Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Zuppa Toscana, February 24, 2016

We went from no snow at all this morning to probably 6 inches this afternoon. On such a snowy day, it's lovely to have hot soup for dinner. Luckily, I had a copycat of Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana slated for tonight. I served it along with some Texas garlic toast and clementines. Very simple, very satisfying. You can make this healthier by subbing veggie crumbles for the sausage and skim milk for the cream. To make it vegetarian, just use all veggie broth with veggie crumbles replacing the sausage.

Zuppa Toscana
1 lb. hot sausage
1 lb. regular sausage
56 oz. chicken broth 
14 oz. beef broth
16 oz. whipping cream
6 or 7 potatoes, sliced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 bunch green kale, chopped

Brown the sausages. In a soup pot, mix broth and cream. Heat until almost boiling, stirring often. Add everything but kale. Cover & simmer on low about 45 minutes. Add kale and cook another 5-10 minutes, to wilt kale. Serves 4-6. 

Fish, Fish, and More Fish, February 23, 2016

I have told my wife, very directly, that her cooking nights are her cooking nights. She gets to make whatever she likes. She's part of a Biggest Loser challenge at work, so she is big on fish these days. If you're a regular reader of my blog, you have seen that I am a bit iffy on fish. I told her the other day that, anytime she wants to make fish, she can make me Van de Kamp's or something like that, which is usually safe. So, she made salmon and tilapia (not sure what the seasoning on the salmon was, but the tilapia was the lemon herb I didn't like a couple weeks ago), along with Van de Kamp's fillets and Mrs. Paul's fish sticks. She made enough fish to feed an army! Good for lunch, though.

To go along with the fish, she served fast food style fries (baked), a Southwest Chipotle chopped salad, balsamic sautéed asparagus/broccoli/red pepper, and clementines.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Split Pea Soup, February 22, 2016

I will never understand how my wife can love split pea soup, but hate lentil soup. She hates anything lentil, while I love lentils. One of my favorite things we ate when I was a kid was lentil pilaf. She thinks they taste like dirt! Anyhow, I am grateful she loves split pea soup, at least. Last night, I was especially pleased because she declared of my pea soup, "This tastes like my dad's!" Her dad was an excellent cook of a wide variety of things. He loved to really get fancy and make Beef Wellington and other classic 1960s special occasion dishes. He was also extraordinarily adept at Southern comfort food, dishes like biscuits and gravy, having been raised poor in Kentucky coal mining country. In their household, Jeannene's dad was the primary cook, although her mom made a mean pecan pie and excelled at fried chicken. The first meal of Travis' I ate was Easter dinner and I was impressed. I somehow never got to have his soup, though. Maybe it wasn't special enough for company?

Anyway, I sliced up a couple of pears and made a batch of spoon rolls to go with my soup. What a cozy, yummy dinner!

Split Pea Soup
1/4 lb. bacon, chopped 
2 potatoes, peeled & chopped
2 carrots, peeled & chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, peeled & chopped
64 oz. chicken broth (I like the low-sodium kind)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 lb. split peas

Cook the bacon in a soup pot until crisp. Drain on a paper towel lined plate. Cook veggies in bacon fat for a few minutes. Add broth and salt. Bring to a boil. Add split peas and cooked bacon. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer an hour or so. Serves 6. 

Spoon Rolls
1 envelope yeast
2 c. lukewarm water
4 c. self-rising flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix yeast and water in a large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Place in well-greased muffin tins. Bake about 20 minutes, until golden. Makes 2 dozen. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Green Bean Salad with Walnuts, Fennel, and Goat Cheese

When I had my annual valentine-making party this year, I made a wonderful green bean salad. I promised to share the recipe with the Wild Mango Queens, but thought I might as well share it here on the blog, as well. I also served a quiche Lorraine from the grocery and some red Twizzlers. The latter have been a valentine-making party staple ever since my friend, Joe, brought some to one of the parties way back in the 1990s. I always think of him with a smile when I put them out for my guests. He showed up at the door that night looking so handsome and Valentine-y, in a pink dress shirt and tie, Twizzlers in hand. Desserts this year were supplied by Sue, who brought black bottom cupcakes, and Meghan, who brought a lemon trifle.

