Saturday, December 10, 2016

Grilled Goat Cheese Mini-Sandwiches, December 6, 2016

The other night, we had a salad and sandwich supper. But what a salad! And what sandwiches! I made mini-sandwiches by putting goat cheese and apple butter on baguette slices, then cooking them like you do a regular grilled cheese sandwich. They were terrific! The salad was endive, separated and arranged on a salad plate with some roquefort, pear slices, and walnuts. I topped the salad with a dressing made of 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt, a good grinding of pepper, and 1/2 c. olive oil, whisked until it emulsified. To make the meal more hearty, I added a side of Yukon Gold potatoes fried in olive oil with oregano, salt, & pepper.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Chicken Cacciatore, December 3, 2016

Saturday night, we had Italian in, with a rib-sticking chicken cacciatore over crisp polenta, with sautéed garlicky kale (just cook chopped kale in a bit of hot olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes until it's wilted and tender) and Pugliese bread. I started with a Martha Stewart recipe, which I'm sure is quite lovely, if you like dark meat and the bones don't wig you out. It's certainly much more traditional! However, my wife and I like breast meat and bones wig me out these days. So, here's my wuss version:

Chicken Cacciatore over Crisp Polenta
1-2 tbsp. olive oil (plus extra for polenta)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
Salt & pepper
A handful of crimini mushrooms, halved (you can use any mushrooms, really)
1/4 c. flour
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 onions, cut into wedges (I would dice next time, though)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
A big handful of green olives, halved
1 tube of polenta, sliced

Heat oil in a big pot. Season the chicken with salt & pepper. Sauté until lightly browned. Remove to a plate. In the same pot, brown the mushrooms. Add flour and stir in well. Cook about a minute. Add tomatoes, wine, garlic, olives. Return chicken to pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on medium heat 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. Adjust seasoning. While stew is cooking, preheat broiler. Brush polenta lightly on each side with olive oil & place on a baking sheet. Salt & pepper. Broil until deep golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Serve stew over polenta. Serves 4. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Curried Pumpkin Soup, November 18, 2016

I sent Jeannene, who was in Vancouver for work all week, a text giving her 3 options for tonight's dinner. She very promptly responded that she wanted curried pumpkin soup---"Yum!" We picked her up at the airport at nearly 7 and came home to throw together supper. Along with this quick, easy, very delicious soup, I heated some brown & serve rolls and opened a jar of chunky applesauce.

Curried Pumpkin Soup
1 c. chopped onion
2 tsp. olive oil
2 1/2 tsp. curry powder
Salt and pepper
32 oz. chicken broth
15 oz. pumpkin purée (I actually used an extra half can I had left over from pancakes, too)
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Sauté the onion in the oil, in a soup pot, until translucent. Add seasonings, stirring until the onions are coated. Add broth, pumpkin, and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, partially covered, another 10 minutes. Serve garnished with parsley. Serves 4-6. 

Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese, November 17, 2016

I've been waiting since September 22 for a rainy day so I can make my First Rainy Day of Fall soup. Now that we live in Colorado, though, rainy days are few and far between. Not that I'm complaining about the sunshine, but it would be nice to have at least one rainy day in the season! Today, we got our first snowfall, so I decided I'll change my tradition to First Snowfall Soup. This year, it turned out to be a delicious sherried tomato soup. I'm not usually a big fan of tomato soup, but it's beginning to grow on me, especially with grilled cheese. This recipe is modified from Ree Drummond's version. I made grilled cheese sandwiches with Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar and Health Nut bread and added a red pear on the side.

Sherried Tomato Soup
1/2 onion, diced
1 tbsp. butter
1 can petite diced tomatoes
23 oz. tomato juice
1 tbsp. sugar
1 chicken bouillon cube (actually, I used a packet of the powdered stuff)
Pepper
1/2 c. very dry sherry
3/4 c. milk, half & half, or heavy cream (I used fat-free half & half mixed with 2% milk)
Snipped parsley & basil (forgot those tonight---oops!)

Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add onion & cook until translucent. Add tomatoes, juice, sugar, bouillon, pepper. Heat until almost boiling. Remove from heat and add sherry, then cream. Heat through, carefully. Serve garnished with herbs. Serves 4. 

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes, November 16, 2016

My wee boy's been a bit under the weather lately and hasn't had much of an appetite. One thing he loves is pancakes, so I made us a batch of pumpkin pie pancakes, along with some Morningstar Farms bacon & apple slices. The pancakes make a great breakfast to celebrate fall while it's still here!

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes
2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten well
15 oz. pumpkin purée
12 oz. evaporated milk
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix the other ingredients together. Combine. Coat skillet with cooking spray and place on medium-high heat. Dollop 1/4 cupfuls of batter into skillet and spread to 4" circles. Cook until golden on both sides. Good with warm maple syrup & butter.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Hobo Stew, October 22, 2016

This afternoon, before we left for Jeannene to get a haircut and to spend our Kohl's cash and pick up a few things at Target, I threw together a slow cooker full of stew for our supper. Paired with some flax bread and pineapple chunks, it made for a very simple and satisfying meal.

Hobo Stew
1 lb. ground beef, browned (can sub turkey, bison, veggie crumbles; I use 93% lean beef)
1/2 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
A couple big handfuls of baby carrots (or about 2 c. diced regular), sliced
3 potatoes, diced
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I use the Healthy Request version)
1 can tomato soup (see above)
2/3 c. hot water
Salt & pepper

Coat a slow cooker with cooking spray. Mix everything together in it. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Serves 6. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mellow Mushroom, October 9, 2016

When Jeannene and I lived in Columbus, Ohio, we used to go to The Mellow Mushroom fairly often for pizza and really liked it. I was excited to discover yesterday that there's one in Denver! My cousin's husband, whom we hadn't yet met, is in town for work. I'd planned to take him to Cuba Cuba, the only restaurant in Denver proper we'd been to, but we discovered it's closed Sundays. So, I was scrolling through downtown Denver restaurants and spotted it.

I wasn't sure if Alan would be disappointed we were taking him to a pizza joint, and a chain at that, but he seemed to enjoy his calzone. I had a small half and half with my two favorite varieties, Buffalo chicken and redskin potato. Perfect. I was jealous of Jeanene's soup, a glorious mushroom soup. She complemented that with a chef salad. Elij had fun playing with the piece of dough they brought him. He scarfed down the kids' meatballs & mozzarella and ended up with garlic breath! He wasn't so keen on the broccoli. I think we ruined it for him by asking them to overcook it so that it would be nice and soft. They also sliced the meatballs for us, knowing it was for a baby. Very kind, attentive staff.

Dinner at Gloria's, October 8, 2016

Saturday night, we were invited to dinner at our neighbor's house. She had arrived on our front porch with a loaf of zucchini bread when we first moved in and I was delighted to receive the invite to dinner. She even graciously invited the baby to join us. We met some other neighbors as we walked over to her house and walked in with them. Gloria's house was simply lovely inside, with cool murals and all kinds of wonderful Halloween decorations! There was a murder of paper crows parading up her stairs, perched on the risers, which was my favorite decoration, but there were also witches everywhere! She told us she used to dress up every Halloween as a witch and wave to the kids on the school bus in the morning. Then, she served up both tricks and treats in the evening. What fun!

The evening started in the back yard, with drinks, Fritos, and yummy dip brought by another neighbor. Gloria made baked ziti with bbq meatballs, a big green salad, and excellent garlic toast. Dessert was potluck, with perfectly fudgy brownies, banana cake, pumpkin bread we picked up at the pumpkin patch earlier that day, and peanut butter Nutella cookies I made. It was fun to make those. The idea came from a Six Sisters cookbook and I tinkered with it to make it more chocolatey. I mixed up the dough while the baby played on the kitchen floor. When it had chilled, I put him in my lap so he could see everything while I rolled up little balls of dough and pressed them flat with my fork's tines. I remember being with my grandmommy when she made peanut butter cookies for my granddad, who loved them. I think she was there with us as we made our version---a comforting, cozy thought.

Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
3/4 c. peanut butter (I like the smooth sort for cookies)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter with peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Mix the dry ingredients together. Add gradually to the dough, beating between additions. Heat the Nutella for 20-30 seconds in the microwave, then drizzle over the dough. Fold in to create a marbled pattern. Chill 15 minutes, then form into walnut-sized balls. Place on baking sheet & press down with fork tines to create flat cookies with crisscross patterns on top. Bake 8-10 minutes. Makes about 40.


Chopsticks, October 7, 2016

Friday night, neither of us felt like going back out or cooking. It was Jeannene's night to choose dinner and she told me she wouldn't mind if I could find an Asian place that had something with tofu on the menu. Turns out, Chopsticks is a Vietnamese place that delivers. I was thrilled to discover this. Usually, Jeannene is not a huge fan of Asian food, either, so I was excited that she was in the mood for it. We ordered Vietnamese pork egg rolls for an appetizer and they were very good. I couldn't resist the hot & sour soup, either. I was so glad I ordered it---very flavorful and just the right amount of heat. Jeannene opted for the curried tofu noodles and I had Singapore noodles with pork. Elijah tried both kinds of noodles and found them pleasing. He thought the pork was okay, but loved the tofu. I also got a mango boba tea and shared my tapioca with him. Delicious! We'll definitely order from them again!

