Thursday, December 14, 2017

Swedish Meatballs, December 13, 2017

Being of Swedish stock, I like to celebrate St. Lucia Day. St. Lucia is the patron saint of Sweden and her feast day is traditionally celebrated there, in part, with the oldest daughter of the family, clad in a white gown with a red sash, wreath of candles on her head, starting the day by bringing special coffee cake to the family in bed. I didn't get my act together to make the coffee cake (I actually usually do sweet buns) this morning, so I decided to skip the Van De Kamp fish I had planned for dinner and make the Swedish meatballs we picked up the last time we were at IKEA. I'd also gotten the sauce packet they sell, so I was able to use that cheat, too. I usually make my meatballs and sauce from scratch, using my cousin Lenore's recipe. However, it was great to be able to throw this together in no time, with very little effort. 15 minutes in the oven for the meatballs, 5 minutes to mix up the sauce, boil some egg noodles & season them with butter & dill, toss a bag of salad in a bowl, and done.

Chile Cheese Egg Bake, December 12, 2017

It was breakfast for dinner last night, with a scrumptious and super cheesy egg bake, sausage patties, fresh fruit, and maple cornbread with molasses maple butter. Boot adores cornbread--I wish y'all could have seen the two giant wedges he has. One great benefit about having your kids move back in with you for a bit is that there's much, much less food waste. Honestly, I would skip the maple syrup in the cornbread next time and just serve it with the butter, which is sweet enough for anyone. The bread and butter recipes came from Bon Appetit, although I modified the butter.

Chile Cheese Egg Bake
10 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
Grinding of pepper
8 oz. diced green chiles (I prefer Hatch chiles)
16 oz. lowfat cottage cheese
16 oz. colby jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add dry ingredients to eggs. Mix in everything else. Place in greased 13x9. Bake 30-35 minutes. Cut into squares for serving. Serves 8-10.

Maple Cornbread
2 1/3 c. cornmeal
1 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 1/3 c. buttermilk
4 eggs
3/4 c. maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 12" cast iron skillet (you can also use a 9x9 baking pan). Pulse dry ingredient briefly in a food processor or mix well by hand. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse meal. Whisk the buttermilk, eggs, and syrup together. Add dry mixture and stir just until moist. Put in skillet. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serves 10-12. 

Maple Molasses Butter
1 stick butter, softened
1/8 c. maple syrup
1 tbsp. dark molasses

Mix well and serve with the above cornbread or any other sturdy bread. 

Orecchiette with Garden Sauce, December 11, 2017

I very seldom make pasta sauce from scratch. I almost always get a jar of Newman's sauce of some sort or another, brown some ground beef, and add some parmesan and extra seasonings while warming the sauce. I really like my pasta that way. However, I was inspired by an Ina Garten recipe from her Cooking for Jeffrey, orecchiette with farm stand pasta sauce. I am a much lazier cook than Ina, however, and she would probably be appalled to see what I did with her creation. Ah, well. Sorry, Ina! I served it with a complete bastardization of her kale salad, as well as some crusty Pugliese bread from the local grocery. It was tasty and made a ton. Luckily, Boot really loved it and made it vanish in just a couple days. I'd been looking at it, as I put away the leftovers, and wondering how on earth we were ever going to eat it all. By all means, try her recipe, but this is quite serviceable.

Orecchiette with Garden Sauce
Good olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 small carrots, peeled & finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced (or a couple tbsp of the pre-chopped stuff my wife likes to keep on hand)
28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 c. dry red wine (I used Pinot Noir)
6 oz. tomato paste
A handful fresh basil, cut in chiffonade
A handful Italian parsley, minced
1 tbsp. sugar (normally, I would be resistant, but I've been reading about how it helps tame the acidity of the tomatoes)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper
24 oz. orecchiette
Good quality parmesan, shredded

In large, heavy pot, heat some olive oil on medium heat. Add onion, celery, & carrots, cooking until they are tender, 10-15 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add tomatoes, wine, tomato paste, basil, parsley, sugar, red pepper, a pinch of salt, and a good grinding of black pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer about an hour. Cook the pasta, drain, and add to sauce, stirring to mix completely. Heat through. Serve with cheese. Serves 8-10. 

Kale Salad with Pancetta
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1 large clove garlic
1 tbsp. Dijon
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt & pepper
2/3 c. olive oil
1 bunch Lacinato kale, stems removed
2 oz. pancetta, diced
A handful of garlic croutons
A handful of shaved parmesan

Whiz everything up to the kale in a food processor until it emulsifies. Stack the kale leaves and slice them into thin ribbons. Toss with just enough dressing to coat the kale. Cook the pancetta in a little hot olive oil until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Add croutons to the pan and toast. Toss pancetta, croutons, and shaved parmesan with the kale. Serves 2-4. 

Kielbasa and Kraut, December 10, 2017

My wife and I spent Sunday afternoon trying to wrap up shopping for Wee Boy. When we arrived home and realized we needed to figure out supper, neither of us could figure out anything that sounded very good. She'd been talking about getting barbecue and I pored over the menu online, trying to find one thing that didn't make me feel ill just thinking about it. I often enjoy barbecue, done well, and especially pulled pork. When we lived in Cleveland, we'd often venture out to Bubba's Q. In Columbus, it was trips to City Barbecue (with their alluring banana pudding). In Michigan, we'd discovered Union Woodshop, in Clarkston, and were impressed. However, I just was not feeling it, even though I think Dickey's is okay. I finally decided I could manage a kielbasa sandwich, even though I was secretly (okay, maybe not so secretly) hoping she'd just bring me a chicken sandwich from Burger King.

What she came home with, however, was something that made me very happy, indeed. She'd managed to stumble upon something we both actually felt like eating. Kielbasa and kraut! She got two different kinds of smoked sausage, actually. She and Wee Boy cut them up and chucked them into a pan with a big ol' jar of Vlasic sauerkraut. She was sorry she forgot to put in the apple. I was relieved! I don't like apples in my kraut. She served it with leftover mashed potatoes and more corn. Y'all should have seen Wee Boy shoveling in the potatoes, the kraut, the corn, the sausage! He completely loved the meal. I expect him to be a big fan of my annual New Year's Day White Dinner, too.

Oven-Fried Chicken, December 9, 2017

By Saturday, Jeannene was feeling well enough to cook. I think the cold affected what she was hungry for because all she wanted, all weekend, was comfort food. Saturday night, that turned out to be oven-fried chicken, with Bob Evans mashed potatoes and corn. She loves to mix the corn and potatoes together. In this case, they were all mixed together and covered in chicken gravy! She was in heaven! Me, I like to keep mine separated and I am happy as a clam.

The chicken was incredibly flavorful. She usually does Shake & Bake, which I don't find terribly memorable. She tried a different kind, one we'd never seen before, because neither of us can resist trying something we've not had. I think it was maybe called "Kentucky Colonel's" or something along those lines, just hinting at the 11 herbs and spices without slipping into the dangerous territory of copyright infringement. The coating tasted delicious, but didn't quite achieve a crisp texture. It was a bit floppy and my wife was disappointed with it until she tried it and realized the chicken inside was very juicy and the coating tickled the tastebuds very pleasantly. Me, personally? I would definitely use it again, but for chicken that's actually fried. I think it would be the perfect combo of great taste and pleasing texture.

Taco Loco, December 8, 2017

My wife arrived home from work on Friday completely bushed. She's been fighting a sinus infection, but hasn't been willing to miss work. By Friday, typically her night to make or obtain dinner, she was totally done. She walked in the door and asked if I'd be willing to run out for Mexican food, she didn't care where. The easiest thing to do would have been to head for the 24-hour drive-thru Mexican place in town. However, I've been wanting to take her to Taco Loco ever since Wee Boy and I met Barbara & Les there before going to the concert on the lawn with them over the summer.

Barbara says each place in town is good for a particular thing. For me, Taco Loco is definitely a carnitas joint. I was so impressed with their deliciousness! So, I got a carnitas platter, a chicken chimichanga with sides of beans and rice because Wee Boy adores beans & rice, an order of chips & salsa with guacamole, and a chorizo and cheese dish I thought was going to be like the cheesy dip you usually see at Tex-Mex places. It was not at all like that, but it was yummy tucked into a tortilla. The carnitas were as luscious as I remembered. The chicken chimi, on the other hand, was not very great. It was fine, but nothing special at all. I wasn't nuts about the salsa, either. It was the very liquidy sort that's brownish and vaguely red. But those carnitas! Worth the trip!

