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. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Filet Mignon, April 24, 2016

Our middle child and his girlfriend are flying off into the wild blue yonder of Alaska this Friday to make a new life together there. They've lived in our area for the last couple years and we've gotten into the habit of having a special Sunday Dinner with them most weeks. Yesterday marked the final Sunday Dinner of this current era, so my wife wanted to make it special. She made a gorgeous set of filets, along with shrimp cocktail in the same dishes her dad used for his shrimp cocktail. She also did a package of Bob Evans au gratin potatoes, which we don't really recommend. Hey, ya gotta try stuff, right? Their mashed potatoes are fine, but these were more like cheesy mashed potatoes than anything.

I offered to make some Chesapeake cole slaw (I hate cole slaw---the sweetness of it and the mayo mixed with cabbage is just not my thing---I do like vinegary slaws with no creamy element and just a smidge of sugar, but Jeannene likes regular slaw a lot and never gets it) and a pan of sautéed kale to round out the meal. Jeannene said the slaw was great, for folks who like that sort of thing, and we all loved the kale. For that, I just cut a bunch of kale in chiffonade and sautéed it in olive oil with garlic, shallots, capers, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice until it was wilted & tender.

Chesapeake Slaw
3/4 c. plain Greek yogurt
3/4 c. mayo
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning (or similar)
A pinch of salt
A good grinding of pepper
1 package cole slaw mix (or 16 oz. shredded cabbage & carrots)
1/2 red onion, chopped

Whisk together everything but vegetables. Fold everything together. Ideally, allow to rest in the fridge for at least an hour----but we served it right away & it was just fine. Serves 8-10.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Shepherd's Pie, April 23, 2016

Last night was my sweetie's night to choose. She's been hungry for the frozen shepherd's pie (Blake's?) we picked up a couple weeks ago, so she heated that, along with some sausages we bought at a meat shop up in Frankenmuth and some leftover whole grain bread with seeds. The shepherd's pie was tasty, with a flavor that reminded me of something I ate as a kid.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Casa Real, April 22, 2016

Jeannene came home from work last night and was bushed, so she suggested we eat either at Casa Real or "that G place that looks like a barn." I figured since Casa Real had come up as a choice for the second time in as many days, she was probably pretty hungry for it. So, I headed there. We were about to be seated when a young man came up to the hostess and told her not to seat us where we were headed because there were just two of us and they might need the space. After some confusion over where they could offer us a booth, during which my wife gamely held our wee boy in his heavy carseat, they finally decided and led us to be seated. They seemed to grudge us the large booth we'd been given, even though I offered to wait a little longer for the smaller booth near us to be bused. The hostess said she had no idea when it would be bused, so we could just sit in the large booth. That turned out to be a good call, since it wasn't bused the entire time we were there and it was not at all crowded, with none of the big groups the young man had worried would arrive. Our waitress was very good and I was glad we'd ended up in her section.

We ordered some queso to go with the chips and salsa they brought to the table. It's a smidge bland there for my taste, but I find their salsa more than flavorful enough to make up for that. For my meal, I got a combo plate of nachos with beans, chicken, and ground beef (which sounded odd, but which I thought could be good), two taquitos (one beef, one chicken), and a pork tamale. I also ordered refried beans on the side, to share with Jeannene, who'd gotten a chicken fajita quesadilla, which was yummy.

Our waitress warned us that it might take a bit, as they were down a person in the kitchen. The time stretched and stretched. Jeannene joked, "When she said they were down a person in the kitchen, she didn't say that only left them with one." That may have been true, for all we know. When my plate finally arrived, it looked like a big plate of shredded lettuce. It was hard even to tell what food was underneath. I ended up really not liking the chicken, which seemed not to have been flavored at all. Blah! The beef taquito was good, though, and the tamale was very flavorful. Their beans are also quite good.

Shrimp Creole, April 21, 2016

Jeannene's been on kind of a shrimp strike for several years now. She will, on rare occasions, eat it. She loves a friend's shrimp cocktail when he brings it to game night potlucks and she loves it when I make my grandmom's shrimp in beer. She certainly enjoyed the shrimp we had in Savannah last summer. However, other than that, she has avoided it since getting undercooked shrimp two weeks in a row at restaurants.

I decided to make Shrimp Creole, though, after finding it in John T. Edge's wonderful Southern cookbook, A Gracious Plenty. I figured I could just pull some fish out of the freezer for her, if she didn't want the shrimp, but she ended up really loving it. I served it with jasmine rice and a green salad.

