Friday, October 30, 2015

Van de Kamp's Fish, October 29, 2015

My wife made a dinner last night that reminded me SO much of my grandmommy's dinners. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and have memories of many dinners with them. She often made Van de Kamp's beer-battered fish fillets, boiled potatoes, and some kind of frozen veggie---usually peas or lima beans. We would eat in the living room while we watched "Jeopardy" and shouted out answers. Last night, Jeannene made Van de Kamp's beer-battered fish fillets, Mrs. Paul's crunchy fish fillets (which, in my opinion, are not nearly as yummy), leftover potatoes from our baby shower at her plant, and lima beans. Well, I made the limas. And we sat and watched The Witches of Eastwick until she had to go to bed. Luckily, we did not make it to the gross scene during which one should never be eating! But I think I may have her intrigued enough to watch the whole thing with me someday, despite her hatred of Jack Nicholson!

Tuna Casserole, October 28, 2015

I like just about every tuna casserole I eat. Mostly, they have noodles or potato chip crumbles, or something else stirred in to bulk them up a bit. The one I made the other night did not, so I was a bit skeptical about it, but it turned out to be quite tasty. When I commented to my wifey that I would likely add noodles next time I make it, she said, "Oh, I wouldn't! It's great as is." I served it with a bagged spinach salad with blue cheese & cherries and Honeycrisp apple slices with caramel dip. 

Cheesy Tuna Casserole
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
A bit of butter or olive oil
1 can condensed cheddar soup (I use the Healthy Choice sort---or whatever it's called---lower sodium & fat)
1/2 c. milk (I used 2%)
A pinch of salt
1/2 c. chopped pimiento olives
1 large can tuna, well-drained
Shredded cheddar (optional---my wife loves as much cheese as possible)
1 c. crushed cornflakes
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1 tbsp. butter or olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté onion, pepper, and celery in butter or olive oil until softened. Add soup and milk and stir until smooth. Cook 10 minutes or so. Add salt, olives, and tuna. Put in a greased 2-quart casserole. Spread cheddar over casserole, if using. Cook cornflakes and almonds in butter/oil. Spread on top of the casserole. Bake 25 minutes. Serves 4. 

Panda House, October 27, 2015

When I was growing up, our family had Vietnamese friends who spoiled us with the generosity of their cooking and their kindness. While no restaurant meal ever seems to measure up to the cooking Phong, Anh, and Mui did for us, my grandmom and I liked to go out for Vietnamese food together after our friends moved to California. We also went out for Chinese fairly often. Now that my grandmom has died, I celebrate her birthday every year with either Chinese or Vietnamese food. I'm not very proficient at either cuisine, so we go out. However, when my wife has a heavy workload and is doing lots of long hours, she just likes to come home, get comfy, and eat here. So, the other day, I brought Chinese home. Pie and Bubbles joined us for dinner and they're sweet & sour fans, so she got shrimp & he got pork. I had beef with broccoli & my sweetie had her favorite standby, General Tso's Chicken. I also ordered some crab rangoons and potstickers.

The last couple times, I've been a bit disappointed, frankly, with the food from Panda House. It's not bad, it's just not awesome. Bringing it home didn't help the quality, as both appetizers got pretty soggy pretty quickly. Ah, well. I had a wonderful time chatting with the restaurant guy, a young half-Chinese, half-Vietnamese fella who is always really friendly. I spend a good chunk of the time admiring his tattoos. This visit, he told me about a good Vietnamese place in Madison Heights, on the corner of 13 Mile & Dequindre, and about a bakery on John R I should visit for red bean pastries.

