Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday night dinner with Grandma...12/24/12

I'm making meatloaf.  How exciting.  I know, it's probably the most boring meal in the world.  But it's hot.  It's "cozy."  And most importantly, it's classic.

And guess what I'm serving with it?  That's right, boys and girls, Mashed Potatoes.  These will be a little more on the whipped side because the last time I served Grandma mashed potatoes, she questioned the "lumps" and said they needed more salt.  I'm nothing if not flexible.

So I'm off to start preparing the vegetables for the meat loaf.  I like to saute the veggies first.  This time (I never make it exactly the same way) we'll have shredded carrot, celery, onion, and green pepper.  All in a small chop or mince.  I may throw a little garlic in for good measure.

When the veggies are done with their "steam, " I'll add a small can of tomato paste.  When the veggies have cooled, I'll add an egg (or 2) and some bread crumbs.  Then I'll add the ground beef to that mixture; form it into a "loaf" and  top it with a glaze of Ketchup, Dijon, and Worcestershire sauce.  I'll reserve some of the glaze as a "dipping" sauce.

Now to the potatoes.  As I always do, I'll  cook them in stock with a heavy dose of salt and pepper.  After draining them, I'll mash them by hand and add butter and sour cream.  After mashing them some more, I'll pull out my immersion blender and "whip" the pants off my tators.  At this point I'll add some snipped chives and have Josh taste for S and P.

To round out the meal, I'll grab a bag of frozen veggies from my freezer.  Maybe green beans; maybe snap peas.  I can't plan everything this far ahead of dinner.

That's what I'm cooking today.  How about you?

happy cooking.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Monday Night Dinners with Grandma

First of all, I realize it's Friday.  Usually "Dinner with Grandma" happens on Monday.  This week was different.  Sue me.

Secondly, I know it's been a long while since I've posted.  I've been trying to eat South Beach style and thus I have felt uninspired by my cooking.  Don't get me wrong...I'm still trying to lose weight and just be healthier all around, and I haven't completely abandoned SB.  I'm just loosening up a little.

Like I'll have a cookie. ;-)

Anywhoo, Josh and I have dinner once a week with his grandmother (hence today's post.)  Actually I spend part of the day with Grandma, come home make dinner, and go back with Josh after work.

I'm really feeling good about tonight's dinner.  I don't usually think that I've tinkered with a recipe enough to call it my own, but there's a first time for everything.

Let me give you the posted recipe first (from Epicurious.com); then I'll give you my changes/additions/subtractions.  You tell me what you think.

Lemon Pasta with Chicken and Pine Nuts

 Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons plus 2/3 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 3/4 pound skinless boneless chicken breast halves

  • 12 ounces lemon-pepper fettuccine or regular fettuccine
  • 2 1/2 cups snow peas (about 5 ounces), cut into matchstick-size strips
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard


Preparation

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and sauté until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Cool. Cut chicken crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips.
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain well; transfer to large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil; toss to coat. Add chicken, snow peas, pine nuts and parsley; toss to incorporate all ingredients.
Whisk lemon juice and mustard in medium bowl. Add remaining 3/4 cup oil in thin stream, whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss pasta with enough dressing to coat. (Can be made 3 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Toss before serving.)

So, for my version I began by marinating my chicken breast in the zest and juice of one lemon,  about  a T of EVOO, one large, thinly slice clove of garlic, and a few grinds of black pepper.
Next, I cut up a head of broccoli (into small for florets for Grandma); put the pasta water on to boil (I used bow-ties); and then I made the dressing.  
Now for the dressing, I used the zest of one lemon and the juice of two, about 3 T of dijon mustard, 3-5 grinds black pepper, enough EVOO to cut the bitter lemoness of it and 1/2 tsp of garlic powder.
I cooked the broccoli with  the pasta but I pulled it out 5 minutes shy of the pasta being done.  I sliced my chicken before sauteeing it another T of EVOO and added the remaining marinade to the pan before cooking.
Finally, I drained the pasta and returned it to the pot; added the chicken and broccoli and tossed well with the dressing. 

Right now, it's all chilling in the fridge.

I hope everyone likes it, because it's the perfect meal to take to Grandma.  Protein, veg., and grain in one fell swoop.

So I leave you with 3 questions:

1.  Is my recipe original
2 . If it is, what do I call it
3.  What are you having for dinner tonight?

happy cooking

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Date Night--10/16-12

So it's a Tuesday.  What's up with that?  Our friends are taking us out for anniversary tomorrow.  So we'll do date night tonight.  We're nothing if not flexible.

So what is Date Night this evening?

The best flank steak Josh has ever eaten...complete with shallot and mushroom "ragu."  A TBD veggie.  I'm thinking asparagus, but I'll see what's available at the market. Oh and those really good cottage fries.  YUM!!!

Dessert.  I'm going to try this apple crumble recipe.  I have all the ingredients on hand; and these days, that's really important.

Appetizers.  Some kind of cheese and crackers.  Maybe with bruschetta.  Maybe just cheddar.  I'll let Josh choose.

