Friday, November 09, 2007

Spicy squash

Tonight's Menu

  • tilapia and spaghetti squash with Moroccan spices
  • giant green salad
This was way yummy and fairly easy.

I followed this recipe on Epicurious for the spaghetti squash, except that I halved my squash lengthwise and cooked it cut-side down in the oven rather than in the microwave. The oven caramelizes the sugars in a way that that the microwave doesn't, and I like the added flavor. It's way quicker to do it in the microwave, though, so you do whatever.

I made the spiced butter in a heavy skillet and then, after pouring it all over the squash and tossing to coat, stuck my tilapia fillets in the same skillet to cook them. They picked up some of the spice and were SO good! The boy child had two helpings!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Chowderific!

Tonight's Menu

  • fish chowder
  • leftover herb bread
I've been indulging in a lot of cooking "experiments" lately, and most of them haven't worked out so well, which is why I haven't been posting much. I mean, there's only so much public humiliation I can take. Tonight's chowder, though, was an experiment that worked out wonderfully. Here's how I made it, to the best of my recollection. This was totally one of those "use what you have" type recipes, so if the specific ingredients sound a little weird, that's why.

Okay, first I chopped up some baby carrots and tiny red potatoes and simmered them in some veggie broth just until tender. While that was going, I cut up half a sweet onion and about 5-6 slices of pre-cooked bacon. I tossed the bacon into a big pot over medium high heat, just to crisp it up a bit, then reduced the heat to medium and added 3 Tbs. butter and the onions. I cooked and stirred them until the onions had gone translucent, then I added 3 Tbs. flour and stirred until it turned golden. Then I slowly stirred in some milk (I have no idea how much -- 4 cups, maybe?) and brought that to a gentle boil, stirring all the while so it wouldn't scorch on the bottom. Once it started bubbling, I added two large tilapia fillets which I had cut into bite-sized pieces, plus I drained the potatoes and carrots and added those in as well. I tossed in a bunch of dried thyme and parsley, a little dried basil, some salt and pepper and brought the whole thing back up to a boil. Then I reduced the heat to low and let it simmer about 15-20 minutes, just enough to cook the fish through and meld all the flavors.

The broth thickened a bit while it was cooking, and it was SO yummy and flavorful. I debated whether to add dill, but I really don't like dill with creamy sauces/broth. I'm weird, I know. The thyme was awesome, though.

The herb bread was left over from a few nights ago when I made an (unsuccessful) attempt at beef stew. A little tip from me to you -- don't use crappy beer in your stew. Take it from me, y'all.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Autumn grilling

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled skirt steak
  • grilled Maya Sweet onion wedges
  • oven sweet potato fries
I know. I KNOW. I said no more grilling outdoors EVER, or at least until March, but I couldn't help myself! I ... I was nervous about all that propane sitting around all winter long, and I wanted to use it up. (This is a giant lie. Actually, the weather was really nice and I had a skirt steak in the freezer, and one thing led to another. I did end up using all the propane we had left, though.)

ANYWAY.

The skirt steak was seasoned and grilled in a fajita-like fashion, except that I served it without tortillas or fajita fixin's. The onion wedges were just tossed with EVOO and grilled on a screen.

For the fries, I just peeled a couple of sweet potatoes and cut them into steak-fry sized sticks. Then I tossed them in a big bowl with EVOO, sea salt, garlic powder, chili powder and a little bit of cumin. I lined a baking sheet with Reynolds Release (if you're not using that, just line it with foil that's been sprayed with cooking spray) and then put the sweet potatoes on it in a single layer. I baked them at 425 degrees F for what amounted to about 45 minutes, I think, flipping them over every 10 minutes. Then I sprinkled them with a bit more sea salt before serving. They were REALLY good -- the ends got a little brown, but otherwise they were perfectly cooked. The boy child said this was his new favorite way to eat sweet potatoes. I'll definitely make these again!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Something different

Tonight's Menu

  • cinnamon chicken
  • roasted garlic and olive oil couscous
  • steamed broccoli
I'm an avid fan of Anne's Food, and a couple of days ago she posted a recipe (and photo!) for cinnamon chicken that got my mouth watering. I decided to make it today. It was WAY yummy, though my skin didn't get all that crispy and burned a bit. Maybe I added too much honey. Or screwed up the Celsius-to-Fahrenheit conversion somehow.

The couscous was Near East brand, from a box. I KNOW.

Broccoli was steamed in the microwave, as usual.

Those who don't like chicken and/or are allergic to it had leftover chili and cornbread.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not exactly chili weather, but I made it anyway

Tonight's Menu

  • chili con carne
  • cornbread
  • green salad
Even though it was really warm and humid today, I was in the mood for chili. I basically made this recipe from Martha Stewart, but with the following changes:
  • I used dried pasilla chiles because that's what I had
  • I used all beef (chuck), no pork
  • I used Glen Muir organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, just for the heck of it (and to add a little smokiness, which was really nice -- I'd do that again for sure)
  • I omitted the vinegar and used a tablespoon of sugar instead
  • please note that the 3 tsp of salt called for is a bit much, at least to my palate -- I'd knock that in half if I made this again
Anyway, it was really good except for the extra saltiness.

The cornbread is from an old Better Homes & Gardens recipe that I use all the time.

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F, spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray, and mix the above ingredients together in a medium bowl.

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil

Mix above three ingredients together, then add to dry ingredients, mixing just until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Saucy!

Tonight's Menu

  • spiced pork chops
  • steamed basmati rice
  • sauteed baby spinach
I used to make this spiced pork chop recipe, which I originally got from Taste Of Home magazine, all the time but I don't see it in my archives so I guess it's been a while! It's very yummy, particularly in cooler weather. Which we are NOT having, but hope springs eternal and whatnot.

What you do is take half a cup of flour and mix in a bunch of herbs and spices -- garlic powder, dry mustard, paprika, celery salt, ground ginger, dried oregano, dried basil, some pepper and a pinch of salt. Then dredge four pork chops (I like the thick boneless ones) in the flour/spice mixture. I usually mix the flour and spices in a big plastic zipper bag and then shake the chops right in the bag, just to save time and a bit of mess. Once the chops are coated in flour and spices, brown them on both sides in a skillet with a little oil.

While the chops are browning, mix together a cup of ketchup, a cup of water, and 1/4 cup of brown sugar and set it aside. Remove the chops from the skillet and place them in a single layer in a 9 x 13-inch pan, then pour the ketchup mixture over them and bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for about an hour. The chops come out tender with a sweet-tangy sauce that's really good with rice. This recipe is easily doubled but the sauce doesn't freeze all that well, in my experience.

Spinach was the usual deal -- a big bag of pre-washed baby spinach sauteed in EVOO and seasoned with salt and pepper. The spinach cooks WAY down, so figure on one salad-sized bag for every 2-3 people you're feeding.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

More fun with leeks

Tonight's Menu

  • leek and potato soup
  • beer bread
I was in a soup and bread kind of mood tonight. The leek and potato soup was based on this Emeril recipe. I used applewood-smoked bacon, substituted organic vegetable broth for the chicken broth (because DH is allergic to poultry) and dry vermouth for the white wine, shoved the bouquet garni ingredients into a tea ball, used black pepper instead of white, and didn't bother with the chives. But other than that, I followed the recipe exactly! Heh. It was very yummy, and gave me a chance to try out my new immersion blender (a birthday gift from DH).

The beer bread was from this recipe that I found online. I sifted the dry ingredients as recommended and only used 1/4 cup butter. It was really good! The crust was almost more than my crappy old bread knife could handle, though. Time to upgrade to a Wusthof, I guess!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Prepare to sneer

Tonight's Menu

  • roast beef with onion gravy
  • egg noodles
  • green salad
Tonight's dinner involved not only a can of cream of mushroom soup, but a packet of dry onion soup mix! Yes it did! And it was DELICIOUS.

Okay, so I had this big chuck or shoulder or something roast. I don't know, it was a hunk of beef, okay? I seasoned it with salt and pepper and then browned it on both sides before dumping it into a covered casserole dish. Then I chopped an onion (coarsely) and sort of scattered it around the meat. Finally, I mixed together a can of cream of mushroom soup, a packet of dry onion soup mix, a little Worcestershire sauce, and some red wine and poured it all over the roast and onions. Cover, cook at 325 F for about 3-4 hours (depending on how big your hunk o' beef is) and Bob's your uncle.

I had thought the gravy would thin a bit while cooking, but it actually got thicker. That's why I went with noodles instead of mashed potatoes.

I usually do beef roast in the crockpot because you can't screw that up, but I was VERY happy with how this turned out! The meat was fork-tender and really flavorful. Yum!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

More fall food

Tonight's Menu

  • pork with leeks and apples
  • crusty French bread
  • steamed broccoli
Tonight's dinner was totally an experiment. It was one of those use-what-you-have kind of deals. Luckily it turned out delicious!

I had this pork tenderloin, right? And while I really like my usual method of preparation, it gets a little boring if I make it that way every week. So what I did instead was cut the tenderloin into medallions about 1 to 1.5 inches thick. I did NOT pound them since I was planning to cook them in liquid. I just salted and peppered them and then browned them in a hot skillet with EVOO to give them a nice crust. Then I removed them from the pan and set them aside for a bit.

To the still-hot pan I added one leek that I had chopped (cut off the root end and the dark green bits, halve it lengthwise, give it a good wash, then cut into 1-inch sections) and stirred that around for a bit until it released some fragrance (being sure to scrape up the brown bits from the pork). Then I added one apple (I used a Fuji -- it's what I had) that had been peeled, cored, and chunked. Stir, stir, stir -- just to get a TINY bit of color on the leeks and apples.

