March 9: pork chops in red wine sauce, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole
The pork chops and mashed potatoes were very good, but the green bean casserole was not. I used a different recipe, with almonds instead of fried onions for one, that was completely lacking in flavor, to my taste buds. So, I won't bother with that recipe for y'all, but will simply link you to the one I usually use (I generally use regular cut green beans, though---and this is one of the rare occasions when I feel that canned is better than fresh).
Pork Chops in Red Wine Sauce
4 thick-cut pork chops (I tend to prefer boneless, but use whatever you like best)
2 tsp. olive oil
2 onions, thinly-sliced into demi-lunes
4 sprigs thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2" piece ginger, peeled and minced
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/2 c. dry red wine
1/4 c. ruby port
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar plus a splash
1 c. beef broth
1 tbsp. butter
A handful of chopped parsley
Sear the pork chops in hot oil until browned on both sides. Set aside. In same skillet, cook onions until golden brown, with thyme sprigs, garlic, ginger, and allspice. Lay pork chops on top of onions. Add wines, vinegar, and broth. Cover and simmer until pork is cooked through, about half an hour. Remove to plates. Stir butter into sauce. Serve over pork chops, sprinkled with fresh parsley. Serves 4.
March 10: My dear wife had a night out with our youngest and his girlfriend to talk over his college plans, while I spent the evening shopping for a duvet cover and dishes (although I didn't know I was shopping for the latter. I spotted these wonderful pink Nicole Miller dishes I couldn't resist.). I'd intended to take myself out for something yummy, but got distracted by all the pretty things in the store and found myself out much later than I'd intended. Jeannene hinted that she might really enjoy some kind of dessert from Culver's, so I stopped there for a cheeseburger and a couple of small turtle sundaes.
March 11: I'd planned to make chicken & dumpling soup, which didn't sound good to either of us that day. Further, I was at the plant all day with Jeannene, having ridden in with her in the morning for a wellness screening, and she works late. By the time she got off, there was no question of going to the grocery for the needed items, then going home and cooking. When her engineer, Ken, invited us to join him at The Mulefoot Gastropub in Imlay City, Michigan, for a beer, we accepted. We sat at the bar and ordered supper from the bartender (who also made me a stellar drink, the ingredients of which I could not tell you---I asked her for something girly and not too strong---she called it "something something something pink lemonade." It was both tart and sweet, just what I wanted. Most places, I would not put my cocktail fate into their hands entirely. I trust the bartenders at Mulefoot, though. You should, too, if you are lucky enough to live in range.) Jeannene wasn't hungry, having eaten a patty melt I brought her for a late lunch, so I ordered. Ken and I had the same thing, pork over saffron chile rice with root veggies and mojo sauce. I opted for the meatball version, which was terrific. They even got the mojo right. I also had a little dessert, a dish of raspberry-beet sorbet with candied carrot shavings. I can hardly resist a creative sorbet and I'm glad I said yes to this one. Stellar! I usually skip sorbets, which my crazy wife doesn't like (too tart), in favor of something I can split with her.
March 12: Another dinner out, this time for a good cause, the Future Medical Professionals Club at Oxford High School. One of the folks at Jeannene's plant teaches there and had handed out flyers which would commit 25% of our bill at Casa Real to the club. What? We get to drink margaritas and raise money for teenagers? Heck, yeah! I chose a trio of gorditas, of which my favorite was the carnitas-stuffed one. The beef was bland and I could hardly believe the flavorless meat in the chorizo & potato was chorizo. But the carnitas one was delicious. The beans I ordered on the side were equally bland. Jeannene loved her combo plate---the bite of her tamale I had was really good. I'd assess Casa Real as very good, if you order the right things, boring, if not. I still haven't found a Mexican restaurant up here that has wowed me. I miss Las Piramides in Centerville, Ohio (whose carnitas are stupid good), Los Mariachis in Xenia, Ohio (home of my favorite chile verde) and Azteca in Powell, Ohio (which has fantastic plantains).
March 13: The Uppity Book Women gathered at our place to discuss Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights, so it made sense to offer a Regency-style cold collation, a simple supper offered to guests who arrived late and were in need of nourishment and also to guests at midnight, after a formal dinner much earlier in the evening and a ball or evening of entertainments. I picked up some thick-sliced ham and turkey (chicken would have been more authentic, of course), as well as some English Cheddar and Stilton with mangoes and apricots. I had a platter of grapes and a cutting board holding a loaf of multigrain bread. For dessert, I made a delicious trifle. I'd done some research and found this trifle recipe. I also set out some Godiva biscuits and almond straw cookies. Brenda brought a plate of yummy little ham, cream cheese, & scallion roll-ups and some strawberries. Brenda said, "Couldn't you just eat the whole plate?" of the ham roll-ups---my answer was, "Oh, yeah!" In fact, she left some with us and I gave Jeannene a very hard glare when she sat down with them and inhaled them in front of me, without offering one, the next day when she got home from work. She figured that since I had eaten lunch, I wouldn't be hungry. Well, I wasn't, but I sure wanted another of those!
March 14: Oh, boy, was this one a doozie. Jeannene didn't get home from work until 4 Saturday afternoon (after having worked 12 or 13 hours Friday). She said she wanted to take me either to the "Frozen on Ice" show or something else I really wanted to do. I chose "Cinderella" instead and am I glad I did! We planned to have dinner at Bar Louie, then see the movie. We'd just put our name in with the hostess when Jeannene got the call that she needed to return to the plant. Well, when you're the plant manager, you have to heed those calls. So, we told the hostess we wouldn't be eating there and hit the road, stopping for McDonald's on the way because they have a drive-through and eating in the car. We ended up not getting home until 11 or so and Jeannene worked from here until 3 in the morning! Then, went back to work at 8:30 Sunday. Sheesh! So, for those of you who are always saying how envious you are of my eating life, here is reality, smacking me right in the face! Nothing gourmet about McDonald's.