Sloppy Joes, October 6, 2016

It's become a bit of a tradition of mine to eat sloppy joes for dinner when Jeannene is traveling. She thinks they're just awful and I love them. I have made them from scratch before, but I greatly prefer Manwich. I wonder if that's just because that's what I grew up eating. To go with the sloppy joes, I made a recipe for "school cafeteria" mac & cheese from Jane & Michael Stern. I suspect a lot of people would have loved it, but I have come to the conclusion that I really only like stovetop mac & cheese, and that made my particular way---simple stovetop mac & cheese. I did think it clever to top the mac & cheese with crushed potato chips, rather than breadcrumbs or something like that. I also tossed some green beans with olive oil and roasted them on a baking sheet at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. I then added a couple cloves of minced garlic, along with some salt & pepper, and put them in for another couple minutes. Dessert was a luscious pear.

Gunther Toody's, October 5, 2016

Tuesday night, Elijah and I were on our own, as the wife had to go to Hagerstown for work. I pondered what sounded especially good and what rose to the top of my consciousness was "a good burger." So, I googled something like "best burgers" in our area. Gunther Toody's came up and I thought the name was so unusual that it was worth checking out.

Turns out, it was. It's a fun, diner-style spot, with good burgers (and vegetarian options) and malts. I just had a plain cheeseburger, but I couldn't resist trying the "Elvis" fries---covered with white gravy and cheese. Well, I would skip the Elvising next time, as the white gravy was pretty bland. Sometimes, it has good flavor, but not so much, in this case. I did like my chocolate malt, when it finally arrived---my waitress kept forgetting it. It arrived, as a good malt should, in a small glass with a big metal container with the rest of it inside.

Elijah enjoyed the decorations, especially the vintage Orange Crush ad on the ceiling above us. He thought the mac and cheese was fine, too. What I think he enjoyed the most of all, though, was all the cooing attention from the female waitstaff!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Roasted Cauliflower Soup, October 4, 2016

Last night, we had a delicious roasted cauliflower soup. I'd intended to serve t with rolls, salad, & some kind of fruit. However, Jeannene had picked up some asparagus and some pre-diced butternut squash she hoped I might make. I was delighted to sub those for the salad. I tossed the squash with olive oil, salt, & pepper, then roasted it for half an hour in a preheated 400 degree oven. I broke the asparagus into smaller pieces and cooked it, with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt & pepper, on high, covered and stirring often, for a couple minutes. Then, I added a dash of key lime juice because I am out of lemons. I added some bolillo rolls from the grocery's bakery and canned pears.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
A drizzle of olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/4 c. diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. chicken broth (sub veggie broth for vegetarian)
1 1/2 c. half & half (I used fat-free)
1/2 c. milk (I used 1%)
A pinch of tarragon (use fresh, if you can get it & the bagger doesn't forget to put it in your sack)
Shredded cheddar (I used 2%)
Sour cream (I used light)
Chopped scallions
Crumbled bacon or veggie bits 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cauliflower with oil, salt, & pepper. Roast, on a baking sheet lined with foil, half an hour. Cook onion until translucent in a soup pot that's been coated with cooking spray (or use a bit of butter or olive oil). Add garlic & cook until fragrant. Reserve a small handful of roasted cauliflower. Add the rest to the pot, along with half the broth and 1/2 c. half and half. Cook 5 minutes, then blend until mostly smooth. I love my immersion blender for this, but if you haven't got one, you can do this (carefully) in a regular blender in two batches. Add the rest of the liquids and heat through. If you have the time & inclination, you can simmer it another half hour. If you're impatient like me, you don't have to do that. Chop the reserved cauliflower and dump into the pot, along with tarragon. Cook another 5 or so minutes. Serve with the cheese, sour cream, scallions, & bacon. Serves 4-6.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stir-Fry with Flank Steak, Green Beans, & Water Chestnuts, September 21, 2016

My wife and I often think of similar things to cook. Such was the case this last week with stir-fry. She made a wonderfully sesame-y chicken version. I think mine last night was the best version I've ever made. I served it with brown Jasmine rice and pineapple.

Stir-Fry with Flank Steak, Green Beans, and Water Chestnuts
1 1/2 lb. flank steak, trimmed of fat
1/3 c. tamari or soy sauce
1/3 c. beef broth
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
A pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil 
1 lb. green beans, broken into smaller pieces
8 oz. sliced water chestnuts 
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp. ginger, minced

Cut flank steak into 3 or 4 pieces, lengthwise. Slice thinly crosswise. Whisk tamari, broth, cornstarch, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes together. Heat 2 tsp. oil in wok or large, deep, nonstick skillet, on medium-high heat, until just smoking. Brown steak, in 2 batches (adding 2 tsp. more oil between), about a minute per side. Reserve on a plate. Heat remaining oil. Add veggies and cook about 4 minutes, covered, but stirring occasionally. Push veggies to sides and place garlic & ginger in center, cooking just until fragrant, about half a minute. Return steak, along with any accumulated juices, to skillet and heat through, stirring well. Add sauce and stir to coat the ingredients well. Serves 4-6.

Herbes de Provence Baked Chicken, September 20, 2016

I'd planned to make fried chicken with baked lima beans, broccoli, and spoonbread on Tuesday. We decided baked chicken sounded better, so I sprinkled boneless, skinless breasts with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence and baked them right along with my spoonbread. Unfortunately, I soaked the lima beans two nights, since I'd intended to make them Monday. By the time I got ready to mix up the baked beanish sauce in which they were to cook, the limas had begun to smell a smidge yeasty. Not wanting to take any chances, I dumped them in the trash. I haven't unpacked my steamer, so I boiled the broccoli too long. Even removing mine earlier, the tops were overdone for me. The limp version suited the rest of the family just fine, though.

My favorite parts of the meal were the spoonbread and the peach jello with cherries in it. Jeannene's mom went to Berea College in Kentucky and helped pay her way through by working at their well-regarded Boone Tavern as a waitress. My wife loves their spoonbread, which became her mom's spoonbread. I think she liked this version quite a bit.

Spoonbread
1/2 c. cornmeal 
1 c. boiling water
2 tbsp. butter (subs like Smart Balance work, too)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, well-beaten
1/2 c. milk (2% or skim is fine)
Extra butter to go on top, if you're so inclined

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slowly whisk cornmeal into pan with boiling water, making sure it's nice and smooth. Stir in butter and salt. Cool until it's warm, rather than hot. Add eggs & milk, whisking a couple minutes. Pour into a greased casserole & bake about 40 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Serves 4-6.

River Bottom, September 19, 2016

On Monday night, the kitchen was still a mess from Sunday dinner. My wife needed to get to bed early, too. So, we decided to try River Bottom. It's close and the online menu looked pretty good. We'd tried to go for brunch a couple weeks ago, but were thwarted by the crammed parking lot---filled with very cool old cars! We really like car shows, but did not stay that day.

Upon our return, I found myself questioning the wisdom of eating there. When we pulled up, it looked dimly lit, the only spots of brightness being beer signs. I wondered if we were foolish to eat there with a wee one. However, once inside, we realized the windows are tinted and it actually looks like a regular, no-frills family restaurant---the kind Detroiters call coney islands.

Our waitress was very warm and friendly, as well as being prompt. When I asked if they had sweet tea, she said they do, she makes it herself. She warned that it's quite sweet. She didn't have a Southern accent, but when she brought that tea, it tastes just like my Nashville friend, Teresa's. When I first met Teresa, I'd just moved to Tennessee and had to cut her tea, half and half, with water. Then, I got used to it. Now, I'd just as soon drink unsweet tea as sort of sweet tea. This was the real deal, the kind I drink very rarely and love when I do.

We each had the salad bar, although Jeannene was sorry the only greens were spring mix, with not a leaf of iceberg in sight. Not me! The cukes were a little peaked-looking, but most everything else was good. The cantaloupe was just about perfect. 

For our mains, Jeannene went healthy, with citrus-glazed salmon and corn on the cob. I had the corn, too, since the waitress had assured us it was especially good. That was a pity because it was incredibly overcooked. My grandmom would have been appalled. She was always a bit persnickety about the corn not being cooked too long---and she was quite right! My Philly cheesesteak, however, was really good. We had the strawberry shortcake for dessert. The biscuits were lovely, but I wasn't thrilled with the limp, syrupy strawberries. Ah, well, the end of September isn't exactly prime strawberry time. I should have known better. Despite those couple of shortcomings, we'll definitely go back.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Burgers, September 18, 2016

After spending the whole day at the zoo, my feet were begging me to go out to eat. However, I was ready to make cheeseburgers---& ready to eat them! So, my feet had to suck it up while I cooked. I made tater tots and an asparagus-Canadian bacon sauté based on a green bean dish from Jan Karon's Mitford cookbook to go with our burgers. I also did a dipping sauce from her cookbook, altering it slightly and using it on the burgers, as well for dipping the tots. Good stuff!

Asparagus-Canadian Bacon Sauté 
1 bunch asparagus, broken into pieces
4 pieces Canadian bacon, chopped
1 bunch scallions, sliced
Salt & pepper

Cook asparagus in boiling, salted water until crisp-tender, 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté Canadian bacon and scallions in a skillet coated with cooking spray until bacon is crispy. Remove asparagus from pot with a spider (or drain in colander) & add to skillet. Cook a few minutes. Season with salt & pepper. 