Then I added the pork back into the pan and poured in a bottle of Hornsby's hard cider. You could also use regular apple cider, apple juice, or even white wine, probably. I stripped the leaves off of a few (like half a dozen, maybe) sprigs of fresh thyme and added those in, then covered the pan and simmered it all for about 15 minutes, which is how long it took to heat up the bread and steam the broccoli. After 15 minutes I uncovered the pan, cranked up the heat, and let the liquid reduce down to almost nothing. Then I seasoned it with a bit more salt and pepper (after tasting), et voila!

A couple of notes:
  1. Don't use too much thyme. You want just a hint of it, but you don't want it to dominate the dish.
  2. If you're using a less-tender cut of meat, increase the simmering time accordingly and don't add the apples until about halfway through. Otherwise your meat will be tough and/or your apples will be mushy.
  3. When you reduce a liquid like you do in this recipe, don't salt/pepper until the end. Otherwise those flavors get concentrated as the liquid reduces. Always taste before you season! The fact that I had seasoned the pork before browning meant that this dish needed very little additional salt at the end. If I'd salted without tasting, or salted before reducing, I would have added WAY too much.
Okay! Enjoy!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Soupy

Tonight's Menu

Um, yeah. That's all. Just soup. I was going to make bread but we had a busy late afternoon/early evening and it didn't happen.

That's okay. It's not like this meal needed more carbs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's all gravy, all the time up in here

Tonight's Menu

  • chicken-fried steak with cream gravy
  • mashed potatoes
  • green salad
Oh my God. I am so full. I seriously need to stop with the gravy, y'all.

Um, so, chicken-fried steak! It's a Texas thing, dontcha know! I make mine with tenderized cube steaks. Cut them in serving sizes if they aren't already, dredge them in seasoned flour, then in an egg/milk wash, then back in the flour. THEN -- and this is key, because it keeps the breading from falling off -- let them sit for half an hour. Heat about half an inch of oil (I use canola) in a heavy, high-sided skillet, dredge the steaks in the seasoned flour one more time before putting them in the pan, and fry them on both sides until golden brown and cooked through.

I used a mix for the gravy. I KNOW. I am horrible at making gravy, and the mix (Pioneer, I think it was) was fat-free. I jazzed it up with salt and pepper and it was okay. Shut up.

This is a really REALLY heavy/filling meal. I could barely eat dessert. Ha!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gravy

Tonight's Menu

  • skillet pork chops with mushroom gravy
  • steamed Texmati rice
  • caramelized baby carrots
This was pure comfort food, y'all.

The chops recipe is one I've used since before DH and I got married. Actually, it was his recipe originally. This time I used bone-in chops. So yummy. I let them simmer while I cooked the sides. When the sides were done, the chops were done.

Rice was steamed in the microwave. I have no instructions for you except to use two parts water to one part rice. Our microwave has a "smart" setting so I use that.

The carrots were also steamed in the microwave (I used fresh baby carrots; I suppose you could use frozen if you had to). Then I melted some butter with some brown sugar (equal amounts of both) in a skillet and tossed in the steamed, drained carrots until they were coated with the caramelly goodness.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hammy

Tonight's Menu

  • indoor grilled ham steak
  • baked sweet potatoes
  • sauteed baby spinach
Okay, so this was way easy.

The ham steak was grilled indoors on the grill pan. Just a couple of minutes per side to warm it through and put some sexy grill marks on it, then cut into serving-size pieces.

The sweet potatoes were just scrubbed, wrapped in foil, and baked in the oven for about an hour at 375 degrees F. They were kind of small, so you might have to adjust the time for larger potatoes. Once out of the oven they were split and buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

The spinach was just one of those big bags of pre-washed fresh baby spinach. Heat some EVOO in a large skillet, dump in the spinach (you can do this in stages if it keeps jumping out of the pan -- it will cook WAY down), stir it around until it all goes nice and wilted, then season with salt and pepper.

Apart from remembering to put the potatoes in the oven ahead of time, you can have this dinner ready in like 10-15 minutes. No lie. And if you absolutely had to, you could microwave the potatoes instead of baking them in the oven. It's quicker than getting pizza delivered, yo!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It's Fall, Bitches!

Tonight's Menu

  • slow-cooker beef short ribs
  • mashed potatoes
  • steamed broccoli
Yeah, I know. I HAD TO. I can't grill another thing. Not until April, at least. I don't CARE if it's still hot and humid as all hell, I WANT FALL FOOD.

Ahem.

So, I've made these ribs before and they are amazing. This time I thickened the gravy on the stove and it came out much better.

This is the heaviest meal I've eaten since at least March, I think. BUT IT WON'T BE MY LAST.

Mwahahaha!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Grilling in September

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless pork chops
  • grilled potato-onion packets
  • sauteed green cabbage
Easy, tasty, but STILL BORING.

Chops were sprinkled with Jane's Krazy Salt and garlic pepper, grilled on high heat 3-4 minutes per side (they were really thick). The same way I've made them ALL SUMMER LONG.

I've done the potato-onion dealie before too. Very easy. Takes a bit longer to cook than the chops do, so put the packet on the grill while you're prepping the meat, then take it off after the meat has rested post-grill.

Cabbage was just half a head (or more, depending on how much you want) of green cabbage given a rough chop (about 1-2 inch pieces), then sauteed in a hot skillet with EVOO. Season with salt and pepper when it's tender. Easy.


I never thought I'd get bored with grilling, especially since I didn't get to do much of it this summer due to all the rain, but I totally am! I think the problem is that my food mood depends more on the calendar than the weather. Now that it's September (my birthday month, thankyouverymuch), I feel like I should be moving more in a fall-ish direction with my food. I want roasts, stews, soups, casseroles, stuff like that. But it's still in the 90s and (finally) sunny here, so I can't really bring myself to heat up the kitchen much and/or serve heavy meals. But it's SEPTEMBER. So I WANT TO. I just CAN'T.

I am in food limbo, people.

That being said, tomorrow we are having (grilled) hamburgers. Sometime this week, we will have I SWEAR TO GOD the last (grilled) fajitas of the season, because I already have the skirt steak.

I seriously need to spend like an entire day going through my Cooks Illustrateds and my Eating Wells and whatnot to find some NEW STUFF to cook.

So stay tuned, if you feel so inclined.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Still bored, but what the hell

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-braised beef brisket
  • dinner rolls (from frozen dough)
  • green salad with carrots from the garden
Okay, yeah. I am still bored over here. Feeling very uninspired, food-wise. Not making anything remotely exciting. But I feel guilty about not posting for so long, so here! A post! A really boring post!

The brisket was rubbed with the usual spices -- brown sugar, dried oregano, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard, salt and pepper -- then stuck in a pan with some beer, tightly covered, and cooked fat-side-up at 375 degrees F for two hours owing to the fact that I totally forgot to put it in the oven at 2:00 like I meant to. It was still fairly tender. I think cutting it REALLY thin after it had rested helped a lot with that, though.

The rolls were those little frozen dough balls, thawed and baked. Easy.

I hope to cook something interesting soon.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I'm so bored

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled NY strip steaks
  • sauteed onions and mushrooms
  • chuffed potatoes
  • green salad with carrots from the garden
Let's get the whys and wherefores out of the way first.

The steaks were rubbed with olive oil that had minced garlic steeped in it (I minced a clove, put it in the mortar and pestle with some EVOO, bashed it up and let it sit for a bit), sprinkled with salt and pepper, then grilled over high heat for 3 minutes per side. They were medium-rare and perfect.

Onions were cut in wedges, sauteed in butter with some sliced baby bellas.

Potatoes were the usual.

I am feeling so bored and uninspired lately, food-wise. I think maybe I'm just biding my time until the kids go back to school (one week from Monday!) and I can start grocery shopping again without schlepping them along with me. Somewhere in the reptilian part of my brain, I have visions of finally finding a decent meat market in my part of town, buying my produce from farmer's markets or at least the health food store, and trying a few new recipes/techniques. But until then, bah humbug!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Spicy!

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled spiced pork tenderloin
  • fruit salad of cantaloupe, strawberries and blackberries
  • green salad
Okay, so it's supposed to rain for the next several days, thanks to Tropical Storm Erin. I figured this was the last night I'd be able to grill for a while, so I busted out the spiced pork tenderloin. It was VERY yummy and a little more spicy than the last time I made it, probably owing to the fact that I didn't bother to measure anything.

The fruit salad is pretty much self-explanatory. It only had the fruit in it. Cantaloupe was cubed; strawberries were halved. Easy.

Ditto the green salad. Bagged greens, chopped carrots, wedged tomato (the VERY last of the garden tomatoes).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Kick-ass dinner

Tonight's Menu

  • barbecued baby back ribs
  • coleslaw
  • nectarines with mint
Every now and then I hit a home run. This was one of them, if I do say so myself.

I mixed together brown sugar, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper and rubbed it all over a rack of baby back ribs. Then I put the ribs on a rack in a roasting pan, added some water to the pan, covered it tightly with foil, and cooked it in the oven at 225 degrees F for an hour and a half. Then I stuck the ribs meat-side down on the grill over medium-high heat for about five minutes, just to give them some color, before flipping to meat-side up and turning the grill down to low. After 10 minutes at low I basted them with some bottled Carolina-style barbecue sauce, then basted them again 10 minutes later and took them off maybe 2-3 minutes after that. They held together but were wonderfully tender and SO DELICIOUS. Unbelievable. I think this is the best rack of ribs I've ever made.

For the coleslaw, I shredded (with a knife) three parts green cabbage to one part red, then tossed it with a mixture of mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip), equal parts each white vinegar and sugar, and celery seed. Refrigerate for at least an hour, and toss again before serving.