Cocktails.  Up to the mix master.

That's all for now.

happy cooking!

my love affair with chickens

I don't mean while were they're alive and bach-bach-baching around a farm.  I mean after they're dead and in my grocery store.  BOGO is best but .$99/lb isn't too bad either.

So what did I do with my BOGO chickens?

I made more stock.  Nothing terribly exciting or different there.  I will add this one word of caution--make your stock when the garbage gets picked up no more than two days later.  It gets noxious and noisome rapidly.

So that took care of one bird.  What did I do with the other? 

I ROASTED it! And it was really good, if I do say so myself.  And I do.

How did I roast it, you'd like to know?  I followed Thomas Keller's recipe exactly!  I even learned how to truss a chicken with this video

I admit, I had to watch parts of the video three, even four times.  But int he end it was easy peasy and the bird was delicious!

That's all from me.

happy cooking!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Happy Anniversary to US!!


Our 8th anniversary is on Wednesday and Josh is taking me out to dinner.  Not wanting that to be our only celebration, I made a really nice dinner last night.

I'll start with appetizers.  Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms.  Now, I really just used this as inspiration.  I minced the mushroom stems and added Italian sausage to the stuffing.  They were very tasty and we ate them up.  We, however, could not finish our dinners as a result.  (That's okay...no more cooking for me this week!)

I made martinis to accompany our appetizers.  Hendricks gin, vermouth, and a twist of lemon.  Cannot get any more classic than that.



Now to dinner.  I made individual beef wellingtons.  Yum!  I did not use the pate called for in the recipe and I added thyme to the mushroom duxelle.

The wellingtons are accompanied by mashed potatoes (duh) and Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots.  Delish!  Tender and flavorful and not too "brussels sprouty."

Now to dessert.  Oh dessert!  I made (drum roll please)  Creme Brulee.  I do not have a kitchen torch; the broiler had to do.  I followed the indredients part of this recipe.  The technique I used was outlined by one of the recipe reviewers, ChefPeon.  Her methodology made a lot more sense to me and was, in fact, less labor intensive (and scary) than the oen in the recipe.


We had coffee with dinner.  But that's not all.  I had his idea to serve Josh a whisky flight. So I selected three of his whiskys (he said I chose the right ones! yay me!!) and I had a port pairing (we have two ports so I had a little of each.)



If you look closely you can see the single malt glasses and the port glasses.  Yes we do have a lot of specialty barware.

That's all for me .  Yesterday was a long day of cooking (I started at 11 with dessert).  But it's a new day and we have our leftovers (no sprouts!) for todaay.

happy cooking!

Monday, September 24, 2012

What's in my oven now

Blueberry & Raspberry Baked Oatmeal

adapted by The Curvy Carrot
from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
via Annie's Eats
makes 6 servings
nutritional value will vary depending on the fruit and ingredients you use

Ingredients:

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, divided
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup maple syrup (I used sugar free)
1 cup milk 

 1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
1 cup blueberries or raspberries, fresh or frozen, divided

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish. In a medium bowl, mix the oats, half of the walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to combine. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the syrup, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.
3. Spread the sliced bananas in a single layer over the bottom of the baking dish. Top with half of the berries. Sprinkle the dry oat mixture over the fruit in an even layer. Pour the liquid ingredients evenly over the oats.
4. Sprinkle the remaining nuts and berries over the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and the oats have set. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

( http://www.sohowsittaste.com/2012/06/blueberry-raspberry-baked-oatmeal.html)

I found it only needed 2 bananas.  I also used only raspberrries (2 for $3 at Jewel).  Haven't tasted them yet...but they smell really good.

Final thoughts after tasting...

I didn't think it was sweet enough, but maybe that's just me.  I added a little honey and it was much better.  

Will I make again?  Probably, but I would use blueberries or maybe even apples.  And I wouldn't use the sugar free maple syrup; I'd use honey. 

Best Oven Fries ever!!!

And sooo easy.

Baked Oven Fries

Directions


(http://www.annies-eats.com/2010/02/25/baked-oven-fries/)

So like "real" french fries that we eat 'em with ketchup.  Really, really good.  And easy

Friday, September 21, 2012

My house smells cozy!

All day long on Monday my house smelled cozy!  Why? you wonder.

I made chicken stock.  From scratch.  My local market had whole chickens for $.99/lb.  So I bought 2, a bag of celery, a sack of carrots and a couple onions. I already had garlic and a whole mess of herbs from my garden plus whole peppercorns.

I tied my herbs together to make a bouquet garni, cut my garlic and onions in half (papery skin in tact), submerged the whole mess in water and put the pots on to simmer.  For two hours.

Then I let everything cool in the pots.  I removed the veggies (they were trash...they'd given their lives to the cause), the chicken (which was falling off the bone), and strained the stock through cheese cloth.

I put up 4.5 quarts.

Now what did I do with all that chicken?

