 3 tbsp. chopped dill

About 3 tbsp. chopped chives

Juice of half a lemon

2 tsp. anchovy paste (please, for the love of all that is delicious, do not skip this ingredient)

1 c. mayonnaise (I suspect light mayo would be just fine)

A good grinding of pepper

Toss all of this into a food pocessor or blender and pulse until smooth. Chill until ready to use. This would be equally lovely used as a veggie dip or sandwich spread if you're not in a leafy mood. Or, really, just off a spoon. Call it a chilled soup and have done with it. Hee hee! After tasting this, I ended up with rather a lot more dressing on my salad (and my salmon cakes) than I generally tend toward. I am of the "don't drown your food" school but this is seriously one of the best dressings I've ever had.

Eton Mess

This is less of a recipe and more of a toss-together. A mess, you know. Take a bunch of strawberries, perhaps a boxful, and quarter them. Macerate them while you enjoy your supper. That means let them sit and stew with some sugar...maybe 3 tbsp to the pound? Whip some heavy cream with some powdered sugar (perhaps a 4:1 ratio) to soft peaks. Gently fold berries into the cream. Crumble a couple-few meringues on top. Gently stir and eat. This is not something that will keep nicely, so if everyone in your house eats at different times, as we seem to here at my auntie's, then make your portion and leave the elements available separately for others to do same. Lush summer sweet tooth satisfier! And you get to feel like Nigella Lawson or someone else all posh and British.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scallops for a Sad Night

I had planned to drive up to Cleveland to spend the night and make Jeannene a nice dinner on Sunday, since our office is closed Monday. But then I realized that since my senior pastor will be out of town, I need to stick close to home. So, my solution was to drive up last night after Coffee Shop Hours and make her special dinner then. I ended up driving up in some pretty scary weather and, by being out of our neighborhood, saved my car from broken windows and big dings in the hail storm that destroyed the siding on the house and shredded the screens, breaking a few windows, as well. I stopped by Dorothy Lane Market for a pint of Jeni's brown butter almond brittle ice cream, my current favorite. I had already promised that to Jeannene. When she called to tell me our dog had died (apparently a heart attack...she was about 10, we think, so not too shocking, but still a rough night), I knew my vegan boy would need a treat, too, so I picked up a pint of chocolate Coconut Bliss. The DLM folks were nice enough to give me ice packs to tuck in the hot/cold insulated bag I bought and the ice cream made it to Cleveland with minimal meltage. Despite the storminess (I drove much of the way with a sharp eye on the quality of the clouds and another eye looking for the best ditch in which to fling myself should a funnel cloud appear), I kept the A/C on and I think it helped the successful ice cream transport operation.

When I arrived, I commenced cooking. Jeannene had requested scallops and asparagus. I decided to sear both. The recipe I used for the scallops called for dredging them in flour before cooking. I am not sure that was a brilliant idea, as the flour tended to brown nicely and then slip off the scallops, leaving them denuded. Jeannene loved them anyway, but I believe I would skip that step next time. Otherwise, everything was delicious! I am tempted to make the asparagus again tonight. The entire menu was seared scallops on butter lettuce salad with avocado & grapefruit, pan-seared asparagus and parmesan rice. The first two are my adaptations of Sara Moulton recipes, the last a rice dish my mom made when I was a kid. I've been making it since high school myownself.

Seared Scallops on Butter Lettuce with Avocados & Grapefruit

1 c. Wondra/flour (I used Wondra)

1/2 lb. medium sea scallops

Salt & pepper

1/2 c. oil (I would use olive oil next time)

Juice of 1/2 pink grapefruit

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (Moulton recommends rice vinegar, which was not to be found in Jeannene's cupboard)

A pinch of sugar

Sections from half a pink grapefruit

1 head butter lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1 avocado, chopped

1 scallion, green part only, sliced

1/4 c. sunflower seeds

Mix salt and pepper with the flour in a large Ziploc. Add scallops and shake to coat, shaking off excess flour as you remove them from the bag (or, just season the scallops with the salt and pepper and have done with it, as I wish I'd done). Heat 2 tbsp. oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Saute scallops 2-3 minutes per side, to attain a golden sear. Meanwhile, simmer the grapefruit juice to reduce it to 2 tbsp. Whisk in shallot, vinegar, 1/4 tsp. salt and sugar, stirring to dissolve salt & sugar. Gradually whisk in 6 tbsps oil. Toss the lettuce with 1/3 c. of the dressing. Divide between 2 plates. Top with scallops, avocado and grapefruit. Sprinkle with scallions & sunflower seeds. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Serves 2 with some leftovers for lunch.