The nectarines were one of those spontaneous things. I just chopped two of them and tossed them with a chiffonade of fresh mint and a TEENY bit of superfine sugar. I was hoping the sugar would macerate them a bit, but I didn't want them too sweet. It turns out they didn't really macerate at all, but they didn't oxidize either so it was all okay. They did a fantastic job of cutting the fat and spice of the ribs, and were the perfect accompaniment.

My only regret is that DH and I pretty much porked it all down in one sitting, so there's not much in the way of leftovers. Whoever gets to them first tomorrow gets to have them for lunch. Mwahaha!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Easy leftovers

Tonight's Menu

  • garlicky grilled flank steak
  • leftover grilled onions and potatoes
  • leftover salad of baby spinach and strawberries
Um, yeah. Not much to say about this one.

I've already told you how to make the steak. And the onions/potatoes and salad.

Way easy.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Perfect summer supper

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled chicken leg quarters
  • grilled onion and potato packet
  • salad of baby spinach and strawberries
Oh y'all. This was SO GOOD.

The chicken was easy. I just sprinkled each leg quarter with some Jane's Krazy Salt and freshly ground pepper, then grilled them skin-side down over medium-high heat for five minutes or so to get the skin nicely browned and crisp. After that I flipped them to skin-side-up, turned the grill down to low, and let them cook for another 20 minutes or so. They were tender, juicy and delicious.

The onion and potato packet was likewise easy. I just thinly sliced some onion and some little red-skinned potatoes (because that's what I had; do use a waxy vs. mealy potato, though) and layered them in a piece of heavy-duty foil with some butter, salt and freshly ground pepper. I sealed it all up nice and tight and stuck it on the grill when I turned the chicken. It was done when the chicken was done, and it was SO YUMMY. The onion got all sweet and slightly caramelized, and the potato was nicely tender. Mmmm!

The spinach salad could not have been easier; just dump a bag of pre-washed baby spinach into a bowl and add halved (or quartered or sliced) fresh strawberries. I served it with a bottled raspberry vinaigrette.

I washed everything down with a nice glass of white sangria. Earlier today I combined a bottle of pinot grigio (it's what I had; just use whatever white wine is laying around) with some cognac and a can of peach nectar. Then I sliced in a couple of fresh nectarines and let it all kind of get happy for a couple of hours. To serve, fill a collins glass (that's the tall one) with ice and then pour it about half full of the wine mixture. Scoop out some nectarines and drop those in the glass, add a couple of fresh raspberries, then top it off with club soda (or if you like it sweeter, use a lemon-lime soda). It's kind of like a homemade wine cooler, but NOTHING like that pre-bottled crap you buy in the store. So good, and excellent with grilled chicken!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Cheeburger cheeburger pepsi chip*

Tonight's Menu

  • hamburgers & fixin's
Tonight's dinner was a hasty, last-minute affair. Part of that was expected (the boy child had a late afternoon doctor appointment) and part of it was not (we were out of propane! the horror!). Either way, hamburgers were the logical choice.

I like my homemade hamburgers SO MUCH BETTER than fast-food burgers. I keep them really simple and don't tart them up with a lot of stuff. That's what the toppings are for. All I do is take a one-pound chub of "natural" ground beef (85/15) and divide it in fourths, then squash each bit flat between two pieces of wax paper. I like them pretty thin so they fill out the bun. Then I sprinkle both sides with Jane's Krazy Salt (I know, I should buy stock) and garlic pepper (ditto) and grill them over high heat for about 3 minutes per side. Tonight we topped them with cheese, sliced onion, romaine lettuce, sliced tomato (the last of the garden tomatoes), and the usual ketchup, mustard, etc. Quick and easy, provided you're not out of propane!

*Please tell me someone understands that reference. I can't be the only one who grew up with the Not Ready For Prime Time Players.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Beginner's luck

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless pork chops
  • leftover sweet & sour red cabbage
  • leftover green beans from the garden
  • fried green tomatoes
Yeah, this dinner was a bit of a hodge-podge. The cabbage and beans were left over from the other night; I was trying to clean out the refrigerator a bit.

The pork chops were seasoned with Jane's Krazy Salt and garlic pepper, then grilled over high heat for 4 minutes per side. Easy.

Believe it or not, this is the first time I've ever made fried green tomatoes. When my tomato plants first started to bear fruit in the spring, I couldn't bear to pick the tomatoes at the green stage. I had visions of ripe, juicy red tomatoes all summer long. Well, I got them, and how! We ended up giving a bunch away because there were just SO MANY. The plants were getting really gross looking lately and the bugs have been horrible, so we're not getting much in the way of ripe fruit anymore. My dad (my personal gardening guru) says it's time to plant fall tomatoes anyway, so today I yanked out all my existing tomato plants and scavenged what I could in the way of produce. I ended up with a few green tomatoes and thought this would be a good way to use them up. (If I'd had more, I'd have made my first attempt at green tomato pickles, which are a thing of beauty.)

Anyhoodle, this is how I made them. I just kind of winged it instead of using a recipe. I decided to go with a four-tray approach: milk, seasoned (with salt and pepper) flour, beaten egg, and seasoned (with salt, pepper and cayenne) cornmeal. I sliced the green tomatoes fairly thin (like 1/8 inch) and dipped them in the above order -- milk first, then flour, then egg, then cornmeal -- before GENTLY laying them into a half-inch or so of heated canola oil in a high-sided skillet. I worked in batches so as not to crowd the pan. I honestly can't tell you how long they took to cook -- I just babysat them VERY closely, turned them when they were looking lightly brown, and took them out when they were a uniform color on both sides. I drained them on paper towels but didn't re-season since I had basically salted them twice already.

They came out very crispy with a thick crust that DID NOT FALL OFF. My husband, who declared himself a hater of fried green tomatoes before I started cooking them, actually had seconds. He compared the coating to that of fried okra. I prefer more of a tempura batter on my fried veggies but wasn't brave enough to attempt one. These came out really good, though, I have to say. I think the cayenne made all the difference in flavor, and the four-tray method really helped the coating stay on the tomatoes.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Delicious cow

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-braised beef brisket
  • sweet & sour red cabbage
  • green beans from the garden
Okay. This took a bit of work, I'm not going to lie, but it was not at all complicated.

I made a dry rub of brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, dried oregano, salt and pepper and rubbed it all over the brisket. Then I put it in a roasting pan, poured in some beer, covered it tightly with foil and cooked it for about four and a half hours at 225 degrees F (you'll want to adjust that based on the size of your, ahem, meat).

For the cabbage, I sliced some onion and sauteed it in a large skillet over medium heat with some canola oil until the onion was reasonably soft. Then I added shredded red cabbage, a little bit of water, equal amounts of red wine vinegar and sugar (for half a head of cabbage, use about 2 Tbs. of each), some dried thyme, salt and pepper and then covered it and cooked it, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage was tender. Then I uncovered it and cranked up the heat, stirring until all the liquid had evaporated. I know this doesn't really sound like a summer dish, and I do make it fairly often for Thanksgiving, but it goes really well with slow-cooked, spiced meats like the brisket above.

Okay, now the green beans! Which were from my garden! Woo! Snap off the stem end, give them a good rinse, and set them aside. Then chop up a few slices of bacon and some onion and brown those together in a big pan. When the bacon is crisp and the onion has a bit of color, dump in the green beans along with a tablespoon or so of brown sugar (trust me on this) and add just enough water to cover the beans. Then bring them to a boil, cover, reduce to a simmer and let them go for about 15 minutes or however long it takes to get them to the tenderness you like (just fish one out now and then to test it). Drain them but don't lose the bacon and onion when you do it!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More grilling

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled tuna steaks
  • grilled asparagus
  • giant green salad
Dudes! It did not rain AT ALL today! Not even while I was grilling! Yay!

Okay, the tuna steaks were brushed with EVOO, sprinkled with Jane's Krazy Salt and garlic pepper, and grilled for about 4 minutes per side. They were really thick so they came out nice and pink in the center. Yum!

Asparagus was trimmed and then grilled on one of those grill overlay thingies with the holes in it. I drizzled it with EVOO and then sprinkled it with salt and pepper halfway through the cooking time. I wasn't really timing it -- I sat outside and drank a glass of wine while babysitting the grill -- but it didn't take long to cook at all. Maybe five minutes? Six? Ten? It was like my third glass of wine. I can't really tell you.

Easy dinner, though!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Fajitas!

It FINALLY didn't rain tonight (although actually? it rained for like five minutes while the meat was grilling) so I made fajitas in the usual manner. SO yummy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

It's what's for dinner

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled thin-cut NY strip steaks
  • chuffed potatoes
  • steamed broccoli
Not much to say about this one. The steaks were done indoors, on the grill pan. Potatoes were the usual. Broccoli was steamed in the microwave. Easy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Indoor pork

Tonight's Menu

  • spiced pork tenderloin
  • quinoa
  • green salad w/cherry tomatoes from the garden
I was going to make this pork tenderloin, but it rained at dinnertime again (some more), so I made this one instead.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Comfort food

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled fresh pork sausages
  • fried potatoes, onions and cabbage
  • sliced tomatoes from the garden
I've felt pretty puny all weekend and have been craving the comfort food of my childhood. I mostly hail from hardy European peasant stock, and sausages, potatoes and cabbage are about as comforting as it gets. This is the kind of stuff that my mom would make when I was a kid, and there are times when I miss it desperately.

The sausages were simmered in water for about 15 minutes before being browned/crisped on the grill.

The potatoes, onions and cabbage weren't really fried per se, but that's what we always called it when I was a kid. I cut some red potatoes into fairly thick slices and parboiled them until they were just barely tender, then stuck them in a deep skillet with some olive oil and chopped onion. Once the onions and potatoes had a bit of color, I added some chopped green cabbage. After the cabbage had wilted a bit and gone shiny, I crumbled in some dried rosemary and thyme, along with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Then I turned off the heat and covered it, just letting it sit until the potatoes had softened a bit. (Alternatively, you could fry off some lardons of bacon and cook everything in the grease from that instead of olive oil, cutting back on the salt a bit.)