The recipe originated with the Louisiana Farm Bureau women of Baton Rouge. I made the recipe almost as they gave it and would make modifications next time. I found it skimpy on garlic & shrimp.  I also couldn't believe they recommended cooking shrimp for 10 minutes. My modified recipe would look like this:

Shrimp Creole
1-2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz. can stewed tomatoes
Salt & pepper
2 cups peeled, deveined shrimp (I chopped it because the shrimp I had were fairly large, but i would use smaller, whole shrimp next time)

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add paprika and stir well. Cook the onion, pepper, and garlic until tender. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Add shrimp and cook another 3-4 minutes, until pinkened and cooked through. Serves 4-6. 

Sullivan's, April 20, 2016

Last night was Jeannene's night to choose dinner. She had to leave for work at 4:30 this morning, so she decided it would be quicker to go out than to cook. We'd considered a picnic, but it had gotten pretty chilly by the time she got home from work. So, she offered the choice of either Sullivan's or Casa Real. I said, "It's your night to pick dinner. I'm not choosing." So, she asked, "Odd or even?" I said, "Even" and it was Sullivan's.

Sullivan's is a wonderful little Irish public house in Oxford, MI, staffed by lovely people and serving up delicious food. We shared the root vegetable gratin, which was scrumptious, all gooey with cheese, for an appetizer. Jeannene told our waitress to surprise her and that she would like anything but raw fish. I said, "Oh, and she didn't really want the bacon & cabbage," as I'd been considering it and Jeannene had discouraged me, saying my cabbage can't be beat (I am not even sure to what she was referring). The waitress ended up bringing a beautiful pile of juicy, delicious pork with asparagus and fluffy, perfect mashed potatoes, a dish she said she always orders for herself.

I ended up choosing the macaroni & beer cheese, which was almost as yummy as my own mac & cheese, and a Michigan salad. The salad was huge and gorgeous, mixed greens studded with dried cherries, hunks of Cashel blue cheese, and candied walnuts. It was drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette and was exactly what I wanted.

I was less nuts about the crème brûlée. I am notoriously picky about that dish, so take my words with a grain of salt. Jeannene thought it was very good. The custard part was, for my taste, too heavy and thick. I like it to be light and silky and not remind me of eggs much at all. The crisp coating atop the custard was unevenly flamed, with some spots that were flat-out burnt and some that were just sugar. However, I don't go to Sullivan's for their dessert and everything else was great.

Oh, and if you've not had Magner's hard cider, please do yourself the favor of ordering a glass while you're there. It's stellar. I like it with ice, which was suggested by the first server we had at Sullivan's, the first time we ever tried Magner's. Jeannene likes it without. Your call, just make sure to have some.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Black Beans & Rice, April 19, 2016

Last night, I intended for us to have black bean soup for supper, with an orange & spinach salad. However, I decided to try a different recipe than the usual Cuban black bean soup I make. This was also supposed to be Cuban-style, but it was not a recipe created by a Cuban and it fell far short. It was incredibly bland and blah. I managed to salvage it with copious amounts of Sazón Goya, but even then, it needed rice under it. So, I cooked up a pot of rice and we ended up with a pretty dang tasty dinner. The recipe wasn't good enough to point you that direction, so I will simply suggest that you try my Cuban black beans, which you can find here.

The salad was completely wonderful, so you can have that "recipe." Basically, all I did was cut up a couple Cara Cara oranges (my favorites) and toss them with baby spinach, chopped red onion, and slivered kalamata olives. I whisked equal parts Spanish olive oil and Jerez sherry vinegar until they emulsified, then sprinkled in some salt and pepper, for the dressing.

I also made a pitcher of cocktail mixer for Cherries Jubilee Cocktails. I left the mixer plain, in case Jeannene wanted some without alcohol. It's fine that way, but best of all when finished with a shot of Cake vodka. For the mixer, I stirred 2 cups of orange juice, 2 cups Vernor's ginger ale, and 1/4 c. maraschino cherry juice. It turned a really lovely pink. Then, I poured it over ice and added a shot of the Cake vodka and a couple cherries for garnish. Delish! Jeannene's not usually much of a mixed drink fan, but she loved this one and said I should make it my signature cocktail.

Chicken Piccata, April 28, 2016

Jeannene loves to make pasta when it's her turn to cook. This usually manifests as some pasta shape with red sauce, which is not a bad thing at all. However, Monday night, she really knocked it out of the park with dinner. She's not usually a fan of anything tart or lemony, but she made chicken piccata---and made it very lemony---just because she knows I love it beyond reason. She added artichoke hearts to the classic caper and lemon sauce, a perfect complement to the flavors.