Pizza & Wings, December 7, 2017

We had this great plan to have every Thursday be Leftoverpalooza night. We would waste less food & clear out the fridge for the weekend grocery shopping. I came up with the idea a few months ago, but hadn't written it into my formal menu planning until this month. We have yet to do it. Either we end up with no leftovers or we don't feel like eating them or something else comes up.

Last Thursday, when I told my wife it was Leftoverpalooza, she said, "I've got dinner." She came home with two huge pizzas from Papa Murphy's, one with spinach, chicken, and sausage, the other with pepperoni. She added extra cheese. She loved the chicken one, I loved the pepperoni one. Boot's girlfriend and I often joke about how similar Boot and his mother are--and how much alike we two are. Sure enough, she loved the same pizza I did, while Boot sang the praises of his mom's favorite. However, she and Boot were aligned on the hot wings Jeannene brought home from the grocery to have with the pizza--they weren't that hot and they didn't know what we were talking about!

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Puerco Asado, December 6, 2017

Yesterday, I remembered in time that I meant to marinate my pork roast so we could have puerco asado for supper. The smell permeated the kitchen even before I started cooking it, making it smell like nochebuena, Christmas Eve. My wife had urged me to buy some plantains and hoped I would make something yummy and Cuban. Fried pork chunks, masitas de puerco, is my very favorite Cuban dish, but this one is much less labor-intensive, so I tend to make it a lot more often. As usual, I served it with black beans, white rice, fried ripe plantains (maduros)--although, they could have been sweeter and more to my liking if they'd had a few more days to ripen--and a butter lettuce salad with avocado slices and sweet onion slivers. I could just put the dressing in a glass and drink it--or pour it over my pork, which is what I did last night. This pork is also great with mojo criollo to accompany it. Yum! For the dressing, simply whisk together about 1/2 c. Spanish olive oil with the juice of 1 lemon until it emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper.

Cuban Puerco Asado
5 lb. pork loin
4-5 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. oregano
Salt & pepper
1/4 c. lime juice
1/4 c. orange juice
1/4 c. Spanish olive oil (non-Spanish okay, too)
1 c. dry red wine

Several hours before cooking, score the pork all over with a knife. Pound the garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper into a paste. Rub all over pork roast. Add juices, oil, and wine to the roast (I use a large ziploc bag) and marinate a minimum of 2 hours. Overnight is even better. Make sure you turn it every so often. 

I love black beans over white (usually jasmine, for me, but I used basmati last night because we find ourselves with oceans of it and I was able to locate it more quickly than the jasmine rice) rice. I would cheerfully eat it with a salad as a tasty lunch. I like to sprinkle mine with some chopped onions. My wife likes shredded cheese on hers. I very seldom make my black beans from dry beans. If that's your thing, go ahead and start them soaking when you start the pork marinating the night before. Otherwise, here's a cheater version I usually use:

Quick & Easy Black Beans
1/2 c. Spanish olive oil (again, any good quality olive oil is fine)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cans blqck beans (not drained)
1 tsp. cumin
A few dashes hot sauce (if you like it)
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar (also optional, but I think it really brightens it)
Salt & pepper
Chopped onions (garnish)

Heat oil. Cook the garlic, onions, & pepper until they are soft. Add rest and heat through. Serves 4-6. 

Pumpkin Pancakes, December 5, 2017

I'd intended to make roast pork, Cuban-style, for dinner Tuesday night. However, I completely forgot, until about half an hour before I needed to start cooking, that I needed to marinate the meat. Whoopsie! Luckily, I had all the ingredients on hand for Wednesday night's planned dinner and it required no advance prep at all, so I was able simply to flip the nights.

I made a big ol' pile of pumpkin pancakes, an entire package of bacon, and an entire package of sausage patties. I also handed out Cuties to anyone who wanted them, in a nod to healthfulness. I'm so happy they're back in season! May I pause for just a moment to gripe about my local grocery not carrying Bob Evans sausage, though? Not that Jimmy Dean is horrible, but, for this Ohio girl, Bob Evans is the best. I could quit griping and submit a product request for that, lacinato kale, Italian parsley, and Goya Spanish-style chorizo (so I don't have to go to World Market every dang time I want chorizo), I suppose. Anyway, it was a mountain of food and, at the end, the only scrap that was left was a lonesome half piece of bacon. The pancakes vanished particularly rapidly, largely down Boot's gullet. I had no idea he would be so crazy about them. Personally, I thought they needed a bit more of all the seasonings and a bit more pumpkin. Next time, I'll up the amounts. You maybe should, too, but here's what I did. It was a good thing for Boot's girlfriend, who is not a big fan of pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pancakes
1 1/4 c. flour
3 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. each cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
Pinch salt
Pinch cloves
4 eggs
1 stick butter (plus more--or oil--for cooking)
3/4 c. pumpkin purée
1 1/4 c. milk
Dash vanilla

Whisk dry ingredients together. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Set aside. Melt the stick of butter and gradually stir into egg yolks. mix in pumpkin, milk, & vanilla. Add to flour and mix well. Fold in egg whites. Heat a little butter or oil in a skillet or on a griddle. Drop batter by 1/4-1/3 cup measures into skillet/onto griddle, a few pancakes at a time, & cook through until lightly browned on each side. As you finish pancakes, remove them to a 250 degree oven to keep them warm. Serve with warm maple syrup. It also occurs to me that some toasted pepitas would be lovely sprinkled on top. 

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Chicken with White Wine Sauce, December 4, 2017

I love food with a nice, tart punch to it. Last night's dinner was a completely luscious rendition of that sort of dish. I made chicken cutlets with a lemony white wine sauce, accompanied by baked potatoes so enormous none of us could finish ours and a green bean succotash. I cooked the potatoes extra-long in the oven and the creamy, fluffy interiors were a perfect counterpoint to the tang of the chicken. There's nothing like a perfectly baked potato and having two leftover means I'll be making some fried potatoes to go with tonight's supper.

Chicken with White Wine Sauce
6 thin chicken breast cutlets
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 c. dry white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
2 c. chicken stock
A handful of chopped parsley
Some capers
Juice of 1 lemon

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with flour. Heat 1 tbsp. butter in a skillet. Sauté chicken in butter until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. I needed to do this in two batches, keeping the chicken warm in a 250 degree oven until the sauce was done. Add shallots to same skillet and cook until softened, just about a minute. Add wine and stir to deglaze pan. Add stock and bring to a boil. Let bubble until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Add the second tablespoon of butter, cut into small bits. Stir to melt the butter. Add parsley, capers, & lemon juice. Spoon over chicken when serving. Serves 4-6. 

Green Bean Succotash
1/2 lb. green beans
2 tbsp. olive oil
 1 c. cooked lima beans
1 c. corn 
1/4 red pepper, diced
1 tbsp. butter (this may be easily omitted)
1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
Salt & pepper

Cook green beans in boiling, salted water about 4 minutes, just until they're crisp-tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté beans a minute or so. Add the rest of the veggies and sauté until everything is hot and tender. Add everything else. Serves 4-6.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Steak with Tarragon Melting Sauce, December 3, 2017

My wife loves to cook and eat steak. She is, in fact, positively steak-mad. Lucky us, then, last night, when she made some beautiful steaks, using a Paula Deen recipe featuring a glorious, green, herby sauce. I know she tinkered with the sauce, but I don't know what alterations she made, except she definitely used less butter because she kept saying, "This is too much butter. This can't possibly be right,' while I thought, "Um, it's a Paula Deen recipe." Whatever she did, the sauce came out tasting fresh and bright. She says she followed the marinating directions to the letter.

She accompanied the meat with some Near East quinoa (I wish I knew what variety--it was delish), a Taylor Farms chopped kale salad, and perfectly cooked broccoli, which was especially terrific with the steak sauce. I love having a wife who loves to cook and is great at it.

Old Chicago (Plus Gingerbread Muffins), December 2, 2017

The wife suggested an early dinner before Christmas shopping on Saturday. We'd fortified ourselves with gingerbread muffins I made in the morning and a little nibble of lunch, but sure didn't want any hangry grumpiness to mar our fun excursion. I thought pizza sounded good and was glad she agreed. So, off to Old Chicago we went. This location is fairly new and has previously left a whole lot to be desired, service-wise. The pizza was okay, though, so we hoped the service issues were ironed out.

The kitchen has certainly gotten faster, but, man, the service still lacks finesse. The young man who served us was, I suppose, pleasant enough, but he didn't strike me as particularly ept. I'm finding, in general, that much of the service in Colorado, is a bit on the relaxed side.