The tomato was a nice cool antidote to the spicy sausage.

Normally I would wash all this down with beer, but I have SUCH a headache.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Yum!

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled chicken drumsticks & thighs
  • leftover big-ass green salad
Is there anything yummier than grilled chicken? I think not.

Tonight's dinner was dead easy. All I did was bash up some dried rosemary with the mortar and pestle, add some Jane's Krazy Salt and garlic pepper, then sprinkle that liberally over several chicken drumsticks and thighs. I started them on the grill over medium-high heat to get the skin nice and crispy (I don't mind a bit of black on the skin, but if you do you'll want to watch them closely during this phase), turning every couple of minutes for a total of maybe ten, then turned them down to low and cooked for another 20 minutes, turning once during that time.

My crappy gas grill doesn't do indirect heat well, so I'm stuck turning both burners down as low as they will go for stuff like this. How long YOU cook them will depend on how big the pieces of meat are and how hot your grill is, so for God's sake use this as a GENERAL guideline and, er, watch your meat.

Anyhoo, with this particular meat on my particular grill, this technique worked a treat and it was delicious. Crisp, nicely seasoned skin and delicious tender smoky meat that didn't dry out. DH worked late (he is allergic to poultry, so whenever I serve it you can assume he isn't here) and the Badger children and I absolutely gorged ourselves until we nearly dozed off in our plates!

Yum, indeed!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cooking disasters: haste makes waste

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled tilapia fillets
  • citrus salsa
  • big-ass green salad
Oh dudes. When will I ever learn?

Tonight's dinner went wrong in a number of ways, not the least of which had to do with timing. Like I realized at 6:00, when I was just beginning dinner prep, that we were getting together with our neighbors at 7:00. Which did not allow a lot of time for sectioning citrus fruits (two Rio Grande grapefruits, two Valencia oranges, and one ill-advised lime). I ended up just tossing the sections with some sliced green onion and chopped cilantro, doing absolutely NOTHING to cut the acidity of the citrus, and it was, shall we say, VERY TANGY. Ugh.

And also, I don't know why I keep trying to grill stuff like tilapia. I have never managed to grill skinless, lean (i.e. non-oily) fish fillets with any degree of competency whatsoever, so why do I keep trying? Give me some tuna steaks or skin-on snapper fillets and I'm fine, but tilapia? Um, no. It turns to mush. I'm a moron.

Everything TASTED okay, except for the overly acidic salsa, but still. Bleh. That's what I get for rushing, I guess.

DON'T try this at home!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Indoor barbecue

Tonight's Menu

  • slow-cooker barbecued pork
  • potato salad
  • steamed corn on the cob
  • mixed tomato salad
Hey! Hello there! I have not been posting! Sorry about that. We've been eating really boring crap, like hamburgers and tacos and ... leftover hamburgers and tacos. And stuff. This weather has me ALL MESSED UP. I like to grill all summer long, you know that, but it's been really rainy. So I went and planned some meals that did not require grilling, and since then it's been sunny. WHATEVER, Ma Nature. I think you're just trying to piss me off now.

Ahem. ANYWAY.

It did rain a bit today, so the slow-cooker pork was a good call. All I did was slice a big sweet onion, separate it into rings, layer them in the bottom of the slow cooker, whomp a pork roast on top (I used sirloin but you could use loin or shoulder or whatever), then dump on a bottle of barbecue sauce (in this case Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle, which was FABULOUS) and cook on low for a good 8-10 hours. If you're using a long-grained cut of meat, like loin, you can shred this and serve it on buns, but I just chunked it up a bit and we ate it like that. Really yummy and summery, but I didn't have to light the grill!

I'm convinced my potato salad is the only reason we get invited to the neighborhood 4th of July potluck every year. I have been told not to bother showing up if I don't bring it. Okay, nobody actually SAID that, but I KNOW WHAT THEY'RE THINKING. Seriously, this stuff NEVER fails to draw compliments. I take no credit for it because I cribbed it from an old issue of Taste of Home magazine.

All you do is take a bag of those small red-skinned potatoes (about 2-3 pounds), cut them in quarters or eighths depending on how big they are, layer them on a foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, bake for about 45 minutes at 425 degrees F and let them cool. Then dump them in a bowl with some chopped hard-boiled eggs, a bunch of crumbled cooked bacon, chopped sweet onion, and shredded cheddar cheese. Mix three parts sour cream to two parts mayonnaise, squirt in just a bit of yellow mustard, and toss that with the potato mixture. You can serve this right away or make it a day ahead of time. It's SO GOOD, I am not kidding. Bring it to a party and you might get invited back, is all I'm saying.

Oh, I almost forgot the mixed tomato salad! That was just chopped (well, cubed really) red tomatoes from my garden along with yellow tomatoes from my dad's garden tossed in just a wee bit of EVOO and apple cider vinegar (whisk those together first to emulsify), salt and pepper. I've done this with balsamic before too and it's really good, but I thought the cider vinegar would better compliment the barbecue.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Our favorite flank steak

Tonight's Menu

  • garlicky grilled flank steak
  • grilled asparagus
  • steamed broccoli
  • prepared dinner rolls
Tonight I made our favorite grilled flank steak, slightly less garlicky than usual at the girl child's request, and then she didn't eat it anyway. Go figure.

The asparagus, which only I will eat, so more for me, was awesome! I just washed and snapped some nice fresh spears, put a piece of heavy-duty foil on the grill (after cooking the meat, while it was resting) and poked a bunch of holes in it with a big grill spatula, then slapped on the asparagus. I drizzled it with a bit of EVOO and sprinkled on some salt and pepper, then grilled it for about 5-6 minutes, stirring once. This is officially my new favorite way to eat asparagus!

Broccoli was just steamed in the microwave. Dinner rolls were already prepared, just warmed up in the oven.

This was a super easy dinner, and really fast to prepare. The hardest part was washing/trimming the asparagus! I love this flank steak recipe, not only because it's delicious, but because you can do it at the very last minute with no marinating or anything.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Grilling again, hooray!

Tonight's Menu
  • barbecued shrimp
  • grilled apricots with mint
  • a salad of new potatoes, cherry tomatoes (from the garden!), mozzarella, marinated artichoke hearts and basil
  • sliced tomatoes (from the garden!)
It FINALLY quit raining down here so I was able to grill again. Yay!

Okay, for the shrimp I just cleaned and shelled (down to the tails) a bunch of biggish shrimp and stuck them on bamboo skewers (which I soaked in water, but they burned anyway). Then I combined some bottled barbecue sauce with some apricot fruit spread and a wee tot of bourbon and brushed that mixture on the shrimp while they were grilling (about 6 minutes total over high heat). Yum!

The apricots were dead easy -- I just halved some fresh apricots, removed the pits, and grilled them cut-side down for about five minutes. Then I gave them a rough chop and tossed them with a bit of superfine sugar and some chopped fresh mint. Yum, again!

The salad was my usual favorite summer salad. Way yummy.

We are DROWNING in tomatoes but I am not complaining! Is there anything better than a tomato right off the vine, sliced and salted and wolfed down with abandon? I think not.

In other news, the sidecar is the official cocktail of Make Your Own Damn Dinner, Summer 2007! Sunshine in a glass, people!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rain rain go away

Tonight's Menu

  • sauteed tilapia fillets
  • grilled romaine salad
The neverending rain here in Central Texas (not West Texas! I don't live there, despite what the New York Times might think!) is putting a serious crimp in my summer grilling plans, y'all. So tonight's dinner was an indoor affair.

The tilapia was the usual deal, pan-sauteed in EVOO and then seasoned with salt and pepper. Dead easy.

For the salad, I took some romaine hearts (you can buy these already packaged up at the grocery store), cut them in half lengthwise, brushed them with EVOO and slapped them on the grill pan. When they were still crisp-tender with sexy little grill marks I removed them from the pan, gave them a rough chop, and tossed them in a bowl. Then I cut a bunch of cherry tomatoes (from the garden!) in half and put them cut-side down on the grill pan for about 30 seconds before chucking them in with the lettuce. Toss with a bit of EVOO and really good balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and hey presto, you've got a nice warm salad to go with the fish! I thought it was pretty damn tasty. I don't think DH was crazy about it, though. (More for me!)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

An experiment

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled pork tenderloin
  • sauteed spinach with garlic
  • sliced tomatoes from the garden
  • green salad (from the garden!)
So yeah, tonight's dinner was a bit of an experiment. Well, the pork was, anyway. What I did was cut some garlic cloves into slivers, then poked holes in the tenderloin and pushed them in. It was kind of porcupine-y. Then I tossed together some freshly grated lemon zest (LOVE my Microplane, y'all), dried oregano (because I didn't have fresh -- use that if you have it), salt and freshly ground pepper and rubbed that over the meat, then grilled it over high heat for about 20 minutes on a well-oiled grate, turning every 5 minutes or so.

Do you know what dried oregano smells like when it meets an open flame? Do I have to spell it out for you? Yeah, I'm pretty sure our neighbors thought we were having an especially mellow barbecue. Heh.

Anyhoo, I let the meat rest while I sauteed the spinach (EVOO and one garlic clove sliced paper thin, dump in some fresh baby spinach when the garlic starts to go barely tan, stir to wilt, season with salt & pepper), then sliced it on the diagonal and it was very tasty. DH said it was not his favorite, but I liked it just fine.

I have more garden tomatoes than I know what to do with. We had to give some away to the neighbors today! Not that I'm complaining!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ribs!