Pan-Seared Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus

1/2 oz. shaved parmesan (the originial recipe calls for grated, which might work better, but either is fine. Just make sure you use the good stuff and not the parm from the green canister)

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch fleur de sel (plain ol' kosher salt is fine, too. That's what Moulton calls for, we just happened to have fleur de sel)

Juice of 1/2 lemon


Heat oil on high heat (yes, really) in a large skillet. Add asparagus and salt and cook, covered but stirring often to avoid burning, for a couple minutes. Add the rest and serve hot. Serves 2 with some leftovers for the next day.

Parmesan Rice

2/3 c. jasmine rice

1 & 1/3 c. water


2 tbsp. butter

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 c. grated parmesan

1 egg, lightly beaten


Put rice in pan with water and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook about 14 minutes, until cooked through with water absorbed. Add butter and stir to melt. Mix rest together and add to rice. Cook 5 minutes. Serves 2 with leftovers.

Coco's Retirement Lunch

Much to the chagrin of everyone at the church, our splendid secretary Ann is retiring next week. So, we took her out to lunch at Coco's, near the Oregon District. I'd had dinner there before with Beth when she was in town and was favorably impressed. Yesterday, I was even more impressed. Chris had said the burger (topped with Boursin cheese---how could that be bad?) was amazing and that's what she ordered. The bite I tried was juicy and flavorful. Ann had the crabcake sliders, which were prettily presented, and proclaimed them delicious. Brian's lunch was the blackened tilapia sandwich, which he seemed to like. I chose the BMT, which is nothing like the Subway sandwich of the same name. It's a baguette with a hefty pile of crispy bacon, fresh mozzarella and a layer of fried tomatillos, accented with basil mayonnaise. It is a truly splendid summer lunch! I stuck to the summer theme for my dessert and ordered the berry shortcake, with a gorgeous pile of mixed berries and a pouf of real whipped cream on a good, biscuity shortcake. Chris' chocolate cake, starring layers of dense mousse, was moist and good and Ann's key lime pie was the real deal, nearly impossible to find up North here. I was not remotely impressed with Brian's creme brulee, though. The creme to brulee ratio was skewed entirely too far to the creme side and the texture of the custard was unpleasantly thick and a little rough, unlike the light, silky mouth feel I prefer. It is served in a metal mug, which I think is a mistake. They need to use an oval ramekin for a better spread of the custard and more crunchy goodness to complement it. But, perhaps some folks like it as it was presented at Coco's. Oh, their iced tea? Very tasty! The busy lunchtime crowd made for a rather noisy atmosphere, but not unpleasantly so. The deep teal walls lend to the air of sophistication projected. For more info:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chaperone Carnitas

The last couple weeks have been a morass of attempting to find suitable chaperones for upcoming events...Confirmation's upcoming trip to Atlanta and the Youth Lodge at our church retreat, most notably. I started much earlier, but due to weeks of polite offers to allow people to chaperone resulting in no luck, I became desperate and pleading in the last couple of weeks. I finally attained full coverage, but last Monday, I was utterly downtrodden when I arrived home from work. Thus, it was lovely to have a pork roast waiting for me, all cooked and ready for shredding into carnitas. Crockpots are beautiful things. All I had to do besides shredding the meat and adding a little seasoning was to make some boxed Spanish rice and heat up a can of Roasrita refried beans. I had never tried that brand before and enjoyed the combination of beans left intact and beans mashed. Someday, I will probably make my own, but for last Monday, canned was perfect.