Dipping Sauce
1/4 c. light Miracle Whip (can use regular or mayo)
1/8 c. ketchup 
1/8 c. chili sauce
1/4 onion, chopped
Splash of key lime juice (can sub lemon)
1 clove garlic
A pinch each paprika,salt, pepper, & dry mustard
A dash of Worcestershire sauce

Whiz everything in a food processor until well-blended.

Friday's, September 17, 2016

I'd intended to make burgers Saturday night, but forgot to thaw the bison. As we left the bookstore, we decided we'd rather just go out than swing by the store to get burger-making supplies. We'd seen a Friday's on our way to drool over books, so we decided to stop there.

Jeannene really liked her Mediterranean mahimahi sandwich, served on flatbread with a side salad. I was less thrilled with the California Club I ordered. It was okay, but I felt like the smokiness of the Gouda overwhelmed the more delicate turkey and avocado flavors. It was also a pretty dry sandwich. I was glad I'd gotten mashed potatoes with it so I had something I did like.

Stir-Fry, September 16, 2016

Friday night, my wife came home from work, wished her aprons were unpacked so she could put on one, and made us a delicious stir-fry of chicken, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and water chestnuts. We had it with brown Jasmine rice (which, until Friday, I did not know existed---it's quite good!), and pineapple. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Provençal Tuna Salad...Erm, Boca Burgers, September 15, 2016


I wasn't very sure my wife would like the unusual tuna salad I had planned, but I knew I would. After all, I'd already made a version with garbanzo beans and basil in place of the tuna and dill I used tonight and loved it. However, when it came time for dinner, my wife gamely tried her sandwich and I eagerly bit into mine. Neither of us liked it enough to finish, try though we might. It was too fishy for me and too olive-y and caper-y and lemon-y for my wife. I'd set out carrots & hummus to go on the side and Jeannene thought she might just have that, but I decided a Boca veggie burger sounded pretty good, so we had those, on English muffins, instead. We also had grapes and green salads to eat. By the way, if you've not tried Maple Grove Farms cranberry balsamic vinaigrette, you should! Very wonderful!

In case you like all the elements we felt funky about, here's what I did:

Mix 18 oz. well-drained canned tuna with a cup of halved grape tomatoes, a half-cup of halved, pitted olives (I used a blend from the olive bar), a bunch of capers, a handful of chopped onion, and a pinch of chopped dill. Stir in a glug of olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, salt, & pepper. Serve as a salad, on a bed of greens, iron sandwiches. Serves 4-6.

Spaghetti, September 14, 2016

My sweet wife decided to try some Gardein meatballs in Newman's Own Sockarooni sauce for our dinner last night. However, by the time she got home from work, she was wiped out, so I stepped in and made supper. We had our sauce and meatballs (which were discernibly vegetarian, but quite acceptable) over bucatini, with a bagged Caesar salad on the side.

Cuban Pork Chops, September 13, 2016

Tuesday night, I rubbed some pork chops with a paste of garlic, salt, and pepper, then marinated them in a combo of equal parts orange juice, lime juice, and olive oil, along with a small amount of oregano and cumin. I patted them dry, seared them, then baked them. To go with them, we had black beans (recipe here: http://lunacooks.blogspot.com/2014/11/cuban-black-beans-for-patti.html?m=1), rice, and avocado salad. 

Tacos, September 12, 2016

When we were at the King Soopers the other day, we saw taco-seasoned ground turkey for sale. I remarked on how odd it was to see it pre-seasoned. Jeannene decided to make tacos the next night. She ended up adding a packet of taco seasoning and a can of Ro-tel and cooking it down. It was spicy and good. We also had refried beans and corn. 

Garbanzo Salad and Sandwiches, September 11, 2013

I'm a huge fan of grilled cheese sandwiches and I made myself a beaut for dinner Sunday night! Tillamook extra-sharp cheddar on 15-grain bread---Heaven! My wife opted for a turkey sandwich. I also made a beautiful garbanzo salad to go with our sandwiches. Cut-up watermelon made a perfect summer dessert.

To make the salad, just throw together a well-drained can of garbanzos, some chopped basil and parsley, juice of 1 lemon, a splash of olive oil, a few minced cloves of garlic, a handful of grated Parmesan cheese, and a pinch each of salt (I used fleur de sel) and pepper (freshly ground is best). This is even better the next day. This serves 2-4.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Corn Chowder, September 10, 2016

It's not exactly soup weather in Colorado yet, but with my wife recovering from surgery, it seemed like a good, nurturing thing to have for supper. I made a pot of corn chowder, with some rolls from the grocery's bakery and raspberry-flavored peaches Pie and Bubbles left behind when they moved out of our house. I'd always avoided the flavored peaches at the store, but they weren't bad. The corn chowder wasn't the best corn chowder I've made, but it was pretty good.

Corn Chowder 
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large stalk celery, finely diced
1/4 green pepper, finely diced
32 oz. chicken broth (I used fat-free, lower sodium)
2 c. milk (I used 1%)
1 bay leaf
1 can corn (do not drain)
Chopped scallions & crisp bacon crumbles (veggie bacon strips work nicely) to garnish

Sauté the vegetables in the oil until softened. Add broth, milk, bay leaf, & corn. Simmer about half an hour. Garnish with scallions & bacon. Serves 6-8.


Pigs in Blankets, September 9, 2016

Friday night, we stayed in and I made breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs (Eggbeaters, actually, and I was pleased that they were actually pretty decent), pigs in blankets, and applesauce. 

When I was growing up, my mom and I made pigs in blankets using hot dogs and dough we made from scratch. This is a quick and easy breakfast version. I just took whomp biscuits (the canned sort you whomp on the counter to open---thanks for the term goes to Sweet Potato Queen Jill Conner Browne), pulled each one apart to make two, wrapped a Brown & Serve turkey sausage in each one and sealed them. Then, I baked them in a preheated 400 degree oven for 5 minutes (on a baking sheet), turned them, and baked another 5 minutes. Yummy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What I'm Cooking, September, 2016

-Brie & scallion frittata, salad, fruit
-Chicken Mozzarella, pasta, salad, crusty bread, hot chocolate cake 
-Japanese chicken salad, rolls, fruit
-Mujadara, salad, fruit
-Turkey hash, green beans, salad
-Scrambled eggs, pigs in blankets, fruit
-Corn chowder, crusty bread, fruit
-Garbanzo salad, gourmet grilled cheese, fruit
-Masitas de puerco, black beans, rice, maduros, avocado salad
-Provençal tuna salad sandwiches, chips, salad
-Cheeseburgers, potato salad, green beans
-Fried chicken, baked baby limas, broccoli, spoon bread
-Beef, green bean, & water chestnut stir-fry, rice, fruit
-Hamburger casserole, broccoli casserole, salad, apple crisp 
-Artichoke & Jarlsberg omelets, fried potatoes, mixed greens, fruit

-Turkish poached eggs
-Curried shrimp
-Chocolate mousse brownies
-Lemon cream stelline
-Antipasto

This year's First Rainy Day of Fall Soup will be cheddar chowder, which I'll serve with pumpkin muffins.

Cuba Cuba, August 29, 2016

As my regular readers know, each month on the 30th, Jeannene and I try to go out to dinner to celebrate our monthiversary. Today, we have been, at least in the eyes of family and friends, if not the law, married 14 years and 8 months. However, since she is on a plane for Illinois right now, we won't be going out tonight. Instead, we went last night.

I love Cuban food and was delighted to discover there's a Cuban restaurant in Denver. I've wanted to go to Cuba Cuba since I discovered it exists, so last night, I made it so. It was an easy half hour drive from home and I even found close parking on the street.

Jeannene is not as nuts about Cuban food as I am and she felt a bit skeptical when she saw the two brightly painted houses with the palm-lined walkway in front. I, on the other hand, found it completely charming. We were seated quickly, in a Florida-room-like space. There were large, colorful portraits in the walls and graceful lamp globes above. 

The service was typically Cuban, warm and friendly. My mojito, while not as good as the ones I get in Miami---or the ones I make at home---was much better than the super-strong drinks many American bars pass off as mojitos. They're supposed to be light and refreshing, not get-you-drunk-quick strong.

We started with a trio of empanadas, each with a different filling. Usually, picadillo, a sort of ground beef hash, is my favorite, but the ropa vieja one was also delicious. I liked the mushroom one least. I was very impressed with the crust, done in proper Cuban fashion. I was only sorry they didn't have a guava & cheese empanada for dessert. I certainly would have ordered that!

For my main course, I had the lechon asado, juicy shredded pork that had been marinated in mojo sauce, a limey, garlicky concoction central to Cuban cuisine. On the side were black beans, white rice, and maduros, fried ripe plantains. It was all delicious. Jeannene had the vaca frita, a sort of frizzled beef dish, with the same sides. Elijah ate lots and lots of black beans & avocado, along with samples of the rest.

We split the tres leches cake for dessert. It's very Cuban, if not my favorite. This rendition, though, was very yummy and I liked the use of meringue topping in place of whipped cream.

My favorite thing about the whole meal, though, if I'm being honest, was the excellent cafe con leche I sipped with my dessert. The stuff of dreams!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Kidney Beans with Cheese

Last night, I made a delicious, practically vegetarian dinner. Had I subbed veggie broth for the chicken broth in the beans I made, it would have been totally vegetarian. I served the beans with Mexican corn cakes, and a green salad. The two recipes originated with Martha Stewart, but have been altered by me.

