Monday, October 29, 2007


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.)


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


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!