However, the boneless wings were serviceable and the artichoke bread quite tasty. You should have seen Wee Boy when he tasted it! I guess that means I should definitely make my artichoke dip for our annual tree-trimming celebration. My Chicago 7 pizza (think "supreme") on their ale crust was yummy, although I will probably get the thin crust next time. Wee Boy thought it was lots better than his plain sausage kids' pizza, especially the green pepper bits! Have to remember that for future visits! Sadly, the margherita pizza my wife ordered fell far short of expectations. We were assured that it truly was fresh mozzarella on the pizza, and that it just isn't spread all over the pizza. It was, in fact, spread over far more of the pizza than it should have been and was not like any fresh mozzarella we've seen. Perhaps they define "fresh mozzarella" as "not stale mozzarella." Anyway, it was basically a cheese pizza with a few tomato slices and a smattering of basil. My wife sent it back, as it wasn't what she wanted, and took over Wee Boy's pizza, instead. While I definitely prefer Ben's Brick Oven Pizza to Old Chicago, it's closer and the food is fine. I would never send someone there on purpose, but neither would I dissuade them.

Oh, and if you'd like to make some gingerbread muffins at your house, here's the recipe. I make them often, especially in December. If you don't already have a traditional Christmas morning sweet, these are perfect. Thank Nigella Lawson, who developed the recipe.

Gingerbread Muffins
1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 egg
1/3 c. dark brown sugar
1/3 c. light brown sugar
3/4 c. milk
1/4 tsp. balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp. oil
4 tbsp. dark corn syrup
4 tbsp. molasses

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients together. Whisk the egg, then add the sugars to it. By the way, I only had dark brown sugar this last time I made these and it was stellar with all dark. Add milk and vinegar to egg mixture. Add oil, corn syrup, and molasses. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Stir to mix, leaving it fairly lumpy. Place in muffin cups (I use cupcake papers when I make them) and bake 20 minutes, until tops are dry. Nigella notes that they'll still feel a bit "squidgy." Cool on racks. Makes a dozen. 

Gunther Toody's, December 1, 2017

In our family, when a birthday comes along, the person we're celebrating gets to choose whatever they want for dinner, whether at home or out. It's been interesting to see how the desires for birthday dinner have evolved over the years. Pie wins for both the most expensive (elaborate sushi meals out, lobster/crab/steak meals at home) and cheapest (gas station food, at least 3 years). My wife wins for most consistent (very, very often, steak or pasta, although she asks for the occasional dinner out or beef bouguignon at home). I nearly always want to go out, usually to a farm-to-table sort of place or, if that's not an option, The Melting Pot.

Boot has usually requested either wings or my chicken pot pie. His evolution into a more worldly eater was apparent this year, when he wanted to go out for bulgogi. However, by the time of his dinner, he had decided he wasn't in the mood for a 45-minute drive to his chosen restaurant. So, he asked us to suggest some local spots. Thinking he'd like the 1950s design ethic and the simple food, I suggested Gunther Toody's diner as an alternative the very crowded chains. He ended up really liking it, as did the rest of us.

He had a Hang Ten burger, starring pineapple, teriyaki, & grilled onions. My aversion to mixing sweet & meat made that repulsive to me, but he declared it great. He was also happy to have gravy on his fries. I really enjoyed my pork tenderloin sandwich and mashed potatoes. It's not easy to find a really good pork tenderloin sandwich, but this fits the bill. I also indulged in a chocolate malted, as this is one of the few places I've found where a malted actually tastes of malt. My wife & Boot's girlfriend both chose spicy burgers, my wife enjoying the green chile burger & his girlfriend opting for the chipotle version. Wee Boy dug into his macaroni & cheese with glee.

I was frankly, surprised he had room for anything, given the tremendous amount of sweet potato fries he gobbled before the main course arrived! They were just about a perfect rendition of the dish, with chipotle ranch for dipping. We also shared a plate of their delightful chicken tenders, which are so delicate and tender as to be nearly ethereal. Of all their terrific menu items, these are my favorite.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Butternut Squash Soup, October 4, 2017

Oh, the best intentions don't necessarily lead to great results. My wife travels so much for work that I like to have something homey & cozy for her to eat when she gets home. The peanut butter cookies I greeted her with at the airport turned out great. Sadly, the squash soup I had waiting at home was quite disappointingly bland. At least I had veggie pizza left over from the night before, so she did have something good to eat. I think if I were going to make this again, I would use broth instead of water and use more seasonings, maybe a little thyme or something. The recipe is probably salvageable, so I'm posting what I did here and you can embellish at will.

Butternut Squash Soup
1 onion, chopped roughly
1 stalk celery, chopped roughly
2 carrots, chopped roughly
3 cloves garlic, peeled only
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 c. water (I would use chicken or veggie broth)
1 lb. butternut squash cubes
1/2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & cubed
(I would add some herbs like thyme)

Heat olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onion, celery, carrots, & garlic. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes, salt, pepper, & water/broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until everything is very tender, about half an hour. Purée with an immersion blender (or, very carefully and in batches, in a regular blender). Serves 4.

Veggie Pizza, October 3, 2017

Seems like all my dinners this month so far are "I'd intended to..." dinners. This is another. I'd intended to make bbq chicken sandwiches to go with the veggie pizza I made, since the veggie pizza is basically an appetizer. Then, I decided I didn't even actually want the sandwiches and the pizza could easily be a main dish. So, I added some cut-up apple slices to that and called it good. The very first time I made this veggie pizza was when we were visiting my fairy godmama's enchanted cottage. Her beautiful old White German Shepherd, Silver, lay under the kitchen table as we cut veggies, rolled out crescent dough, and slathered crust with cream cheese mixture. We were surrounded by her hand-painted art cupboards and a shimmer of fairy dust. I think of that afternoon now every time I make this. If you're making this as an appetizer, it works best pressed into a 13x9 baking pan.

Veggie Pizza
2 rolls crescent roll dough
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 pkg. dry Ranch dressing mix
A couple of scallions, sliced
A handful of baby carrots, cut into slivers
Some tiny cauliflower florets
Some tiny broccoli florets
A handful of mini sweet peppers, sliced into rings
A handful of shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press the crescent roll dough into a pizza pan. Bake 10 minutes, until golden. Mix cream cheese, mayonnaise, and dressing mix. Spread on crust. Top with veggies and press them into the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Serves 8. 

Monday, October 02, 2017

Macaroni & Cheese, October 2, 2017

I'd intended to get to the grocery to pick up for for the week today, but it was rainy and chilly and the news was awful enough that I really wanted just to play blocks with my baby boy. So, we had Stouffer's frozen macaroni and cheese for dinner. I threw together a Greek salad, too, whisking a tablespoon of red wine vinegar with 1/3 tbsp. olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of sugar, to be tossed with baby spinach, feta, and kalamata olives. Simple and delicious, if a bit sodium laden!

Cheddar Fondue, October 1, 2017

I'd intended to make cheddar fondue while it was still September, but my wife requested roasted chicken, bumping this to October 1. It turned out to be a perfect meal to celebrate a rainish first night of my favorite month. I served with with French bread, broccoli & cauliflower florets, baby carrots, tiny bell peppers, and slices of apple. It was an incredibly easy meal and everyone loved it. I also brought out the caramel apple dip for dessert. Yum!

Cheddar Fondue
3 c. shredded extra-sharp cheddar
1 c. shredded Gruyère 
1 tbsp. flour
About 1 tsp. minced garlic or garlic paste
12 oz. bottle beer (I used a Hefeweizen)
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
Hot sauce, to taste

Toss cheeses with flour. Heat garlic & beer to a boil over medium heat, preferably in a heavy fondue pot. Reduce to a simmer. Adding a little cheese at a time, stir constantly until all cheese is melted. When fully melted, add the rest. Keep warm over Sterno. Serves 4-6. 