Kidney Beans with Requeson
1 can kidney beans
1 can chicken or veggie stock
2 bay leaves
1 onion, quartered
1/2 jalapeño, seeded 
1/2 tsp. cumin
A pinch of salt
1/4 c. Requeson cheese (can sub grated cotija or asadero)

Bring everything but cheese to a boil. Reduce to a brisk simmer and cook another 15 minutes. Set aside 1/4 c. cooking liquid. Strain beans, discarding everything but the beans. Mash with reserved liquid & the cheese. Adjust seasonings. Serves 2-4.

Mexican Corn Cakes
3/4 c. masa harina or cornmeal
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch salt
1/4 c. Requeson cheese (can sub grated Cotija or Asadero)
1 c. corn
Water
Oil for frying
Avocado slices, tomato chunks, sour cream/crema for serving

Whisk the dry ingredients together. Add cheese and corn. Stir in water, 1/4 c. at a time, just until it holds together---kind of like scone dough. Heat oil in large skillet. Shape dough into small parties and fry until golden on both sides. Keep warm in 200 degree oven on paper towel lined plate. Serve topped with crema, avocado, & tomato. Serves 4.


Pork Chops with Tomato Gravy

I am delighted to be in our new house and have the kitchen unpacked enough to be able to cook dinner! The first meal I made here at Greenleaf Cottage was last Friday night. I made pork chops with tomato gravy, mashed potatoes, lima beans (whose water boiled over into our glass cooktop, getting the pan stuck to the burner and creating an unholy mess), and sweet corn. I got nice, thick pork chops and baked them before serving them with the tomato gravy, which I made by draining a can of petite diced tomatoes and bringing it to a boil with some butter, salt, & pepper before covering and simmering it about half and hour. Delicious!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

First Colorado Cooking

Upon moving to Colorado, we spent just over 3 weeks in temporary housing with a very limited kitchen. It took some planning, to make sure I wasn't trying to make a quiche with no pie plate or something like that, but I cooked several quite good meals in that time. There are plenty of great restaurants to explore, but who wants to eat out for a month straight?

Our first meal was a simple one of fruit, cheese, and bread. Others were similarly simple, if a bit less elegant (hot dogs & cucumber slices one night, fried eggs & sausage another, and some meals out). 

A week in, I finally made a little more elaborate meal. Despite my worries about high altitude cooking and the way my pasta might turn out, we had bucatini with Bolognese sauce, bagged Caesar salad, and Pugliese bread from the King Soopers. With plenty of extra water, a lid, and a little extra cook time, the pasta turned out perfectly al dente. The sauce was not as good as it should have been, due to the fact that we had no idea where to buy red wine. In Michigan, we could get Bacardi 151 at the grocery. In Colorado, we must go to a liquor store for wine or even beer above, I think, 3.5% alcohol. It was, however, pretty dang tasty.

Simple Bolognese Sauce
1/4 c. butter
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef (I like the 90% lean)
1/4 c. dry red wine
1 c. tomato sauce
3/4 c. water
Salt & pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy pot. Cook the vegetables until tender, adding garlic at the last 30 seconds or so. Add beef & brown, breaking up well. Add wine & cook until it has evaporated. Add tomato sauce & water. Bring to a boil,then reduce heat to low, cover, & simmer a couple hours. If you don't have a couple hours, it'll still taste good. Season with salt & pepper. Serves 4. (I had no garlic or wine, so I added a little Italian seasoning & garlic powder)

A couple nights later, I made a chicken cordon bleu that I found a bit blah. My wife thought it was great, though. I served it with rice pilaf (Near East with slivered almonds) & green beans. 

Chicken Cordon Bleu
2 thinly-sliced skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Ham slices
Swiss cheese slices
Breadcrumbs
Beaten egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer ham and cheese atop each chicken breast. Fold into a neat bundle, with the chicken's edges tucked around the filling. Dip chicken in egg, then breadcrumbs, coating evenly. Bake about 20 minutes. Serves 2.

Another dish I made during our temporary housing time seemed a little weird to me, noodles with brats and rye croutons, inspired by a recipe from a cookbook called "The Rustic Table." It turned out to be a little bland, but I think it would have been lots better with a better meat to noodle ratio than what I used. I served it with a black-eyed pea salad, from a recipe my mom gave me, that was simply scrumptious and could have served as dinner. The original recipe came from Paula Deen. We had fresh plums for dessert. This season has been terrific for stone fruit. 

Noodles with Brats & Rye Croutons
2 slices rye, cubed
Salt
1/2 pound egg noodles
1/2 stick butter, cut up
1/2 lb. brats, sliced thickly

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Bake rye cubes until dried out, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook and drain noodles. Melt butter in skillet & fry brat slices. Remove to drain on a paper towel-lined plate (I might skip the draining next time). Toss bread in butter and brat grease until browned & crisp. Set aside. Toss noodles and brats together in same pan. Serve with croutons. Serves 4.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
2 cans black-eyes peas, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, well-drained
4 oz. chopped pimientos, drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
A splash of balsamic vinegar
A handful of finely diced red onion 
A handful of chopped parsley
A smidge of minced pickled jalapeño 
1 tsp. sugar
Salt & pepper

Mix everything gently together and adjust seasonings. Serves 6.

On the anniversary of my grandmother's death, I always make her Russian sandwiches, with sweet corn. These sandwiches are something I grew up eating. Every August, at the peak of Ohio tomato season, my grandies stopped most days at a small farm stand on their way home from water workout & table tennis. There, they would select the juiciest tomatoes, along with freshly-harvested sweet corn. For supper, they would later tomato slices, crisp bacon, and sharp Cheddar (usually Cabot) on bread slices (I toast mine) and broil until the cheese was bubbly. They ate these open-faced sandwiches (who knows what made them "Russian"?) with corn barely allowed to relax in the pot of boiling water. I added a salad & watermelon this year. Great stuff!


Another night, Nene made steaks, on which we slathered butter I'd mixed with hot sauce & chopped parsley. We had baked potatoes & an arranged salad of tomato and avocado slices with bocconcini, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt & peper. My basil had gotten frozen by the hotel room fridge or I would have generously added that, too.


The last hotel meal I made was a gooey, cheesy, Mexicanish (via small-town Alabama) casserole I found in one of those spiral-bound town cookbooks which usually have half a dozen deviled egg recipes and at least as many for sheet cake. We had that with Fritos for scooping, salad, corn, and guacamole.

Mexabama Casserole
1 lb. ground beef, browned
1 package taco seasoning
1 package Mahatma yellow rice
1 can cheddar cheese soup (I used the lower sodium, lower fat sort)
1 c. shredded asadero cheese

Mix beef with seasoning and water, as directed on package. Cook rice according to package. Mix everything together & heat through. Serve with Fritos, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sliced olives, sour cream, and extra shredded cheese. Serves 4-6.



Thursday, August 04, 2016

What I'm Cooking, August 2016

Boy, I tell you what: moving is crazy! My talented, smart wife was just given a promotion that takes us from Hoth (AKA Michigan) to Colorado. We're not moving the right direction for me (Southeast), but I think we're going to love living in the Boulder/Denver metro area! So, yay! We even made our cross-country drive with baby, cats, & tempers intact.

However, life is still a little off-kilter, as we're staying in temporary housing designed for people who are more likely to head out to a restaurant or order in while staying here than to cook a big meal. So, I am challenged with figuring out which meals I can make without buying a bunch of duplicate seasonings and kitchen ware. 

It's been an interesting exercise in becoming aware of just how much I take for granted. I have a very well-equipped kitchen and a wide variety of ingredients at my disposal at any given moment. People are always complimenting me on what a great cook I am. Really, it's due, in large part, to what I have available to me. It makes me think about what it must be like for homeless people or people with only one cooking pot and a fire to figure out how to create meals. So, really, this is a classic case of #firstworldproblems. 

Problem solved, here is what I've come up with:
-Hot dogs, baked beans, fresh veggies
-Scrambled eggs, sausage, fruit
-Pasta with Bolognese sauce, Caesar salad, good bread
-Chicken Cordon Bleu, rice pilaf, green beans
-Scallion & cheese frittata, sesame kale, fruit
-Fried egg BLTs, fried potatoes, salad
-Egg noodles with sausage, black-eyed pea salad, fruit
-Russian sandwiches, sweet corn, watermelon
-Steak with hot sauce butter, baked potatoes, avocado caprese salad
-Taco casserole, corn, salad, chips & guacamole
-Turkish pizza, salad, fruit with dip
-Pork chops with tomato gravy, mashed potatoes, lima beans
-Kidney beans with cotija, Mexican corn cakes, salad
-Asparagus Parmesan tart, rosemary potatoes, salad
-Savannah red rice, green beans, salad

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Curried Chicken Salad, June 16, 2016

Tonight, we had another hot weather supper---curried chicken salad, green salad, sesame seed bread, and macerated strawberries with ladyfingers and real whipped cream. I wasn't a huge fan of the chicken salad, as it was too fruity for me. I liked the idea of it and thought the curry would make the fruit more palatable to me, but it didn't. I mean, it wasn't horrible, but it was still fruit with meat---and regular readers know how I feel about that! Jeannene likes fruit in her chicken salad, though, so why not make it for her every now and again?