2-4 lb. pork butt roast (I made 4)

5 cloves garlic, sliced

1 jalapeno, chopped

12 oz. beer (I used Abita; you can use anything but light beer)

1 bunch cilantro ( tastes like soap to me, but Jeannene loves it; if it tastes like soap to you, too, you can omit it)

Cumin & chili powder, to taste (optional; I felt it needed something more)

Make slits in the pork roast and slip the garlic slices into them. Place in crockpot. Put jalapeno and cilantro on top. Sprinkle with spices, if using (or you can, as I did, add them during the shredding process). Pour beer over the roast, cover and cook on low 8-12 hours, high 4-6 hours. Shred the meat. Serve with soft tortillas (corn are traditional but I like flour better for this) so people can make tacos. If you want to get fancy, you can serve some sliced onions and chopped tomato with it as well. 2 pounds serves 4, with leftovers.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Something Fishy's Going On

Tonight, as my sweetheart was being taken out to Nemo Grill, a fabulous seafood spot in Avon, Ohio, for pan-seared scallops by her foodie boss, I was cooking up a tilapia dinner for my auntie and cousin. I got to Kroger too late the other night for the fish counter, so I settled for a bag of frozen tilapia fillets. As soon as I got home from work today, I popped some big potatoes in to bake. When they were nearly done, I started the rest of dinner, a selection of veggies & dip and the aforementioned fish. I slit the green parts of a number of scallions into thin ribbons and slid them, still attached to the white bulbs, into a bowl of ice water to rest and curl while I prepped the rest of dinner (20-30 minutes should do the trick). When they were ready, they went into a cup to accompany a plate of baby carrots and green pepper strips and this dip, adapted from a recipe I found in Family Fun Magazine in 2005:

6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
6 oz. reduced fat sour cream
3/4 c. grated parmesan
1 tsp. onion powder
1 scallion, chopped
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. dried parsley (the store was out of the fresh Kroger kinda sucks)
1/4 tsp. salt
A good grinding of pepper

Mix together and chill until ready to serve with veggies. It would probably also be yummy with sturdy crackers or pita chips.

For the fish, I mixed up a butter sauce by melting half a stick of butter and then tossing in a minced clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. I think a little dill would be nice, too, but we appear to be out of it.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Veggiful Joes

On a cold, rainy night like tonight, it was nice to come home from the grocery after a long day at work and make cozy comfort food. This was my first attempt at sloppy Joes from scratch. Not bad, but I have to admit (hanging head in shame) that I like Manwich better. Now, if I chose not to call these sloppy Joes and came up with another name, I'd be happy to eat 'em just about any day. I think they need about twice the ketchup and maybe a quick dash more Worcestershire sauce. I served them with tater tots and corn because, really, are there any better sides for sloppy Joes?

Veggiful Joes

1 lb. extra-lean ground beef

1 green pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

8 oz. tomato sauce

2 tbsp. ketchup

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Salt & pepper to taste

4 multi-grain English muffins

Brown & drain beef. Add veggies and sauce. Cook 5-7 minutes. Add seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Toast English muffins. Serve on muffins. You could do open-face sandwiches if you are looking to get some of the carbs out of your diet. Serves 4.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Italianish Cooking Week

This week, I have made two Italianish dishes. Monday night, I struggled with whether to cook or just drive through somewhere, since I had an evening meeting at work and left late. I am trying really hard not to succumb to the tempting ease of driving through for fast food. I don't even like it, most of the time, but it's so much easier than cooking after a long day at work. If I didn't love to cook, it would be harder. Anyway, I am glad I came home and made a pasta fazool casserole, adapted from the Bon Appetit cookbook. I think next time I make it, it will do it with all ground beef. To me, Italian sausage smells horrific when cooking and doesn't taste awesome. Last night, it was Italian shepherd's pie. Both are good with salad and some kind of fruit for dessert. I picked up some Maple Groves Farm citrus vinaigrette and am anxious to find out if it tastes like the fab citrus vinaigrette I got in Florida several years ago. Last night's fruit was canned peaches. I am not usually a canned fruit fan, but I love Margaret Holmes raggedy freestone peaches for some reason.