I made chicken noodle soup on Monday night.  We won't talk about how the whole box of little stars sucked up all the liquid and made it more like chicken flavored porridge.

I made buffalo chicken sammies.  Very easy: 4T butter and 3/4 c of your favorite hot sauce (we used Franks).

After I finished the stock I made banana bread.  The cozy smells just kept coming.

Today I made chicken salad.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Date Night--September 19, 2012

 It was a little odd preparing a Date Night meal with Josh around.  He wanted to--wait for it--HELP!

Coulda knocked me over with a feather.  Of course, if you ask him today who made the steak and the pudding, well,  you know what his answer will be.  "I did."  The reality is he helped.   A lot.  especially making the marinade.  He mixed everything in the zip top bag except the grated shallot and garlic.  (No onion makes me cry like a shallot and grating it had me in hysterics!  I thought I was gonna die.)

The flank steak was a recipe that I saw Kelsey Nixon make on her show on the cooking channel.

Ingredients

STEAK:
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 medium shallot, grated
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus 1 tablespoon, divided

Directions

For the steak: In a small bowl, mix together the Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, mustard, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, garlic and shallots. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup vegetable oil until emulsified. Place the steak in a plastic zip-top bag. Pour the marinade over the steak and seal the bag. Marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature or refrigerate overnight. Allow the steak to come to room temperature before cooking.

When ready to cook, preheat the broiler and set the oven rack at the highest point, as close to the flame as it can get and still fit the steak below. Fit a wire rack onto a baking sheet.

Place the marinated steak on the prepared baking sheet (or a broiler pan), sprinkle with salt and pepper and place it under the broiler. Cook for 3 minutes on the first side. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from the oven and allow to rest 10 minutes. Slice thin strips of steak against the grain.

Now, did you notice the green highlighted (highlit?) part?  I had the steak so close that it was actually on fire when I took it out to the oven.  Quick thinking Josh blew it out.

This steak was accompanied by perfectly steamed green beans and these yummy roasted potatoes that my mommy makes.

You start by thinly slicing any number of potatoes.  Then you shingle them on a pan that has been lightly coated with EVOO.  Coat the tops of the taters with more EVOO, salt, pepper, and minced rosemary.  Bake at 450 for 45 minutes to an hour.

I imagine that by now you have noticed the image of a "SliceOMatic" on this blog.  I have a story about my newly acquired SliceOMatic.  I saw an ad in the Bed Bath and Beyond circular for this product at half price.  A mere $10!  So last Friday, after getting my brand name mayo at the local market for $1.88(!!!), I headed over to BB&B to get my new slicing machine.  It was 9:05.  The store doesn't open till 9:30.  I was standing in the vestibule with an employee.  She let me in early, went and got my item (there were only 3!!! left) and sold it to me all before opening!!!  Additionally, I had forgotten my 20% off coupon, but was assured that I could bring the coupon and my receipt in and be reimbursed.  Do I think this item is worth the MSRP of $20?  Probably not.  But for $8, it's great!



Slice O Matic

Now on to dessert.  I made pudding.  From scratch.  My sister thought was "ambitious."  But it was not that bad.  Josh helped until we got to the "whisk for 7 minutes" stage.  That was just too tedious, I guess.  I wish he had been there to see the moment when it thickened.  Cooking is so exciting!

So anyway, this is Real Simple's Ultimate Chocolate Pudding.   And it is yummy!

 Ingredients

Directions

  1. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt. Gradually whisk in the milk, then the egg yolks.
  2. Cook the milk mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened to the consistency of mayonnaise, 7 to 8 minutes. Continue to cook, whisking, for 1 minute more. Remove from heat and pour through the sieve into the bowl, pushing the mixture through gently with a rubber spatula or spoon. Add the butter and chocolate and stir until melted. Mix in the vanilla.
  3. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. Before serving, gently stir the pudding to loosen it. Serve with the whipped cream.
Kristen out!

happy cooking!  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I haven't stopped cooking...or End of Summer Ecaudoran Cocktail Party




In fact, I've been doing quite a lot of cooking...no just for my cocktail party, either.

I'll break this up into multiple posts.

Cocktail Party first.


We have friends who have been "need-greating" in Ecuador for about 8 years.  They had a baby a little more than a year ago.  They come back to the states a couple times a year to make money.  We try to do as much as we can with them while their here.  There are many pulls for their attention, so we don't get much.  A cocktail party with some of their friends and family seemed like a good idea.

I'll let the pictures explain what I made:


These are caprese bites--half  cherry tomato, one small balls of mozzarella, (bocacinni), the other tomato half, and a basil leaf.

  

This is may most basic and size appropriate antipasto  tray ever. No leftovers (okay, I sent them home with my guests).




  

 Deviled eggs.  I don't love 'em; Josh does.  Still looking for recipe.  These were only okay.




Pineapple and raspberries.



 Finally the beehive cake.  There was lemon and honey in the batter.  The drizzle over the top was honey and confectioners sugar.  So yummy.  The bee was not edible.  It was a push pin that I had made approximately 12 years ago.