To make the chicken salad, I cubed 2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Then, I tossed them with half an apple (peeled and chopped), a handful of chopped fresh pineapple, a handful of pitted, chopped Medjool dates, and a handful of golden raisins. Then, I mixed in some olive oil mayonnaise and some curry powder. I think I would like it better on sandwiches than I did eaten with a fork.

The Stockyard, June 15, 2016

When we moved to Michigan, there was an Applebee's in Lake Orion. Jeannene was sorry to see it go when it closed, but I'm not much of an Applebee's fan and hoped something cool and independent would open in the spot. Sure enough, after a long period of vacancy, The Stockyard has opened in that location. They say they specialize in handcrafted and that applies to the decor, as well as to the food. All wood and steel and funky overhead lights, the space looks really nice. Their chairs are not so comfortable for those of us gifted with extra padding, however. Ah, well, nobody's perfect and it certainly wouldn't keep me from returning, many times, following our initial visit last night.

We told our friendly, young hipster waiter to choose for us between the fried pickles and the spinach and artichoke dip. I was really hoping for the pickles, but I think my wife is probably kind of sick of pickles (she's the plant manager for a pickle manufacturing facility). When I just smelled the spinach and artichoke dip the waiter chose for us, I was very glad he hadn't brought the pickles. It was pure cheesy goodness, the sort of rich thing you don't want to eat very often, but are glad to get to taste every now and again. I was also pleased it was served with crostini, rather than the easily-snapped tortilla chips I see many places. The dip itself was different, too, with more of a smoky flavor to it. They use smoked Muenster and the artichoke hearts are also smoked. Delicious! Jeannene got a beer flight (kind of pricey, as they charge individually for each small pour, depending on the kind you choose, but with tremendous variety). Her favorite was the Stupid Man Suit, from B Nektar. Honestly, I don't even like beer or most hard ciders, at all, and I thought this cherry/raspberry/currant concoction was the bee's knees. I had a terrific iced tea. I often just order water because the iced tea so many places either tastes basically like water or is kind of reminiscent of olive juice.

For my main course, I decided almost immediately that I wanted the grilled cheese. I've been hungry for a fried green tomato BLT from someplace like Dayton, Ohio's The Meadowlark or Toast in Charleston. Well, folks, the grilled cheese (which is just called "grilled cheese") at The Stockyard has fried green tomatoes and bacon. The cheeses are brie, which I love, and gruyère. It's all put together on farmhouse bread. I was delighted that the sandwich was of normal proportions, rather than gargantuan. It was scrumptious, although the fried green tomatoes could have been a smidge more crisp. Instead of the fries which come with it (and which are probably awesome), I had to try to cheesy grits cakes. It was a good choice, all crunch on the outside and tender creaminess on the inside. Jeannene, after much debating, opted for the hangar steak with chimichurri, also choosing the grits cakes as a side. She completely loved it.

They had some interesting desserts, including "soda cake," which has nothing to do with baking soda and much to do with soda pop. They have different flavors every day, with black raspberry being the offering last night. The parfait was key lime, which would not have flown with my tart-flavor-hating wife. The dump cake would have been my choice, had the flavor of the day been almost anything but apple. We ended up ordering the warm chocolate chip cookie, served in a wee skillet with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. That was the only disappointing part of our meal. The ice cream was fine, but the cookie was really very eggy, with scant chocolate chips. I mean, it was so eggy, it tasted like a cookie omelet, which is not really a flavor profile I'm excited about. However, with everything else being so good, I anticipate a trip back before long, this time for chili or French onion soup and a salad.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Greek-Style Fish Salad and Green Soup, June 14, 2016

Last night, in honor of Garden Day, I made a very vegetable-filled dinner. Our appetizer was skewers of cucumber chunks, small varicolored tomatoes, and bocconcini, with pesto for dipping. However, we have both come to the conclusion, after numerous tries, that we just aren't really pesto people. The veggies & cheese, on their own, were terrific, though. Our main meal consisted of soup and salad, with multigrain bread to accompany them. I think I'm not such a fan of fish in salad, but Jeannene loved the Greek-style fish salad I made. I would find it phenomenal with no meat. Chicken might also be okay. I adapted the recipe from one in a favorite salad cookbook of mine, Twelve Months of Monastery Salads by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette. The soup of fresh greens was adapted from his Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. I was a bit skeptical about the soup before I tried it, but it was delicious, if a bit rich!

Greek-Style Fish Salad
4 c. water
12 oz. tilapia fillets
Juice of 1 lemon
A bag of baby spinach
1 red onion, chopped
A handful of grape tomatoes (I used the teeny ones from Lady Moon Farm---love them)
A handful of bocconcini (can sub feta, blue cheese, or whatever you love)

Dressing:
1/2 c. good quality olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch of oregano (use fresh chopped oregano, if possible---I forgot to get herbs at the store)
A pinch of basil (see above)
A pinch of thyme (again, fresh if possible)
Salt & pepper
(I forgot olives, but the original recipe calls for pitted kalamatas, which I think would be stellar)

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot or skillet. Add fish and juice, cover, and cook about 10 minutes, until fish is cooks through and flakes easily. Cool before cutting into small pieces and chilling at least an hour. Put veggies in a serving bowl and toss. Add fish & cheese and gently incorporate. Whisk dressing ingredients together until the mixture is thickened. Toss gently with salad to coat everything. Serves 6. 

Green Soup
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 onion, chopped
1/4 head of green leaf lettuce or similar, chopped
A big handful of baby spinach
A big handful of watercress
32 oz. chicken or veggie broth
1 potato, sliced
A big glug of cream (I think low fat or skim milk would also be great; vegans could sub coconut milk)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Paprika for finishing

Cook the onion in the olive oil until translucent. Add the other veggies and the broth. Bring to a boil and cook 15 minutes. Lower heat and simmer 10 minutes. Puree with immersion blender or in a regular blender (if you don't have an immersion blender, you probably want one). Add cream/milk, salt, and pepper. Heat through, taking care not to boil. Serve with a sprinkling of paprika. Serves 2-4. 





Thursday, May 26, 2016

Roasted Chicken, May 25, 2016

When I roast a chicken, I usually keep it very, very simple. A little butter or olive oil rubbed on the surface, along with salt & pepper. Then, a squeeze of lemon over the top, with the spent remains stuffed inside the chicken. Rosemary sprigs tucked under the skin & placed inside.

Last night, I tried Ina Garten's directions, from her Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, figuring hers would be infinitely better than my usual chicken. I skipped the gravy, as I was already overdoing it with an incredibly rich cheese sauce for our broccoli. Perhaps it would have been better with the gravy. I love garlic, but the entire head of garlic called for would have been better used, in my opinion, as a stand-alone treat, to be spread on sturdy sourdough. Furthermore, the thyme flavor permeating the chicken was entirely too strong for me. However, my wife liked it and, if you love thyme, you might also like it. You can find the recipe here, although the version in the cookbook doesn't call for any carrots or fennel and it does include directions for gravy. Personally, I would definitely do the carrots and fennel. I usually do carrots, potatoes, & onion with my own recipe. The onions with the chicken I made last night were completely delicious!

Since the recipe didn't call for any veggies besides onions, I baked a couple of potatoes to serve, along with making a bunch of steamed broccoli and this decadent cheese sauce that would be great for a traditional orange mac & cheese, too:

Cheese Sauce
1/2 stick butter, melted (this could probably be less or you could use a little olive oil)
1/4 c. flour (2 tbsp, if you use less butter)
2 c. milk, heated (2% works just fine---I expect skim would, as well)
16 oz. jar Cheez Whiz type sauce
2 c. shredded cheddar (2% melts fine, but I wouldn't go with fat-free)
A grinding of pepper

Blend the butter and flour until it makes a smooth paste. Mix in the milk with a whisk until everything is smooth. When hot through, add Cheez Whiz, whisking to incorporate. Next, add the cheddar, stirring to melt. Add pepper. When everything's all melty and hot, use on broccoli or what-have-you. Makes 8 cups.






Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mex, May 24, 2016

Last night, we were supposed to go to my aunt & uncle's for dinner. However, they had some kitchen weirdness and couldn't cook for us, at the last minute. My aunt suggested we meet in Bloomfield Hills, so I suggested Mex, a restaurant we'd passed a number of times and had wanted to try. Y'all, it was delicious! It's a very visually interesting (and loud) environment, with all kinds of neat, eclectic touches. It's kind of a mix of shabby chic, industrial, and classic Mexican touches. One large wall is taken up with paint cans, painted to represent a pair of (presumably dancing) legs. A smaller wall holds shelves of hot sauces, where patrons can browse for the perfect choice to enhance their meals. The large room is additionally divided by half walls with ropes going to the ceiling---this was particularly intriguing to Wee Boy. The patio has high walls painted a vivid green somewhere between lime and avocado and looks like someplace Frida Kahlo might have sipped on pulque.

