Monday, August 28, 2006

Yes, it's cream of mushroom soup. Get over it!

Tonight's Menu
  • skillet pork chops with mushroom gravy
  • mashed potatoes
  • gigantic salad
It rained today for the first time in over a month. This was a good thing in that obviously, we desperately needed the rain. But I have fibromyalgia, and it does not play nicely with low barometric pressure. The result of all this was that I felt kind of achey and crappy and no longer wanted to grill the lovely boneless pork chops I had thawed for dinner. No, I wanted comfort food. And you know what that means. Oh hell yeah -- canned cream of mushroom soup.

Those of you who turn up your noses at such pedestrian fare can go read some other blog now. The rest of you, pssst! Come over here so I can tell you how to make this delicious and very un-gourmet dish.

Okay, you take two parts dry breadcrumbs to one part grated parmesan (in the big green can, yo) and toss them together with a little freshly ground pepper in a shallow dish. Then you take your boneless pork chops and dredge them in the breadcrumb mixture. Add a little oil to a skillet and brown the chops, then remove them from the pan and turn off the heat. In the same skillet, whisk together a can of cream of mushroom soup and maybe half a can of milk -- more or less, depending on how thick you like your gravy (it will thin while it cooks). Make sure you scrape up all the yummy bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the soup mixture barely up to a boil, then add the chops back to the pan, cover, reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer undisturbed for 20-30 minutes depending on how thick your chops are. If the gravy is too thin at the end of the cooking time, just uncover the pan, crank the heat up a bit, and stir the gravy until it's as thick as you like. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice.

This is one of our favorite "comfort" meals at our house. (Well, DH's and mine -- the kids won't touch it.) I usually make it in cool weather but it just felt right today for some reason.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

In which DH the poultry-allergic guy eats a TV dinner

Tonight's Menu
  • slow-roasted chicken with garlic and lemon
  • quinoa
  • gigantic salad
I checked out a copy of Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer from the library recently, and her recipe for slow-roasted chicken with garlic and lemon sounded FABULOUS so I tried a variation on it tonight. Poor DH, who is allergic to poultry, had to make do with a frozen Marie Callender's dinner (his choice, not mine!).

Nigella's recipe calls for a 3-4 lb. cut-up chicken, but I had a couple of pounds of thighs (skin on, bones in) so I used those. Toss them in a roasting pan with two lemons cut into eighths, a head of garlic broken into individual UNpeeled cloves, some thyme (she uses fresh, I used dried) and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Once you've tossed everything around, spread things out a little and then turn all the chicken pieces skin side up, sprinkle on maybe 1/4 to 1/3 cup dry white wine (I used pinot grigio because it's what I had) and some freshly ground pepper, then cover the pan tightly with foil. She cooks hers for 2 hours at 300, then uncovers it, boosts the temperature to 400, and cooks it 30-45 minutes longer. Since I only had two pounds of meat, I did mine at 275 for the first two hours, then uncovered and turned it up to 375 for 45 minutes. The skin was crisp, the meat was moist and tender, the garlic was caramelized -- delicious!

This was a great "family" dinner, but I would not hesitate to make it for company. Be sure to eat the garlic along with the meat! Nigella advocates eating the lemons too, but mine didn't go soft/candied enough for that.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Burger blunders

Tonight's Menu
  • hamburgers with all the fixin's
  • multigrain Tostitos chips
  • raw baby carrots for anyone who didn't put veggies on their burger
You wouldn't think a simple meal like hamburgers could go wrong, but this one sort of did. I preheated the grill while I shaped and seasoned the patties, but when I went to put them on, the grill was out. Yep, we had run out of propane. So I had to do them on the Foreman, which I kind of dislike intensely because it doesn't really GRILL the food, it just kind of fries it and drains off the fat. I dunno, they came out okay, but I was jonesing for GRILLED BURGERS and this just wasn't the same. Also, my dad's tomato plants are done for the season so I'm buying my tomatoes from the grocery store now, and they taste like nothing. Urgh.

In other news, both of the kids like hamburgers now, go figure! The girl had hers with cheese and that's all; the boy had his with onions and ketchup. They won't eat them in restaurants, but they like them at home. They're so weird!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mas fajitas!