Alongside the chicken, she served these delicious pear and blue cheese pasta "purses" she found in the frozen section at our local Kroger. These were paired with a 5-cheese sauce, a nice creamy counterpoint to the tang of the piccata. We also had mixed veggies and a terrific multigrain seed baguette, the heat and serve sort.

Cheeseburgers, April 17, 2016

I made cheeseburgers, hash brown casserole, and a green salad for our Sunday dinner. I usually just use salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a little Worcestershire sauce mixed into the ground beef when I make burgers. I decided to get creative this time and regretted the choice. They weren't inedible, but they weren't great, by any means. They were entirely overseasoned and quite a disappointment. I used lemon pepper, thyme, paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, and a smidge of cayenne. Next time, I'll go back to my old familiar seasonings.

However, the hash brown casserole, based on a Paula Deen recipe, was so yummy that I made it again for my MOMS Club brunch yesterday. There's nothing even a little healthy or redeeming about it, just the decadent yumminess. I think, though, that you could make it slightly less unhealthy, so I've noted substitutions. Also, I didn't have any cream of mushroom soup for the MOMS Club version and it was still good with cream of chicken soup. I'd tend toward the mushroom, though.

Hash Brown Casserole
20 oz. refrigerated hash browns (the shredded sort; frozen would be fine, too)
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar (2% would be fine; I wouldn't use fat-free, as it doesn't melt well)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (can use Healthy Choice/98% fat-free)
1 c. sour cream (I used 2%, not sure how fat-free would do in oven)
1/2 stick butter, melted (I suspect this could be greatly reduced or even omitted)
1 small onion, chopped
Salt & pepper
Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix everything but 1 c. cheese. Spread in 13x9 baking pan that's been coated with cooking spray. Bake about 20 minutes. Top with the remaining cheese and bake another 10-15 minutes. Serves 4-6. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Passport Pizza, April 16, 2016

We took our boys out to Bar Louie for a somewhat late brunch yesterday. Well, Boot had brunch, a delicious Buffalo chicken flatbread, following our appetizer of breakfast nachos. Jeannene chose a Thai peanut flatbread, while I ate a bit of Hangover Helper (eggs, chorizo, green onions, and queso sauce over hash browns) before turning the remainder over to Boot. I love having him around because he is great for finishing whatever I don't eat. Elijah had a bottle.

So, when it came time for dinner, nobody was really very hungry until almost 10 p.m. It was Jeannene's night to choose and, when she is tired and it's late, it's almost certain that we'll have pizza. I suspect that if we lived someplace where more delivery options were available (we sure do miss Jason's Deli), she would order different stuff. Here, though, it's basically pizza, subs, wings, ribs, pasta, or Chinese for delivery. She loves Passport Pizza, so Passport it was! I didn't think I wanted pizza, but it turned out to taste really good to me. She ordered 3 small pizzas: one with a bunch of hot peppers on it for our crazy oldest, who very cheerfully eats things that would zap our tastebuds clean off, a chicken bacon ranch for her, and a hamburger pizza for me. I didn't try the hot pizza, but the other two were quite yummy!

Beef Hash on Toast, April 15, 2016

My sweetie was suffering from a persistent headache Friday evening. We were also expecting the arrival of our oldest, a last visit home before graduating college and commissioning as an officer in the Army, so we wanted something simple that would allow us also to tidy up a bit, get the guest room ready, and so forth. He'd only announced he'd be visiting on Thursday. Since we had leftover pot roast in the fridge, making a quick hash seemed like a great option. I served it on toast with fried eggs. We had some peaches for dessert. I tell you what, that hash was absolutely terrific and I couldn't believe how easily it came together! Jeannene completely loved it and actually said she wished her dad could taste it, that he would love it. That's one of the very highest compliments she can give. Boot had stopped for dinner on the way, so he only tasted it, but he pronounced it excellent. I think I'm going to have to make it every single time we have leftover roast now.

Beef Hash
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. chopped leftover roast beef 
1 onion, chopped
14 oz. beef broth
1 c. potatoes, chopped
Salt & pepper
A little cornstarch, dissolved in water

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the beef and onion and cook for a few minutes. I also chopped up the cooked carrots from the pot roast and added them. Add broth and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until potatoes are tender. Stir in cornstarch mixture. Cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened into a gravy. Serves 2-4. 