Our waiter was very pleasant, but I found his menu advice to be rather peculiar. He was obsessed with amounts of food and seemed a bit bossy about the food. When my aunt, who has studied at the French Culinary Institute, interned for Daniel Boulud, run her own very popular restaurant in Ann Arbor, makes & sells what are often called the best baguettes in Ann Arbor, and is writing a cookbook, asked about what the best dishes were, he showed her which section of the menu would be too much food for her and which would be a reasonable amount. He even went into great detail, saying, "If you haven't eaten lunch, you might want something from this part of the menu. If you ate lunch, that'll be too much and you should order from here." It was kind of bizarre, frankly. She was a great deal more interested in which dishes are particularly tasty, rather than what size portions she might get. His assumption that she wouldn't have much of an appetite seemed insulting, too. When she ordered the ceviche and asked if she could add just one taco (they come in twos, with the option to add a third) to her order, he told her the taco would be too much. She was unconvinced. He told her she could order the taco if she ate her ceviche and decided she still wanted the taco. I bristled, but didn't say anything. I knew he'd be making an extra trip to the table with a taco later. When I ordered the coconut caipirinha for my wife, he was cautionary---"Does she love coconut? Because if she doesn't, she won't like it. It's made with coconut cream." I thought, "Um, why would she be ordering a coconut drink if she doesn't like it?" I assured him it would be just fine. She did end up disliking her drink, but only because the bartender was very heavy-handed with the cachaça. My Mex Mule (tequila instead of vodka) was fantastic!

While I didn't like being treated like a culinary imbecile (or, at the very least, a novice) when I write a food blog, cook a wide variety of things, and previously worked as a restaurant critic, the food was very good. The guacamole was fabulously creamy, the salsa & pico were full of flavor, and the chips were house-made. My aunt enjoyed her ceviche (which was not very big at all, although it was lovely and rested on a bed of hearts of palm & avocado salad, with plantains, grapefruit, and a drizzle of pomegranate syrup) and added a steak taco, which she also thought was very good. Jeannene had two steak tacos, with elote, the traditional Mexican street corn with a honey-lime crema (when talking about the menu, our waiter made sure to let us know that "wherever you see 'crema' on the menu, that just means 'sour cream'"---which may have been helpful to folks who had no familiarity with real Mexican food and asked what it meant, but felt really patronizing to me---the assumption that we wouldn't know what it is was insulting), cotija cheese, and chiles. I also had the elote, but chose one chorizo & potato taco and one shrimp taco. They were truly fabulous. My uncle had a scrumptious-looking chicken quesadilla.

When my aunt realized our bill had come before dessert (the waiter hadn't seemed inclined to give us any, but did offer. My wife declined before I had a chance to ask to see the desserts), she asked about it. I was intrigued by the avocado icebox pie, so she ordered that, along with the tres leches cake. Again, the waiter felt he had to explain. I politely nodded through his explanation, thinking, "Dude, I probably know more about tres leches than you do." She also asked what kind of coffee they serve (she specialized in excellent-quality teas at her restaurant, but is also a coffee connoisseur). The waiter assured us that the coffee is ground fresh, but gave us not a clue what actual kind of coffee it is. Despite the unnecessary dessert lesson and the fact that the very first dessert he mentioned, with a great pause as though he was assuming we would just delightedly order that, was fried ice cream, I greatly enjoyed the desserts. In fact, the cake was one of the best tres leches cakes I've had. The avocado icebox pie, which reminded me of a well-made mojito, was a refreshing, creamy custard redolent with lime and mint, on a pecan crust base. A perfect ending to the meal!


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pot Roast, May 23, 2016

Continuing in her comfort food vein, Sunday night, my dear wife did all the prep for a roast. Yesterday, before she headed in to work, she popped it into the crockpot, creating a wondrously perfumed atmosphere for me and Wee Boy all day. When it was ready, it turned out to be terrific, even without the dry red wine she'd wanted to use. I usually keep some on hand, but we appear to have used it all. The roast was a meal in itself, with gorgeous carrots, potatoes, and onions all around it.

Meatloaf, May 22, 2016

My wife, having traveled a lot for work lately, with more ahead, is on a homey food kick. This is a very pleasing thing, as she is making very yummy dinners! Sunday, we had a wonderful walk in the woods with our wee boy. Then, we headed home, where Jeannene put together a great meatloaf, accompanied by baked acorn squash (fab!) and creamed spinach (from the freezer).

Cold Cereal, May 21, 2016

Saturday was one of those nights when we'd had a late lunch and been to the grocery and weren't hungry enough or industrious enough to fix a proper supper. So, I opened the box of Cheerios we'd just bought, while Jeannene dug into the new oatmeal squares.

Bonefish Grill, May 20, 2016

Friday night, it was my wife's night to pick dinner. Since she was just getting in at the airport in the evening, she thought it would be a good idea to stop on the way home for dinner. We ended up at Bonefish Grill, where we couldn't resist the Bang-Bang Shrimp for our appetizer. It was my favorite part of the meal. Jeannene had the tilapia with lemon butter, which I had considered, with sweet potato mash and potatoes au gratin. I opted for the fish and chips, which was pretty good, aside from the crust getting really soggy and floppy when malt vinegar was applied. We shared the strawberry shortcake for dessert---I was pleased to see it came with the biscuit sort of shortcake. More whipped cream than we needed and we brought half the dessert home, but it was tasty.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Catch-Up, Round 2, May 9-19, 2016

More travel has meant less blogging time. Now that I've caught up with all the other things I let slide, I have a moment to catch up. Our most recent trip was to my hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio, where I was asked by a friend and colleague to preach in his stead. We decided also to have a potluck picnic (which moved indoors when the temps dipped low enough to prompt guests to plan ensembles including winter coats, hats, and gloves) to introduce our wee boy to local friends & family. It was a terrific weekend, even though there's never, ever enough time with everyone.

May 9: I wondered if I should maybe make a dinner with some meat to it, given that our oldest was staying with us for the week. However, he was sleeping off a bad cold, so I was on my own for dinner. I did a couple fried eggs with potato hash, a green salad, and pineapple. I based the hash on a Nigella Lawson recipe, from her cookbook, Feast. Her instructions include: "Carry to sofa or bed and eat in perfect solitude." You just sauté some sliced onion & cubed potato in olive oil with a little salt & cayenne. Yum yum!

May 10: I was running around like a crazy person Tuesday. I'd planned on having supper at Messy Church, but Wee Boy had a rescheduled swim lesson, so I just grabbed an Arby's roast beef, potato cakes, & a water on my way home.

May 11: For my women's Red Tent gathering, I made a big pot of garbanzo & artichoke soup. I took some French bread, gluten-free hummus crackers, GF salted caramel pretzels (Glutino---outstanding!), and a key lime pie (recipe here). I'd doubled the soup, based on the previous month's attendance, and ended up with a ton of leftover soup! Makes me wish we had some kind of leftover exchange in our town! Here's the soup recipe:

Artichoke & Garbanzo Soup
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 carrots, peeled & sliced
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. coriander
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 potatoes, chopped
Salt, to taste
32 oz. veggie stock
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 14-oz. cans quartered artichokes
1 can garbanzos, drained & rinsed
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Lemon wedges, for garnish

In a soup pot, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Add carrots, spices, garlic. Cook about 7 minutes. Add everything else, except garnish, of course. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and heat through. Serves 6-8. 

May 12: Wee Boy and I headed down to Ohio in the late afternoon. I'd hoped to have dinner with my auntie, but actually ended up running late enough that it wasn't feasible. I picked up my sweetheart at the Dayton airport late at night and we ended up driving through Steak & Shake, where she got a Frisco Melt and I went for chicken tenders. Their buffalo sauce is not great, but the chicken tasted good to me. I hate their fries, so I was spared having to be virtuous there. It didn't feel at all like a sacrifice not to get them.

May 13: Jeannene and I went on our first official date at The Winds Cafe in Yellow Springs, Ohio, & go there whenever we're in town. It was fun to take Wee Boy there for the first time. He slept for most of it. We started with the cheese plate (it's called cheese service and it used to be, with the server cutting portions at the table and explaining what each cheese was. Now, we're lucky if the server leaves the cheese list with us so we can work it out as we taste things. Ah, well, the cheese is tasty.) and the asparagus aillade (the aillade being a mixture of hazelnuts, orange zest, garlic, and olive oil, which was yummy! I wish i could go back again before the menu changes & try the shaved asparagus salad, as well. I chose the flat iron steak with bourbon Worcestershire butter, which was great. Jeannene, if I recall correctly, had the salmon special, which she loved. I was disappointed in the pavlova, which was served with a massive mound of (real) whipped cream and a very scanty display of fruit. I guess that means I need to make it around here soon, with a bounty of lovely fruit. I had a terrific Pimm's Cup, too. 

May 14: The other Really-Not-To-Be-Missed restaurant for us when we visit my hometown is Meadowlark in Centerville. Meadowlark serves a scrumptious array of things. I like their lunch (nothing better than their fried green tomato BLTs with goat cheese or their Hoppin' John, which is the best I've had) best, but dinner is great, too. On this occasion, we shared a delectable appetizer of cheese fondue with asparagus on toast. That may have been my favorite thing I ate all weekend. I also had a delicious Thai coconut soup and an amazing steak sandwich on ciabatta. My wife had their impeccable strip steak, served as James Beard liked it, with rosemary, herbed butter, and haystack onions. The buttermilk mashed potatoes were quite remarkable, as well. I'd hoped they would have their wondrous pavlova on the menu, to make up for the disappointing version I'd had the night before. They did not, but their rhubarb crisp is always on point, too. As for Wee Boy, he was a huge fan of the (somewhat spicy!) carrot puree they serve as an amuse bouche. I got to enjoy a fun cocktail, too. I can't remember the name, but it included grape-bubble-gum-infused vodka and house made grape soda. My granddaddy would have been horrified!