Tonight's Menu

  • barbecued baby back ribs
  • Ranch Beans from a can
  • homemade coleslaw
  • tomato salad
So hey, everyone! I'm back! Did you miss me? I sure as hell missed ... MY KITCHEN.

Okay, first the ribs. I did a dry rub with brown sugar, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, dry oregano, cayenne, salt and pepper. I put the ribs on a rack over some water, covered the pan tightly with foil, and put them in the oven at 250 degrees F. After two hours, I realized that the kids had taekwondo tonight so we wouldn't be eating until about 45 minutes later than usual, so I nudged the heat down to 200. They cooked for about 3.5 hours total.

I had planned to finish the ribs in the oven because it was supposed to rain, but then it didn't so I finished them on the grill instead. Which was kind of a pain because they were already falling off the bone. But I managed to get them on there, slap on some sauce (from a bottle), and grill them for about 10 minutes on medium (meat side up ONLY because they were too flimsy to turn). They were very very yummy.

Coleslaw was my usual, shredded cabbage tossed with a mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and celery seed.

The tomato salad consisted of chopped plum and yellow tomatoes from my dad's garden along with halved cherry tomatoes from mine. I shook some really nice balsamic vinegar and GOOD extra-virgin olive oil in a lidded container, poured it over the tomatoes, sprinkled them with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and torn basil, then tossed them and let them sit at room temperature. They were a nice accompaniment to the rich meat.

I am SO GLAD to be home.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hello, I must be going

Okay, so last night I wasn't feeling too great and DH made pancakes.

Tonight I'm still not feeling so great, but I made fajitas anyway.

For the next week-ish I will be out of town and without an internet connection.

See y'all in about a week. I tend to miss my own cooking (because I am all self-absorbed like that) when I travel, so I should be cooking up a STORM when I get back!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

E. coli: It's hopefully NOT what's for dinner

I've been grilling so damn much that I managed to burn through yet another propane canister, so DH replaced it today. Something went awry in the process, however. I slapped four burgers on the grill, closed the lid, set the timer for 4 minutes, and when I went to turn them they were still mostly raw. Ew! So DH had to fiddle with the whoziwhatsit and adjust the thingamabob and whatever else needed doing, and FINALLY the grill fired up in a sufficiently, er, fiery manner, and then I had to cook the bejeezus out of the burgers to make up for the time they spent lounging around in a half-cooked bacteria stew.

Sounds yummy, eh?

Anyhoo, we served them with all the fixings, including lettuce and sliced tomatoes from the garden (woo!) and pickles and whatnot, and they were delicious if a bit overdone for my taste.

Here's hoping they don't kill us all dead.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Porky!

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless pork chops
  • leftover quinoa pilaf
  • the last of the spinach salad with oranges and toasted almonds
Pork chops were the usual deal -- thick, boneless loin chops sprinkled with Jane's Krazy Salt and garlic pepper, then grilled for about 4 minutes per side.

Everything else was leftovers.

Too tired to cook much tonight.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Surf & Turf! Kind of!

Tonight's Menu

  • leftover citrus grilled shrimp from last night
  • leftover garlicky grilled flank steak from the night before
  • a warm salad of green beans and cherry tomatoes FROM THE GARDEN!
  • leftover spinach salad with oranges and toasted almonds
Okay, so "embellished leftovers" would be a more appropriate title. Sue me.

I had a teeny number of green beans from the garden (I've been saving them up in a ziploc bag in the fridge for the past week) and wanted to do something with them. I also had about six cherry tomatoes, also from the garden, that were languishing on my kitchen windowsill. So hey! Warm salad!

I simmered the beans in water until they were just tender, then drained them and dumped them in a bowl with halved cherry tomatoes. Then I took a TEENY bit of garlic, like half a clove, and minced it. I tossed the garlic into a skillet and added a tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar along with an equal amount of sugar (which was a bit too much sugar, unfortunately) and let it reduce down a bit. (NOTE: I actually had to do all the above steps twice, because the first time, the pan was too hot and the sugar burned. Yuck.) Then I removed it from the heat and whisked in a little bit of EVOO (really fast, so it would emulsify) and drizzled this concoction over the beans and tomatoes. Add a chiffonade of fresh basil (from the HERB garden!), season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.

It was really good, but like I said, just a TAD too sweet. Next time, less sugar! I put some of the dressing/sauce on my spinach salad as well and that was AWESOME. Made me wonder what it would be like if I added just a bit of orange juice next time? And cut way back on the sugar? Hmm. I smell a kitchen experiment!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day dinner

Tonight's Menu

  • citrus grilled shrimp
  • HUGE spinach salad with oranges and toasted almonds
In addition to blueberry muffins for breakfast, DH requested "seafood" for dinner tonight. He didn't give me many guidelines beyond that, but I happened to spy some nice big gulf shrimp for a decent price at the grocery store, so grilled shrimp it was!

I made a little marinade for the shrimp with pineapple juice, fresh-squeezed orange juice and fresh lime juice. I also tossed in a smashed garlic clove and a sprig of fresh rosemary, along with a smidge of EVOO. Then I marinated the shrimp (after peeling them down to the tails and de-veining) for about an hour before grilling them for 3-4 minutes per side on a grill screen over high heat. They were really yummy -- citrusy with a hint of sweetness, and a bit of bite from the garlic and rosemary (which didn't overpower since I tossed them in whole).

The salad was just baby spinach tossed with fresh orange sections and slivered, blanched almonds that had been toasted in a dry skillet and allowed to cool (so as not to wilt the spinach).

We washed it all down with one of DH's favorite cocktails, the pina colada! Yeah, he likes the girly drinks. You got a problem with that?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

We now resume regular programming

Tonight's Menu

  • garlicky grilled flank steak
  • quinoa pilaf
  • yet another green salad with lettuce from the garden
Hey! Look at me! I get all famous and then piss off for a couple of days without posting! Sorry about that. Thursday night the kids and I had leftover spaghetti (DH worked late again) and Friday was Pizza And A Movie Night here at Casa Badger.

But tonight? Yeah. MORE GRILLING.

Flank steak was the usual deal. So yummy. I actually CRAVE this steak from time to time, and I absolutely love that it can be done at the last minute with no marinating.

For the quinoa, I cooked it according to package directions (1 cup dry quinoa, 2 cups water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes before turning off the heat and letting it sit, covered, until you're ready for it). Then I sweated out some diced onions and chopped mushrooms in a skillet, along with some chopped artichoke hearts (canned, unmarinated -- you could also use frozen if you thaw them first). After the quinoa was done I dumped about half of it into the veggie mixture and seasoned with salt and pepper. The other half I served plain for the kids.

I am getting SUCH a kick out of going out to the garden to "pick a salad". The cucumbers and carrots aren't quite ready, but the lettuce has been going gangbusters, and I've been harvesting 2-3 cherry tomatoes per day. Whee!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Welcome wagon

So hey, everyone! Did you know that my humble blog here was mentioned in the New York Times? I'll bet a good thousand or so of you did!
A snapshot of my stats this morning.

Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that writer Lisa Belkin's mention of "straight talk" with regard to the blog was her way of gently warning you that I cuss a lot. Which I do. So, forewarned is forearmed, etc.

I'm not a professional chef nor even a particularly well-educated foodie, as will become readily apparent if you spend more than five seconds around here. I'm just a mom who cooks dinner for her family, sometimes from scratch, and sometimes by opening a can or box (or two or three).

The blog actually started as an effort to record the results of an experiment I was conducting in our household (because if you can't experiment on your own family, why even HAVE one?). At the conclusion of this experiment it morphed into a general cooking blog when EIGHT WHOLE PEOPLE, which was a clear majority at the time, asked me to keep it going. So I did, and the result is what you see today -- a (mostly) daily record of what I cook for dinner, with the occasional recipe or rant. Make yourself at home, stay a spell, and do try my favorite summer salad recipe if you feel so inclined.

Oh, one thing you should know if you landed here via the NYT article: Austin? Where I live? Not so much in West Texas.


It's okay, though. Technically, if you're east of the Mississippi, ALL of Texas is west. And hell, all most of us down here know about New York is that y'all talk funny and are fiercely loyal to your sports teams, even when they really kind of suck. Look how much we have in common already!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Yummy delicious CARBS

Tonight's Menu

  • spaghetti marinara
  • leftover green salad with lettuce FROM THE GARDEN!
DH has been shunning carbs (except potatoes, for which he has a weakness) for quite a while now, and when I told the kids that he was working late tonight and therefore we'd be having spaghetti, you would have thought I'd told them we were having ice cream for dinner. They were SO EXCITED. I think the boy ate a couple of pounds of spaghetti all on his own.

I've been told that my marinara sauce is not TECHNICALLY an actual marinara, but the degree to which I DO NOT CARE cannot be adequately expressed. It's a vegetarian tomato sauce, a'ight? I don't know from marinara.

Here's how I make it: take a can of Del Monte diced tomatoes with onion and garlic and combine it with a small can of tomato paste. If you don't like a chunky sauce, you can do this in a blender. Otherwise just stir them together in a saucepan. Stir in a little water; the sauce will thin just a bit during the cooking process so use your judgment here. Stir in 4-6 Tbs. of sugar, depending on how sweet you like your sauce. Add some dried oregano and basil; again, however much you want. Bring it to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat. Simmer for as long as it takes the pasta to cook.

There's a story behind this recipe but I've had a couple of sidecars (they go GREAT with Italian food, by the way) and can't be arsed to tell it right now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I am grilling EVERY DAMN THING

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled sweet Italian sausages
  • grilled sweet onions (Texas 1015)
  • grilled napa cabbage
  • fresh green salad with lettuce FROM THE GARDEN!
Okay.