Jersey Mike's, April 14, 2016

Thursday night found us in need of a trip to the grocery for diapers and formula, as well as in need of a trip to drop off dry cleaning. It was Jeannene's choice and she had a very bad headache, so it seemed like a really good idea just to pick up something to take home with us. She had only been to Jersey Mike's one time and had not been impressed. I like it quite a bit, so I was very happy when she suggested it. We both ended up with Philly cheesesteaks and, this time, she absolutely loved hers! Yay!

24th Street Sports Tavern, April 13, 2016

Since we had a 7:30 salon appointment on Wednesday, my darling wife suggested I just bring the baby and meet her for dinner somewhere in Oxford. Thinking of their delicious fresh veggie tray, a beautiful collection of carrots, celery, and cucumber slices, I immediately suggested grabbing half-price burgers (with purchase of a drink) at 24th Street Sports Tavern. They were very friendly and even accommodated the stroller, although it was a bit crowded for such a thing. Jeannene had already ordered a platter of fried things (jalapeño poppers, chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks) when we arrived, so I had my veggie tray in place of fries with my burger. It was perfect. I could only eat half my burger, a black & bleu with just a skosh more Cajun seasoning than I would have liked, so the rest went home. I was delighted to have leftover veggies, too. I was not at all impressed with my strawberry daiquiri, but otherwise was quite happy with our choice. I was also able to stop and drop off some books at the Little Free Library on the walk over to the salon. I deposited 5 books and discovered a copy of A Confederacy of Dunces, which I've been wanting to read! Yippee!

Messy Church, April 12, 2016

Tuesday was our church's monthly Messy Church, so we had supper there. I always feel so grateful to the kitchen crew for giving of their time to make sure we all have a nutritious supper and don't have to drive through a fast food place or wait until afterward to eat. This month, there were 3 different kinds of breakfast casserole, some great sausage links, and fruit salad.

Curried Zucchini Soup, April 11, 2016

Our wee boy had his very first swim lesson last Monday, so we had a delicious dinner that was quick & easy to throw together. I made a batch of scrumptious curried zucchini soup, along with grilled extra-sharp cheddar on flax bread. Dessert was peach slices (canned, of course---I am irked that I can't seem to find Margaret Holmes ones anywhere these days).

Curried Zucchini Soup
1 tbsp. olive oil/butter
2 lb. zucchini, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tsp. curry powder
Salt & pepper
2 c. chicken or veggie broth
1 c. milk/half & half/cream (you could sub more broth or, perhaps, soy/almond/coconut milk)

Melt butter in a pan. Add zucchini, onion, & garlic. Sauté until softened. Season with curry, salt, & pepper. Purée, using either an immersion blender or, in 2 batches, in a blender. Return to pot, add milk, and heat through. Serves 4. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Chicken Broccoli Casserole, April 9, 2016

Saturday, I'd planned to make chicken & broccoli casserole with baked sweet potatoes and Old Bay slaw. However, we got home so late from swimming and the grocery that I decided just to do the casserole with boxed almond pilaf (I like Near East brand best) and a green salad. The casserole was completely delicious, the sort of thing people used to bring to carry-in dinners at church.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole
24 oz. frozen broccoli, chopped sort, cooked & well-drained
3 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 c. mayonnaise
3 tbsp. milk
Juice of 1 lemon
Generous 1/2 tsp. curry powder
Salt & pepper
2 c. shredded extra-sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 13x9 baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange the broccoli in a layer in the pan. Mix soup, mayo, milk, lemon juice, curry, salt, & pepper. Pour a little over the broccoli. Top with a layer of chicken. Cover with remaining sauce. Finish with a layer of cheese. Bake 1/2 hour. Serves 8-10.

Pot Roast, April 10, 2016

My wife has discovered a real love of the crockpot this winter. Yesterday was a perfect day to use it for a very homey meal. We had a roast in the freezer, so she stuck it in the fridge to thaw on Friday night. Sunday morning, her only morning off last week, she arose to put the roast, along with beautiful carrots and onion wedges, on to cook. She also made breakfast, fried eggs and garlicky hash browns, while she was at it. When time for Sunday dinner rolled around, she served the roast with mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and warm breadsticks.

My contribution was Breyer's homemade-style vanilla ice cream (which did not taste like the ice cream Lew Muhleman had us kids crank at our annual Independence Day gatherings) with homemade cherry sauce. It was swell! The sauce would be great on pound cake, angelfood, or waffles. I think I'll toss in a little liqueur next time.