Green Bean Salad with Walnuts, Fennel, and Goat Cheese
1 1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
A pinch of salt
A good grinding of pepper
1/3 c. olive oil
2 lb. green beans, trimmed and halved
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced into half-moons
3/4 c. walnuts, toasted
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Whisk mustard, vinegar, salt, & pepper together. Gradually whisk in oil. Cook green beans about 7 minutes in boiling, salted water. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry, then mix with fennel and nuts. Add goat cheese and dressing just before serving, gently tossing to coat everything evenly. Serves 8-10. 

Roast Turkey, February 21, 2016

We haven't had a formal Sunday dinner in awhile, so Jeannene decided to make a roast turkey dinner for us yesterday. She didn't go strictly traditional Thanksgiving trimmings, but it sure smelled like Thanksgiving in February all day in our house. We have so much for which to be thankful that it makes sense to have multiple Thanksgiving dinners in a year.

While she'd considered trying something really different with the turkey (a sauerkraut and sausage stuffing was mentioned), in the end, she went with a classic sage rub. The meat turned out really lovely and I'm planning to turn the leftovers into turkey salad this afternoon. To go with the bird, we had mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, and garlic roasted cauliflower. For dessert, Jeannene offered us cherry pie, chocolate cake, or some of each. I was the only one who opted for the pie. We'd picked it up at the grocery for only 3 bucks. The cake, a birthday cake for Bubbles & Jeannene, was very pretty, but had whippy frosting. It's the only kind Jeannene and Pie like. Bubbles says she's never had a frosting she didn't like. I am a strong proponent of buttercream and am very happy with cherry pie over cake, anyway. So, we were all very happy!

You know the best part? My darling wife did all the cooking and cleaned the kitchen, afterward!

Red Knapp's, February 20, 2016

Although we've been together almost 15 years, and had a commitment ceremony 14 years ago, we weren't able to get legally married until just 2 years ago. Since we had a family dinner planned for Sunday, the actual anniversary, we went out Saturday night to celebrate. We intended to go to our favorite Irish public house, Sullivan's, but went to the grocery beforehand and ended up finishing a smidge late for that. We'd also had brunch out, at Bravo, and so didn't feel obliged to do anything fancy or formal for our second meal out that day. So, we went with what sounded best, which turned out to be Red Knapp's in downtown Oxford. One of these days, we'll go to the original, in Rochester, for burgers and malts.

Although their appetizers are always tempting, we weren't terribly hungry. So, we skipped the apps and went straight to the salad menu. Jeannene had a chef salad and I went with the Southern chicken salad. We were both fairly pleased with our salads, although the chicken on mine was drier than it usually is. The service was good, as always. The only beef I have with Red Knapp's is the carcasses on the walls, but that's their choice and, if I want to eat there, I deal. Elijah was pretty astounded by the huge moose head above our table. He kept looking up at it with the roundest eyes! I wonder what he was thinking.

Jet's Pizza, February 19, 2016

Friday night, we were going to do something special, dinner-wise, to celebrate Jeannene's birthday. However, what sounded really good to her was ordering pizza and salad, so we did. It was nice to have a night in together and watch "Grimm," our current favorite t.v. show. Since Jeannene's main objective was the big, crunchy salad, she let me order the pizza. So, I got a buffalo chicken pizza, which was just what I wanted. We've been having a lot of Passport Pizza lately, since that's her favorite and she tends to be the person who orders. It was nice to get some Jet's!

Handmade Pasta, February 18, 2016

Last night, we celebrated my beautiful wife's birthday by attending the second in the cooking class series at our church. Representatives from Williams Sonoma came to teach us how to make pasta from scratch. I've been curious about this process for awhile---and thoroughly intimidated, as well! My great-grandma Mil used to make noodles, I've heard, and hang them on the backs of her kitchen chairs to dry. I hate rolling anything out, so I always figured pasta-making was a bad idea for me, but after this class, I actually feel like I could do it. Of course, they did teach us to make the pasta using a gadget for rolling and cutting. I got to hand-cut some egg fettucine, which turned out to be kind of a fettuccine/pappardelle hybrid, depending on which end you were eating! It's HARD to roll it out straight. I decided, if I were the precision sort, I could use a ruler when rolling it out at home. Then, I was talking to some chef friends & Dave gave me the tip that I could just roll the dough into a log and cut it that way. This sounds totally do-able---after all, it's basically the same as cutting basil into a chiffonade! Anyway, Jeannene and I are now talking about picking up a pasta attachment for our Kitchenaid mixer.