This ends my photo essay of my cocktail party.  Josh handle the drinks.

I'll try to post more tomorrow.

happy cooking!

Monday, August 13, 2012

I haven't stopped cooking...

The last month-6 weeks have been anything but normal, but I think things are finally calming down.

Maybe.  I hope.

We are having a date night tonight.  I know it's Monday, but sometimes that's the way it has to be.

So I am making  Pasta with Fried Eggs, Caramelized Onions, and Bacon. 

Basically it's a pasta carbonara dish.  I'm not sure whether I'll put the spinach in the dish (as the recipe prescribes) or whether I'll serve the spinach as a salad.  At first I thought salad (hubby claims he doesn't like cooked spinach), but all of the ingredients for a classic spinach salad (bacon, eggs) are IN the pasta dish.  Josh will just have to broaden his spinach horizons.

I will be making a small pizza for our appetizer.  Italian cheeses, garlic and tomato and basil from my "jungle."  Josh will be making the cocktails.

Dessert is still up in the air. I'll take suggestions.

That's all I have for now.  I do have other meals (okay, all of them) planned for this week.  Maybe I'll share them.  :-)

For now, though, I'm done.

happy cooking






Thursday, June 28, 2012

Crazy in the Head

I must be.  At least a little.

It's been roughly 227 million degrees outside, and what do I do?  I entertain.

Monday I had some very old friends over.  Not that they are old, just long time friends.

I made burgers.  One of my guests asked me if this was my secret recipe.  Some secret...salt, pepper and ground sirloin.  I will say that you should buy the best ground beef you can.  That doesn't always have to mean the most expensive.  There's a brew pub near us that offers burgers from ground filet mignon.  That seems a little excessive, not to mention expensive, for a home cook.

On Sunday we are having the speaker and his wife for lunch.  Fajita salads are the menu.  I like this because I can make my salsa and guac on Saturday as well as prep the veggies.  In fact, now that I am writing this out, I can make the marinade on Saturday too.  Woohoo!  First thing Sunday morning I need to get the veggies and the chicken in the marinade. (Not together, mind you, as that would be cross contaminating the veggies with the raw chicken.  I like these people, I don't want to make them ill!)  I love it when a plan comes together.

Here is the fajita recipe.  I will use chicken instead of skirt steak, because even my beef lovin' husband prefers chicken.  Also, as previously mentioned, we'll be eating these as salads.

 Ingredients
  • 2 skirt steaks (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons minced jalapeño pepper
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation

1. Cut the steak crosswise into 2 to 4 pieces and place in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; pour over the steak, turning it to coat well. Marinate overnight, covered, in the refrigerator, turning once or twice. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.
2. Preheat the broiler. Remove the steak from the marinade, scrape off any bits and place on a baking sheet. Broil 4 inches from heat source for 3 minutes per side for medium-rare meat. Let rest 10 to 15 minutes. Slice the meat thinly. (For easy eating, the steak strips should be 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick.) To assemble fajitas, click here .

So I mentioned making my salsa and guac.  It's been a long time since I've made salsa.  Here's my plan.  Notice that I'm not sharing a recipe because, well, I don't exactly have one.  My plan is to halve or quarter my grape tomatoes and spin them in my salad spinner.  I've heard that this pulls out the seeds and any excess juice.  I'll let you know how this turns out.

I have Vidalia (sweet) and Spanish onions.  I'll use a combo of the two in my salsa along with jalapeno, cilantro, cumin and chili powder.  I mix salsa into my mashed avocados with a little bit of sour cream.

For desserts for both occasions, I made (will make) Martha Stewart's Key Lime Tart.

Ingredients
  • 9 to 10 graham crackers (each 2 1/2 by 5 inches)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 4 to 6 limes), or fresh or bottled key-lime juice
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • Pinch salt
  • Slivered lime zest, for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Process graham crackers and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs form; add butter. Process until combined. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom; pat into bottom and up sides. Place pan on a baking sheet, and bake until crust is fragrant and slightly colored, about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, lime juice, egg yolks, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and salt; whisk until smooth. Pour mixture into crust (warm or cool is fine), leaving 1/8 inch at the top; return to oven. Bake until filling is set around edge but still slightly loose in center, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Cool completely at room temperature; then refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Serve, garnished with zest, if desired.
Only change that I make is that I add the zest of 2 limes.  Really, the zest is where all the flavor in any citrus fruit lives.

This concludes my cooking for the week.  Date nights have been sparse.  Crazy work schedule for hubby.

Tonight we'll be having either sammies (roast chicken) or hot dogs.  How 'bout you?

happy cooking! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The past weekend's cooking....

We had a Bethel speaker over the weekend and thus we had congregation hospitality.  I was asked to bring a dessert, and after much deliberation, I decided to make my Flourless Chocolate Cake.  Okay, it's not MY flourless chocolate cake...it's America's Test Kitchen's recipe.  It is however becoming "MY" FCC--at least at the congregation level.  I've stopped sharing the recipe. And for that reason, I'm not sharing it here, either.  (That's not really the reason...ATK makes it incredibly difficult to cut and paste their recipes and I don't really feel like tying it.)