Tonight's Menu
  • beef fajitas with all the fixin's
I made fajitas again tonight, the same way I made them last time except that I sauteed the veggies in EVOO instead of grilling them. I like grilled better, but I was trying to hurry. They were still WAY yummy!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Something fishy

Tonight's Menu
  • trout fillets sauteed in EVOO
  • steamed basmati rice
  • giant green salad
This was a quick and easy dinner because we had to cram it in between the kids' taekwondo class and parent info night up at the school. I buy the pre-bagged salad greens and just add shit to them. Cucumber, carrots, cherry tomatoes, etc. We eat a lot of salad, as you may have noticed. The kids like it and it's an easy way to get some veggies into them.

Our microwave has a setting for rice so I make use of that. It's AWESOME. Just dump a cup of rice and two cups of water into a covered casserole dish, stick it in the nukerator, push the button and forget about it. The rice comes out perfect and fluffy and never sticky or clumpy.

Trout is DH's favorite fish, and it's so easy to prepare. I buy the fillets that are de-boned but still have the skin on. Just crank up a skillet to medium high, drizzle in some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper the flesh side of the fillets, and cook them maybe 3 minutes per side depending on how thick they are. I start with the skin side up but it doesn't really matter.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

More ribs!

Tonight's Menu
  • spicy pork spareribs
  • garlic breadsticks (frozen)
  • sweet corn (also frozen, sadly)
Tonight's dinner was a bit of an adventure. I had planned to cook the spareribs for a couple of hours on low heat in the oven, then finish them on the gas grill. However, about 10 minutes after I put them in the oven, our power went out. Since our oven is electric (which I HATE -- I really miss my gas oven!) that meant no ribs unless I cooked them 100% on the grill. Which I did, and they got overcooked, dammit! I had the burners turned down as low as they would go, but I wasn't able to do indirect heat because the rack of ribs was so big that it took up the whole grill, even after I cut it in half.

ANYWAY. They were still very tasty. I did a dry rub before I stuck them in the oven (brown sugar, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper) and cooked them uncovered for the short time they were in there. Then once they were on the grill, I whipped up a sauce on the stovetop (which is gas). I sauteed some sweet onion in EVOO, then added some apple jelly, ketchup, dry mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger, allspice, salt and pepper and let it simmer for 10 minutes or so before saucing the ribs in their last 10 minutes of grilling. If I made this again, I'd add some sort of booze to it -- dark rum or bourbon would be delish. Soy sauce or worcestershire would be good too if you knocked back the salt a bit, but DH and the girl child are allergic to soy and I totally forgot about the worcestershire.

The power came back on while the ribs were grilling so I was able to heat up some frozen crappe to go along with them. I'm still pissed that the ribs got dry from being grilled too long, though. Oh well.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

In praise of short ribs

Tonight's Menu
  • crockpot short ribs
  • mashed potatoes
  • salad
I tried this recipe for the short ribs and they were soooo good, y'all. I followed it exactly except that (a) I cooked them for more like 10 hours and (b) my slow cooker is really old and doesn't do "high" very well so the gravy didn't get thick. Next time I'll pour it into a pan and thicken it on the stovetop.

In every book of his that I've read, Anthony Bourdain sings the lament of the unpopular meat -- you know, those cuts that tend to be cheap and fatty and have to be cooked just right to be rendered palatable. But when they ARE cooked just right, yowza! Beef short ribs definitely qualify. They're ugly when raw -- big hunks of bone, the small amount of meat thickly marbled with fat -- and if you don't cook them properly, they are tough as old shoes. But when cooked slowly over low heat (whether in a crockpot, braised on the stovetop, or roasted in the oven) until the fat renders and the meat is so tender it falls off the bone, they are a thing of beauty, y'all. The fat just melts through the meat and gives it an amazing flavor that you'll NEVER get from a leaner cut. And short ribs are so cheap!

In addition to the recipe I tried tonight, I love them with sauerkraut. Just salt and pepper the ribs and brown them in a skillet (to boost the flavor and make 'em pretty), dump a jar of sauerkraut into the crockpot, maybe stir in a little brown sugar or some grated apple or onion, dump the ribs on top, cover and cook all day.