Yesterday, I got the chance to go to the restaurant with the mother of our wee boy after her final OB appointment before the baby is born next week. She'd never had Vietnamese food, so it was a pleasure to introduce her to it at Pho Hang. We had her 18-month-old with us and all three of us really liked it. We started with cha gio, Vietnamese fried spring rolls, one of my favorite foods in the world. These were very good, but I prefer the version at Thuy Trang over on John R. They're closer to the amazing spring rolls the Phus made for us. Because I can never get enough of spring rolls, I ordered the roast pork and spring roll noodle dish, served with fish sauce. Our baby's mother is a soup girl and ordered a bowl of beef pho. She was hoping for a side of shrimp fried rice, but they only do it as an entree, so I urged her to order it, anyway, so she could have leftovers later. She loved everything. It's so much fun introducing people to new foods! I can't wait to start introducing our wee boy to all kinds of yumminess!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Leo's, October 26, 2015

I'd planned to make tuna casserole last night, but then our hair salon was unexpectedly able to fit us in yesterday evening---great place, with hours until 10 p.m. some evenings and complimentary wine---so, we decided to eat next door at Lili's. However, we'd forgotten that Lili's closes at 8, so we ended up at Leo's, instead. It was a serendipitous thing because we each got what we were hungry for and it was really good. I had a breakfast sandwich and hash browns while my sweet wife was delighted by a tuna melt. Simple is good. And we even got to see a guy who looked like a biker but was wearing a fuzzy skunk hat!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Beef Tips & Noodles, October 23, 2015

Since we intended to run around Friday night picking out nursery furniture, I popped dinner in the crockpot in the morning and we were able to eat quickly and hit the store. It was delicious & homey, a great fall meal. I made the beef tips in the crockpot, then cooked egg noodles at the last minute. I also made applesauce from scratch and baked an acorn squash.

Beef Tips
1 lb. beef tips
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 packet of crockpot pot roast mix
3/4 c. 7-Up
1/2 green pepper, chopped

Mix everything together in a crockpot that's been coated with cooking spray. I know the 7-Up sounds really weird, but it works. However, if you like, use beef broth, instead. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Tequila Lime Chicken, October 22, 2015

After a string of dinner failures, starting with last week's chicken tetrazzini and continuing through gloopy pumpkin pecan bread pudding and sausage & bean soup that tasted like hot dog water, I relegated myself to supplementing Jeannene's dinners until Wednesday. Wednesday, I meant to make last night's dinner, until I realized that I had forgotten that the chicken needed to marinate---so, I made scrambled eggs & toast, instead. Last night, I was relieved that dinner turned out yummy, with an especially delicious side of garlic spinach. The rest of the dinner was tequila lime chicken and rice pilaf (from a box---Near East is my favorite brand). It was pretty healthy, too!

Tequila Lime Chicken
Juice of 4 limes
Juice of 1 orange
1/2 c. tequila
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch of salt
A good grinding of pepper
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Mix everything but chicken. Add chicken and marinate overnight. Broil until cooked through, about 9 minutes per side. Serves 3. 

Garlic Spinach
A drizzle of olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of a pot)
A package of baby spinach
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
A squeeze of lemon juice
A little butter (optional)

Heat the oil and sauté the garlic in it for about 30 seconds. Make sure it doesn't burn! Add the spinach, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Stir to wilt the spinach. Stir in a little butter at the end, if desired. It's quite good even without, though. Serves 2. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Green Tomato Bounty! And Rhubarb, Too!

Last week, a friend from church found out I collect Boyd's Bears and invited me to come over and pick some of hers to take home with me. I was bowled over by the kindness of that invite and will be going later this week to see her collection. Today, I received a Facebook message from another church friend, asking if I like fried green tomatoes. I responded that I love them. Her husband is a tremendous gardener and had just brought in a couple dozen green tomatoes---did I want some? Did I ever! Not only did they extend that lovely offer, but they threw in a couple of beautiful ripe tomatoes and a bunch of rhubarb! The best part of all, though, was getting to visit with them, meet their gorgeous German Shepherd, and have a tour of her quilt studio! She is terribly creative and makes beautiful pieces of art in fabric.

Because of their generosity, we get to have fried green tomatoes and rhubarb cake! I told her I would post my tomato recipe before I actually make them, so that she can use it, too. The tomato recipe is my adaptation of the Neelys' recipe.