I will share the ingredients, though.  It is truly a decadent  cake:

1 pound chocolate--bittersweet to semisweet (I use Ghiradelli and I go half and half)
2 sticks of unsalted butter
8 eggs (beaten in a stand mixer for 5 minutes)
1/4 cup strong coffee (I use decaf...the first time I made it I used leftover from my morning coffee and was awake for half the night)

Now I know that if you do any baking you will be able to recreate this cake.  I'll give you one more hint (okay 2 really)--you make it in a spring form pan, bake it at 325  for 20-25 minutes (the center will still look wet but the edges will look more like a brownie) and in a water bath.  That was really three hints. Your welcome.

So I made the cake on Friday to serve on Saturday, and there were a few friends who didn't get to have a piece.  (There were many friends who didn't get any...it was cut into 16 slices...). I knew that these particular friends really wanted to try it, so I brought the serving piece to them so they could taste the crumbs.  The brother informed me that I "have" to bring that cake to all congregation gatherings.

 We have a going away soiree at the end of the month.  I think I'll bake 2.

The other thing that I made this weekend was a Ham and Cheese Puff Tart.  Martha Stewart was gracious enough to post her recipe on this great webbernet that we have, thus it is very easy for me to share.

 Ham and Cheese Puff Tart
  • Prep Time 15 minutes
  • Total Time 35 minutes plus cooling
  • Yield Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Ground nutmeg
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced deli ham
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions

  1. On a floured work surface, roll each sheet puff pastry to a 10-by-13-inch rectangle. Transfer to two parchment-lined baking sheets and refrigerate. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium. Add flour; cook, stirring, until golden, 1 minute. Whisking constantly, add milk and simmer. Stir until thickened, 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and pinch of nutmeg. Pour sauce into a bowl and let cool 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in lower third. Arrange ham evenly on 1 pastry sheet, leaving a 3/4-inch border; top with cheese and sauce. Brush pastry border with egg; top with second pastry sheet. Fold bottom edges over top and press to seal. Brush top with egg and cut vents in tart. Bake until browned and puffed, 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I made this for a book club meeting I was hosting.  When the ladies were packing up to leave, one of them asked for the recipe.  She was astounded when I was able to hand the print out that I had used to make the very puff tart she had just enjoyed..

I've made this many times. In the process I  have tweaked the directions a little.  I take the sliced ham and cut it into ribbons.  Then I add the ham and cheese to the bechamel sauce.  It makes the final assembly a little easier and a lot less messy.

That's the cooing I did this weekend.  Date this week is going to be a doozy.  Stay tuned.

happy cooking

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Date Night May 2, 21012 or "No one can take a picture of candle smoke"


Well, I think that answers that question.


As for dinner, which was eaten before the candles were blown out,  we had my old standby--Filet Mignon.  Yum!

Cocktail was a version (and not a great one in my mind, though Josh liked it well enough) of this:

  • 1 oz Basil Hayden’s Bourbon
  • .5 oz DeKuyper Triple Sec
  • Splash orange juice
  • Splash cranberry juice
  • Splash simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
Garnish: Orange slice
Glass: Rocks

So I don't really like drinks on "rocks" so I fiddled with quantities but kept the ratios the same (although quantifying a "splash" is a lot harder than you might think.) and served them up.  Our "house bourbon" is Maker's Mark, which is fine, and we just don't keep Triple Sec at all.  Cointreau was my choice of orange liquer.  In the end, I thought it was a little "mediciney" tasting.  Too much orange Triaminic in my youth I suppose.

Appetizer was  the yummy cheesy jammy thing I get at my at my local market (local as opposed to my kick-butt market that's 25 mins away).

The green beans are haricot verte--these beautifully thin green beans that come to us from the French.  I tossed them in a few tsp of olive oil, added a few handfuls of grape tomatoes and one thinly sliced shallot.  I added about a .5 inch of water to my saute pan.  This combination allowed them to steam and then to caramelize.  I love green beans prepared this way.

The potatoes were skillet cooked and they were PINK fleshed.  I saw that they were called Pacific Rose, but thought that merely referred to their skin.  They were pan fried in olive oil.  Yum.

Dessert  was lemon souffle pudding.  I topped this with a lemon scented whipped cream (added a little lemon extract to the cream as I whipped it) and served it with a strawberry.