The meat is so rich that they're probably better suited to cool weather than the 100+ degree temperatures we've been having here lately (and will continue to have until Thanksgiving, probably), but what can I say? I had a craving. And the crockpot doesn't heat up the house TOO much.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Let's review: the end!

Okay, so this whole thing started as a summer experiment. Up until this past May, I was the kind of mom who made separate food for the adults and kids for dinner every night. Then it occurred to me that at eight and ten years of age, my kids were old enough to make their own damn dinner if they didn't like what the adults were having. And so, starting on the first day of summer vacation this year, I stopped making separate food for them. No more substituting frozen chicken nuggets or fish sticks for whatever meat DH and I were having, yo!

The primary goal was, of course, for me to only make one "menu" at dinner every night. In that respect, the experiment has been a success. While frequently I do make an effort to prepare foods that I know the kids like, no longer do I make separate food JUST for them. I make what I make, and they can take it or leave it. They know that they have to include a protein and a veggie or fruit in their meal in order for me to "approve" it, but apart from that, they're on their own. And I'm finding mealtime MUCH less of a chore these days.

My secondary goal was to get the kids to expand their palates a little and try some new foods. I feel like we managed to do pretty well with this goal, too. Both kids have tried and liked some new foods (meat in particular -- sorry, vegetarians!)(okay no, I'm not really sorry) and they've managed to surprise me and themselves with that, I think!

In my heart of hearts, I kind of hoped that by the end of the summer we'd all be eating the same foods at dinnertime. I thought the kids would likely get tired of peanut butter sandwiches and shredded cheese and raw carrots and whatnot and just start eating what I made. That, sadly, has NOT happened. Oh well.

SO. The thing is, school starts tomorrow! Summer vacation is only 81 days long -- who knew? And so the experiment is technically over, which leaves me with a bit of a dilemma. I'm not really keen on continuing to record what the kids do and do not eat every night, because I'm getting a little bored with that. However, I really have enjoyed the menu/cooking aspect of the ol' blog here, and I'd kind of like to keep that going.

So what do y'all say? Are you still interested in reading what I make for dinner (almost) every night? If so, do you want more recipes and how-to? Let me know!

Day 81

Adult Menu
  • leftover grilled flank steak
  • a quickie cherry tomato relish
  • Pillsbury crescent rolls
Girl Child
Had rolls with some deli turkey slices, raw baby carrots, and a piece of whole-grain toast.

Boy Child
Had rolls and carrots with a peanut butter sandwich.

The tomato relish I made tonight was SO easy, y'all. I just halved a bunch of teeny homegrown cherry tomatoes, chopped up some sweet onion and a few springs of basil, and tossed it all with a little EVOO and red wine vinegar. It was really tasty with the leftover steak.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Day 80

Adult Menu
  • grilled flank steak
  • steamed broccoli
  • homegrown tomatoes, a medley of sliced big 'uns and teeny cherries
Girl Child
Had broccoli and a bacon/egg/cheese Toaster Scrambles.

Boy Child
Had some steak and a bunch of broccoli.

I'm really happy with how the flank steak turned out tonight. I didn't have a chance to marinate it, so instead I got out my mortar and pestle and bashed up three large garlic cloves, about a tablespoon of kosher salt (more or less), some cracked pepper, the juice from one large lemon, and some EVOO. The steak was pre-tenderized but if it hadn't been, I would have made diamond cuts on both sides. Then I just rubbed the garlic slurry into all the little grooves of the meat and grilled it for 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Cut across the grain into thin strips and devour. It was REALLY flavorful considering it didn't marinate at all. I think the key was using a pooload of garlic.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Day 77

Adult Menu
  • pan-seared thin-cut ribeyes
  • baked potatoes
  • salad
Girl Child
Had salad and a bacon/egg/cheese Toaster Scrambles.

Boy Child
Ate everything! This was his first time trying a baked potato and he loved it. Unfortunately, he filled up on it and ended up only eating a few bites of steak. Oh well.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Day 76

Adult Menu
  • beer-boiled shrimp
  • small red potatoes, parboiled then chuffed up in a hot pan with butter
  • sliced homegrown tomatoes sprinkled with torn basil, sea salt and cracked pepper and drizzled with EVOO and balsamic vinegar
Girl Child
Passed on everything and had a peanut butter sandwich and some celery. Yuck.

