Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Italian Bread Salad

This is actually something I made back in September & never blogged. One of my favorite lunches at The Winds Cafe had always been their Tuscan bread salad. Their version has beautiful cuts of red onion, plenty of olives, and gooey melted cheese. Their bread cubes are gloriously toasted. This is not that, but it is very good. It does not make good leftovers, so just make as much as you will eat that day. And for goodness' sake, please wait until next summer, when the tomatoes are good, to make it! If you'd like, you can serve this on a bed of greens. You can also add colorful peppers. I had some on hand.

Italian Bread Salad
1 1/2 c. leftover bread, cut in thick chunks (I used a sourdough boule)
Olive oil for drizzling
Coarsely ground pepper
3 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 diced tomato
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 c. chopped parsley
1/3 c. pine nuts (almond slivers or even walnuts can be subbed)
2 1/2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp. milk

Put bread on baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Broil, turn over, and repeat. Heat the rest of the olive oil. Add garlic & sauté about 5 minutes. Add to bread, along with tomatoes, scallions, parsley, nuts, vinegar, and milk. Toss thoroughly. Serves 4.

Monday, November 25, 2013


My kitchen was still largely in chaos last night, the new homes for my favorite kitchen tools not yet decided. Still, I managed to make a delicious dinner when we got back from running around exploring. I accompanied seasoned, sautéed chicken breast with fingerling potatoes roasted on a bed of bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, and thyme and a selection of veggies to dip in a from-scratch buttermilk chive dip. The potatoes & dip are adapted from Emeril's Farm to Fork cookbook. I keep the seasoning mix, adapted from Bon Appetit, on hand for all kinds of things, from chicken to pork chops to steamed veggies. 

Four Seasons Mix
Combine 1/2 c. salt, 1 tbsp. pepper, 1 tbsp. garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp. cayenne. Store in container with tight-fitting lid and use for anything you'd use a seasoning rub on.

Roasted Potatoes with Bay, Thyme, & Rosemary
1 lb. baby potatoes, halved lengthwise
1/8 c. olive oil
1 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
Pepper to taste
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs rosemary
1 tbsp. room temperature butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss with oil, salt, paprika, & black pepper. Cover baking sheet with bay leaves, thyme, & rosemary. Roast 20 minutes. Toss in large bowl. Roast another 15-20 minutes.  Toss, in the same bowl, with the butter until it's melted and coats the potatoes. Remove hard bits of stem and bay leaf before serving. Serves 2. 

Buttermilk Chive Dip
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. sour cream
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. chopped chives 
Salt & pepper, to taste

Mix well & serve with veggies, crackers, chips...

It's Getting Cozy in Here

Just in the last couple of days, fall has begun nibbling at the edges of our days and I have started wanting to make casseroles and pork chops and stews. Jeannene was delighted with tonight's dinner, saying it made her feel secure, like when she was 7 years old and her mommy would make Johnny Marzetti (in our family, it was called "goulash"). I served the pizza casserole I made with veggies (baby carrots, celery sticks, green pepper strips) & dip (I like to get the multi-pack of the Marzetti minis) and fruit salad.

Pizza Casserole
16 oz. 90% lean ground beef
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1/2 c. finely chopped green pepper
15 oz. can pizza sauce
15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes 
1/2 c. parmesan
A good shake of Italian seasoning
16 oz. macaroni, penne, or other smallish pasta (whole grain is good), cooked
4-6 oz. turkey pepperoni (you can use regular, but I think turkey's just as good & lots healthier)
1 c. shredded 2% mozzarella 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13x9 baking pan with cooking spray. Likewise, coat a skillet & heat it. Brown the meat, with the veggies, in the skillet. Add sauce, tomatoes, parmesan, and Italian seasoning. Add the pasta & pepperoni. Top with mozzarella. Spread in the 13x9 and bake 1/2 hour. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving. Serves 10-12. (You could halve this & cook it in an 8x8)

A Riff on Fruit Salad
1 container cubed pineapple
2 kiwis, peeled & cubed
2 bananas, peeled & chunked
A handful of grapes, halved
A bit of Maple Grove Farms Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
Toss everything gently together in the bowl your grandmom used to make Jell-o. Try to keep your wife from eating all the bananas out of it before anyone else gets any.

Zinged-Up Baked Beans

I'm so excited about the start of fall! For our first dinner of the season, I tried a new, quick baked bean recipe, served alongside cheddarwurst & sweet corn. It came from Gooseberry Patch's Quick & Easy Autumn cookbook. The gingersnaps crumbled on top add a nice zing and a little sweetness, without being overbearing. Here is my adaptation:

Gingersnap Baked Beans

2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp & then crumbled (I used a handful of pre-cooked turkey bacon crumbles)
16 oz. pork & beans
A good shake of onion powder (or 1 tbsp. chopped onion, if you're up for chopping)
1/8 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1/8 c. ketchup
4 small gingersnaps, crushed (I used Newman's Own)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix everything together & put in a 1.5 qt casserole that's been sprayed with Pam. Bake 1/2 hour or until hot & bubbly. Serves 3-4.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cozy Supper for Our First Night Home

Due to Jeannene's super new job, we have relocated to a lovely home called Butternut Hall in Southeastern Michigan. She started a little over a month ago and loves it, but has been living in the Days Inn this whole time while I finished my time pastoring in Dayton and got our Columbus household ready to be moved. Over the last several weeks, we have both been subsisting largely on restaurant meals and easy meals at home (whatever home has meant for each of us) that don't require much/any cooking. 

Jeannene was away for work the first several days of our Butternut Hall life. Last night, I went to fetch her from the Detroit airport. It would be her first real home-cooked meal in over a month, so I wanted it really to taste (& smell!) like coming home. I opted for an old-fashioned beef stew and our favorite salad, Robyn's Tuscan Kale Salad, which I have posted previously. I even baked a cheater dessert, those break-and-bake chocolate chunk cookies. I'd rather do homemade, but most of my kitchen is in boxes and the rest in shambles right now. The stew was delicious on a drizzly November night and the house smelled marvelous when we stepped inside. I hope you have more room in your kitchen than I did, and don't have to rest your cutting board and cookie sheets across the sink, but even if you have a tiny bit of space, this meal is doable!

Homecoming Beef Stew
2 lb. boneless beef chuck steak, fat    trimmed, cut into largish chunks
1/2 c. flour
Salt & pepper
3 tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
24 oz. beer*
1 lb. tiny red potatoes, halved (you could dice regular-sized ones, too)
3 carrots, peeled and cut in very thick rounds
1 turnip, peeled and cut into large dice
(I would have also added a large parsnip, but the delivery did not arrive at the grocery, so I was out of luck there. You should add one, though, peeled and cut like the carrot.)

Dredge the beef, in batches, in the flour, seasoned with salt and pepper. In your favorite stew pot, melt the butter on medium-high heat. You can use olive oil, instead, if you like. Brown the meat on all sides, which will take about 10 minutes. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the beer and deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the crispy bits incorporated. Add the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 2 and a half to 3 hours, stirring every now and again, until everything is very tender. Serves 4-6.

* I used a Tecate and a Dieselpunk IPA because that's what was on hand. Use whatever you like, but I don't recommend light beer in stew, ever. I toyed with using some hard cider and may very well do that next time.