March 15: Jeannene had intended to make corned beef and cabbage for our Sunday dinner, but when the kids asked if they could bring a new friend to dinner, a friend who is vegetarian, we had to change course. Well, we didn't have to, but it was the gracious thing to do. Jeannene still wanted something festive, though, in honor of St. Patrick's Day right around the corner. We'd seen green and white shamrock-shaped cheese ravioli at Costco, so we returned to see if it was still available. Surely enough, they had it. We picked that up, along with some spinach-artichoke dip and Kerrygold butter and Dubliner Cheddar. When the kids arrived, with their friend, we had a couple different kinds of salsa on the table with blue corn chips, the dip with bagel crisps, and the Cheddar with crackers. Dinner was the ravioli (which was very yummy) with rosa sauce Jeannene made with jarred alfredo and garlic herb marinara sauces, to which she added a goodly amount of onions, garlic, and bell peppers. I groused about all the chunky veggies as she was adding them and then ended up liking the sauce, although I do generally prefer simpler sauces. She also roasted green beans using my favorite recipe. Since my beloved steamer has broken, we've begun to roast just about all our veggies. The kids devoured the green beans. All you do is preheat the oven to 500 degrees (yes, 500), toss the beans with a teaspoon of olive oil and one of water, as well as some salt (we love Maldon salt for this) and pepper, and roast them 7-9 minutes. She also did a big salad with white balsamic vinaigrette from a bag---yum!
Dessert was a batch of extremely questionable, but unquestionably green, cupcakes. Jeannene is a sucker for the inventive and had picked up a box of watermelon cupcake mix (hot pink with chocolate chip "seeds") and a tub of bright green watermelon frosting. I am not much a fan of fruit-flavored cake in general, aside from my adored lemon and orange cakes, but I will allow for the occasional foray into strawberry vanilla or chocolate raspberry. I tasted a lick of the batter as she mixed it and was surprised that, while quite watermelon-y, it was not appalling. However, when I helped her frost them and got a whiff of the watermelon bubblegum aroma of the frosting, all my previous concerns reappeared. Everyone was too full to eat them after dinner, so we sent most of them home with the kids. At bedtime, I took one up with me to try a bite, even though I was convinced it would be horrific. And, you know what? It was.
March 16: Any of you who think I'm a gourmet cook should remember that I am not at all above cooking with canned soup. Any of you who are not food snobs will allow that sometimes, canned soup casseroles are really good. The "Italian" (I suspect Italians everywhere would be affronted by the suggestion that this has any resemblance to their cuisine) chicken and artichoke recipe I tried Monday was not. Jeannene liked it, however. I thought it was incredibly bland. Edible, but nothing I would repeat. The original is from my Gooseberry Patch project cookbook. I have tweaked it, which didn't help much, but perhaps you are like Jeannene and will find it really yummy. I wonder if it would be better with some crushed red pepper or a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the flavor. We had carrots with it, just raw baby ones to nibble.
Chicken and Artichoke Skillet
8 oz. sour cream (reduced fat is just fine)
1 can cream of chicken soup (reduced fat, reduced sodium is fine)
1/2 c. dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
1 c. shredded mozzarella
1 c. shredded parmesan
1 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 jars (12-14 oz.) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 lb. rainbow rotini (or whatever pasta you like), cooked al dente
Extra cheese for garnish
Mix sour cream, soup, wine, & cheeses together. Cook garlic in melted butter just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook through. Add sour cream mixture, cover, and cook on low 10 minutes. Add artichokes and heat through. Serve over pasta, with extra cheese to sprinkle on top. Serves 4-6.
March 17: Our traditional St. Patrick's Day dinner more than made up for the not-so-great Monday night dinner. I'd intended to make colcannon, but the extra potatoes seemed redundant with the potatoes in the Guinness stew. So, a simple, delicious meal of stew and soda bread it was. I usually make my soda bread from scratch, but I'd spotted a Sticky Fingers soda bread mix, so I made that, instead, just to try it. I like their scone mixes very well and it turns out their soda bread is great, too.
Guinness Lamb Stew
2 lb. lamb shoulder chops (you can also use stew beef; if you use slightly less then 2 lb., that's fine)
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil (you can use regular vegetable oil, if you want, or cooking spray)
12 oz. Guinness Stout (I used extra-stout last night; you can really use any dark beer)
1 lb. new potatoes
1 lb. baby carrots
1 pint pearl onions (I think the leprechauns got mine this year---I bought a frozen bag & they vanished from the freezer between Monday and yesterday, so I used a bag of diced onions Jeannene had in there)
32 oz. beef broth (if you can find lamb stock, feel free to use that)
2 tbsp. dark roux (flour & butter carefully cooked to a dark, but not burned, smooth paste)
Finely-chopped parsley for garnish, if you like
Season the lamb with salt & pepper. Heat the oil in a soup pot (or Dutch oven---mine went missing yesterday, along with the onions). Sear the lamb chops until golden on each side. Set aside on a plate. Add beer to pan and cook a minute or so, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Return lamb to pot, along with vegetables. Cover with broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer about 2 hours. The lamb should be falling off the bones. Carefully remove the bones, picking off any meat still clinging to them and returning it to the pot. Add the roux and cook 10 minutes (I actually skipped this step last night, as Jeannene was later getting home than expected and the stew cooked down to a lovely consistency in the extra hour it cooked). Sprinkle each serving with parsley, if using. Serves 4.