Boy Child
Had some shrimp and potatoes with leftover salad from the other night, along with a clementine.

I was going to grill the shrimp but I just couldn't be arsed to peel them and thread them on skewers and whatnot. Instead I poured a couple of bottles of Abita Turbodog into a big pot, threw in some whole peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves and some salt, brought it to a boil, then tossed in the shrimp unpeeled (I buy them already de-veined with the shells split, and I gave them a rinse first). I drained them and put them on ice after they were cooked and served them with melted butter for dipping. Yum!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Day 73 - the girl child cooks!

Family Menu
  • pigs in the blanket
  • mini crescent rolls
  • salad with chopped celery
  • peanut butter for celery dipping
  • baked potato chips with onion dip
  • multigrain tortilla chips with queso
  • ooey-gooey marshmallow brownies for dessert
A couple of weeks ago, the girl child asked me if she could cook dinner one night, all the way through to dessert. I told her to plan a menu and we'd go shopping, so she did (I had NO input) and we did and tonight was the night! She was SO thrilled, y'all. We made the brownies (from scratch!) this morning with her doing all the mixing and measuring and me acting as sous chef. She did everything for the dinner except making the queso and moving things in and out of the oven (both of which I did). For the pigs in the blanket she used Pillsbury crescent rolls cut in half long-ways and wrapped around little beef sausage links. She chopped the celery and tossed it with the salad greens, filled little ramekins with peanut butter, and insisted on serving everyone (we usually do "buffet style" around here). She did such a great job with everything and it was really good, too!

Now the boy child is trying to plan out his menu so he can cook one of these nights. Should be interesting!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Day 72

Adult Menu
  • grilled chicken leg quarters (with or without barbecue sauce, as you like)
  • grilled nectarine halves
  • cold salad of red potatoes, fresh mozzarella, homegrown cherry tomatoes and marinated artichoke hearts
Girl Child
Had a drumstick (no barbecue sauce), a piece of toast, and some raw baby carrots.

Boy Child
Had two thighs (one with barbecue sauce, one without) and a clementine.

DH worked late again so I picked up some chicken while the kids were at taekwondo. It was sooo yummy, y'all! I also made my favorite bastardized white sangria with a bottle of cheap pinot grigio, a can of peach nectar (I mixed a couple of Tbs. of the nectar with some bottled barbecue sauce for the chicken, though), some sliced nectarines, raspberries, and some club soda. If you're not going to consume it all right away, then just put the wine, nectar and nectarines in a pitcher and stick it in the fridge, then add the raspberries and club soda to each glass individually before serving. Otherwise the raspberries get weird and the club soda goes flat.

The potato salad is my new favorite thing (besides the sangria)(and grilled EVERYTHING, obviously). All you do is cut some little red potatoes in quarters, then simmer them for about 15 minutes, drain and let cool. Then you toss in some halved cherry tomatoes (or quartered, slightly larger tomatoes), some fresh mozzarella (either the little balls or a big ball cut in wedges), and a jar of marinated artichoke hearts (do NOT drain, the marinade is your dressing). Season with salt and pepper, stir in a chiffonade of fresh basil, and pop it in the fridge. Yummy! And it goes great with grilled meats, which are apparently the only kind I'm eating this summer.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Day 71

Adult Menu
  • tangy pork tenderloin
  • leftover steamed basmati rice
  • leftover steamed broccoli
Girl Child
Ate the broccoli and rice but had deli turkey slices instead of pork.

Boy Child
Ate everything! This was his first time trying the pork and he really liked it.

This pork tenderloin is soooo easy to make. Just mix 2 Tbs. brown sugar, 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. paprika and 1/2 tsp. ground ginger in a little bowl. Spread half of it on the pork tenderloin, then put the tenderloin in a roasting pan and cook uncovered at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then spread the other half of the mixture on the pork and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until it's done. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes, then slice on the diagonal. SO yummy and the tenderloin stays really juicy.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Day 70

Adult Menu
  • rainbow trout fillets, sauteed in EVOO
  • steamed basmati rice
  • steamed broccoli
Girl Child
Ate the broccoli and rice but had deli turkey slices instead of fish.

Boy Child
Tried the fish! And ate a fairly sizeable portion, but said he probably didn't want it again. He had plenty of rice and broccoli.