We got dinner, too---the pasta we had made! I am happy to report that, although my hand-cut pieces definitely had a bit of a wabi-sabi air to them, the pasta was delicious! Seeing as how I'm not planning on attending culinary school or working in a restaurant, I figure imperfect pasta is just fine. The fettucine was the base for a fabulous classic dish with peas, fresh ricotta, and prosciutto. I didn't care for the second pasta dish, which was a whole wheat linguine (my least favorite pasta shape---isn't that weird?) with arugula pesto. Pesto, even the standard basil variety, seems to me to be an acquired taste. It's usually too bite-y for me, although, in small amounts, it can be truly great. However, I found the arugula version to be entirely too bitter to be edible. I think some of the folks in the class liked it---Jeannene loved it---but I had to set it aside after two bites. We also had salad, bread, and Ghirardelli and Dove chocolates.

Elijah slept through the class, so I guess he won't be making his own pasta as soon as he's old enough, but I plan to teach him! As soon as I have mastered it myownself, that is.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tuna Salad, February 17, 2016

I told Jeannene yesterday that, since it was her last dinner before she turned 53, she got to choose what she wanted. Of all things, although she played around with the idea of going out for Italian, she picked tuna salad. I was delighted, as it's super easy to prepare, I didn't need to go to the store, and, most of all, it sounded perfect to my tastebuds! I served it (I had mine in sandwich form) with chips left over from our wee boy's baptism reception, baby carrots, dill dip, and clementines.

How I make tuna salad:
Mix a can of tuna with a stalk or two of chopped celery, a big spoonful of sweet pickle relish (Vlasic only), a smaller spoonful of mayonnaise, a sprinkling of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

It's not quite as good as the tuna salad I used to get at Dick and Tom's Coffee Shop when I was a kid, but it's pretty close.

Honey Balsamic Pork Roast, February 16, 2016

If I could only ever eat meat from one animal again, it would unquestionably be the pig. I love pork. I love bacon, sausage, all kinds of pork products. Luckily for me, the pork roasts available these days are actually quite lean, allowing me to indulge and still have a reasonably healthy meal. I made a beautiful pork roast the other night, accompanied by baked acorn squash and green beans. The pork was wonderfully tender and flavorful. 

Honey Balsamic Pork Roast
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. honey
Scant 1/3 c. soy sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cayenne
2-3 lb. pork loin roast

Mix everything but the pork together well. Poke the pork roast all over several times with a fork. Marinate at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake until it registers 145 degrees on an instant-read meat thermometer. Remove from oven and let stand at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serves 4-6. 

Soy Ginger Catfish, February 15, 2016

Oh, dear. My wife and I should probably never make fish for one another. I spit out the tilapia she made and, when I made catfish on Monday, she said it tasted like poison. Maybe she meant "poisson"? Anyway, I thought it was delish and, when we pawned the leftovers off on our middle child and his girlfriend, they loved it. So, I put it down to Jeannene just not liking catfish. I served it with broccoli, jasmine rice, and clementines.

Soy Ginger Catfish
1/2 c. tamari
1/2 c. water
1 tbsp. sake
About an inch of ginger, peeled & grated
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
4 catfish fillets (you can use any fish you like, though)

Mix everything but the fish well. Add fish and marinate at least half an hour, longer, if possible. Serves 4

Kruse & Muer Roadhouse, February 14, 2016

We were happy to be able to get Valentine's Day reservations at Kruse and Muer with only a couple days' notice. It's where we got (legally) engaged and, oddly enough, we ended up in the very same booth! Everyone with whom we interacted was just delightful, from the valets to the hosts to our waitress, who was simply darling and had spot-on recommendations about the food.

We started our anniversary dinner with a spectacularly delicious rendition of crab and brie bisque, that left me wanting several more bowls, and a dish of beautiful seared scallops wrapped in bacon. I am a little leery of ordering scallops from any kitchen but Anne Kearney's, as I've too often had them either rubbery and overcooked or shudderingly undercooked and slimy. These were perfectly cooked, though, and so great. I happily sipped a pretty and tasty Cupid's Arrow, while Jeannene had a glass of peach bubbly.