Lemon Souffle Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, for the baking cups
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, for dusting
  • Whipped cream, for garnishing

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using the teaspoon of butter, butter six 2-ounce baking cups or one 12-ounce (8 x 10-inch) oval baking dish. Place the cups or dish in a roasting pan. Bring a tea kettle or medium pot of water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. In another clean bowl, beat the egg yolks until frothy and light in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly add the sugar to the yolks while still beating. Mix in the lemon zest and juice.
  3. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk-lemon mixture. Pour the batter into each souffle cup (filling each three-quarters full) or the baking dish. Put the roasting pan on the oven rack with the oven door open. Carefully and quickly pour the boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking cups or dish. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Don't overcook.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven. Set the cups or dish on a wire rack to cool. To serve, set the cups on serving plates or scoop from the baking dish into individual dishes. Dust with confectioners' sugar, then top with a dollop of whipped cream.
Dinner tonight is ravioli.

happy cooking

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Date Night, April 18, 2012

So I fell back on my "never fails to please" date night menu:  Manhattans, filet mignon, mashed potatoes (for Josh, I had a baked sweet potato--more on that later).  Of course, I also roasted asparagus which makes Josh "gag."  It was okay though because I smothered the asparagus in lemon aoli. Yum!

Appetizer was seed crackers, light Havarti cheese with a smidge of peach coriander jam.  Josh wasn't impressed by the multi-seed crackers, but then again, I didn't expect him to like them.  I did.

The mashed potatoes were made from these tiny (ping pong balled sized) Yukon gold potatoes.  Easy to mash.

My sweet potato was topped with a trans fat free butter flavored spread and a splenda brown sugar blend.  It tasted as awful as it sounds.

Filet was cooked perfectly.

The piece de resistance, however was the aoli for the asparagus:

.25 c mayo
2 cloves garlic, minced

That's where I stopped measuring.  I used the zest from 2 lemons and the juice from one (it was a juicy lemon) and a little salt and pepper.

Tonight, being Thursday, is pizza.

happy cooking

Friday, April 13, 2012

What I have been eating

I don't want to bore you with the details of my current eating regimen, but I will share 2 tasty things (of my own creation...basically) that I've been enjoying.

Breakfast sandwich
   I toast a multi-grain sandwich thin (a number of different "bread makers" make these, but they are pretty consistently called "sandwich thins") and fill it with 1 fried egg, a slice of Canadian bacon, 1-2 slices of roasted red pepper and a slice of reduced fat cheese.  It tastes great and keeps me full till lunch time.

Jicama Slaw
   This one kills m--I love it so!  Peel one medium jicama and cut it into matchsticks.  Mix it with some shredded carrot, thinly sliced celery, some radishes and some green onion.  Toss all of these veggies with the following dressing:

.5 c non fat unsweetened plain yoghurt
.25 c minced cilantro (if you really don't like cilantro you could use parsley)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T lime juice
salt and pepper to taste--you don't need much

I never thought in a million years that I would like this dressing so much, but I do.

And the slaw is a nice accompaniment to burgers, bar-b-cue, hot dogs, pulled chicken.  And yes, I've been eating those things, too.

Josh, however, finds the raw veggies a little "too al dente.)  His words.  Turns out, I think he just wants it in the form of chopped slaw.

Chinese delivery for dinner tonight as I just had some dental work done.  (Again, I can make good choices here, too.)

happy cooking

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I haven't really been hiding...

I started the South Beach diet again about a month ago, and while we've been eating really yummy food, I just haven't been inspired to post about them.

But then I had my in-laws for dinner last night.  And MIL extraordinaire noted that 1) I haven't been blogging of late and b) that last night's dinner was blog worthy.

 So here goes.

Appetizers:  Bruschetta with a tomato topping that I read about in one of the Trib's  magazines on Sunday.  It had halved cherry/grape tomatoes mixed with minced herbs (basil and chives), capers and olive oil.  I also had fresh guacamole and salsa.  (I made toast points and chips for myself from multi-grain flat bread and tortillas.)

Dinner:  The flank steak with the mushrooms and shallots that Josh loves so much.  I did use a Splenda/Sugar blend in the marinade.  I didn't have any of the mushrooms because they were made with butter and real sugar.  I did not feel deprived in the least.  I like the flavor in the beef without the mushroom ragu.

I also made a barley risotto.  It's just what it sounds like.  You use barley instead of arborio rice.

For green things we had roasted broccoli and a cucumber salad.

Dessert:  Fresh fruit.  Pineapple, mango, kiwi and strawberries.  We ate the fruit a with few dark chocolate morsels.

Tonight's dinner is spaghetti squash with my gravy   Also sausage (Turkey) peppers and onions.  Oh...and the rest of the cucumber salad.

happy cooking

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

~Date Night 2/15/12--Fiesta!~

Ole!

We really like Fajitas.  Fajita salads, really.  I use this marinade and usually use chicken.

Ingredients
  • 2 skirt steaks (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons minced jalapeño pepper
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
print a shopping list for this recipe view wine pairings

Preparation

1. Cut the steak crosswise into 2 to 4 pieces and place in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; pour over the steak, turning it to coat well. Marinate overnight, covered, in the refrigerator, turning once or twice. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.
2. Preheat the broiler. Remove the steak from the marinade, scrape off any bits and place on a baking sheet. Broil 4 inches from heat source for 3 minutes per side for medium-rare meat. Let rest 10 to 15 minutes. Slice the meat thinly. (For easy eating, the steak strips should be 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick.) To assemble fajitas, click here .