Pasta Fazool Casserole

1 lb. Italian sausage, casing removed

1 lb. ground beef

1 large onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. thyme

28 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes, chopped but with liquid

8 oz. tomato sauce

1/4 tsp. cayenne (I might up this to 1/2 tsp. next time)

1 can kidney beans, drained

1 lb. rigatoni

1 c. grated parmesan

1/2 c. grated Italian cheese blend (mozzarella, fontina & provolone)

1/4 c. chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Saute meat, onion, garlic, oregano and thyme together in a large skillet to brown the meat. Drain meat. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and cayenne. Simmer 5 minutes. Add beans and heat through. Season with salt & pepper. Cook and drain pasta. Toss with sauce, parmesan & parsley. Put in a 13x9 baking pan and top with Italian cheese blend. Bake half an hour. Serves 8.

Italian Shepherd's Pie

1 lb. hot breakfast sausage (mild is fine, too, I'm sure...heck, use Italian sausage if you like it)

5 scallions, sliced into 1" pieces

14 oz. can stewed tomatoes with Italian herbs (plain is fine)

3 eggs, beaten

1 tsp. oregano

1 c. shredded Cheddar

1 9" pastry shell (it would probably be equally good without. I will either skip or prebake next time)

4-5 servings mashed potatoes (I used Bob Evans chive mashed potatoes, the premade sort)

1/2 c. shredded Cheddar


Preheat oven to 375. Brown the sausage with the scallions. Drain. Add tomatoes, eggs, oregano and 1 c. cheese. Press pie shell into pie plate. Add filling. Spoon or pipe mashed potatoes around edges. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake 50-55 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Serves 8.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Weekend of Sumptuous Dining

When Jeannene decided to come down for this past weekend, she told me she wanted to eat at really good restaurants. So, I made Friday dinner reservations at Rue Dumaine ( and Saturday lunch reservations at The Winds( We ended up at The Winds on Sunday for brunch, too. Since Jeannene's drive down from Cleveland didn't get her here until 8:30, we had 9 p.m. reservations. I'd been to Rue Dumaine last week and tried the trout amandine, which was amazing. The other dish I'd considered that night was the braised short ribs, so my entree was a no-brainer. I'd had them before and I think they do an amazing job with them. They are always tender and richly-flavored. They're served with a deliciously creamy, non-sweet slaw. I don't usually eat slaw because the sweet version does not appeal to me. The only other slaw I've ever liked is the vinegary, also non-sweet version plated up at The Winds. Jeannene, on the other hand, was very disappointed in her bite of my slaw, commenting that slaw should be sweet. She had a gorgeous plate of swordfish, the night's special, that I would happily have eaten. I chose the pan-seared scallops over delicate slices of fingerling potatoes because I knew they'd be perfectly cooked, nice and caramelized on the outside and still tender inside. Jeannene surprised me by consenting to split the sorbet trio. Normally, she never likes sorbet, but she swooned over the pear sorbet (which was a little too gritty and sweet for me) and even liked the slightly more tart mango sorbet. My favorite was the raspberry Friday night, although it was the mango last time I had it. Neither of us really digs madeleines, so that went to waste. Proust, we are not. Saturday's lunch at The Winds yielded a couple of fabulous veggie entrees. We started with two small plates. Jeannene was set on having the cheese service, which was a wonderful collection this time. Usually, it's very good, really. The selections Saturday were Cabot bandage-wrapped Cheddar (, Belle Etoile triple creme brie, Garroxta (, Bucheron ( and a really stellar Gruyere whose name I didn't get. These arrived with a Medjool date (which I've noticed Kroger has begun carrying in bulk in the produce section and have been keeping in my desk, along with a bag of pistachios) and a dollop of quince paste. My entree was a rather odd but tasty melange of pasta and rice with lentils and tomato sauce. It came with a side of harissa, which I was cautious with at first and ended up dumping entirely into my dish by the end of the meal. It's based on an Egyptian street dish called Kushary. Splendid! Jeannene dove into the charmoula portabello with vegetable tagine over couscous. I made the mistake of ordering cake. I am always disappointed, for some reason, when I order cake at The Winds. It's always drier and blander than I expect. This was a chocolate sponge cake layered with chocolate mousse. The mousse was good but the cake wasn't worth eating for me. Saturday night, we went to a chili supper at Cross Creek UCC ( ) prior to Rabbi Irwin Kula's ( amazing and energizing talk. With the recent turn for the wintry the weather has taken, the veggie chili was perfect. It was rich and flavorful, unlike many bland and blah chili supper samples I've had. Sunday, Jeannene still hadn't had her fill of The Winds and I am always up for a meal there, so we took the kids to brunch there. Good food is nearly always wasted on Jeff and a good atmosphere even more so. I tried hard to be understanding rather than appalled when he joined us and immediately set up his laptop on the table and installed headphones. I failed miserably. His girlfriend at least had the courtesy and good sense to ask before beginning to play Pokemon on her GameBoy. Sigh. This is why I feel that nice restaurants should only be for those who appreciate them. And before you hate on me, keep in mind that I am only the stepmama and, were I Jeff's only parent, he would not have been permitted even to bring his laptop inside, much less be on it at the table. Bubbles did thoroughly enjoy her dish of kushary, so I was appeased somewhat. The vegan options were limited, so I was pleased when she opted to try something outside of her comfort zone rather than not eat at all, which is what Jeff did. Jeannene got a bowl of their fabulously diversified granola with thick, creamy yogurt. I ordered the fried egg sandwich (with Nueske's bacon and sharp white Cheddar on toasted foccaccia) because my stomach was a little iffy with nerves over being parted from Jeannene again at the end of the meal. I was intrigued by the Moroccan bread-crumbed eggs and will likely choose those next visit. In the meantime, I have lovely memories of a truly scrumptious breakfast sandwich. The large grains in the house made mustard are a pleasure to roll across the tongue and the buttery home fries were much more wonderful than I'd remembered them being. I was too full really to enjoy my half of a raspberry and bitter chocolate scone, so I came home with that and a tub of the granola to stash at work (with my dates and pistachios).