I struggled with ordering. I love their pan-roasted chicken, but felt like I should get something I don't always order. Since it was Valentine's Day, it seemed like I should order something special and fancy. What kept calling my name, though, was the Rocky's Creation pizza, so I finally chose that, after getting some input from our waitress. Man, was it fantastic! A great, chewy crust, topped with wee shrimp coated in Cajun seasoning, artichoke hearts, garlic butter, tomatoes, and cheese. Jeannene, after considering fish, went for the lovely twin filets with portabellas, served on potato pancakes. She was very, very happy with her order.

For dessert, we ordered the special, a chocolate raspberry mousse cake for two. I was expecting that it would be mousse cake like cheesecake, but lighter. I was utterly delighted, like a 5-year-old, with what arrived at our table. Fluffy chocolate mousse and a layer of fresh raspberries sandwiched between two heart-shaped chocolate cakes, then adorned with whipped cream, raspberry sauce, and chocolate sauce. It was perfect.

Oceania Inn, February 13, 2016

My bestie and her husband came up for Elijah's baptism, as they are his godparents. She is vegetarian and I always feel that Chinese and Indian restaurants are often the best bet for a decent variety of choices for vegetarians. We haven't yet discovered a really good Chinese restaurant in the area, so we settled for pretty decent, the Oceania Inn in Rochester (or is it Rochester Hills? I never know where lines lines of delineation are). The service there has been friendly the two times we've been and the atmosphere is fine. It's nothing to write home about, but nothing to complain about, either.

Saturday night, we ordered the beef steamed potstickers for the meat eaters at the table, but were given the chicken ones, which some of us loved. I didn't think they were terrific, but I think that was largely because I had hoped for pork. My hot and sour soup was very good, as was my beef with pea pods. The quality of the meat is above what you find in a lot of Chinese places. For dessert, we each got to choose a flavor (strawberry, chocolate, or vanilla) of Blue Bunny ice cream, which came in little styrofoam containers with pull-off cardboard lids. This made me feel as though I was back at Vacation Bible School, so that was a fun thing, even if the ice cream itself didn't knock me off my feet. Really, my favorite part of dessert was the fortune cookies, which actually had a lovely vanilla flavor.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Knife Skills Class, February 11, 2016

Women's Fellowship at our church is offering a Williams Sonoma cooking class series this month. It's  only $50 per person for three classes and they are letting us bring our baby with us, so we are, of course, in! Last Thursday was the first class, a knife skills class. I've been wanting to take one for a long time, but never got around to it. It was a lot of fun, but I felt like the techniques they showed us were, for the most part, more awkward and less efficient than what I already do. However, I did learn a few things, especially pertaining to knife care. Even if I hadn't learned a single thing, though, it was worth my time and money, for sure!

Since we weren't actually producing any food we could have for dinner, Women's Fellowship provided baked ziti, a gorgeous salad with antipasto toppings, and a stunningly delicious charrotcake (I think it was called), a mash-up of carrot cake and cheesecake. Wow, was that fab!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Turkey Salad, February 10, 2016

Last night, I made Lady Food for dinner. I did a turkey salad with pomegranate arils and a beautiful pink fruit soup. With bread and a green salad, this is a really easy and tasty meal. Jeannene didn't love the soup, so she heated a bowl of this soup, which earned a 9 out of 10 on her food scale, left over from Monday night.

Turkey Salad
About 4 c. diced turkey (I buy a chunk from the deli & chop it)
3 stalks celery, chopped
Seeds of 1 pomegranate (or 1 container of them)
1/2 c. slivered almonds
2 tbsp. cream
Enough mayo to hold it all together
Salt and pepper

Gently mix turkey, celery, pom seeds, & almonds. Add the rest and mix. This is good on its own or for sandwiches. Serves 4. 

Pink Soup
10 oz. frozen raspberries
10 oz. frozen strawberries
2 1/2 c. buttermilk
4 oz. Greek yogurt
1/2 c. honey
A splash of white peach syrup (optional)
A splash of Toasted Marshmallow syrup (optional)

Toss everything in a food processor and purée smooth. Serves 6.