I make guacamole with fresh avocados, sour cream and fresh, store-bought salsa and a squeeze of citrus to retard the browning.  Frequently, I add extra garlic, jalapeno, and cumin.  Yummy!

For our cocktail hour, I will be making Margaritas!  Ole! I will serve quesadillas with them.

Dessert will likely be brownies (probably from a box; probably Ghiradelli).  I'll add some ground cinnamon and cayenne.  That's all you need to take your brownies "south of the border."  I'll top it with some fresh whipped cream.

So that should bring you up to speed on my cooking for the week.  Talk at you later!

Happy Cooking!


French Onion Soup

I see that I have already  linked you to this recipe (Tyler Florence, 11/7/11), but I made it again last week.  Mmmmm!  So yummy.

Rather than make you traipse through the webernet, I'll just post the recipe.  You just have to promise me that you'll try it

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere
 
 Directions

Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn't burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

When you're ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup in bowls and float several of the Gruyere croutons on top.

Alternative method: Ladle the soup into bowls, top each with 2 slices of bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls into the oven to toast the bread and melt the cheese.


I do have French Onion Soup bowls, but I tend to use the first method.  You see, we are lazy and like to eat our soup in front of the television and bowls right out of the oven are just too hot.
.

Chicken Piccata Stuffed Mushroom Caps

Josh and I were invited to a 25th anniversary soiree on Saturday.  I was asked to bring an appetizer and this is what I brought:

         Ingedients

2 pound(s) fresh button mushrooms
6 tablespoon(s) butter
1/4 cup(s) minced green onion
1 tablespoon(s) minced capers
1 teaspoon(s) dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1/4 teaspoon(s) black pepper
1 cup(s) chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup(s) dry white wine
4 ounce cream cheese
1/2 cup(s) panko (japanese bread crumbs)
1/4 cup(s) butter,melted
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 15 x 10 jelly-roll pan. Clean mushrooms, removing stems;set 
caps aside. Finely chop enough mushroom stems to equal 1/2 cup. In a large skillet, melt 6 
tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add mushroom stems, green onion, capers, thyme, salt 
and pepper;cook 5 minutes,stirring frequently, or until stems are tender. Stir in chicken and wine;
cook 5 minutes,or until wine has evaporated. Add cream cheese and panko,stirring until combined. 
Fill mushroom caps evenly with the chicken mixture. Place in pan,and brush each with melted butter. 
Bake 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.
Notes:Mushroom caps may be filled 2 days before baking. Cover with plastic wrap and r
efrigerate until ready to bake.
 
This is a Paula Deen recipe.  Not knowing what the rest of the menu contained, but having heard
that the host does things very extravagantly, I didn't want my appetizer to be too heavy.  (It turns 
out another sister did the bulk of the cooking.) I eliminated the chicken.  I've made it that way in 
the past.  Yummy!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Date Night--2/8/12

I was all ready to make Cornish Game Hens for dinner.  I'd found, not one, but two recipes I was going to blend into a very yummy dinner.  Mariano's was out of the fresh CGH.

Strike 1.

I'd found what I thought was going to be a yummy orzo pilaf.  It turned out to be extremely bland.

Strike 2.

I went to the market with no appetizer or dessert plan.  This could have been strike three, but this next anecdote explains why my appetizer turned this into a game winning play.

This is one of the reasons I am so in love with Mariano's--all the other shoppers are so friendly!  I was fighting with a produce bag and carrot fronds, when I overheard a lady say to her companion (turns out it was her mom), "If I come to your house, will you teach me how you do your artichokes?"  I immediately add my own request to come to her house and learn how to "do her artichokes."  She proceeds to tell me exactly how to do it.  I'll shall do my best to share her methodology with you.

1.  cut the stem and the very top off the artichoke; remove any tough leaves from the stem end
2.  soak in lemon water (that's just water with some lemon juice in it), the length of the soaking was unspecified...I let it soak until I had step three ready
3.  mix bread crumbs and grated parm together, I added one minced garlic clove and a little EVOO
4.  put artichoke into a sauce pan and fill with water to reach about halfway up the artichoke
5.  press breadcrumb mixture on and into the leaves at the top (I had some of this mixture leftover and I added it when it was done cooking)
6.  bring water up to a boil and reduce to simmer.  The nice Italian mother (did I mention she was Italian?  She was.) said to simmer it for "every bit of 40 minutes."  I think mine simmered for closer to an hour and it probably needed a little longer.  You know it's done when you can put a knife all the way into the choke without resistance.

To eat, you just pull the leaves off with the yummy breadcrumb topping and scrape the leaves between you teeth.  The eating with your hands made it a little sensual and thus an excellent "date night" appetizer.



Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beef Stroganoff

Not only had I never made beef stroganoff, I'm not entirely sure that I had ever even tasted it.