May 15: We had a great, great, great brunch at The Winds with friends and family (a fab asparagus omelet with horseradish Boursin and a side of Nueske's bacon for me, delish granola & yogurt for my sweetie-pie), so we weren't very hungry for dinner while on the road home. Jeannene had to be up super-early Monday, so we ended up having cold cereal for dinner---I had Golden Grahams and she chose an organic honey & oat cereal.

May 16: We were out & about Monday night, what with Wee Boy's swim lesson & Jeannene looking for cool clothes for a last-minute work trip. So, we decided to catch dinner out. Sadly, Noodles & Co, our first choice, closed before we were ready to eat. So, we had dinner at Bravo. I really liked my Caesar salad, but was less enthused about my chicken scallopini, which was okay, but a bit bland---as in, I couldn't taste lemon at all and there was no evidence of capers. 

May 17: Tuesday night, I made a really yummy Tex-Mexish skillet throw-together, along with a creamy corn pudding and steamed green beans. In a big skillet, with high sides and coated with cooking spray, I cooked a pound of cubed chicken until it was done. I added 4 steamed, cubed red potatoes, a drained can of corn, a drained can of black beans, a bunch of scallions (sliced), a jar of Newman's Own medium salsa, chili powder, cumin, and salt. I served it with guacamole, sour cream, and shredded cheddar for each of us to add, if desired. It seems like it would be really nice reheated and served in tortillas. Maybe with eggs? Although, the whole eating chicken with eggs thing is a little weird to me. 

May 18: Sometimes, when my wife is gone, I eat crappy food because I don't want to bother making good food. Sometimes, I eat it because it's a (poor) substitute for what I really want. What I really wanted Wednesday night was good ramen soup from a stall or restaurant somewhere. What I actually ate was a package of picante chicken ramen soup. Yes, the sort that's maybe 25 cents at the grocery, reverting to my broke college student days. At least I also ate an orange? 

May 19: Still craving good Asian food, I ended up carrying out from Panda House in Lake Orion, which was really good when we first started going there and seems to have gone downhill. I'd not gone there for a long time, but it's close and convenient, so I thought I'd give them another try. Sadly, my pork fried rice was incredibly bland and writhing with bean sprouts, those most horrifying of creatures. I've gotta find good Chinese around here!






Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Playing Catch-Up, April 28-May 8, 2016

We went on a whirlwind visiting tour last week, spending time in the West Virginia woods with my mom, stepdad, almost grandma, fairy godmama, & friends of my mom's before heading to Edinboro, PA, for Boot's Army commissioning ceremony. Here's what we ate:

April 28: I ceded all dinner responsibilities to my darling dear for the last week Pie & Bubbles were in town before moving to Alaska. The 28th was their very last night here and we had cheeseburgers and chips for supper. I supplemented with baby carrots.

April 29: The kids' drop-off time at the Alaska Airlines kiosk was late enough that we ended up having "linner" (lunch plus dinner in one meal) on the way home. We were both starving and were delighted when a Rusty Bucket turned up on our way home. We shared fried pickle spears, then I ordered a Buffalo chicken sandwich (they use panko for the batter, which is wonderful---and seems to reheat better than other battered chicken sandwiches I've taken home) & Jeannene had a burger.

April 30: We were en route to West Virginia for our monthiversary dinner out. Jeannene really wanted Cracker Barrel, but we didn't find one when it was dinner time, so we stopped at A&A truck stop in Jackson, Ohio. It's also a Valero station and I've stopped there plenty of times for gas, water, potty breaks, but never for food. I've been missing out! I had delicious white beans & a corn muffin, with a piece of blackberry pie for dessert. The pie was very clearly made from scratch, with a wonderfully flaky crust and terrific filling. I can't recall what Jeannene had for dinner, but she had a great piece of chocolate cream pie for dessert!

May 1: My folks' wonderful neighbors and friends, Patty and Tom, invited us for supper on Sunday. Their house sits perched on a hill, with a beautiful vista of 2 counties spread below. The house is completely charming, filled with cool antiques and with a porch that wraps completely around all the sides. It was a bit chilly and a storm came up, our wee boy's very first thunderstorm, but we were able to eat outside. The rain on the metal roof was magical---the whole evening was magical. The food was exemplary, a marvelous vichyssoise, served hot in deference to the weather. Patty provided fresh chives, flower buds and all, to snip into our soup. She also made a beautiful salad, with a plate of stunning veggies to add to the greens as we pleased. We were also treated to fresh-baked rolls, all yeasty and cozy, piled up in their towel-lined basket. We had brought along a store-bought angel food cake, to which Patty added cherry pie topping. A truly splendid gathering.

May 2: After spending the day antique shopping in Nitro, we headed to my 95-year-old almost-grandma's for dinner. Usually, we have dinner at her place the Saturdays of our visits, but since we got in too late this visit, we bumped our dinner together to Monday. We almost always have some yummy vegetarian meal, as my folks are vegetarians and have been since the 1970s. My mom makes scrumptious lasagnas and quiches and bean dishes. However, on this occasion, we had meatloaf. Yes, with real ground beef. I was surprised to hear my mom say that's what we were having and even more astonished at how great her meatloaf is! She did individual meatloaves, in tins given to her by my aunt, Miyoko. The round tins, for me, Jeannene, and my almost-grandma, had beef meatloaf, while the loaf tins held veggiecrumbleloaves. To go with the meatloaf, my mom made mashed potatoes and green beans. Her green beans were cooked perfectly. I asked her how long she had done them, as mine always end up either too crisp or too soft. Her frustrating response was "until they're done." To go with the supper, I made a rhubarb dump cake, one of my favorite desserts.


Rhubarb Dump Cake
1 lb. rhubarb, sliced about 1/4" thick
1 c. sugar
3 oz. package strawberry Jell-o (we used Strawberry Crush Jell-o; feel free to play around with flavors)
1 box white cake mix (yellow is fine, too, and I've been thinking it would be fun to try lemon or orange sometime---you could probably do a mandarin orange one with orange cake mix and orange Jell-o, too)
1 c. water
1/4 c. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rhubarb in an even layer on the bottom of a greased 13x9 baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with sugar, Jell-o, then cake mix. Pour water evenly over the top, followed by butter. Do not mix! I know it sounds nuts, but trust me. Just make sure your water and butter are poured evenly on the other ingredients and go all the way out to the sides. Bake 45 minutes. Cool a few minutes before cutting. 

May 3: We went up to Ravenswood for a visit to my fairy godmama Kay's Enchanted Forest. Enchanted it is, almost as magical as Kay herself. After a marvelous visit and reluctant leave-taking, we found ourselves hungry in Cross Lanes and not interested in being on the road any longer. So, we defaulted to TGI Friday's for dinner. My mom's able to get some good veggie dishes there---this time, she chose the veggie burger with broccoli, which came cooked just right. I am always reluctant to order broccoli in restaurants because it is so often overcooked. We also ordered some fried green beans for an appetizer she could eat and potstickers for us meat-eaters. Jeannene ordered salmon and proclaimed it great. I had a lovely romaine & kale Caesar and boneless wings that came out in two rounds, as they ran out halfway through filling my order. The first round were lukewarm and scantily sauced. By the time the second round came, I was done eating. Sadly, that round was piping hot and nicely saucy---and it ended up staying in the room fridge when we left town. I hope the hotel maid found it and likes wings and isn't creeped out by eating leftovers from someone else. If I were a hotel maid and found cool food in the fridges, I would take it home---as long as I was allowed to. I wonder what the protocol is on that. I know there are a lot of people who would never eat something left in a hotel room fridge, but I would. After all, I ate food my granddaddy scavenged from dumpsters when I was a kid. It's not that it was all we had to eat, by any means. It was the adventure of it! He brought us entire bags of potatoes, sometimes, that were perfectly fine. I always thought it was so amazing, the perfectly good things that had been thrown away. I'm glad my granddad and his best friend were dumpster divers. My mom and I tried it a couple of times, but I'm afraid we're both too rule-abidey to have gotten into it very much, even though we made some good finds. I digress. For dessert, we three dug into some sort of gooey, warm brownie & ice cream concoction. Jeannene was very surprised and pleased at my mom, who she thinks eats healthfully at all times, quite happily nomming on the rich dessert. I will have to remind her that my mom once ate an ice cream sundae for dinner. She does eat healthfully most of the time---and passes on some really good recipes to me---but she is certainly not averse to the occasional dessert!

May 4: After spending the day visiting at my folks' home, Hickory Hill, way back in the woods, and the evening swimming in the hotel pool, we went to Cracker Barrel for dinner. Jeannene finally got her wish and very cheerfully tucked into their dinner of the day, a sort of combination between baked chicken and broccoli cheese casserole, with hash brown casserole that seemed a bit past its prime and corn. I loved my mom's meatloaf so much that I planned to get some there, but they had run out. It's probably just as well. I'm sure it wouldn't have been as good as hers. I ended up with a mediocre country fried steak, mashed potatoes with scant gravy, and corn. Apparently, going in 40 minutes before closing is not the best idea. My mom's baked potato looked very good, though, and, really, Jeannene's chicken was quite tasty. Our waitress was very nice, too, if quite tired. 