Jambalaya, February 9, 2016

Mardi Gras is one of my favorite holidays, especially when done with a New Orleans flair. I must have lived in the Crescent City in a past life. I've not been to Mardi Gras down there, but I enjoy the festivity of it. Not the drunken stupidity that's famous the world over, but the celebrations and traditions. I love looking at old Mardi Gras pictures and listen to zydeco and Dixieland all day on Fat Tuesday. I also wear Mardi Gras beads, a tiara, and a boa, even if I'm just popping out to the grocery.

One of the traditions I can really get behind is king cake. While people in my neck of the woods are lining up in droves to get authentic paçzki, I am cheerfully making a king cake (I haven't done one from scratch yet, as I am not much of a baker---I use Mam Papaul's mix)---or picking up one from the grocery or bakery. A king cake is a beautiful ring of cinnamon coffee cake, drizzled with powdered sugar glaze and scattered liberally with sugar in Mardi Gras colors---green, gold, and purple. Traditionally, a small ceramic or plastic baby is baked or placed in the cake and the person who gets the baby either is responsible for bringing the next king cake (remember, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an entire season stretching from Epiphany to the actual day of Fat Tuesday) or has good luck in the coming year, depending on whom you ask.

When I'm in Dayton, Ohio, I like to go to dinner at either Rue Dumaine or The Winds Cafe, home of a great tableside Bananas Foster, for Mardi Gras dinner. However, when that's not an option, I usually make jambalaya at home for our Mardi Gras supper. I'm not the world's biggest pancake fan in the first place and it seems like all the churches around me have pancake suppers for Fat Tuesday. If more churches had New Orleans cuisine instead of pancake suppers on the occasion, I would definitely be up for it! Instead, we skip our church's festivities in favor of homemade dinners. Here's the jambalaya I made this year. We had salad and king cake with it. By the way, if you can get your hands on some grapefruit balsamic, it goes beautifully with a little really good olive oil on a radicchio & romaine salad!

Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cubed
2 tbsp. Cajun seasoning (I used Emeril's Essence this year)
2 tbsp. oil
2-4 andouille links, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne
A good grinding of black pepper
1 can diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. thyme
2 c. converted rice (such as Uncle Ben's)
32 oz. chicken broth
1 lb. shrimp (I omit these, most of the time, because shrimp wig my wife out; I highly recommend adding them, though)
1 bunch scallions, sliced
A big handful of chopped parsley

Season the chicken with the Cajun seasoning. Heat the oil & brown the chicken. Set aside. Add sausage to same pan and brown. Add onion, peppers, celery, salt, cayenne, pepper. Cook about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme. Cook another couple minutes. Add rice. Cook, stirring, a couple minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Return chicken to pot. Cover and simmer 14 minutes. If using shrimp, add it to the pot, cover, and cook until the shrimp are just pink, about 3 minutes. Add scallions and parsley. Serves 8. 

Cannellini Vegetable Soup, February 8, 2016

When I host the women's Red Tent group each month, I like to make a pot of soup to nourish the women attending. We have members who are vegetarian and gluten-free, so I try to make sure to keep the soup within those guidelines. The soup I chose this month can be made either with ground beef or beans. I opted for cannellini beans. I made a pot for home and a pot for Red Tent. I took some Italian bread, some Rice Thins, and a bunch of red Twizzlers for dessert. I made the pot for home slightly differently than the pot I took, adding 32 oz. chicken broth. I'd forgotten to pick up veggie broth at the store and hadn't got time to get any, so I decided to use a little water, instead. I didn't think either version was great, but my wife keeps raving about how much she loves it, so I guess it's worth sharing the recipe.

Cannellini Vegetable Soup
2 cans cannellini beans, drained (or your favorite kind of beans or 2 lb.  browned ground beef or veggie crumbles)
32 oz. chicken or veggie broth
1 onion, chopped
1 zucchini, cut into half-moons
1 can corn, drained
28 oz can stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp. oregano
A pinch of garlic salt
A couple bay leaves

Mix everything together and heat through. Serves 10-12. You can also throw this in a crockpot and cook it on low for 6-8 hours. 

Chili (and Other Super Bowl Food), February 7, 2016

To me, Super Bowl food is automatically chili and appetizers. I was surprised to see friends saying they were making things like lasagna soup for the festivities! Don't get me wrong, I would definitely like to try lasagna soup! However, for the Super Bowl, I love chili. I am not much of a fancy chili person and I tend to like my semi-homemade chili best of all. It reminds me of my grandmom's chili, which we always ate with saltine crackers. I still like them on my chili, but am willing to go with tortilla chips or other toppings. My wife is happiest if there is also shredded cheese and sour cream available.