October 2017 Dinners

-Cheddar fondue, veggies, French bread, apple slices

-Veggie pizza, salad, fruit

-Chicken ranch taco salad, guacamole & chips, fruit

-Butternut squash soup, fall harvest salad with pumpkin goddess dressing, cornmeal rolls, peanut butter cookies

-Cider-braised pork, buttermilk mashed potatoes with brown butter, spicy Tuscan kale

-Goat cheese pita pizzas, Caesar salad, olives, fruit

-Beef stew casserole, salad, fruit, crusty bread

-Penne with tomato cream sauce, salad, fruit, bread

-Subs, chips, veggies & dip, ginger ale baked apples

-Chile verde, tortillas, salad, fruit

-Hamburger soup, crusty bread, fruit

-Scrambled egg hash, bacon, fruit salad, English muffins

-Creamed turkey, peas, salad, orange jello with pineapple

-Venetian pork, mashed potatoes, broccoli

-Brats, Italian-seasoned tater tots, roasted cauliflower

-Asian pork sliders, sesame noodles, green beans

-Bean soup, crusty bread, fruit

-Vietnamese delivery in honor of my grandmommy's birthday

Plus, miscellaneous:
Friday Sips & Nibbles-
-Garlic cheese spread with toasts & Pepe Gonzalez

-Broccoli rabe bruschetta & Amaretto slush

-Camembert caraway spread with crackers & grapefruit mocktails

Saturday Breakfast Specials-
-Lavender Earl Grey scones

-Rosemary buttermilk scones

-Apple butter muffins

Sabbath Snacks-
-Brown Cow

-Black bean salsa with pita chips

-Tapenade with crackers or toasts

Sweet Treats-
-Spiced cider

-Chocolate cake

-Butter pecan ice cream

-Chocolate chip chess pie

-Orange gingerbread cut-out cookies

-Carrot cookies

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What I'm Cooking, July 2017


-Filet mignon with Stilton sauce, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, green salad, garlic cheese biscuits

-Cheeseburgers, garlicky new potatoes, green salad, tomatoes and cream, strawberry shortcake

-Penne with herbed zucchini, green salad, fruit, good bread

-Pimiento cheese sandwiches, chips, green salad, fruit

-Cream of broccoli soup, layered salad, pineapple muffins

-BBQ chicken, hot bean salsa with tortilla chips, corn on the cob, green salad

-Biscuits & gravy, fruit salad, sausage

-Hoppin' John, green salad, fruit

-Fried chicken, potato salad, pea salad, deviled eggs, fruit, strawberry slab pie

Special Breakfasts:
-Pancakes with fresh apricot jam

-Maple-glazed walnut biscuits


Drinks & Nibbles:
-Herbed cheese spread

-Onion tea sandwiches

-Sweet & sour meatballs

-3-bean salad with Dijon-tarragon dressing

-Sour cherry lemonade


Friday, June 16, 2017

BLTs, June 15, 2017

Last night was kind of a night of, "Oh, man" while I was fixing dinner. "Oh, man, I can't find the orzo." "Oh, man, this salad dressing is WAY too boozy!" "Oh, man, one of our tomatoes went bad." Oh, man, the multi-grain bread has gone moldy." And so forth. It's amazing how quickly bread & fruit go moldy (or dry out) here in Colorado! Luckily, I was able to salvage everything & we had a yummy dinner of BLTs on white bread (I put some blue cheese mashed with milk on mine), lemon parmesan penne (instead of orzo---just the juice of half a lemon, a little butter, & a little parmesan stirred into hot penne), a green bean & radish salad with prosciutto, inspired by a Bon Appetit recipe that called for sherry in the dressing, and watermelon, which Wee Boy and I completely wiped out!

Green Bean & Radish Salad with Prosciutto
14 oz. green beans
5 radishes, sliced paper thin
1 1/2 oz. prosciutto, cut into thin strips
1 1/2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp. minced chives
1/8 c. olive oil
Salt & pepper
A few shavings campesino cheese (ricotta salata/mizithra/feta/pecorino)

Boil the beans until crisp tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and cool. Toss with radishes & prosciutto. Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and chives together. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, until it emulsifies. Season with salt & pepper. Toss with salad. Shave cheese over top. Serves 4. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Taste of June 2017

I've been having such fun cooking this month! My wife has been home all month so far and, while it's great to cook just for myself and our wee boy, it's ever so much more nice to have her at the table, too. I'm taking a moment to play a little catch-up with some recipes from the start of the month.

The first dinner I cooked for us this month was basil scrambled eggs (just add chopped basil to however you make your scrambled eggs), hash browns (just frozen), bacon, a gorgeous cantaloupe, and oven-toasted cornbread.

On June 5th, in honor of what would have been my grandparents' 74th anniversary, I made their favorite summer dinner. On their way home from the rec center (where my granddad played table tennis and my grandmom enjoyed a water workout) on summer days, they would always stop at the farm stand by the river. They'd pick up juicy, sun-warm tomatoes, sweet corn, and a fragrant melon. Dinner would be Russian sandwiches (no clue why they were called that), which were slices of sturdy toast topped with tomatoes, crisp bacon, and extra-sharp cheddar (they liked Cabot and picked up a huge block at the Vermont Country Store on every visit to my auntie), then broiled until the cheese was melted. To accompany them, they always had sweet corn (boiled no more than a few minutes; they kept a special stick of butter, mostly wrapped but with one end exposed, in the fridge just to rub on sweet corn) and often melon. My granddad was allergic to stone fruits, so no glorious plums, peaches, nectarines, or cherries for him, poor guy. At least he could enjoy summer melon.

I also made a mayonnaise cake in their honor. This is a very simple chocolate cake, not overly rich or labor-intensive, and well-suited to an after-school snack or other low-key cake-eating occasion. If you need icing, feel free to add it.

Mayonnaise Cake
1 c. sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. warm water
1 3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. vanilla
Pinch salt
1 c. mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar, cocoa, and baking soda. Add rest of ingredients and blend well. Pour into lightly greased 9x9 baking dish. Bake 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting. Serves 6-8. 

Another scrumptious dinner I made was an onion and cauliflower tart, with a beautiful green salad and some fresh pineapple. I'm not very proficient with tarts yet, so the sides fell in a bit and some of the filling ran out onto the baking sheet below, but I loved it and my wife and baby both gobbled it up, too. I might just make it in a pie plate next time for less mess. This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit magazine.

Onion and Cauliflower Tart
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets and steamed or roasted
1 pie shell
1 thinly-sliced Vidalia or other sweet onion, caramelized & cooled*
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 eggs
8 oz. mascarpone
1/2 c. whipping cream
Salt and pepper
A bit of freshly ground nutmeg (tinned is fine, as well)
1 c. grated Gruyère cheese
1 c. grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press pie shell into tart or pie pan (9"). Line with foil and top with pie weights/beans. Bake 20 minutes on a baking sheet. Remove weights and foil. Bake another 5 minutes. Cool. Brush pie shell with Dijon. Add onion and cauliflower. Whisk eggs with mascarpone, whipping cream, and seasonings. Add Gruyère. Pour into tart pan. Sprinkle with parmesan. If you then realize you forgot to add the Gruyère, as I did, you can just sprinkle it on top, too. Bake 40-45 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before cutting. Serves 8. 
*To caramelize onions, heat 1 1/2 tbsp. oil in a large skillet. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat, until deep golden brown, 40-45 minutes. To quick-"caramelize" onions, you can melt a tablespoon of butter in the skillet, then add the onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until there's a pale brown color in the bottom of the skillet. This will take about 5 minutes. Add a couple tablespoons of water and stir to deglaze the pan. Continue this process until the onions are nicely brown and completely softened. This will take about 15 minutes and produces very acceptable onions for this purpose. This is also a decent technique for onions for burgers and that sort of thing. 

I went from this fairly gourmet meal to an old-school chicken and rice casserole, served with a green salad and fresh cherries. I'd meant to make lima beans, but the water took forever to boil and the rest of the food was done. I like to cook my limas about 20-25 minutes, so I decided to forego that side dish. It was good with just the salad and fruit. 

Chicken and Rice Casserole
2 c. diced, cooked chicken (and, honestly, if you don't have time to cook the chicken, it cooks just fine with the rest of the casserole)
2 c. diced celery
2 c. cooked rice (I used basmati because it was on hand)
10 oz. can cream of chicken soup*
1 c. crushed cornflakes
1/2 c. slivered almonds
2 tbsp. butter (can halve this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine chicken, celery, rice, and soup. Put in 2 qt. casserole dish. Sauté cornflakes, almonds, and butter until everything is very slightly browned. Keep an eye on this or you will have to re-make it, like I did when I burned it. Spread across the top of the casserole. Bake 40-45 minutes. Serves 6-8. 

*If your wife graciously does the grocery shopping so you can stay with the sleeping baby and she forgets the soup, you can make a version that is great in recipes, but not something you would eat as soup, necessarily. Just melt 3 tbsp. butter in a saucepan. Slowly stir in 3 tbsp. flour and cook, stirring, until it's fully mixed and thick. Gradually whisk in 1/2 c. chicken broth (I use low-sodium) and 1/2 c. milk (I used 2%). Cook and whisk until it's smooth. Bring to a gentle boil, then cook, whisking, until thickened. Season with salt & pepper. This makes an equivalent amount to a can of the condensed stuff. 

