Monday, April 30, 2007


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.

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

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


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


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


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.