Friday, October 23, 2009

Perfect fall supper

Tonight's Menu

  • cider-braised pork with onions
  • baked sweet potatoes
  • warm apple-pear sauce
Hot damn, I love me some fall food, y'all. I don't know why I associate pork with fall -- maybe because it goes so well with apples? Whatever, this dinner definitely put me in a fall mood!

My sucky supermarket has pork loin on special for $1/pound from time to time, and when they do I buy a HUGE one and portion it out to freeze for later. So, this was a pork loin roast, cut down from a huge loin. Here's a recipe of sorts, based on what I did to it:

1 boneless pork loin roast (about 2-3 lbs.)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
olive oil
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
1 to 1.5 cups apple cider (I didn't measure it)
1 sprig fresh sage
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

Season the roast with salt and pepper and, in large pot or dutch oven, brown it on all sides in olive oil. Remove pork from pan and add onion, sauteing until it barely starts to go translucent. Add pork and any accumulated drippings back to pan, along with apple cider. Tie the herbs into a bundle with kitchen twine and tuck them into the pan alongside the pork. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours, turning the pork halfway through cooking time.

When pork is done, remove from pan and tent with foil. Remove herb bundle, turn heat to medium high and cook cider-onion mixture until reduced by at least half (watch so it doesn't burn). Slice pork and serve with cider-onion sauce.

The sweet potatoes were just baked in the microwave, then topped with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Or scooped up plain, if you're the boy child. He says they taste like candy even without the added sugar. What is WRONG with this kid? Heh.

The apple-pear sauce was SUPER easy. The hardest part was peeling the pears and apples and cutting them into chunks. I used some teensy pears ("sugar pears", I think they were called?) that I bought at Sam's the other day. They are SO sweet and delicious and almost at the point of being overripe now, so I wanted to use them up. I peeled and chunked maybe six of them (again, they were TINY -- the size of small plums!) along with two small-ish Granny Smith apples. I just plopped them into a pan with a little bit of water and let them simmer, covered, for about an hour. Then I went at them with my immersion blender to break them down just a bit (I left them a little bit chunky but you could do a totally smooth sauce by pushing them through a sieve). I tasted to see how sweet they were and added sugar as needed. And that's it!

I don't have a timeline for you per se, but I can tell you that I started the pork first since it had to cook for two hours. After it had been going for half an hour, I started prepping the apples and pears and I put those on for the last hour of the pork's cooking time. Since the sweet potatoes were cooked in the microwave, I put them in about half an hour before everything else was done and then wrapped them in foil and let them sit until serving time.

You all know I love to grill, but I'm so excited that fall is here and I can starting braising and stewing and roasting again. Yay, fall!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Soup weather

Tonight's Menu

  • Portuguese soup w/sausage, cabbage and potatoes
It's been really damp and chilly the past few days here -- perfect soup weather! This is one of my favorite soups for fall and winter. It's not heavy but it really warms you up and is very satisfying. The original recipe made a TON and included kidney beans, which I love but DH and the girl are allergic to. So here's my version:

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 pound kielbasa or smoked beef sausage, sliced into half-moons
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
about 6 red-skinned new potatoes, cut in chunks
4 cups beef broth
1 cup water
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, saute onion and garlic in some olive oil over medium heat until softened and translucent. Add sausage and brown it just a bit. Add cabbage, potatoes, broth, water, ketchup and vinegar to the pot and bring it to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Really yummy and even better the second day!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stupid easy food for a (small) crowd

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-cooked beef brisket
  • whole-grain tortilla chips w/bottled salsa
  • coleslaw
Hey, so tomorrow is my birthday and today we had my parents over to celebrate. Which presented a TINY conundrum -- I don't really feel like I should HAVE to cook on my birthday, but throwing that duty to DH kind of stresses him out since he only cooks dinner maybe three times a year. (Which is fine; we divide our labor this way ON PURPOSE because I like to cook. Just not on my birthday.)

So, I wanted to feed everyone, but I didn't want to go to any real TROUBLE about it, you know? Which is why this particular thrown-together dinner was perfect! Ten minutes of work early in the day, and then all I had to do was slice the meat and throw a bunch of stuff on the table. Yay!

For the brisket, I made a dry rub of brown sugar, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and dry mustard. Just dump and stir -- way easy. I rubbed this all over both sides of the brisket, then put it fat-side-up on a rack in a roasting pan. I filled the bottom of the pan with water, covered it tightly with heavy-duty foil, and stuck it in the oven at around 10:00 a.m., while my coffee was brewing. It cooked unattended at 200 degrees F for about 7 hours, then I uncovered it and boosted the heat up to 400 for about 15 minutes to crisp up the fat. Sliced thinly across the grain, it was fork tender and delicious!

The coleslaw was the usual -- shredded cabbage tossed with a mixture of mayonnaise, white vinegar, sugar and celery seeds. I made this earlier in the day, too, and just stuck it in the fridge. Easy!

Here's the timeline for this incredibly easy meal:
  • At least 6 hours before serving time, prepare the brisket w/rub and stick it in the oven.
  • Make coleslaw and stick that in the fridge.
  • Welcome birthday party guests, open presents, play a couple of cutthroat games of In A Pickle and Skip-Bo. (Assuming it's your birthday, that is.)
  • 20 minutes before dinnertime, uncover the brisket and turn up the heat for 15 minutes.
  • Take brisket out of oven and let rest.
  • Break out the coleslaw, chips and salsa.
  • Slice the brisket thinly across the grain and serve.
  • Follow up with birthday cake, if you can manage it!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Back in the saddle again

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless lamb leg steaks
  • couscous
  • green salad "bar"
Oh, people. I am very sorry for not posting much at all this summer. It was brutally hot here (SIXTY EIGHT days with temperatures over 100 degrees F)(and the other days it was like 99 or 98 degrees) and I just felt so uninspired the whole time. Now that the seasons are changing, I can feel my cooking mojo returning ever so slowly. The sun is moving south, the back patio (where my grill is located) is once again in full shade during dinnertime, cool breezes are blowing in the evening, and I'm getting excited about cooking some fall food!