Cherry Sauce
1 c. water
Scant 1/2 c. sugar
1 heaping tbsp. cornstarch, dissolved in a little cold water
2 tsp. vanilla
12 oz. whole frozen cherries, thawed (fresh would be great, in season)

Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When it's dissolved, add the cornstarch & water mixture. Stir well. Add vanilla & cherries. Cook, stirring, until thickened. Cool if using on ice cream.

Soup & Grilled Cheese, April 8, 2016

Friday night, after a long, hard work week, Jeannene thought it would be lovely just to enjoy soup, grilled cheese, and an evening spent coloring. We ended up not coloring, as our middle son and his girlfriend unexpectedly joined us to discuss plans for their upcoming move to Alaska. Bubbles showed up, bearing pizza & cheesy breadsticks for all, as I was cooking Pie's second grilled cheese. Jeannene had Campbell's Harvest Tomato soup, while I tried & rejected a chicken orzo artichoke soup from the deli section of the grocery. The grilled cheese, plain old American on cheap white bread, was plenty for me.

Casa Real, April 7, 2016

Last Thursday, my darling wife and I celebrated the 15th anniversary of becoming a couple. Since she'd had to leave the house by about 4 each morning of the week and had worked long, tough hours, we had a low key celebration. The wee boy and I met her at the tax office for our appointment. When we were finished, she asked where I'd like to have dinner. I suggested either Sullivan's Public House or Casa Real Mexican, hoping she'd choose the latter. She did! Yay! Both restaurants, located in downtown Oxford, Michigan, are terrific, but I was in the mood for Mexican.

We both had drinks, a Modelo Especial for her (she always forgets how much she loves it) and a pretty awful pineapple margarita for me. It tasted quite banana-y for pineapple. Blech. We ordered some guacamole to go with our chips. I particularly appreciate their salsa, which has enough bite to be flavorful and pleasing, but not so much I can't taste the flavors.

For her main, Jeannene had a chicken quesadilla, which was entirely too heavy on the chicken, for my taste. But, then, I tend to like my quesadillas not very heavily filled at all. The flavor was very good---it just didn't seem like a quesadilla to me. My chimichangas, though, were great. I had one beef and one chicken. They were very flavorful, moderately sized (rather than the gargantuan ones I get most places), and delicate. They were also moderately sauced, rather than drowning in cheese and sauce.

We split the fried ice cream for dessert. I'd been hungry for good fried ice cream since I had a bad version last summer. This was pretty good, with a solid amount of honey, perfect to celebrate 15 sweet years.

Hot Dogs, April 6, 2016

I usually make a pot of soup and some kind of sweet for our women's Red Tent gatherings. This month, things went awry and the spinach & artichoke soup I made was inedible, as were the brownies. I made more brownies later, though, so you get that recipe, my modification of a Ree Drummond recipe. They were yummy! The women who had gathered for "being time" brought snacks, luckily, from their homes and cars and we had some good munchies. My contribution was a bag of gluten-free pretzels covered with salted caramel coating and a box of Blue Diamond Pecan Thins (fantastically delicious gluten-free crackers). So, we had a snack potluck---or, as I joked, "stone soup."

When I got home, Jeannene had already gone to bed, but she had left me some hot dogs, so I had those for my supper.

Dulce de Leche Brownies
5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 c. flour
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp. vanilla
14 oz. dulce de leche

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt chocolate (I do this in the microwave, in 30 seconds increments, stirring between heatings). Allow to cool at least 15 minutes. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. The color is stunningly lovely. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the chocolate, followed by the flour, salt, and vanilla. Spread in a greased 13x9 baking pan. Warm the dulce de leche (I use the microwave, in 30 second increments, until it's more liquid) and drop large dollops of it on top of the batter. Swirl with the tip of a knife. Bake 35-45 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before cutting. Makes 16-20.

Pork Cutlets with Dijon Sauce, April 5, 2016

Last Tuesday, I made a really down-home sort of meal Jeannene loved. Well, I did, too. Neither of us thought the steak fries I made to go with the Martha Stewart-inspired pork cutlets were wow, but they were perfectly serviceable. I think I would double the seasonings next time. My favorite part of the meal was this out-of-this-world creamy garlic dressing on romaine. It was one of the best dressings I've ever had. I based the dressing I made on a Sara Moulton recipe, making a couple modifications. 