I've found that the only way I personally can successfully grill fresh (non-cured/smoked) sausages is to simmer them in water first. So I brought a big pot of water to a boil, dropped in the sausages, turned down the heat and simmered them uncovered for about 15 minutes. I let them rest in the warm water while the grill got nice and hot, then grilled them off for about 5 minutes per side, just to brown them and let the skins go crisp. This way they get cooked through the middle, stay moist, and don't burn all to hell. Works with all fresh sausages, including brats. Yum!

For the onions, I cut them in lengthwise wedges, cutting through the root end so that the wedges held together (I hope that makes sense; I don't really know how to describe it). Tossed them with a little EVOO, grilled them on a grid/screen overlay thing for 3 minutes per side. Delicious.

The cabbage was an experiment. I'm almost positive I've seen Giada or Nigella or someone grilling cabbages or lettuces on the Food Network, so I thought I'd give it a try. I bought a HUGE napa cabbage, removed the outermost leaves, and cut it in half lengthwise, reserving half for another use. The remaining half I quartered lengthwise, again cutting through the root end such that the sections held together, more or less. I drizzled the quarters with EVOO, sprinkled on some salt and pepper, and grilled them on the grid/screen thingie also for three minutes per side. They actually came out really yummy! Some of the thinner green leaves got a bit singed, and the thicker white parts were just okay, but the grilled light green bits were AWESOME.

So yeah, this was yummy, low carb (DH is doing that right now; I don't know if you can tell from our recent menus) and dead easy once the prep work was done. And yes, I AM grilling everything short of ice cream right now. And if I could find a way to grill that, too? I totally WOULD.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Yep, still grilling

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled ham steak
  • grilled stone fruits (nectarines, peaches and some weird apricot/plum hybrid that was NOT a pluot)
  • sliced tomatoes (locally grown, but not from my garden)
Yeah. Um. I don't know what to say about this one. I grilled a nice thick ham steak for 4-5 minutes per side. I put the peaches and nectarines (halved, more or less) on, cut-side down, when I put the ham on, then added the apricotty things when I flipped the ham (they were a little more ripe and would take less time to grill). Then I, you know, sliced a tomato. And served some spiced (coriander and citrus zest) Mediterranean sea salt alongside.

That's about it. Easy-peasy, as my boyfriend Jamie Oliver would say.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Comfort food

Tonight's Menu

This time I bought the good chicken so it didn't suck.

Yum!

My leg is MUCH better today, too. It's amazing what three hours' worth of constant ice application can do. Well, that and a couple of Vicodin.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I need some checkered pants, STAT

Tonight's Menu

  • beer-battered tilapia
  • leftover peach-mango salsa
  • steamed broccoli
  • leftover green salad
NEVER work with hot oil while wearing shorts. You'd think I would have learned that by the ripe old age of 40, but you'd be wrong, because I am a dumbass. I burned the FUCK out of my leg tonight when a piece of tilapia slipped off the fork I was using to transfer it from batter to pan and splashed into a pool of hot oil. I'm going to have a hell of a humongous blister (followed by a hell of a humongous scar, most likely).

Anyway.

We got sick of boring old SAFE sauteed tilapia, so I modified a recipe from Eating Well's website based on what I had in the pantry (and, of course, I used my own salsa that I made the other day). Flour, cornmeal, cumin, salt, cayenne and beer, whisked together to form a thin batter. Then I dredged some tilapia fillets (halved lengthwise, like the recipe says) in it, heated some oil (a tablespoon or so, which turned out to be a little TOO MUCH oil) in a skillet, and fried those suckers off.

They were actually really delicious, but not worth the second-degree burn.

Ouch.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Cooking disasters: tough steaks

Tonight's Menu

  • strip steaks on the grill pan
  • onions and baby bella mushrooms sauteed in butter
  • new potatoes roasted with thyme
  • fresh green salad
I swear, I am THIS CLOSE to never buying meat at HEB again. It's bad enough they offer the most generic cuts available, making it hard to find even beef short ribs or anything other than round steak, AND they substituted their woefully substandard "natural chicken" for the far superior Buddy's, but NOW they sold me NY strip steaks that were pretty much one big hunk of gristle. Of course, they cleverly HID the gristle in the middle of the cut, so it wasn't visible when I bought the steaks, or even when I seasoned them. Bastards!

I hate them. Seriously.

Ahem.

The potatoes were an experiment. I parboiled them for 15 minutes or so before tossing them in a baking pan with some EVOO, salt, pepper and dried thyme and chucking them in the oven at 450 degrees F. I honestly don't know how long they cooked altogether -- I stuck them in right before I started the mushrooms and onions, stirring them a bit and shaking the pan every 5-7 minutes or so. They were quite tasty but didn't get as crusty as I would have liked.

Bah, humbug!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Fruit salsa

Tonight's Menu

  • leftover spiced grilled pork tenderloin
  • peach and mango salsa
  • leftover green salad
My sucky supermarket had ataulfo mangoes again, and we have all these damn peaches to use up, so I made a salsa to go with the leftover grilled pork.

Badger's Peach and Mango Salsa

2 ataulfo mangoes
2 ripe peaches
juice from one large lime
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced

Dice the mangoes thusly: cut them in half vertically, working around the large pit in the center. Make diamond cuts with a knife through the flesh but NOT the peel, then scoop out the diced mango with a spoon. Put in a glass or other non-reactive bowl.

Peel the peaches (I used a little paring knife and it was a total pain in the ass, but worth it) and cut them into a dice the same size as the mangoes (again, working around the pit). Chuck them in the bowl as well.

Add the lime juice and toss with a non-reactive (plastic, wood, whatever) spoon.

Add the diced onion and chopped cilantro and toss. At this point, if you're cooking for wimpy types who don't like the heat from the peppers, you can set a bit of salsa aside.

OTHERWISE, stir in the minced serrano and serve. It gets hotter as it sits and will keep for a few days in the fridge. Also great with any sort of grilled fish, chicken or pork, or just scooped up with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

More grilled pig

Tonight's Menu

  • spiced grilled pork tenderloin
  • grilled peaches
  • green salad
Yep. Still grilling. Get used to it.

Tonight's pork was a variation on a Weight Watchers recipe, if you can believe it. Mix together chili powder, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and some cayenne, then dredge a pork tenderloin in it, seal it in a plastic zipper bag and let it hang out in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Preheat a gas grill to high, oil the grates and grill the pork for about 20 minutes, turning every five minutes or so. Let rest for 5-10 minutes, then slice thin. Way yummy and very low fat!

The peaches were from my mom and dad. They have two trees in their yard that have only just this year really started to produce. Mom brought over two HUGE bags of peaches for us today; I suspect a cobbler is in our near future. But for tonight, I cut a couple of them in half, removed the pits, and grilled them cut-side down alongside the pork. I briefly entertained the thought of chopping them up and drizzling them with honey and chopped mint, but in the end I took the lazy way out and served them as-is.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Cold supper

Tonight's Menu

  • cold boiled shrimp
  • marinated salad of red potatoes, mozzarella, tomatoes and artichoke hearts with basil
  • fresh green salad
It's HOT, y'all.

The shrimp were boiled in the shell w/spices, put on ice to chill, then we peeled 'em and ate 'em at the table.

The potato salad is my usual favorite.

I had ONE homegrown cherry tomato in my green salad -- the first one to come ripe from the tomato plants in my garden. There are a TON of green tomatoes out there right now and I am giddy with anticipation!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Flat iron steaks

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled flat iron steaks
  • homemade oven fries
  • steamed corn on the cob
This was my first experience with flat iron steaks but it won't be my last. Damn, that's some good cow, y'all! Very lean and beefy and tender. I brushed them with EVOO (because they're so lean), sprinkled them with salt and cracked pepper, and grilled them 4 minutes per side on a hot grill. Which was a bit too long and/or hot because they came out medium instead of medium rare, so next time I'll adjust that a bit. They were still extremely tender and flavorful, though, and the outside got nice and caramelized. I'd heard you had to marinate flat irons to get them tender, but that definitely wasn't the case with these babies!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It's summer in Texas! Woo!

And even though we are having an extraordinarily wet one, I am GRILLING, BITCHES!

Tonight we had fajitas. I made them in the usual manner, grilling the veggies on a wire screen sort of deal that sits on top of the grill.

I drank loads of beer while we were out of town over the weekend and got totally sick of it, so tonight's dinner was washed down with SANGRIA! Here's how I made it:

2 cups red wine
1/2 cup cognac
1/2 cup orange liqueur (I used Patron Citronge; you could use Cointreau or whatever)
the juice from one orange
one orange, sliced
one lemon, sliced
one lime, sliced
ice
club soda

Combine the booze, juice and sliced fruits in a pitcher and chill. For each (Collins) glass, fill with ice, then fill halfway with wine mixture and top off with club soda. Stir and serve.

Sangria just screams "summer" to me for some reason. I make a mean white version as well, but my local supermarket doesn't have nectarines yet and they are VITAL.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mixed grill

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless pork chops and chicken leg quarters
  • chuffed potatoes
  • caramelized brussels sprouts with toasted almonds
  • leftover salad
I KNOW! I have not been posting. Sorry about that. It's mostly been same old, same old around here (except that the other night I made spiced pork tenderloin with grilled stone fruits -- apricots and peaches -- and it was FABULOUS).

Anyhoo, I finally made a trip to the natural food store for the GOOD chicken so I decided to grill tonight. I sprinkled both chicken and pork with Jane's Krazy Salt and garlic pepper (the chicken got a coating of EVOO beforehand). I grilled the chicken for 10 minutes per side over medium-high heat, then turned off the burner they were on (gas grill) and left them there while I grilled the chops for 4 minutes per side on the other burner. Other than the chicken catching fire multiple times, it all turned out swell.