For my chili, I brown some ground beef. Sometimes, I use a bit of chili powder here, a dash of cayenne there, some cumin tossed in for good measure. Other times, I just throw in the McCormick chili seasoning envelope. When the beef is browned, I add a can of chili-ready diced tomatoes, a jar of Newman's Own medium salsa, and a can of dark red kidney beans. Sometimes, chopped onions & garlic. Then, I heat it through. Easy, tasty, and I am wishing I had a bowl of it right now.

I also contributed some guacamole. I like my guac very, very plain---just roughly mashed avocados (I use a molcajete), lime juice, and a little garlic salt.

Jeannene made 2 kinds of chicken wings, a Velveeta/Ro*Tel/group beef dip, a Buffalo chicken dip, and I don't know what all else. It was quite the spread!

KFC, February 6, 2016

I'd planned to make Cajun catfish with fried potatoes, coleslaw, and corn muffins Saturday night after our Valentine-making party. However, I forgot to thaw the catfish and our party ended up going much later than we'd expected. Jeannene was deeply immersed in a project for work and didn't feel like going out. So, I ran out to KFC and got us some fried chicken dinners. See, I don't always eat fancy food, as some of you seem to think!

French Dip Sandwiches, February 5, 2016

I think Jeannene might have had a little bun addiction going, as her dinner choices included sandwiches on buns 3 nights in the last week or two! Friday, she threw a beef roast in the crockpot with some other things, and served French Dips, oven chips (a new frozen product we weren't at all impressed with), and corn. I'm not usually a fan of the French Dip---I'm not much of a dipper, not sandwiches, not doughnuts in cider, not biscotti in coffee---but her rendition was very good!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Keema, February 4, 2016

Last Thursday, we had a simple, delicious meal of keema (well, my version of it, with ground beef instead of ground lamb, which is absolutely not authentic to Indian cooking, but which tastes really good), lemon pilaf with labneh, and a green salad. It's comfort food with a slightly different twist, perfect for these cold February nights.

Irreverent Keema
1 tbsp. oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1" peeled ginger, minced
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
A pinch of salt
2 tsp. garam masala
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
2 c. frozen peas
1 c. boiling water
Juice of 1 lime

Heat oil in large skillet. Cook onion and garlic in oil until golden. Add tomatoes, ginger, chile, salt, & garam masala. Cook a few minutes. Add burger, breaking up well, and peas. Cook to brown the burger. Add water and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, on low about half an hour. Stir in lime juice just before serving. Serves 4-6. I would imagine you could do this with ground turkey or veggie crumbles. 

Lemon Pilaf
1/4 c. sour cream/Greek yogurt/labneh
Juice & zest of 1 lemon
1-2 tbsp. olive oil or butter
5 scallions, sliced
14 oz. chicken broth (I use the 98% fat-free, reduced sodium sort)
2 1/2 c. Minute rice
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
Pepper, totaste

Mix sour cream/yogurt with lemon juice & zest. Heat olive oil/butter. Sauté scallions in oil. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add everything else, cover, and let stand (off the heat) for 5 minutes. Serves 4. We like this with extra labneh on top of it. 

Pork and Kidney Bean Soup, February 3, 2016

Jeannene was dreading the meal on the day I made a kind of funky sounding pork and kidney bean soup. It seemed like it should be pretty tasty, but we both ended up thinking it was pretty meh. I think part of the problem for me was the texture---the pork and kidney beans and everything ended up puréed, which seemed weird to me. The flavor was not bad, but it wasn't good enough that I would bother sharing it with y'all. However, the gorgeous crudités with pomegranate arils and the grapefruit in rosemary syrup were both splendid! Jeannene doesn't like grapefruit one tiny bit, though, so she basically only liked the veggies. Ah, well, at least she liked those.

To make the veggie platter, I simple arranged some of our favorites on a platter---sugar snap peas, snow peas, baby carrots, green pepper, orange pepper, cucumber slices, radishes. Then, I drizzled them with good olive oil, scattered pomegranate arils across the whole thing, and sprinkled it all with a little Maldon salt. Delicious and completely gorgeous!