Monday, March 07, 2011

Cabbage Rolls, Deconstructed

I love cabbage rolls, but I never make them. They are simply too much work and I hate burning my fingers on the hot cabbage leaves. Mine invariably end up developing large holes and looking terrible, even if they do taste good. And I don't have the West Side Market or any of the other great Cleveland institutions of Eastern European cookery to rely on any longer. So, although I am pretty skeptical about Minute Rice for the most part, I decided to try this deconstructed version. I was going to go my usual bagged salad route, but then I remembered wedge salad. I love wedge salad, so I picked up a head of Iceberg, a jar of Marzetti's blue cheese dressing, a jar of those real bacon crumbles Hormel puts out and some Amish gorgonzola. Cut a nice wedge off my cleaned lettuce head, put it on a salad plate, drizzled it with dressing and scattered cheese and bacon over top. How hard is that?

Cabbage Rolls, Deconstructed
1 lb. ground beef (I used extra-lean Angus)
1 chopped onion
2 1/2 c. shredded cabbage (or, you can cheat like I did and use coleslaw mix)
15 oz. can tomato sauce
Generous 1/2 c. water
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. parsley
Generous 2/3 c. Minute Rice
Brown meat & onion in skillet that has been coated with cooking spray. Add cabbage and cook 10 minutes. Mix tomato sauce with water, mustard and parsley. Add to skillet. Bring to a boil. Add rice. Cover, lower heat and cook 5 minutes.

Family at Five Mardi Gras

When I was planning family events for the coming year at my church, I was thrilled to discover that in March, our usual first Sunday of the month happened also to be the last Sunday before Lent. That made the March theme a no-brainer for me. I love Mardi Gras. I've never been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and am fairly certain I wouldn't like the alcohol-soaked giant frat party that is Bourbon Street. But I love the festivities and the old traditions. So, Mardi Gras it was, with mask-making, a New Orleans-themed potluck and "The Princess and the Frog" as back-up for when the kids finished their masks and got bored.