Chuffed potatoes were the usual deal -- red potatoes cut in half or quarters, parboiled then chuffed up in a hot pan with some butter, seasoned with salt and pepper.

I have made the caramelized brussels sprouts before. This time I made the recipe exactly except I substituted toasted almond slivers for the pistachios.

Vinho Verde was a nice accompaniment to the meal.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Low & slow

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-braised beef brisket
  • ranch beans (from a can)
  • big-ass salad (made fresh last night by DH)
Tonight's dinner required a little advance planning but not much actual work.

First I made a dry rub for the brisket with brown sugar, garlic powder, dry mustard, chili powder, dried oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper. I rubbed it generously onto both sides of the brisket, then put the brisket in a foil-lined roasting pan fat-side up. I poured most of a bottle of Abita TurboDog (a dark beer, you use whatever but make sure it's something you'd actually drink) around but not ON the meat, covered the pan VERY tightly with foil, and cooked it "low & slow" -- four hours at 275 degrees F. It came out wonderfully flavorful and tender, but still held up to slicing (instead of shredding). Yum!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Shrimpy

Tonight's Menu

  • cold boiled shrimp (peel & eat)
  • chuffed potatoes made by the boy child
  • coleslaw
  • leftover big-ass salad
The girl has been asking for cold boiled shrimp lately, and the extra-large ones with the split shells were only $5 per pound, so I went ahead and made some tonight. And she actually ate some this time! Four of them, I think! It's a miracle!

We were out of both cocktail sauce AND horseradish, so I dipped my shrimp in a mixture of melted butter and Trappey's Red Devil. Mmmm!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mmmmm, beef!

Tonight's Menu

  • NY strip steaks on the grill pan
  • sourdough bread (frozen, heated in the oven)
  • leftover steamed artichoke (re-nuked)
  • leftover big-ass salad
Sometimes you need a little red meat, y'all.

Artichoke!

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless pork chops
  • steamed artichoke
  • big-ass salad
Sometime last week, out of the blue, the girl child asked if we could have an artichoke for dinner sometime. I have no idea what put that into her head, but it prompted me to explain how I grew up eating artichokes steamed and dipped in lemon butter, and her dad grew up eating stuffed artichokes, and never the twain shall meet so I rarely make them.

But hello, my GIRL CHILD was ASKING for a VEGETABLE. So I made one. MY WAY.

I gave it a good rinse, cut off the stem and the very tippy top, then took kitchen shears and snipped the tips off the rest of the leaves (that's where the pointy spine thing is). Then I stuck it in a steamer basket and steamed the hell out of it for like half an hour. It STILL wasn't quite done (it was a BIG 'choke, y'all) so I stuck it in a bowl with a bit of water, covered it tightly with plastic wrap, and nuked it for a couple of minutes more. Finally the leaves pulled away easily.

I had forgotten how yummy they were. We only ate about half of it so we'll have the rest tomorrow and then I'll cut out the yummy heart and scarf it up all by myself. Well, I MIGHT share with DH.

Punchline: I don't think the girl even tried the damn thing. She put ONE leaf on her plate but I didn't see her eat it.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Crock-Pot pork

Tonight's Menu

  • Crock-Pot barbecued pork on buns
  • homemade coleslaw
  • sweet corn on the cob
Super easy dinner tonight.

For the pork, all I did was slice an onion in half lengthwise, reserving one half and slicing the other half cross-wise. I put the onion in the bottom of the crockpot, stuck a pork roast on top (I used loin because it's lean, but you could use whatever), dumped in a bottle of barbecue sauce and cooked it all on low for 8 hours or so before shredding and serving on buns.

The coleslaw was just shredded cabbage tossed with a mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and celery seed.

The corn was fresh, cleaned and then wrapped in wax paper before being steamed in the microwave.

If you make the coleslaw right after you start the meat and just stick it in the fridge all day, you can have this dinner on the table in 10 minutes.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Chicken

Tonight's Menu

  • chicken roasted in the usual manner
  • leftover garlicky green beans
  • leftover big-ass salad
I'm not sure what went wrong, but tonight's chicken was not quite as yummy as usual. The skin was not as crisp, and the flesh was not as flavorful. I suspect it was due to either (a) the chicken being larger than normal and me failing to adjust the cooking time/temperature accordingly, or (b) the chicken being HEB's so-called "natural" chicken instead of my FAR preferred Buddy's chicken. Or maybe both.

But you totally don't want to get me started on the whole HEB "natural" vs. Buddy's thing, so let us never speak of this again.

Except to say that Buddy's chicken is SO MUCH BETTER than HEB's crappy "natural" chicken, and I SO resent that they have stopped carrying the former in order to try to FORCE us to buy the latter, and I swear to God, I am SO shopping for chicken at Sun Harvest and/or Whole Foods from now on. Suck it, HEB!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fishy some more

Tonight's Menu

  • trout fillets sauteed in EVOO and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • garlicky green beans
  • big-ass salad
Look! It's me! Posting again even though our dinner was kind of boring!

The green beans were good, though. I'm determined to duplicate the garlicky green beans at our favorite Italian restaurant, Andiamo. They are BEYOND delicious. I could eat a whole plate of them, seriously.

Tonight I parboiled fresh green beans for about 10 minutes, then minced a couple of garlic cloves, sauteed them in EVOO for a bit (being VERY careful not to burn the garlic, which would suck), then tossed in the beans and sauteed the whole lot until everything was infused with garlicky goodness. DH thought there was too much garlic; I thought there wasn't quite enough (or that I hadn't sufficiently infused the oil). But still, YUMMY. Hopefully the leftovers will be even better!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Stir-fry!

Tonight's Menu

  • garlic-ginger shrimp stir-fry
  • steamed basmati rice
I used to make stir-frys all the damn time, but I don't think I've recorded one here since I started the blog. I guess it's been a while!

Here's how I made this one, and keep in mind that as with most of my recipes, I have no emotional investment here. I picked up a few things that looked good at the store, threw them together, chose a couple of complimentary seasonings, and that was that. Feel free to use this as a loose guideline. It ain't the stir-fry Bible, y'all.

1 pkg (about a pound, maybe? I dunno) large frozen shrimp (normally I'd use fresh, but they didn't look so hot today)
half an onion that was cut lengthwise, not cross-wise
1 orange bell pepper
about half a pound of fresh snow peas, more or less
1 knob (about thumb-sized) fresh ginger
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 Tbs. or so of pineapple juice
canola oil

Okay, first you want to thaw the shrimp and remove any shells. The ones I bought today had tails on only so this was pretty easy. Set them aside.

Cut the onion lengthwise into thin wedges. Cut the bell pepper into thin strips, about the same width as the onion wedges. Trim the stem ends and any tough strings from the snow peas. Mince the hell out of the ginger and the garlic.

Heat a large high-sided skillet or wok over medium-high to high heat. (If high heat is north and medium high is northwest, you want NNW.) Add maybe 1 Tbs. canola oil once pan is hot and then immediately add onions. Stir like hell for a few seconds until you can tell they're starting to cook a bit, then add the bell pepper and snow peas. Stir, stir, stir. When the veggies are just shy of the crisp-tender stage, dump in the minced ginger and garlic and STIR YOU FOOL, STIR! You do NOT want these to burn. Add the shrimp once the garlic and ginger have released their fragrance and stir like hell until the shrimp just start to curl. Stir in maybe a tablespoon of pineapple juice just to deglaze, then remove from heat and serve over rice or noodles or whatever you're into.

This was really good and I would definitely make it again! You could spice it up a bit with a minced serrano pepper if you like a little heat (add it with the garlic and ginger), but DH isn't into it so I left it out. I'd probably put it in if I were making this just for me, though.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Ham

Tonight's Menu

  • ham steaks on the grill pan
  • crescent rolls (the doughboy kind, low-fat)
  • fresh baby spinach sauteed in EVOO
Ack! I know! I have been a bad, bad food blogger for not posting in ages and ages. See, we haven't been having anything new for dinner AT ALL. Everything we've been eating, I've already told you how to make. We are SO BORING over here. And tonight is no exception. See?

But I will try to post more often. Even if it's boring.

That's not a promise. It's A THREAT.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Triple Layer Brownie Cake


As promised, here is the recipe for the boy child's birthday cake, which he made all by himself with very little help from me. It's from an old issue of Taste of Home magazine.


Cake:
1 1/2 cups butter (no substitutes)
6 squares (1 oz. each) unsweetened chocolate
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt

Frosting:
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) semisweet baking chocolate
3 cups whipping cream
2 milk chocolate candy bars (1.55 oz. each), shaved

Melt butter and chocolate together in a microwave or double boiler. Stir in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla, flour and salt; mix well. Pour into three greased and floured 9-in. round cake pans. [NOTE: Do NOT think that if you are using nonstick pans, you can just spray them with baking spray and be done with it. You really do need to grease and flour the HELL out of them if you want the cake layers to release at all. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.] Bake at 350 degrees F for 23-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (The cake layers will be thin; they don't rise much while cooking.) Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For frosting, melt chocolate in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Gradually stir in cream until well blended. Heat to a gentle boil; boil and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours until mixture reaches a pudding-like consistency, stirring a few times. Beat until soft peaks form. Immediately spread between layers and on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle top of cake with chocolate shavings. Store in refrigerator.


This cake is SO GOOD and so unbelievably rich. You seriously need to serve it in like half-inch slices or smaller because it's like mainlining fudge. We made it one evening, refrigerated it overnight, and served it the next afternoon and the brownie layers and frosting just kind of fused together into a solid slab of chocolatey perfection.

I think I need another piece RIGHT NOW.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Skewered

Tonight's Menu

  • souvlaki-inspired pork kebabs
  • potato-artichoke salad
  • fruit salad
We had our annual Double Birthday Blowout today for DH and the boy child, whose birthdays are five days apart. It was windy and chilly but sunny enough to grill out, thank goodness!