Earlier this week, I made pork & artichoke enchiladas, which were quite yummy, and served them with canned refried beans, Mexican rice, salad, and cherries. Imagining enchiladas to be incredibly labor-intensive, I had always just stuck to enchilada casseroles. However, I finally decided to play around with making some. My wife really loves Tex-Mex and she oohed and aahed over these. 

Pork and Artichoke Enchiladas
1 lb. pork, cooked & shredded (I ended up using pork chops, since that was what we had in the freezer, and just cutting them in thin strips and sautéing them)
4 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lg. onion, finely-chopped
14 oz. artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2-3 tbsp. chili powder (I used 2)
1 tbsp. flour
Salt & pepper
2-2 1/2 c. chicken broth
8 5-6" flour tortillas (corn are fine, too)
2 c. shredded jack cheese (or, if using pre-shredded, Mexican blend is fine)
1/2 c. sliced black olives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook half the onion with the artichoke hearts and seasonings in 2 tbsp. oil, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chili and flour and cook another few minutes, stirring. Gradually whisk in broth. Bring to a low boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and slightly creamy. Heat 1 tsp. oil in a small skillet. Cook the tortillas about 20 seconds per side in this oil, setting each on a paper towel lined plate when done. Spread 1/2 c. sauce in 13x9" baking pan. Mix half the rest of the sauce with the pork. Put a small amount of pork, a little shredded cheese, a few olive slices, and a scattering of onions in each tortilla. Roll up and place, seam-side-down, in the baking dish. Cover with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. remove foil and bake another 10 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving. Serves 4 very hungry or 8 not as hungry people. 

Mexican Rice
1/2 onion, chopped
1 jar chunky salsa ( I like Newman's Own Medium)
Salt & pepper
2 c. hot cooked rice
1 c. shredded cheddar

Mix everything together & heat through. Serves 4-6. This also makes a good vegetarian main dish with the addition of beans. I like dark red kidney beans for this. 

Since Jeannene also loves Italian food, I made her an Italian dinner Tuesday night. It was easy and delicious, fettuccine with rosa sauce, a big green salad, and some fresh Italian bread, still warm from the grocery store bakery. 

Fettuccine with Rosa Sauce
1 lb. fettuccine (or whatever your favorite pasta shape is)
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
29 oz. tomato sauce
Salt & pepper
A pinch of sugar
1 c. heavy cream (can sub milk, but use a smidge less)
1 c. shredded parmesan (can use less)
Chopped basil

Cook & drain the pasta. While it cooks, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil and butter until softened and translucent. Add tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar. Heat through. Add cream and parmesan. Heat through. Add pasta and toss to coat. Serve with more parmesan and basil. Serves 6-8. 

After a weekend of Jeannene's yummy burgers & dogs, some mediocre Indian food at a new place in town, and two nights of leftovers, I got back to cooking last Tuesday. Well, it was sort of cooking, at least. I made some delicious sandwiches with garlic & herb jack cheese, avocado, and mixed greens. We had chips and green salad with those.

Wednesday, I made a very homey dinner, perhaps better suited to winter than summer, but good even now. We had meatball stroganoff over egg noodles, with salad and sweet cherries. Honestly, I like plain old hamburger stroganoff better and it's less work. 

Meatball Stroganoff
1 lb. ground beef (I use the 94-96% lean)
1 small onion, chopped
1 slice white bread, torn into small pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I use the lower sodium & fat sort)
10 oz. can beef consommé (regular beef broth is fine, too)
3 oz. cream cheese, cubed and softened 
1/2 c. sour cream
1 tsp. dill

Mix together beef, onion, bread, egg, garlic, salt, and pepper. Shape into 16-20 balls. Brown in a skillet that's been coated with cooking spray. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate. Wipe out skillet. In same skillet, mix soups and cream cheese, stirring until it's smooth and well-blended. Add meatballs, cover, and simmer 10 minutes or so. Mix sour cream with dill. Stir into sauce and heat through. Serves 6. 

Thursday night, I'd planned to make lemon chicken with rice salad and zucchini sticks. However, when we were invited at the last minute to join friends for dinner at Taco Loco and a free concert in the park, how could I say no? Turns out Taco Loco has scrumptious carnitas. Wee Boy really enjoyed his flautas, too. 

Friday night, I picked Jeannene up from the airport and we headed directly out to shop for some capris to get me through the summer. There's a Rusty Bucket in the shopping center we went to, so we had supper there, a beer cheese burger for me (pretty bland) and a great Buffalo chicken sandwich for her. We tried Wee Boy on chicken fingers, but he was much more interested in my burger!

Saturday night, Jeannene made brat burgers, served with chips and melon. She'd found the burgers in the freezer section and they are very tasty! Sunday night, it was white chicken chili by the wife for us grown folks. She thought it would be too spicy for Wee Boy, so she made him macaroni and cheese. He got corn and beans from our chili, though, and we all had honeydew melon for dessert. 

Last night, I did a classic cook-out menu of hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, green salad, and cantaloupe. The twist on the hot dogs was that I put cream cheese, mustard, and chopped onions on them, Seattle-style. I'd never tried that before---I give it a thumbs-up! I used the Neelys' potato salad recipe, except I used mayonnaise, instead of Miracle Whip. I think I'll try the Miracle Whip next time, as it seemed a bit bland. It may also be better today. Haven't tried it yet. I did the baked beans in the crockpot, just Bush's that I doctored up a bit. I used the country-style Bush's, the 28-oz. can. I stirred in about half a small onion, chopped, 1/3 c. Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, 1/4 c. dark brown sugar, and almost a tablespoon of yellow mustard. Then, I covered them & cooked them on low about 4 hours. 

Tonight, we're waiting on pizza, which I'll serve with green salad, honeydew, and Rainier cherries.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Spinach & Feta Melts, May 9, 2017

Continuing with my sandwiches for dinner theme, last night, I made spinach & feta melts. I have a loaf of 100% rye bread from the farmers' market, bought specifically with this meal in mind. I toasted slices of the dense, fragrant bread. Then, I topped them with fresh spinach leaves, sliced kalamata olives, and slabs of imported feta cheese. I broiled them until the cheese was soft and starting to brown around the edges. I served these open-faced sandwiches with hummus, pita, baby carrots, and mango-based fruit salad from the grocery. I'd intended to make a more complicated dinner, but this was really yummy and gave me extra time to play with my little Bear. That little Bear, by the way, was a big fan of the sandwiches---especially the olives.

Tuna Sandwiches, May 8, 2017

I'd intended to make a real dinner Monday night, but I'd been hungry for tuna salad and had all the ingredients. My wee boy had been asking for tuna a couple days before, so I think that was also in my head. I wasn't sure he'd ever had tuna, but he very clearly asked for it. So, Monday night, I chopped celery, doled out mayonnaise, tipped in a bit of pickle relish, mixed it all with tuna, seasoned with salt and pepper, and we had a nice batch of tuna salad. We'd picked up a beautiful loaf of sourdough at the farmers' market, so we had it on that. Delicious, although I think I got a little overly enthusiastic with the relish. Ah, well. I served it with chips, cucumber slices, and a fruit salad, starring mango, we picked up at the grocery.

Spinach & Gruyère Strata, Weekend Brunch, May 7, 2017

We didn't have fancy dinners on Saturday or Sunday. We always, always end up throwing away entirely too many leftovers, so I decided to institute a weekly Leftoverpalooza. It's going to work out especially nicely the weeks my wife has to travel for work, as they won't even seem like leftovers to her. That was true this week. She was eager to sample the curried turkey pot pie and North Indian style mashed potatoes I made while she was in New Jersey. I heated some for myself, too, but took longer to get the baby to sleep than expected and then fell asleep in the nursery chair. Oops! When I awoke, it was 3 a.m. and my wife was asleep on the couch. My leftovers had long since gotten cold and didn't seem at all appealing. So, I had a bowl of raisin bran and prepped a strata for our breakfast before climbing into bed.

As I was sautéing onions at 3:30 in the morning, I was questioning my sanity and thinking it'd be far better just to go to bed and have fried eggs in the morning. However, when we actually ate the strata, I was congratulating myself for going ahead with my plan, ever how late it may have been when I did. It was truly delicious. I'd wanted to create a wonderful meal for Jeannene before she had to fly out to Montreal that evening and I succeeded quite well. This dish would make for an excellent one to serve guests, as it's impressive and super simple. Plus, you can make it the night before and you just have to pop it in the oven in the morning. The original recipe came from Gourmet Magazine back in 2003 and I've altered it only very slightly.