I made my spice-wimps' version of pastalaya. I figured we'd see plenty of rice dishes, so I thought a pasta variation, while not very traditional, would fit in nicely. I also happen to like it quite a bit. We also had Susie's luscious potato and sausage soup, which she graciously made for us on Christmas Eve for our between-services staff meal. I was jealous of the Le Creuset pot she sent it in, but happy to what was under the red lid. Julie brought fantastic Hoppin' John, with perfectly cooked greens, over brown rice. We had a very yummy andouille & rice casserole. We had perfect Southern belle pastel pistachio fluff. I am not an eater of fluff, for the most part, but I tried it because Amy made it and it was good. We had brownies, which fit in beautifully at any potluck. We had pizza and take-out fried chicken, which pleased the kids mightily. We even had Jell-o "shots" thanks to Amy's marvelous sense of humor. No, they weren't the kind you'd get in a bar in the French Quarter. I brought in some gorgeous King Cake from Dorothy Lane Market, too, and when 5-year-old A.J. got the baby, he went about showing all of us that the baby was naked and needed a diaper. Very cute!

If you want to try the pastalaya, here's what I do:
1 lb. penne
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 lb. andouille, casing removed & meat diced (I like Aidell's and it's easy to find around here)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 orange pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
Salt & pepper
3 tbsp. flour
Just over a cup of beer (I used Abita...something cheaper would be just fine, but don't use light beer)
1 c. chicken stock
14 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I often buy the whole canned tomatoes and crush them with my hands or a wooden spoon)
A good shake or three of hot sauce
2 tsp. thyme
1/2 lb. chicken breast, diced
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3-1/2 c. heavy cream

Cook pasta al dente, then drain. Brown andouille in heated oil and butter over medium-high heat. Remove from skillet and add garlic, onion, celery and bell pepper to hot grease in pan. Saute about 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings and add flour. Cook and stir a few minutes, then add beer. Cook another couple minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, hot sauce and thyme. Bring to a boil and add chicken and shrimp. Cook until chicken and shrimp are cooked through, about 7 minutes. Add cream and heat through. Mix with pasta. Serves 4 as a main course rather than a potluck sampling dish.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Ants Climbing A Tree

It's a good thing MCL was out of their crack veggie soup, because otherwise I might have simply enjoyed that with a big, puffy roll for dinner and Jell-o for dessert. However, I came home and made my adaptation of the Gourmet Cookbook version of the classic Szechwan dish, Ants Climbing a Tree. If the name wigs you out too much, you can always just call it spicy pork with noodles. I had broccoli and mandarin oranges with it. It is one of the yummiest dinners I've had in a long time, perfect for a chilly, snowy night.

Ants Climbing a Tree
3/4 lb. ground pork
2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
6.5 oz. bean thread noodles
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ginger, minced
1 bunch scallions, thinly-sliced
2 tsp. Asian chili sauce (I was tempted to halve this, but I decided to be brave...and it was great)
1.5 c. chicken stock
3 tbsp. sake
1 tsp. sugar
Mix pork with 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. rice vinegar, 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. sesame oil. Let stand 20 minutes. Cover noodles with warm water & let stand 15 minutes. Drain and snip to 3-4" lengths. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is just starting to smoke, add garlic, ginger and scallion whites. Stir fry 30 seconds. Add pork and chili sauce and cook through. Add everything but 1 tsp. sesame oil and scallion greens. Bring to a simmer. Cook 3-5 minutes. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with scallions. Serves 4-6.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Puppy Bowl Chili

I actually don't even know if I'll watch the Puppy Bowl (I've been trying to get around to "Bolt" for ages now & will probably go for that), but this is a quick and easy chili for those who are not interested in the Super Bowl, but still want to get into the spirit of things with footballish food. Especially handy if you've done two worship services, a Confirmation class and a God and Family Boy Scout Badge session, then gone to the movies ("The King's Speech" if you're curious) and just want something quick, hot and yummy. You can drink a mug of Earl Grey to pre-warm you while you cook.