For the kebabs, I combined a bunch of minced garlic, fresh lemon juice, fresh (not dried, but feel free to use that instead if you want) oregano, EVOO and freshly ground pepper and poured it over two pork tenderloins that had been cut into sizable chunks (I'd say about 1.5-inch or so cubes). I let it marinate for several hours in the fridge before assembling on skewers with yellow, orange and red bell peppers, onions and giant mushrooms. Just before grilling I brushed them with a bit more EVOO and sprinkled on a tiny bit of Jane's Krazy Salt. It took a while to get them done because of the freakin' 40 mph winds cooling down the grill, but they came out SUPER yummy.

The potato salad is my favorite summer salad from last year. It goes really well with any sort of grilled meat. Just cut some tiny red-skinned potatoes in half and simmer them in water until they're tender but not mushy. Let them cool, then toss in a bowl with halved cherry tomatoes, little balls of fresh mozzarella (use the cherry-tomato-sized balls, or larger balls cut in half or in wedges), and a jar of marinated artichoke hearts. The marinade from the artichoke hearts is your dressing, so you don't have to drain them, but if you like you can pour out the liquid into a little bowl or cup and then add it back in (so you don't accidentally use too much). Sprinkle on some freshly ground pepper and a chiffonade of fresh basil and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours before serving to let the flavors meld a bit.

The fruit salad is the same super-simple one I always make. Just combine halved strawberries, green grapes and a can of mandarin orange segments (you DO want to drain these) in a bowl. That's it -- no dressing, no sugar, just fruit. It makes for a really tasty combination of flavors and textures, and it's really pretty! Very refreshing with anything grilled or spicy.

This being a birthday celebration, we also had two kinds of cake for dessert. German chocolate (from a mix) for DH, and triple-layer brownie cake for the boy, who actually made his own cake from scratch with very little help from me! It's absolutely delicious, too. I'm too exhausted to dig up the recipe tonight, but I'll post it tomorrow, I promise!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bread, glorious bread!

Tonight's Menu

  • ropa vecchia
  • herbed peasant bread
  • big-ass salad
Tonight's main dish is courtesy of my pal Joke. I have made it before; my kids love it and have taken to calling it "meat spaghetti". It is way yummy.

The first time I made bread dough with my then-brand-new KitchenAid stand mixer, I immediately put my bread machine in storage. And then gave it to my brother and his wife not long afterwards. The thing that always killed me about making bread by hand, with my fibromyalgia and joint pain, was the stirring and the kneading. The KitchenAid does all that for me, so all I have to do is let the dough rise, punch it down, shape it, etc., none of which is any big whoop as far as I'm concerned.

Today was cold and rainy and generally crappy, weather-wise, so it seemed like a good day for a hearty meal with some homebaked bread. This is my go-to recipe. It's adapted from a recipe I found in Taste of Home magazine.

Herbed Peasant Bread

1/2 cup chopped onion
3 Tbs. butter
1 cup plus 2 Tbs. warm milk (120 degrees F)
1 Tbs. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried crushed rosemary
1 pkg. (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
melted butter

Saute the onion in the butter over low heat until tender, then remove from heat and cool 10 minutes. Place onion mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer w/dough hook attachment, adding milk, sugar, salt and herbs and mixing well. Mix in yeast and 3 cups of flour, scraping down bowl as needed. Continue mixing and kneading with the dough hook, adding additional flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Remove dough from bowl and hook and place in a greased glass bowl, turning once to coat. Cover and let rise until doubled. Punch dough down and shape into a ball on a greased baking sheet (or silpat). Cover again and let rise until doubled. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.

Variation: after the first rise, punch down the dough and form into a braid, pinching the ends together and tucking them underneath. Do the second rise as above, but brush the dough with egg wash before putting it in the oven (and omit the melted butter afterwards). Tuck a few sprigs of fresh rosemary into the braid and it makes a lovely gift, or a nice addition to your holiday table.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Fajitas

We had fajitas for dinner tonight. I made the meat in the usual way -- skirt steak rubbed with prepared fajita seasoning, marinated in EVOO and fresh lime juice, then cooked 4 minutes per side outdoors on a screaming hot grill. I didn't have room for the veggies to grill alongside the meat, though, and I was trying to hurry so I tossed them (onion wedges, orange and yellow bell pepper strips) with EVOO and grilled them indoors on the Foreman. They came out OKAY, I guess, but it was not ideal. Still, the meat was yummy stuffed into whole-grain soft tortillas with cheese, sour cream and salsa. In fact, we ate all the meat and ended up with tons of onions/peppers left over. Hrm. Maybe I should make sausage sandwiches soon.

Meanwhile, I need a bigger grill!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Gumbo!

Okay, so this was weird: yesterday at my sucky supermarket I picked up, totally on a WHIM, the makings for seafood gumbo. I didn't want to make it yesterday because we had just had fish the day before, so I decided that tonight would be Gumbo Night. And then this morning, I opened up the paper to find that the food section was doing a HUGE article on guess what? Gumbo! I KNOW! I swear to you all, I was planning this before I ever saw that. I WAS! Shut up!

Anyhoodle, I do not by any means claim that my gumbo is the be all, end all of gumbo recipes. I have no ego invested in this crappe, y'all. I just know mine tastes good, and that's all I care about. So here's how I made it tonight, and keep in mind a lot of my cooking technique has to do with the fact that I have a teeny little stockpot and not a nice big one.

And you know what? I'm not even going to do this as a recipe. Because I didn't really bother to measure anything. Sorry about that. Hopefully if you REALLY want to make it the way I did, you can figure it out from the following.

Okay. So I took half a stick of butter (that would be 1/4 cup) and melted it over medium high heat, then I dumped in half a cup of flour. Which was too much, so I added a little olive oil to loosen it up. I stirred the hell out of it forever until it took on a color somewhere between butterscotch and caramel. I lack confidence in making a dark roux. I'm afraid I'll burn it. So, light-medium roux it was.

Then I added 1 medium chopped onion, two chopped celery sticks, one small chopped green bell pepper, one-half chopped yellow bell pepper, and three large-ish chopped garlic cloves. Stir, stir, stir. Then I dumped in 12 ounces of chopped andouille sausage. Stir, stir, stir. Then I stirred in two cans of vegetable broth, some oregano, some thyme, some freshly ground pepper and two bay leaves. Bring to a gentle boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes or so. You want the veggies tender. No crisp-tender in gumbo, yo!

About 15 minutes before serving, I stirred in about a cup of sliced okra. I used frozen which I thawed in the microwave before adding to the gumbo. You could use fresh, but you'd want to add it a little earlier in the cooking process.

Five minutes before serving, I stirred in a small can of crab claw meat (you could use lump or jumbo lump but it's WAY more expensive) and a pound of peeled raw shrimp. As soon as the shrimp curls, take it off the heat and remove the bay leaves. You're now ready to serve this puppy up over rice.

It's so damn good, y'all. Seriously. This made a ton so I froze some of it for a day when we're in need of comfort food.

Go forth and gumbo, y'all!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Flank steak and a treatise on grilling

Tonight's Menu

  • garlicky grilled flank steak
  • Parmesan couscous
  • steamed broccoli
Okay. Way easy dinner tonight.

The flank steak was made the usual way. Because my whole family loves this version of it, and because it is SO EASY it should be illegal.

The couscous was from a box. I KNOW. I was in a HURRY, okay?

Broccoli was done in the microwave on the "smart" setting for fresh veggies.

Too damn easy.

About grilling, though ... I live in the 'burbs and on any given evening you can walk outside and smell someone grilling something. I LOVE that about the 'burbs, but it always hits me with a pang of hunger followed quickly by a pang of jealousy, especially if I've planned something non-grilled for dinner. What is that? It smells so good! I WANT SOME!

And so, when I DO plan something grilled for dinner, I get a vicarious thrill out of being the one to fill the neighborhood with the delicious aroma of grilled whatever. Yeah, that's MY DINNER, BITCHES! I get to eat that! Suck on it!

So yeah, that's really all I wanted to say about grilling.

Hey! Can you tell I had three glasses of wine with dinner tonight?!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Oh well

Tonight's Menu

  • rockfish in foil packets
  • chuffed potatoes
  • leftover roasted asparagus
  • leftover big-ass salad
My supermarket had rockfish, which I think is maybe a type of cod but I'm not 100% sure, for cheap today so I thought I'd try it. Aaaaand ... I don't think I'll be trying it again.

I cut it into serving-sized pieces and layered them in foil packets with paper-thin onion slices, thyme, salt, pepper, EVOO and some white wine. It was flavorful I GUESS, but I didn't care for the texture. Maybe the bastardized en papillote thing was a bad idea, I don't know. But all things considered, I'd rather have had salmon. I am a fatty fish kind of gal at heart.

Asparagus season!

Tonight's Menu

  • spiced pork tenderloin
  • roasted asparagus
  • big-ass salad
I made the pork tenderloin my usual way, because that's how the boy and I like it.

The asparagus was roasted alongside the pork (in a separate pan, though) with EVOO, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, then drizzled with just a smidge of fresh lemon juice after cooking.

Yum!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Still in a rut

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless pork chops
  • cabbage sauteed with bacon
  • the last of the leftover green beans with onions and bacon
Yep, it's a rut all right.

Pork chops were sprinkled with garlic pepper and Jane's Krazy salt before grilling, like usual. (They were delicious, though. They were super thick so I did them for about 6 minutes per side and they were cooked through but REALLY juicy and tender. Yum.)

Cabbage was half a head roughly chopped, two slices of bacon chopped, stir stir stir, season with salt and pepper, done.

Sigh.