Spinach and Gruyère Strata
1/4 onion, chopped
1 tbsp. butter or olive oil
Salt & pepper
A grating of fresh nutmeg
5 oz. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 loaf French bread (4 c.), cubed
3 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated
2 oz. parmesan, grated
1 1/2 c. milk (2% or skim is fine)
5 eggs
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

Sauté onion in butter/oil until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add spinach and cook another minute or so. Place 1/3 of the bread into a greased (I use cooking spray) 2-quart casserole dish. Top with 1/3 of the spinach mixture. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheeses. Repeat with another two sets of layers. Whisk everything else together, adding a bit more salt & pepper, if desired. Pour evenly over the layers in the casserole dish. Cover and chill 8 hours or so. Let stand at room temperature half an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until puffed golden, and cooked through, 45-55 minutes. Serves 4-6. 

We had early dinner Sunday, too. We found a gorgeous heirloom tomato at the farmers' market that I just had to use in Russian sandwiches, an open-faced concoction beloved in my family for at least 4 generations. Apparently, if you Google "Russian sandwich," you will find a sandwich with salad as the filling. This is not that Russian sandwich---in fact, there's not much Russian about it. My friend, Lisann, says, "Except people will be rushin' to eat it." It's basically toast with a layer of tomato, a layer of crisp bacon, and a layer of extra-sharp cheddar. I made this round on flax & sunflower bread. I served our sandwiches with kale salad ((recipe here) and had angel food cake (from the grocery) topped with macerated strawberries and whipped cream.

Tacos, May 5, 2017

This post will prove to some of my readers who think we always have fancy dinners and might, perhaps, be food snobs, that neither is the case. With it being Cinco de Mayo and our son's 18-month birthday, my wife, whose turn it was to pick dinner, decided to make tacos and refried beans for our supper. Simple and sustaining. For the tacos, she used an Old El Paso kit, which she, as always, doctored up a bit. We were concerned that the meat would be too spicy for our wee boy, but he was happy to eat it with soft tortillas. He always loves beans.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Shepherd's Pie, Of Sorts, May 4, 2017

In one of those old church cookbooks---you know, the ones where the recipes are never tested---I found a recipe for shepherd's pie that included ingredients (which I updated a bit, believe it or not) and what to do with them up to the baking point (largely, opening cans). Then, nada. Well, it was pretty easy to decide what to do after that, so I jumped in, thinking it sounded homey. It was pretty good, to me. To my wife, it was fabulous! She said it reminded her of the hamburger gravy they used to serve at her school. We had just been talking about school lunches the other day and she had told me how very much she loved hamburger gravy day. So, I was very happy I made it. Thanks, Punxsutawney UCC folks! I'd planned to serve this with salad and fruit, but I got lazy.

Shepherd's Pie, Of Sorts
1 lb. ground beef, browned (I use the 96% lean)
Salt & pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup (low-fat & low sodium)
1 can green beans, drained well
1 package Bob Evans prepared mashed potatoes (or whatever brand you like)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place ground beef in a 2-qt. casserole dish. Top with green beans and mushroom soup. Spread mashed potatoes evenly over the top. Bake 30-40 minutes. Serves 4-6. 

Warm Lentil Salad, May 3, 2017

My wife truly despises lentils, so I try to take advantage of her work trips as opportunities to have lentils for supper. That and sloppy joes, which I could probably eat every night for a week. Tonight, Wee Boy and I enjoyed a warm lentil salad with some cheddar, blue cheese, and rosemary gougères and fresh mandarin oranges. He is a big fan of legumes of any sort, so he was completely down with the lentil plan. Normally, I use sherry or red wine vinegar in lentils. Normally, I would never put honey in a savory dish like this. However, it seemed like it would be fun to fancy up the lentils this time. Next time, I'll go with my old standbys. This was good, don't get me wrong. It was just a tad more sweet than I would have liked.

Warm Lentil Salad
2 c. French green lentils
1/2 onion, chopped
14 baby carrots, diced (or 2 regular ones---I just had the minis on hand)
2 celery stalks, diced
3 c. water
4 strips bacon (optional)
2 tbsp. olive oil (if not using bacon)
Salt and pepper
A splash of balsamic vinegar
A small squeeze of lemon juice (fresh is highly recommended here)
A dollop of honey
Salad greens (I used spring mix)

Put lentils, onion, carrots, celery, and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook about 40 minutes. Drain, if necessary, and place in large bowl. Fry bacon until crisp. Drain, leaving a bit of the fat in the pan. Return lentils to pan and toss with bacon grease. If not using bacon, toss with warmed olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add balsamic, lemon, and honey. Mix well. Serve over greens. Serves 4-6. 

I never made or ate gougères before tonight, although I had long wanted to try them. Frankly, they are a bit too eggy for my taste, rather reminiscent of Yorkshire puddings. These were fine, but not something I would seek in the future. If you like eggy, though, you will love these. They're super simple, too. You can sub whatever cheeses you have on hand or love best. I jumped off from a Giant Eagle grocery chain free recipe, but switched both the cheese and the herbs. 

Cheddar, Blue Cheese, and Rosemary Gougères
1 c. water
5 tbsp. butter
3/4 c. flour
3 eggs
3 oz. grated sharp cheddar
A sprinkle of crumbled blue cheese
A sprinkle of rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring the water and butter to a boil. Over low heat, add flour and mix until batter is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly. Add cheeses and rosemary. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake half an hour. Makes 3 dozen. You can also make them a bit bigger and bake just a smidge longer. 

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Curried Turkey Pot Pie, May 2, 2017

Tonight's dinner was perfect for a cool, rainy evening. Wee boy gobbled everything up with gusto and I quite enjoyed it, as well. I did a simple curried turkey "pot pie" (in a casserole dish, with a Bisquick topping as the "crust"), with roasted cauliflower, as well as mashed potatoes inspired by a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for North Indian style mashed potatoes. The last was sent to me by my mom and I've been meaning to try it, as well as feeling skeptical about it, for ages. The dish sounded pretty odd to me, but ended up being quite tasty and definitely different. My baby, who usually is not a big fan of mashed potatoes, couldn't get enough of them. I just made regular mashed potatoes and added sprinkles of cayenne (not terribly much), cumin (more), chopped parsley (plenty), and lime juice (just a splash). As for the cauliflower, just toss florets with some olive oil, salt, and pepper before roasting 20-25 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven.

Curried Turkey Pot Pie
1 c. chicken broth (I always use reduced sodium)
2 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 large can Veg-All Homestyle or other large-cut veggies, well-drained
About half a pound of turkey, cubed (I just get the deli to slice me a nice, thick slab)
Salt & pepper
1 c. Bisquick
1/2 c. milk
1 egg, beaten
A handful of chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk broth and flour until smooth. Heat the spices, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and whisk in broth. Cook, stirring, until bubbling and thickened, 5-7 minutes. Add veggies, turkey, salt, and pepper. Mix well and turn into a casserole that has been coated with cooking spray. Mix the other ingredients. Spread evenly over the top of the casserole. Bake 1/2 hour. Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Burgers in Pitas with Lemon-Mint Mayonnaise, May 1, 2017

Last night's dinner was so excellent, I did something I rarely do. I had the exact same thing for lunch today. I made burgers tucked into pita halves, with a lemon-mint mayonnaise and some spring mix for extra flavor. They were stellar, but not as wonderful as the salad I threw together, which tasted of spring and freshness and light-heartedness. My 17-month-old was crazy about the salad, too. He got a little confused about the cucumbers and kept asking for, "More pickle?" He was also sorry I wouldn't let him have more and more and more of the kalamata olives.

For the salad, I threw some chopped up green pepper, cucumber sliced in demi-lunes, pepperoncini rings, sliced red onion, halved kalamatas, red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper together in a salad bowl. Then, I sprinkled it with a little crumbled feta and tossed it all. I like this kind of salad, absent of any lettuces or other delicate greens, because it's still terrific the next day.

Burgers in Pitas with Lemon-Mint Mayonnaise
1 lb. ground meat (to make it very Mediterranean, you'd use lamb. If you are not a lamb eater, 96% lean ground beef is excellent)
1/4 onion, chopped
1 tsp. oregano
Salt & pepper
1/4 c. mayonnaise (I used olive oil mayo)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 squirt lemon juice
A handful of chopped mint
Pita halves
Salad greens

Lightly, but thoroughly, mix meat, onion, oregano, salt, and pepper. Shape into 4 patties. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Cook burgers until browned on both sides and cooked through. Mix mayonnaise with garlic, lemon zest and juice, mint. Spread on the insides of the pita halves. Adorn with salad greens, then add burgers. Serves 4. You could easily adapt this to be vegetarian or vegan by sautéing veggie burgers in onions, sprinkling them with the oregano, and then using a vegan mayo. 