But husband loves beef stroganoff and I love husband, so when a recipe for "Reduced-Fat Beef Stroganoff" showed up in my email I decided to give it some thought.

Which I did.  For several weeks.

And then I found one of the less familiar to me ingredients (meat tenderizer) and I bought  it.

Finally, it seeme time to try it.  Last night was after all Date Night.

Here is the recipe (courtesy of Cooks Country):

Flank steak has a beefier flavor than mild tenderloin; a little meat tenderizer transformed the thin slices of tough flank steak in a matter of minutes.

Portobello mushrooms cut into slices and roasted with cooking spray provided a low-calorie substitute that allowed us to eliminate some of the meat in our Reduced-Fat Beef Stroganoff. To cut calories in the cream sauce, fat-free yogurt proved the best alternative to sour cream, but it curdled instantly when we added it to the base. Stirring egg white into the yogurt solved the problem.

Traditional recipes have 561 calories, 26 grams of fat, and 12 grams of saturated fat per serving (1 cup stroganoff and 1 cup cooked yolk-free egg noodles). Our changes brought the numbers down to 344 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 2 grams of saturated fat.

Serves 6

Serve stroganoff with 6 cups cooked yolk-free egg noodles (you'll need one 1-pound package of dried noodles).
Ingredients
  • 1 small flank steak (1 pound), trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons meat tenderizer
  • 1 1/2 pounds portobello mushroom caps, gills removed, halved and sliced thin
  •   Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons white wine
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
Instructions
  • 1. PREPARE MEAT Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Following Step by Step photo at left, cut steak lengthwise into 3-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Toss meat and tenderizer together in medium bowl, cover, and refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes.
  • 2. ROAST MUSHROOMS Meanwhile, spray rimmed baking sheet lightly with cooking spray. Place mushrooms on prepared baking sheet, spray lightly with cooking spray, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast, stirring once, until golden brown, about 15 minutes; set aside.
  • 3. SEAR STEAK Pat steak dry with paper towels. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook half of steak, without moving it, until browned around edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Toss steak and cook until no longer pink, about 30 seconds. Transfer to clean medium bowl. Repeat with additional 1 teaspoon oil and remaining steak.
  • 4. MAKE SAUCE Add onion, remaining oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to now-empty skillet and cook over medium heat until browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in roasted mushrooms, flour, and tomato paste and cook until paste begins to darken, about 2 minutes. Add broth, wine, and mustard and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  • 5. FINISH Whisk yogurt and egg white in small bowl until smooth. Stir steak into sauce, along with any accumulated juices, and cook until beef is heated through, about 1 minute. Off heat, add yogurt mixture and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Changes/mistakes I made:
  1. I'm not sure I had enough portobello mushroom.  I think it was okay in the end.  
  2. I inadvertently bought fat free VANILLA yogurt, not plain.  Thankfully I caught that before I added it to the sauce and had some reduced fat sour cream to us instead.  Danger averted!

All in all, I received an A on last night's dinner.  (Josh then modified the grade to an A-, but bumped it back to an A for all my effort.)

Cocktail was some thing called a Delmarva.
  • 2 oz Rye Whiskey
  • .5 oz Amaretto
  • .5 oz dry vermouth
  • .25 oz lime juice
This was an interesting choice because classically whiskey is paired with lemon juice (not lime) and sweet vermouth (not dry).  Again, it seemed to work.

Appetizers were Alexia cheddar bites and Alexia mushroom bites.  When do little fried nuggets of anything not please?

Dinner tonight is a frozen pizza.  Finally Digiorno made a pizza that was literally made for us:  half pepperoni, half cheese.  Woohoo!  I don't have to move the pepperonis from my portion to Josh's.

Our best friends are joining us for dinner and Chuck (the 2-hour series finale :-(  ) tomorrow.  I already have a pasta casserole made that we will eat for dinner along with a garden salad.  I also have a variety of "grazing foods" to serve.  My girlfriend LOVES stuffed mushrooms, so I will make this recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3 slices firm white sandwich bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 20 large (2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter) white mushrooms (1 lb)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
print a shopping list for this recipe view wine pairings

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Tear bread into pieces and pulse to coarse crumbs in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and toss with oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a shallow baking pan and bake in middle of oven until golden, 6 to 8 minutes, then transfer to a bowl.
Pull stems from mushroom caps (to create space for stuffing) and finely chop stems. Put mushroom caps, stemmed sides down, in a lightly oiled large shallow baking pan and bake in middle of oven until mushrooms exude liquid, about 10 minutes, then remove from oven.
While mushroom caps are baking, melt butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté chopped stems, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add onion, celery, garlic, oregano, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Cool vegetables slightly, then add to bread crumbs along with cheese and parsley and toss well.
Turn mushroom caps over, then mound mushroom filling in mushroom caps, pressing gently (there will be some filling left over). Bake in middle of oven until mushrooms are tender and stuffing is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

I will also make chocolate pudding.

I have more cooking to do before the week is over, but I'll save that for another post.

happy cooking