Grapefruit with Honey Rosemary Syrup
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
3 tbsp. honey
3 sprigs rosemary
3 grapefruit (I used a mix of pink and white)

Bring everything but the grapefruit to a boil over medium heat and simmer 5 minutes. Cool completely and discard rosemary sprigs. Section the grapefruit, pour the syrup over it, and chill. Serves 4 or so. 

Pork Chop Sandwiches, February 2, 2016

Wow, has February gone skittering along without me! On February 2, Jeannene made fried pork chop sandwiches, baked beans, and corn for dinner---delicious, but not so very healthful! I always think of Jeannene's mom when I have a pork chop sandwich. When she was still alive and in good health, the three of us went to the Strawberry Festival in Troy, Ohio. We were certainly interested in all things strawberry, but we also needed something more substantial. We stopped at a booth selling fried pork chop sandwiches. Unfortunately, the pork chops had not gotten cooked through and we threw them away, thoroughly revolted. Luckily, Jeannene cooks hers all the way through, until they're completely cooked, but still perfectly juicy and scrumptious!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Soul Food Potluck, February 1, 2016

My cookbook discussion group focused on soul food this month, discussing 2 books on the subject. One was more of a cookbook, with lots of pretty pictures and great family stories and a focus on healthier recipes, called Soul Food Love by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams. I was not much of a fan of the recipes, although the black-eyed pea hummus I made was awesome (I made the Southern hummus, as well, but didn't love that), but the stories were interesting and I thought it was really cool that the authors are related to the poet Arna Bontemps. Most of the dishes folks brought came from this cookbook. The consensus was that this food is not our idea of soul food, not even a lighter version of could food (I mean, flan? Really? Baba ganoush? Cucumber soup?) Here's my version of the black-eyed pea hummus recipe. I took pita chips to go with it, but I think veggies, pretzels, or hard breadsticks would be great with this.

Black-Eyed Pea Hummus
15 oz. can black-eyed peas, drained
4 large cloves garlic
2 tbsp. peanut butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. paprika (Spanish smoked paprika, if you can get it)
Salt & pepper
1/4 c. olive oil

Put peas & garlic in a food processor or blender. Whirl until garlic is finely chopped & evenly distributed. Whirl peanut butter into the mixture. Add lemon juice, paprika, salt, & pepper and whirl to a smooth paste. Slowly pour in olive oil with motor running & keep going until smooth (I actually just dumped it in all at once since I was using my mini processor, which has no chute, & it was fine). Adjust seasonings. I served this with pita chips, but it would be great with veggies, pretzels, regular pita bread. It makes 2 cups.

The other book was Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine by Adrian Miller. It was much more of a textbook, but it was fascinating. I didn't have a chance to read the whole thing in time for the meeting, so I have renewed it and will be reading more. 

Other dishes people brought included:
2 versions of African chickpea soup
Peanut chicken stew
Shrimp stew
2 versions of greens
Fiery green beans
Jugged pears with Greek yogurt (poached, a 24-hour recipe)
Oven-fried chicken
Candied carrots
2 versions of an herby (rosemary, parsley, thyme) mac & cheese
Candied carrots
Banana pudding

Maple-Soy Glazed Salmon, January 31, 2016

My wife loves salmon and doesn't often get to make it for dinner, as I am not a salmon fan and she tries to pick things we'll both like. Last night, for Sunday Dinner, she tried to make a dinner we'd all like by making grouper for me, rather than salmon. Sadly, the grouper from the freezer didn't smell very good, so she made me a piece of yellowfin tuna, instead. Well, I'm just too picky because I just didn't like it. It tasted very fishy to me, even though she insisted it shouldn't, and I don't really like sweet sauces on meat at all, either. However, our middle child and his girlfriend thought it was amazing, 10 out of 10, and Jeannene loved it, too. They all had the salmon. Jeannene made broccoli with a parmesan cream sauce & Bob Evans romano & herb mashed potatoes. She also baked a loaf of Pugliese bread from the Kroger freezer---it was my favorite thing, I am sorry to say. The good news is that Jeannene didn't love the mashed potatoes or broccoli, either. But it's always good to try new things! I wish I had the fish recipe to give you, because it sounds like people who love fish and sweet sauces for meats would go crazy for it.