Take a pound or so of ground beef and brown it in a skillet. Drain it, if it needs it. If it's so lean that you don't think it'll need it, you might want a hint of Pam in the skillet before the meat. While the meat is browning, open a can of kidney beans (I like the dark ones and I am partial to the Joan of Arc for the same reason I root---in theory---for the New Orleans Saints) and a can or two of diced, chili-ready tomatoes. When the meat is sufficiently browned & drained, add the beans & tomatoes, along with an envelope of your favorite chili seasonings. Doctor with extra cumin, chile powder and cayenne, as you see fit. Pour in some beer, anywhere from a splash to 12 oz., depending on how beery and liquid you like your chili. I used 12 oz. of Leinenkugel Creamy Dark. Fling in some instant espresso powder and some unsweetened cocoa powder. I know some folks who swear by peanut butter, too, and I think that's just fine, too. Stir well, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer while you blog about what you're doing and finish your tea. You could make corn muffins to go with it, but really, when you're ready to settle in on the couch with a bowl of red & a Disney film, saltine crackers or tortilla chips are great, too. Feel free to adorn with chopped onions (for the ambitious), shredded sharp Cheddar or Monterey Jack and sour cream. Speaking of Disney, did you know Walt Disney was UCC? Yep, came as a surprise to me, too. Gotta love special guest speakers for Confirmation! Thanks, Jim Eller, for a fun stroll through basic UCC History!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Gooey Goodness for a February Night

I definitely do better at actually making dinner every night when I do a week's worth of shopping at a time and thus can just come right home and cook. Tonight, I was feeling heroic, so I cooked after stopping on the way home and doing a week's worth of shopping. Hee hee! It paid off in cheesy deliciousness. This is my version of an Ina Garten recipe, the original of which can be found at http:// . Jeannene got me a 3-book set of her cookbooks for Christmas & this is the first I've made from any of them. Ina's recipe is probably better than what I ended up with, especially since I completely forgot the basil, even though I was thinking while making it that it needed basil. Oh, my poor brain. But, here's how I did it. My version didn't turn pink, either, which was a complaint in some of the recipe reviews. It's ridiculously easy. Definitely not for dieters, unless it happens to be your splurge day. In that case, by all means, have at it!

Penne with Five Cheeses
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. canned whole tomatoes you have crushed by hand
3/4 c. freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 c. shredded Swiss cheese (&#*! grocery didn't have Fontina...come on, it's not that exotic)
1/2 c. Gorgonzola, crumbled
2 heaping tbsp. ricotta
6 oz. mozzarella, thinly sliced and torn into pieces (I'd just shred it next time...not sure why she called for sliced)
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped (obviously, I omitted this)
1 lb. penne
1/2 stick butter
Salt to taste & for pasta water
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. Mix everything but penne and butter together. Cook penne 4-5 minutes. Drain well and add to rest of ingredients. Toss to mix well. Place in 13 x 9 baking dish. Dot with butter and bake until bubbly and brown on top, about 10 minutes. Serves 6. Nice with Caesar salad and sourdough bread.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

February 2011 Planned Dinners

1-Cheesy scramble, toast, clementines
2-Soup & grilled cheese
3-Chinese New Year dinner out
4-Penne with 5 cheeses, salad, bread
5-Chicken schnitzel, mashed potatoes, lima beans, maple pecan sticky bars
6-Chili, cornbread, fruit
7-Spicy pork with bean thread noodles, broccoli, mandarin oranges
8-Scrambled eggs, sausage muffins, fruit
9-Wednesday Dinner Out
10-Sack Supper on the way to Rock & Worship Road Show w/Youth
11-Greek lentil & spinach soup, rolls, fruit
12-David's UCC Spaghetti Dinner
13-David's UCC Family at Five Valentine-Making Party & Potluck
14-Boeuf Bourguignonne, mashed potatoes, salad with blue cheese and walnuts
15-Dinner at my desk (leftovers/carry-out)
16-Wednesday Dinner Out
17-Parmesan chicken with mixed baby greens, baked potatoes/buttered noodles, baked apples
18-Penne with garlicky avocado cream sauce, salad, bread
19-Jeannene's birthday dinner at The Winds
20-Scampi, angelhair pasta, green bean salad with walnuts, fennel and goat cheese
21-Thai garlic beef, rice, broccoli
22-Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn
23-Wednesday Dinner Out
24-Breakfast casserole, fruit salad, English muffins
25-Sack supper on the way to Route 678 middler event
26-Dinners for Eight
27-Fish & chips Iberia, lima beans, salad
28-BBQ bistro chicken, rice, broccoli