For dessert, we had raspberry shortcake, using some biscuit-style shortcakes I found at Whole Foods. I macerated the raspberries with a smidge of sugar while dinner cooked and we ate. Then, I served them over the shortcake with a dollop of whipped cream. I could cheerfully have just eaten the berries, while my son eschewed the berries and went right for the shortcake. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What I'm Cooking in April 2017

-Vegetable soup, Greek orzo salad, fruit
-Quesadillas, salad, refried beans, fruit
-Artichoke & egg spread sandwiches, chips, veggie slices, fruit
-Penne with kalamatas & pancetta, lemon, mint, & spinach salad, garlic bread
-Garbanzo & yogurt pitas, Greek salad, chips, fruit
-Vegetarian chili, corn muffins, pineapple raspberry salad
-Ham, asparagus quiche, potatoes au gratin, salad, rolls, some kind of lemony dessert or lamb cake
-Stir-fried pork/tofu, spicy green beans, veggies with Green Goddess dip, rice
-Hot dog & cheese casserole, salad, fruit
-Chicken with peanut ginger sauce, rice, baby carrots & snow peas, fruit
-Asian chicken salad, fruit salad, lemon bread
-Shrimp in beer, parmesan rice, kale salad, garlic artichoke bread, chocolate nemesis cake
-Panzanella, sausage potato soup, fruit
-Pork chops & scalloped potatoes, green beans, fruit
-Tamale pie, salad, fruit

-Pear ginger scones
-Skillet cake
-Chocolate damnation
-Cream cheese danish
-Asparagus & potato frittata
-Yogurt with granola crunch
-Seattle dogs
-Banana buttermilk pancakes
-Scrambled eggs with avocado, cream cheese, & dill

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hot Dogs, March 28, 2017

Wee Boy and I had an errand in Aurora today, so we treated ourselves to lunch at Cuba Bakery and Cafe. It's just a little storefront joint, with a big bakery case full of cakes and pastries (including my favorite, guava & cheese pastelitos), a lighted board of sandwich offerings (classics like the Cuban sandwich and the Medianoche---I am guessing they'd probably make me an Elena Ruz, if I asked), a steam table full of daily offerings like picadillo, carne con papas, ropa vieja, and masitas de puerco), and a scattering of tables. The walls are adorned with a mix of photos and classic "Visit Cuba" travel posters. Latin music made my son dance in his high chair. The staff is always friendly, chatting with most of the clientele in Spanish. I'm usually the only non-Spanish-speaker there and I'm always pretty sure they think I know nothing about Cuban food. Today, she described the picadillo to me simply as, "Ground beef."

I'm always hoping for masitas to show up on the steam table, but I've not lucked into those yet. Today, though, I had a styrofoam plate of well-seasoned picadillo, generous with the olives and bell peppers, accompanied by black beans, rice, and maduros. To wash it all down, I had a cafe con leche. Wee Boy shared my plate, devouring most of the beans and some picadillo, but steadfastly declining plantains.

So, I think we'd have a super-simple dinner. Looking in the fridge for inspiration, I spotted a pack of hot dogs and decided that sounded great. To counter-balance the processedness of the hot dogs, our sides were cucumber slices (Wee Boy yelled, "Moon! Moon!" and chomped down happily), grapes, and blackberries.

Pancakes, March 27, 2017

Usually, when I make breakfast for dinner, it's eggs of some sort. I'm not much for having the main event be sweet. If I do make some sort of sweet thing, though, it's almost always waffles, not pancakes. I am not a pancake fan, generally speaking, even though I have wonderful memories of my grandmom getting out the griddle on the weekends to whip up a batch of pancakes for us. She always mixed the pancakes in her Tupperware batter bowl/measuring cup, which was white with red markings. However, my wife and baby both really like pancakes. So, tonight, I made pancakes, sausage (just the Jimmy Dean sort you can warm in the microwave), and fruit salad (which, unfortunately, all absorbed the flavor of the blueberries and ended up tasting off).

Since I'm not much of a pancake-maker, I wasn't sure how they'd turn out. I started with less flour and the pancake batter was very, very thin. My first attempt spread way, way out across an entire half of the skillet, not quite a thin as crepe batter, but nearly so. I ended up doubling the flour before making any more. Jeannene, though, said she actually preferred the flimsier of the bunch, although she liked all of them. So, I present the original version, with the caveat that the batter may be way too thin.

If anyone has a really excellent pancake recipe, feel free to pass it along to me!

1 c. buttermilk (I used a scant cup of whole milk with a tbsp. of lemon juice, which I then allowed to stand and thicken for 10 minutes)
1 egg plus 1 yolk, beaten (Wee Boy helped whisk the eggs)
1 tbsp. oil
1/4 c. evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tbsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. yeast
1 c. flour

Mix everything together and whisk well. Pour by 1/3 cupfuls into a hot, greased skillet. Cook until you see lots of little bubbles appear atop the pancakes. Flip and cook until the other side is light golden brown. Makes 5 or 6. Serve with real maple syrup that's been gently warmed. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Spaghetti, March 26, 2017

It was Jeannene's choice last night for dinner, but she has some big presentations coming up, so I told her I would be happy to cook, instead. I gave her the choice of either pancakes with sausage & fruit salad or pastitsio with Greek salad and fruit salad. She decided to make spaghetti. While we were out shopping for jeans for the wee boy, though, she asked if we had everything we needed for me to make my spaghetti. I was glad to hear that, as I've been hungry for my spaghetti (which is basically my grandmom's spaghetti) for a couple weeks. We picked up some Italian bread, but otherwise, everything was on-hand.

When I make spaghetti, it's nearly always incredibly low fuss. I doctor sauce from a jar (I often use Newman's Own Sockarooni or Marinara, but this time, it was some fancy brand of vodka sauce Jeannene found at Whole Foods) with some dried spices (usually a mix of Italian seasoning, basil, and oregano), a good shaking of grated parmesan (usually the crappy canned sort), and some browned ground beef. I added a smidge of water this time, as well. My favorite pasta shapes are tagliatelle, pappardelle, and bucatini. Last night, it was bucatini. We had bagged Caesar salad and garlic bread with it. I mixed garlic salt and chopped garlic from the jar my wife keeps in the fridge with some softened butter. I smeared it evenly on the halved Italian loaf and broiled until the edges started to brown. Oh, wait, that's Idealized Me. Real Me broiled until she exclaimed, "Oh, crap!!!" and dashed to the oven, then heaved a sigh of relief that only the edges got a little black.

Chicken and Black Bean Burrito Pizza, March 25, 2017

While I was making hollandaise sauce Saturday morning, my wife needed to run some errands. I didn't want to start poaching eggs and toasting English muffins for Eggs Benedict until she was home---nobody wants cold eggs. So, I started work on dinner, mixing up some tomatillo salsa and marinating chicken for our chicken & black bean burrito pizza. I popped those in the fridge and dinner was nearly done when we got home from the zoo. I even got to take a little nap before
I started cooking. I only used half the chicken on the pizza---the rest will be nice in soft tacos for lunch this week. The original recipe came from Todd Wilbur's fun cookbook, Top Secret Restaurant Recipes, and is his approximation of California Pizza Kitchen's Southwestern Burrito Pizza, which I've never had. If it's still on the menu, I'd like to try it! If you've not checked out this cookbook, you should pick up a copy and play with it. We had salad and Sumo orange sections with this.

Chicken and Black Bean Pizza
Juice of 2 limes
3 tbsp. olive oil 
2 tbsp. soy sauce (I used reduced-sodium)
5 cloves of garlic, peeled & smashed
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
14 oz. can refried black beans
Baked pizza crust
1/4 onion, sliced into slivers
1/2-1 c. shredded quesadilla cheese or Monterey Jack
1/2-1 c. shredded cheddar (I used mild)
Tomatillo salsa
Sour cream
Hot sauce

Mix lime juice, 2 tbsp. olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, salt, and red pepper. Add chicken & marinate at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat remaining tbsp. olive oil in skillet. Remove chicken from marinade to skillet, using a slotted spoon, and cook through. Spread beans evenly on crust. Sprinkle with onion slivers. Scatter chicken evenly across the pizza. Top with cheeses. Place pizza in oven and bake 12-17 minutes. Serve with tomatillo salsa, sour cream, and hot sauce. Serves 4. 

