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


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


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!

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.


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).


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.


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.


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!