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mediocre Meatloaf

I wanted to make a nice, homey meal for this snowy night. Meatloaf with mashed potatoes & lima beans seemed to fit the bill. I chose a meatloaf recipe from J's mom's "West Point Hostess" cookbook, from about the 1960s. I didn't have cornflakes, however, nor Corn Chex to sub, so I used dry bread crumbs. The consistency wasn't what I prefer and there were some sticking issues which would be resolved, I expect, with a little cooking spray in the pan. The meatloaf tasted fine and my aunt liked the consistency, as well, but it was too mushy for me. Maybe you like it mushy.

Tomato Soup Meatloaf
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
A dash of pepper
3 tbsp. chopped onion
1/2 c. tomato soup
1/2 c. milk
1 c. cornflakes
1 lb. ground beef
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix everything but ketchup together and place in loaf pan. Bake half an hour. Top with ketchup. Bake another half hour. Let stand 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Back to the Burner

My lack of posts in the last month, nearly two, is not due to my blogging deficiency, but to my remarkable kitchen sloth. Grabbing a bowl of steaming hot vegetable soup and a heavenly roll at MCL Cafeteria (conveniently right across the street from my church) has seemed so much easier than cooking these days. I don't know what's wrong with me! I did manage my usual New Year's Eve fondue and New Year's Day pork chops & sauerkraut. To save that from being its usual all-white self with mashed potatoes on the side, I added some green beans tossed with garlic, salt & olive oil then roasted in a hot oven, as well as a beautiful salad starring starfruit, pears, raspberries, walnuts & Maytag blue cheese arrayed on a bed of baby greens, drizzled with raspberry maple vinaigrette.

Since the start of the year, I have managed to cook a few dinners. I made one atrociously bland cauliflower-broccoli cheese soup whose recipe I won't even bother sharing and I did a practically perfect rendition of my chicken pot pie. That turned into a bit of an ordeal when I opened the oven to check for items left behind before preheating. Well, what I found was that the missing kitchen shears were perched on the top rack, their black plastic handles dripped down through the wires, through the wires of the rack below and puddled on the oven floor. Luckily, the plastic had either missed the element for the most part or most of it had already burned off! We are not at all certain how this occurred, but we suspect it involves wee boys at the start and teenagers in the middle. Luckily, my auntie was able to pull up the plastic in the bottom with ease & I chiseled enough plastic off one rack to render the oven usable for pie-baking. I believe I've already given that recipe, but in case I have not:

1 9" pie shell
1 lb. chicken, cut into small pieces and cooked
1 can cream of chicken soup (the flavor suffers not one bit for 98% fat-free, if so inclined)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (as above)
1 can Veg-All (or other mixed veggies), well-drained

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put the bottom crust into a pie plate. Mix everything else together & put into pie plate. Top with another crust, seal edges and flute. Vent top crust. Place on baking sheet and bake for about an hour, placing an edge shield or foil on edges if they start to brown too much.

Tonight, I did a yummy new take on tuna burgers. I wasn't quite sure how it would be, but it turned out great and made the house smell "like a movie theater," as my aunt exclaimed when she came in the door. I served them with potato chips and a salad of mixed baby greens.

Crunchy Tuna Burgers
12 oz. can of tuna, well-drained
4 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 c. crushed Corn Chex
2 tsp. dried minced onion
2 tsp. parsley
Salt & pepper
4 buns
Mix everything but buns together. Make into 4 patties. Heat a skillet on medium heat and spray with butter-flavored cooking spray. Cook until nicely browned, 4-5 minutes per side. Serve on buns with your favorite condiments and toppings. Serves 4.