Fried Green Tomatoes
6 green tomatoes, sliced about 1/4" thick
Salt, pepper, and a smidge of cayenne
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. buttermilk
Dash hot sauce (I like Louisiana Hot Sauce best, but use your favorite)
3/4 c. cornmeal
1 1/2 c. panko
Oil for frying

Sprinkle tomatoes with salt, pepper, and a little cayenne---or a lot, if you are a big fan of very spicy food. Whisk the buttermilk with the hot sauce. Mix the cornmeal with the panko. Dredge the tomatoes in flour, then dip in buttermilk, and coat in panko. Fry until golden on both sides---make sure your oil is nice and hot before you put the tomatoes in or they will be greasy and soggy. Don't be afraid to get them deep golden. Place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Serves 4-6. 

These are good with remoulade or

Basil Mayonnaise
2 c. fresh basil
1 c. mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper

Pulse together in a blender or food processor (of chop basil finely and whisk together by hand). Also good on sandwiches. 

My favorite thing to do with rhubarb is to my my friend Shawna's rhubarb dump cake:

Rhubarb Dump Cake
1 lb. rhubarb, cut into 1/4" pieces
1 c. sugar
3 oz. strawberry jello
1 box yellow cake mix
1 c. water
1/4 c. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 baking pan. Put the rhubarb in the bottom. Sprinkle with sugar, then jello, the cake mix. Pour water and butter over the top. Do not stir! Bake 45 minutes. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Chicken Tetrazzini, October 15, 2015

Oh, man, y'all. Last night's dinner was really not good. I made chicken tetrazzini from the Baton Rouge Junior League's "River Road" cookbook, with a bagged salad and Pugliese bread. The main course was incredibly bland, to the point that I didn't even bother eating it, and the raspberry dressing that came with the salad tasted like cleaning fluid or nail polish or something was in it. My sweet wife made me a couple slices of Pugliese toast and I was through. She didn't like dinner, either, but she didn't say anything about how awful it was until I had soundly condemned it. Isn't she sweet? Tonight, she is responsible for dinner, thank goodness!

Chili's, October 14, 2015

Last night, we attended a "Bringing Baby Home" class. Afterward, it was Jeannene's night to choose dinner and she chose, much to my surprise, Chili's. She often doesn't think she likes Chili's, even though when we go there, she does like it. She had fajitas, which smelled fabulous. I chose mini burgers, which were great, although I ended up eating only half the bun, as there was SO much of it! The leftover sliders are lunch today, along with part of a black bean quesadilla from Wednesday's lunch at Midtown Detroit's Cass Cafe. I just wish I had some of their amazing curried lentil soup left!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Red Tent Food: Pumpkin & Butternut Soup, Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake, October 13, 2015

Once a month, at the new moon, my Red Tent Temple women gather. I prepare some kind of food to nourish bodies and spirits. Last night, it being October, I made a pumpkin and squash soup and a chocolate chip zucchini cake. I added some store-bought wheat bread, some lentil crackers (we have at least 1 member who is gluten-free), and some Lucy's pumpkin cookies, also GF.

Pumpkin & Butternut Soup
1 tbsp. butter (if vegan, sub olive oil)
1 tsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
30 oz. pumpkin (canned)
3 lb. butternut squash cubes (I buy them pre-chopped)
6 c. vegetable stock
A couple pinches salt
A good grinding pepper
1 c. milk or half and half (skim is fine---and this can be omitted altogether)
Sour cream, croutons, and shredded parmesan for garnish

Heat butter and oil in soup pot. Cook the onions until translucent. Add all but the milk. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 20 minutes or so. Blend smooth, either in a blender (carefully, in batches) or with an immersion blender. Return to pot, add milk, and adjust seasonings. Heat through. Serve with garnishes. Serves 8-10. 

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1/4 c. oil
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 medium zucchini, shredded (about 2 c.)
1 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar, butter, oil, vanilla, and eggs. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, and buttermilk. Fold in zucchini, chocolate, and nuts. Pour into a greased, floured 13x9 pan. Bake 35-45 minutes. Serves 16. I have not frosted this, but I think cream cheese frosting would be yummy on it. 

Savannah Red Rice, October 12, 2015

A tasty one-dish dinner---you can also add a salad and some fruit, if you wish---I chose pineapple. My wife also had some cottage cheese to cool her palate. I didn't find it particularly spicy---in fact, some folks will want to serve this with additional hot sauce.