Pork Cutlets with Dijon Sauce
6 thin pork cutlets
1 c. flour
Salt & pepper
3 eggs, beaten
1-2 c. panko
Oil for frying
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Season pork and flour with salt and pepper. Dredge pork in flour, then dip in egg, coating thoroughly. Coat in panko. Cook crisp in hot oil, about 3 minutes per side. The coating should be golden brown. Let rest on paper towel-lined plate while you whisk together the yogurt, caraway seeds, Dijon, and a little salt and pepper. Serve pork with Dijon sauce. Serves 3. 

Seasoned Steak Fries
2 russet potatoes, sliced into wedges
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. onion powder

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk everything but the potatoes together. Toss with potatoes. Spread in an even layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake about 40 minutes. Serves 3.

Creamy Garlic Dressing
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
A pinch of salt
A good grinding of pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. Greek yogurt
1/4 c. olive oil

Whisk vinegar, Dijon, salt, and pepper together until Dijon is completely dissolved and incorporated into the vinegar. Add garlic and mix well. Gradually whisk in yogurt, then oil, beating until it comes together in a creamy dressing. Makes enough for 4-6 salads. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fried Eggs on Dandelion Greens, April 4, 2016

I'd never eaten dandelion greens, unless you count munching them straight from the lawn as a kid. I read a Rachael Ray recipe suggesting frying them up with a little olive oil, lemon juice, and anchovy paste, then serving them with fried eggs. So, I decided to try it. I probably wouldn't go out of my way to eat them again, but they were pretty good. A bit bitter. Poor Jeannene made a terrible face when she tasted hers, but, then, she has absolutely no tolerance for anything bitter or tart. We had toast with them. I also did some fried potatoes with herbs and snow peas with mint, both adaptations of Madhur Jaffrey recipes from her marvelous World Vegetarian cookbook.

Crispy Herbed Potatoes
7 potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large, ovenproof skillet, heat some olive oil. Create a layer of potato slices, slightly overlapping. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and pinches of the herbs. Drizzle with olive oil. Create another layer and top with seasonings and oil, as before. Bake 35-40 minutes, until tender. Serves 6.

Snow Peas with Mint
Sauté snow peas in a little olive oil and butter. Sprinkle with sugar, salt, and dried mint, stirring until tender. 

Quiche, April 3, 2016

Last Saturday, I put together a quiche with some leftover ham for our brunch. It was so delicious that we had it Sunday night for dinner, along with some steamed asparagus and Chambord-macerated strawberries (chop strawberries and toss with some sugar, vanilla, and Chambord---allow to macerate while you eat supper) on ladyfingers. It was a wonderfully spring-y dinner!

Ham & Cheddar Quiche
Crust for 9" pie
A handful or two of chopped ham
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp. butter or olive oil
8 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk or cream (I used 2%)
Salt & pepper
2 c. shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place crust in deep dish pie plate & flute the edges. Sauté onion in butter/oil until tender and slightly browned. Whisk eggs with milk, salt, and pepper. Add ham, onions, cheese. Pour into pie shell, cover lightly with foil, and bake 45 minutes. Bake another 10 minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and let stand at least 15 minutes before cutting into wedges for serving. Serves 6. 

What I'm Planning To Cook, April 2016

-Quiche, asparagus, strawberry shortcake
-Fried eggs on dandelion greens, crispy herbed potatoes, snow peas with dried mint 
-Crispy pork cutlets, steak fries, green salad with creamy garlic dressing  
-Potato, spinach, & artichoke soup, bread, GF crackers & cookies, dulce de leche brownies
-Chicken broccoli casserole, rice pilaf, green salad
-Curried zucchini soup, gourmet grilled cheese, fruit
-Dilled pot roast, egg noodles, acorn squash 
-Beef hash, fried eggs, toast, fruit
-Burgers with lemon pepper, hash brown casserole, roasted cauliflower , bacon water chestnut appetizers, lemon cake 
-Black bean soup, Sevilla salad, crusty bread, cherry jubilee splash 
-Shrimp Creole, rice, salad with buttermilk-garlic dressing, chutney-onion cheese spread & crackers to start
-White limas & ham over rice, tomato pie, green salad, bran raisin bread
-Brisket, fruit kugel, carrot tzimmes, salad, macaroons
-Ham loaf, rice pilaf, asparagus casserole, green salad
-Beef stroganoff, egg noodles, peas

Random things:
-Vodka Pogo 
-Blue Hawaii 
-Vanilla ice cream with cherry sauce
-Banana nut bread
 -Butter pecan ice cream with bourbon sauce