May 5: On our wee boy's 6 month birthday, we hit the road for Edinboro, PA, and his oldest brother's Army commissioning. Boot and his buddies had been in the habit of going to Compadres for cheap tacos on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We had dinner there---not bad at all, if not the most authentic. Boot went for quesadillas, while I had chicken chimichangas (much smaller than I usually find, which was good, as Boot had to eat my second one) and my darling had a big burrito. The only thing that wasn't good was the frozen margaritas. The waitress had warned us that they would be kind of watery, as their machine was worn out from Cinco de Mayo revelers. We gave the go-ahead, but probably should have ordered them on the rocks. Ah, well.

May 6: We let the graduate & new 2nd Lieutenant choose dinner on our last night in Edinboro. He was in the mood for wings and said the best ones were to be found at The Empty Keg. By going early, before all the other revelers arrived, we were able to get a table easily. We started with popcorn chicken in cool buffalo sauce (buffalo mixed with ranch) and waffle fries with cheese dip, Boot's recommendation. I ordered a tasty Philly cheese steak sandwich (which was very light on the cheese and didn't actually need it) and steak fries. I only tried one of Jeannene's wings, a standard buffalo that was anything but standard---so delicious I wished I'd ordered them. She also got garlic butter wings. Boot ordered Hawaiian and another kind. It was a nice early dinner. I'll definitely miss eating in Edinboro, especially at Flip. We didn't make it there this trip. 

May 7: We arrived home right around dinner time on Saturday. Jeannene didn't feel like cooking and said she'd either pick up some food or order pizza. I nixed the pizza, reminding her that she orders pizza every single time Boot's visiting. As a college kid, he probably eats pizza all the time and he didn't seem terribly excited about getting pizza last time he was here. My commentary was also motivated by my lack of excitement over pizza. When given the option, Boot also nixed pizza. We ends dup all going out together, to Sullivan's Public House. Boot had never had Irish food and seemed a bit skeptical, but he dug right into his bangers and mash and pronounced it good. I finally got the chicken toastie, grilled chicken on sourdough with extra-sharp cheddar and pink sauce. I'd been eying it for months, but had never ordered it---I will definitely order it again! Jeannene had the same thing she had last time, "true Irish bacon" with cabbage and mashed potatoes. It's a wonderfully juicy pork roast. The waitress last time subbed asparagus, but man, the cabbage is awesome! We stopped by Eva's for ice cream afterward, our first visit this season. Boot loves ice cream. He had some kind of blizzard-ish drink and Jeannene chose a Mississippi Mud version of the same for me. It had good, strong coffee flavor! I couldn't finish the medium, though. Next time, I will instruct her to get me a small. She had a plain vanilla cone, which was fab.

May 8: We'd planned to be in Edinboro & eating at Flip for Mother's Day, but since Boot skipped the graduation ceremony, we were actually home. We tried Camp Ticonderoga and King's Court for Mother's Day brunch options, but both were booked. I'd spotted a sign for Red Knapp's brunch, so suggested we call there. They did have an opening, at 3:30, so we booked it. Now, normally, I like the food there. However, I was pretty much completely unimpressed with the buffet. I'm not a big fan of buffets in the first place and this one made no effort to be stellar. The scrambled eggs were cold, as were some of the other items, and nothing stood out as particularly tasty except the turkey, which was surprisingly juicy and flavorful. Ah, well, they offered pieces of Bumpy Cake as a dessert option, so all was not lost---and the company was terrific! I think we'll stick to burgers and pizza and that kind of thing, though, when we go to Red Knapp's. 

May 9: My dear wife flew out to NJ for work yesterday. Boot went to bed right after our Mother's Day meal and has been there pretty much ever since, recovering from a bad cold and, probably, exhaustion from excelling so tremendously for the last 4 years of ROTC, undergrad, and the start of his grad work. He got his undergrad degree, graduating Summa Cum Laude and receiving a number of other awards and honors, with only 21 hours to go on a Masters'. He was a Distinguished Military Graduate in ROTC, as well. So, I decided to let him rest in this week between college and arrival at his first post. About 10:30, I realized I should probably feed myself and, if he was hungry, Boot. He was not, but I greatly enjoyed some potato & onion hash with fried eggs. I meant to have salad, as well, with pineapple for dessert. However, I got full on just the eggs & hash. For the hash, I just diced some potatoes (not peeled) and fried them up in olive oil with onion half-moons, a little salt, and a bit more cayenne than I'd intended. I got the idea from Nigella Lawson, who ends her version of the recipe, "Carry to sofa or bed and eat in perfect solitude." I ate at the table, but appreciated the directions, nonetheless. 



Thursday, April 28, 2016

Grab It & Growl, April 27, 2016

I was on my own for dinner last night, except I forgot that fact until the very last minute. My sweet wife was off to dinner at Mulefoot Gastropub, eating their stellar pork, and there I was, hanging out, wondering when she was going to be home and what we were having for dinner. Then, my brain kicked in and I remembered listening to her make the reservation. Laughing at myself forgetting, I decided to have a wee bowl of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch to tide me over while I decided what to have for dinner. Of course, after I ate that, I wasn't hungry for real food. Realizing I'd basically had dessert for dinner, I pulled out some cucumber slices and carrot and celery sticks to try to balance it out. By 10:30, when Jeannene got home, my tummy was rumbling for some protein, but I was immersed in conversation with Bubbles, my 21-year-old's girlfriend, so I didn't bother. I was pretty dang hungry when I woke up this morning, I'll tell you! The wife's got a couple work trips planned and I am making very deliberate menu plans for those nights! Otherwise, I might succumb again to the lures of a weird, yummy, not-good-for-me "dinner" again!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pizza & Wings, April 26, 2016

My wife has claimed all the meal nights as her own for the rest of the week, as Pie and Bubbles will be having dinner with us every night before their big move to Alaska on Friday. Last night, she called me and said, "I'm bringing home restaurant food." I said, "Okay, from where?" She responded, "I don't know," and it was a mystery until she texted and said, "Set the table. I'm bringing pizza and wings." It's a pretty safe bet that she'll want pizza and wings at some point or another, usually not spaced terribly far apart. This time, she chose G's in Lake Orion. We've enjoyed the wings there several times and often refer to it as, "that place with the good wings," rather than by its name.

On this occasion, the wings lived up to our previous experience of them as completely yummy. I like their blue cheese dip a lot, too. Jeannene got both hot and mild wings and I couldn't decide which I liked better. I did decide that I don't really like their pizza much. She'd gotten a big pizza with just cheese on half and pepperoni on the other half. She also got a smaller Mexican pizza, which was stuffed and, really, was much more like a casserole inside a slice than anything else. It was just too much, the thickness of 3 or 4 slices of pizza, filled with black beans, corn, ground beef, and other good stuff, but a little bland for me. Had they thrown some of that stuff on top of a regular slice, I might have liked it better. I've got nothing against deep-dish pizza, by any means, but this just didn't work for me.

On the other hand, the pickle chips, even though not as piping hot by the time we ate them as I like them, were very tasty. I thought about adding some veggies or salad to the mix, but decided just to be lazy. As my Pittsburgh Diva friends always say of poor eating choices, "Call it a vegetable and move on." Today, it's grapefruit for my morning snack and a beautiful salad for lunch. I also have veggies & dip for an afternoon snack. We shall see what dinner brings!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Brisket, April 25, 2016

Since the kids are moving away at the end of the week, I expect most of our dinners will be with them---and y'all should have seen Pie devour the fruit kugel I made last night! We weren't sure the kids, who both tend to like very basic food, would like last night's dinner, which was brisket, fruit kugel, tzimmes, and a romaine salad. Jeannene was very careful, when asked what those dark things in with the carrots were, to avoid the word "prune," but she wasn't being quite accurate when she told Bubbles they were a kind of date. I supplied, "Plums! They're a kind of plum!" I didn't notice whether or not she ate them. She said her favorite thing was the meat, but Pie said he really liked "the sweet noodles," and proceeded to go back for two more giant helpings. It wasn't the best kugel I've ever had, but I liked it pretty well, myself. I am not a big fan of sweet cooked carrots, but this version was better than any other I've had. They were a bit too tart for Jeannene and Pie, who are the big sweet carrot people of the family. I like my regular brisket recipe better, but this was also quite good and had the added bonus of not requiring my presence in the house during the long cook time.

Slow Cooker Brisket
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3-4 lb. brisket, excess fat trimmed
Salt & pepper
32 oz. beef broth

Place onions and garlic in slow cooker. Season brisket with salt and pepper. Place atop onions, fat-side up. Add broth. Cover and cook on high 6-7 hours, until tender. Serves 4-6.

Fruit Kugel
8 oz. egg noodles, cooked and drained
2 tbsp. butter, melted (this can be omitted)
2 eggs, beaten
A small handful of raisins (I like golden raisins for this dish)
7 oz. cinnamon applesauce (cinnamon optional, but delicious)
7 oz. crushed pineapple
1 jar apricot preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss noodles with butter. Mix eggs with fruit. Stir gently into noodles. Turn noodles into a greased 8x8 baking dish. Spread the preserves over the top (it helps to microwave them for about 30 seconds before spreading). Bake about 45 minutes. Serves 4-6

Carrot Tzimmes
1 1/2 c. tangerine juice (or use o.j., if you like---I had tangerine on hand)
1 lb. sliced carrots
1/2 c. prunes
3 tbsp. honey

Heat juice on medium heat and add carrots. Cover and cook 1/2 hour. Add prunes and cook, covered,  another half hour. Stir in honey just before serving. Serves 4-6.