Savannah Red Rice
1 tbsp. olive oil (or a coating of cooking spray)
2 green peppers, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 c. cooked rice
16 oz. can stewed tomatoes
8 oz. tomato sauce
A good shake of garlic Tabasco
A good shake of garlic powder
Salt and pepper
1 lb. kidney beans or cooked sausage, if desired

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sauté onions & peppers in olive oil. Add the rest. Mix well & bake in a greased 2-quart casserole for half an hour. Serve with shredded cheese, if you wish. My wife does wish. Serves 6.

Pork and Rice Noodles with Peanut Sauce, October 8, 2015

The other night, we had a delicious meal of pork and rice noodles with peanut sauce, sesame soy roasted broccoli, and mandarin oranges. It was pretty quick to throw together and delicious! We both oohed and ahhed quite a bit over the broccoli, especially. You could easily make this vegetarian by subbing tofu---and strict vegans can omit the honey.

Pork and Rice Noodles with Peanut Sauce
1/2 c. boiling water
1/4 c. peanut butter (reduced-fat is fine)
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. tamari
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. garlic chili paste 
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. cornstarch
4 boneless pork chops, cut into strips
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
6-8 oz. rice noodles, cooked and drained

Mix together everything but the pork, pepper, and noodles. Heat through and stir to incorporate peanut butter well. Cook pork and pepper strips, in a large skillet that has been coated with cooking spray, over medium-high heat until pork is completely cooked through. Add peanut sauce, tossing to coat pork and peppers. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer a minute or so. Add to pork and sauce and toss well. Serves 4. 

Sesame Soy Roasted Broccoli
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss broccoli florets with a smidge of sesame oil & a splash of tamari. Roast, on a baking sheet, 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. 

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Baked Bean Soup, October 7, 2015

I didn't get home yesterday from a day with our baby's bio mom until quite late, thanks to insane Detroit traffic, so I was very happy to have a dinner planned that was easy and quick to throw together. It is great comfort food, too! I made a pot of baked bean soup, with Jiffy corn muffins, sliced honey crisp apples, and Marzetti caramel apple dip.

Baked Bean Soup
1-2 tbsp. olive oil or butter
1 package kielbasa ( I like the turkey kind, but use what you like), sliced
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 large can baked beans (I like Bush's)
1-1 1/2 c. milk or half and half or some combination thereof---even skim milk works
Salt & pepper
A few dashes hot sauce

Heat oil/butter in a soup pot. Cook the meat and veggies 5-7 minutes. Add beans and simmer another few minutes. Add a cup of milk---and more if the soup is too thick. Add salt & pepper, along with hot sauce, and heat through. Serves 4. This can be made completely vegetarian by adding another can of beans in place of the kielbasa---or you can use veggie sausage. If you're vegan, use olive oil and sub soy milk or nut milk for the regular milk. 

Feta Turkey Burgers, October 6, 2015

Tuesday night, I made feta turkey burgers and served them with veggies, yogurt dip, and kettle chips. It was a very simple and very yummy dinner!

Feta Turkey Burgers
1 lb. ground turkey breast (chicken is fine, as well as beef)
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt & pepper
4 oz. crumbled feta
Leaf or romaine lettuce
Sliced kalamata olives

Mix turkey, seasonings, and feta. Form into patties, making sure feta is mostly tucked into the meat, rather than jutting out in big hunks. Cook through until nicely browned, using either a grill, broiler, or skillet coated with cooking spray. Serve in pitas with lettuce and olives. The yogurt dip I made for the veggies turned out to be stellar with the burgers. Serves 4.

Yogurt Dip
1 c. Greek yogurt (0% fat is just dandy for this, but use a fuller fat version if you wish)
1 jalapeño, seeded, deveined, and chopped (add another, if you like spicy)
A big pinch of coriander
A medium pinch of cumin
A wee pinch of ground fennel seeds
1 shallot, chopped
A handful of mint, chopped
A handful of parsley, chopped
Several peanuts, chopped
A splash of key lime juice
A splash of olive oil, if desired

Mix together, either by hand, for a chunkier dip, or in a food processor/blender, for a smooth dip.