Eggs Benedict, Saturday Brunch, March 25, 2017

Saturday morning found me making breakfast for the family. I've decided it would be fun to make some kind of special family breakfast on Saturday mornings, time permitting. I've only managed to do it one other time this month, a batch of granola, which was much appreciated by my wife. Saturday, Bear got scrambled eggs, as he hasn't yet acquired a taste for poached or fried eggs, but I made Eggs Benedict for the grown folks in the house. If you can believe it, I had never made hollandaise sauce before Saturday. I looked up the recipe in Craig Claiborne's New York Times Cookbook and decided to go with the quick blender version, although a smidge altered. I added more lemon and used (O heresy!) salted butter. I doubt real chefs would approve, but I thought it turned out beautifully lemony and smooth.

Heretical Blender Hollandaise & Eggs Benedict
Melt a stick of butter over low heat. Place three egg yolks, the juice of one lemon, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a pinch of cayenne in your blender. With the lid on and the speed on low, very slowly drizzle in the melted butter. Blend until the sauce pulls together and thickens. Makes enough for 3-6 portions of Eggs Benedict. For Eggs Benedict, you'll want to poach 1-2 eggs for each person. Martha Stewart offers good directions here. Heat some ham slices or Candian bacon. Place the ham, then eggs on toasted English muffins. Pour hollandaise over eggs. If you only have 2 diners and have a bunch of Hollandaise left, you can always use it on veggies at dinner. 

Frozen Pizza, March 24, 2017

Friday night, we decided to grocery shop. Usually, we do it Saturday or Sunday, which eats away at weekend time more than shopping Friday feels like it's doing. So, Wee Boy and I met Jeannene at work and visited with her colleagues there. We got to try some purple sweet potato pie and some chocolate pie I suspect was vegan. Both were made by folks from work. Both were tasty. The sweet potato pie reminded me of Asian desserts starring red bean paste.

We went to Whole Foods first, then met back up at the King Soopers closest to our house. We'd considered dinner out, but couldn't come to a conclusion on where we'd like to go. So, I thought I would make the burrito pizza I'd not made earlier in the week. However, when we got home, lo and behold, I'd forgotten that the chicken on the pizza needed to be marinated. We'd bought a pepperoni pizza and a BBQ chicken one, both California Pizza Kitchen, in the frozen section, so I decided to make the pepperoni one. It was just what we needed. We had some salad left from the night before and peeled a glorious Sumo orange for dessert.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Anthony's Delivery, March 23, 2017

Tonight was Jeannene's night to choose. She was in the mood for Italian and asked me whether I wanted to go out or have her cook something Italian. I was happy with either choice. She makes yummy pasta dishes and there's an Italian place in town that we drive by often, but have not yet visited. I have been in the mood for my own spaghetti, too, so I offered to make that, if she wanted me to. When she got home, she had been thinking it over, but asked what I wanted to do. The baby was asleep, so we thought it might be best for her just to run out and pick up either ingredients or take-out. Then, we remembered that one of the local pizza places, Anthony's, also delivers pasta---and it's quite good.

The wee boy woke up before we ordered, so we asked him if he'd rather have spaghetti or pizza. He gleefully chose pizza, so we ordered him a white pizza with spinach. It should have been really good, but instead, it turned out to be dry and flavorless. What a pity! I don't know if their other pizza is as bland, but I would definitely never order that again. The boy thought the cat might eat it, but he certainly didn't want to.

He did, however, quite happily dig into our ravioli (me) and lasagna rollatini (his Momma). We also had a beautiful Mediterranean salad. I didn't like the heaviness of the Caesar dressing with the fresh, cold crispness of the salad, so I ate it without any dressing at all---it was heavenly! The rest of the family agreed.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ropa Vieja, March 22, 2017

Yesterday morning, I started a batch of ropa vieja, one of my favorite Cuban dishes, going in the crockpot. The name literally translates to "old clothes" in English. The messy, stringy appearance the beef gets makes it look, they say, like a pile of old clothes. The smell of it perfumed the air all afternoon, making my stomach growl. When it was nearly ready, I fixed a batch of lime rice, heated some Goya black bean soup, and had supper all done. The finished product tasted really good to my wife. To me, it needed something. It was good, just not as good as in Miami, a bit insipid. I think next time, I'll toss in some tomato paste and red wine, to give it a fuller-bodied flavor.

Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
1/2 c. chicken broth (I will use beef broth next time)
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 lg. onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 tbsp. cumin
Salt & pepper
1 1/2 lb. flank steak
Lime wedges

Mix broth, vinegar, onion, garlic, green pepper, bay leaf, and tomatoes together in your slow cooker. Combine the cumin, salt, & pepper. Rub all over the meat. Submerge in sauce. Cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Remove from pot and let rest about 10 minutes on a cutting board. Shred and mix back into the sauce. Serve with lime wedges. Serves 4-6.

Lime Rice
2 tsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lg. onion, chopped
1 c. rice (I like jasmine)
2 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
Juice of 2 limes

Cook onion and garlic in oil until onion is translucent. Add rice. Stir and cook a couple minutes. Add broth, salt, and lime juice. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat 15-20 minutes. Fluff with fork. Serves 4-6. 

Chili's, March 21, 2017

After my wife got home from work the other night, we sallied forth to look for spring jackets for our wee boy. We managed to find him some very cute clothes, indeed. My favorite new item is a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt. I hope he will like Hendrix when he's older. He does now.

Anyway, we decided it made sense to stop on the way home for dinner, rather than going to the grocery, then going home and cooking. There's not a whole lot to choose from close to our home, so we ended up at Chili's. It was either that or Buffalo Wild Wings. We ordered some boneless wings for an appetizer. I was surprised at how delicious their ranch dressing was. The wings were good, too.

For a main course, I got a pick-three sort of deal, with a beef tostada, a chicken sour cream enchilada, and a salad. The enchilada was yummy, but the tostada was so heavily laden with toppings that it became sodden and not-so-wonderful. The meal came with black beans and rice, but I find their rice to be quite dry, so I subbed mashed potatoes. Jeannene had a combo of ribs and some sort of honey BBQ chicken strips. We ordered pizza with broccoli for the boy, who is actually getting old enough to, when presented with two choices, tell us which he wants. That's pretty cool! He filled up on my black beans, though, so it was pizza and broccoli for lunch yesterday.

Spring Equinox Dinner, March 20, 2017

Eons ago, I read an article, or perhaps in some book, that the author made salmon cakes, new potatoes, and asparagus every year on the first day of spring. That sounded like a fine and delicious tradition to me. When I was growing up, I always hated asparagus. In fact, it rather horrified me. I couldn't understand why my mom liked it so much. It wasn't until my friend, Ben, invited me over for dinner one night when I was about 18 that I began to like it. I can't recall what the meat was, but his mom put plates holding not only asparagus, but squash, in front of us. I thought, "Oh, my lord! I'm going to have to choke this stuff down and pretend to like it." I was astonished to find that I quite liked both vegetables. I've been an asparagus fan ever since! My favorite way to eat is simply steamed, so it's just tender, and then plunged into an ice bath to retain the brightness and keep it from becoming overcooked. Sometimes, though, I get lazy and skip the ice bath. I am always disappointed in myself when that happens.

Fish cakes, on the other hand, have always been something I really liked. My grandmom made both tuna & salmon patties when I was a kid and I happily gobbled them up. So, when I decided to make salmon cakes every year for the spring equinox, I did what my grandmom did. I start by sorting the bones and skin out from a (drained) large can of salmon (about 15 ounces). You don't even have to do that, actually. The skin and bones are both perfectly okay to eat. They just really skeeve me out. My cat's birthday is the first day of spring, so he always gets the parts I don't like, along with some of the legit meat, as a birthday treat. I flake the salmon, then mix it with a lightly beaten egg, about half a sleeve of saltine crackers, salt, pepper, and a dash of worcestershire sauce. I heat some oil in a skillet and form the salmon mixture into 4 cakes. When the oil is properly hot, I add the salmon cakes and cook them until they're browned on each side and heated through.

As for the potatoes, I boil them whole, for the most part, with the skin on. If there are a few larger ones, I will halve those. When they are tender, I drain them and stir in butter, salt, pepper, and snipped dill. When I was in middle school, my friend, Charisma, had me to supper and her mom served us potatoes made that way. They seemed very fancy to me!

I always have the impulse to make some sort of lemony dessert---a layer cake, meringues served with lemon curd, lemon meringue pie. That seems like the perfect spring treat, to me. My wife, however, hates all things tart. So, this year, I cut up some organic strawberries before dinner, added a smidge of sugar, stirred them up, and let them macerate during supper. After the main course, I dished them up into our pretty new pastel bowls and set out a can of whipped cream. My wife proceeded to show our wee boy how to eat whipped cream from the can. He just wasn't at all sure what to think of that, but it did make him giggle.

Happy Spring!