Er, not that there was anything particularly fall-ish about this dinner. I'm just sayin'.

Okay, so these were boneless lamb leg steaks. Think like a ham steak, but with lamb. And no bone. Am I overexplaining this? Probably so. Anyway, I put them in a plastic zipper bag, pressed a couple of smashed garlic cloves (not smashed to smithereens, just sort of flattened/squashed and peeled) and a sprig of fresh rosemary up against both sides of the meat, then drizzled in a little olive oil and smooshed it all around before sealing the bag and sticking it in the fridge for a few hours. Before grilling, I sprinkled each side of the steaks with some coarse sea salt. Then I just grilled them over high heat for about four minutes per side. They came out medium, which is how the boys like their steaks, but when I make this again with steaks this thick (about 3/4 inch) I'd only cook one of them for maybe 3 minutes per side and then rest it longer. I like mine a little more pink, yo. Anyway, they were really tender and super delicious! DH thought they tasted just like a really good cut of beef.

The couscous was boring and plain. Just 1.25 cups of water brought to the boil with some butter and salt, then dump in 1 cup of dry couscous, cover and take off the heat. Leave it for at least 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork, adjust the seasonings and serve. BORING. But I can make a salad or something out of the leftovers.

The salad bar tonight was chopped romaine with little bowls containing shredded carrots, sliced cucumber and tomato wedges. Also boring, but everyone likes it.

Here's the timeline:
  • Earlier in the day, prepare the meat (with the garlic and whatnot) and stick it in the fridge. You can do this the night before if you prefer.
  • About 30 minutes before serving time, take the meat out of the fridge and prepare the salad.
  • About 20 minutes before serving time, preheat the grill (this is for a gas grill; adjust accordingly if you're using wood or charcoal).
  • Make the couscous, cover and remove it from the heat.
  • Put the meat on the grill (about 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness).
  • Take meat off grill and tent with foil to rest.
  • Fluff couscous, season and dump into serving dish.
  • Carve meat into serving-size pieces (I did two steaks for four people) and ring the dinner bell!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Very southern

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled ham steak
  • cornbread
  • spinach w/bacon and pinkeye peas
Well, this was NOT a cool-kitchen supper, I'm sorry to say. But it was very yummy and easy and I'm not sure you can get much more southern than ham, cornbread, and greens with peas, y'all.

The ham steak was easy -- just drain off the water in which it's usually packed and slap it on a grill over high heat for 3 minutes per side (more or less, depending on thickness).

The cornbread was homemade, using my usual recipe. I SWEAR this is not much more trouble than those mixes you buy at the store, and you can control how sweet it is (DH likes it SWEET) and what sort of fat is in it (this time I used an extra-light olive oil).

The spinach and peas were the real stars of this meal, though. One of the weird things I planted in my garden this year was purple-hull pinkeye cowpeas. They look a lot like blackeyed peas, if you're familiar with those (you can see the pods here, and the peas here). Of course, my garden is tiny and I don't usually get enough peas all at once to feed the four of us. I had collected maybe two tablespoons worth over the past week and had no idea what to do with such a small amount, but I definitely didn't want them to go to waste!

So, here's what I did: I brought a little pot of water to a boil, dumped in my tiny amount of homegrown pinkeye peas, and boiled them for maybe 15 minutes until they were nice and tender. Then I drained them and set them aside.

In a large skillet, I browned off some chopped bacon and then added the drained peas and a big bunch of fresh baby spinach. I tossed the spinach around until it had wilted, then I seasoned it with salt and pepper and added a tablespoon each of brown sugar and vinegar (this time I used a raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, but in the past I've used red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar and it's all good!). Stir that around for a bit until some of the liquid has evaporated, then serve. So yummy! If you think you don't like spinach, try it like this -- it's all smoky bacon and sweet-sour sauce. Mmm!

Here was the timeline for this simple, delicious meal:
  • Put the peas on to boil.
  • Mix up the cornbread and stick it in the oven.
  • Light the grill (if you're using gas; for charcoal you might want to do this first).
  • Remove peas from heat after they're tender, drain and set aside.
  • While grill is heating, chop bacon and have the spinach, sugar & vinegar nearby.
  • Put ham steak on grill for 3 minutes per side; remove and tent with foil to rest.
  • Remove cornbread from oven.
  • Make spinach/pea dish (it's fast).
  • Cut ham into serving pieces, ditto cornbread, serve it on up!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cool kitchen supper #3

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled garlicky flank steak
  • grilled flatbread
  • grilled romaine salad
Hey! I haven't posted in over a month! How'd that happen? I have no idea, y'all. With the kids home for the summer and not only making their own damn dinners, but breakfasts/lunches/snacks as well, the kitchen is always an absolute mess and I've sort of lost my cooking mojo. If you click on the "grilling" link over there in the right-hand sidebar, you can see some of what we've been eating -- the usual summer fare around here.

However, this is the first time this summer that I've made my grilled garlicky flank steak, which has been a staple in summers past. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to make it this season, because it's so easy and delicious! Just bash up a few cloves of garlic in the mortar and pestle with some kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, the juice of one lemon and some extra virgin olive oil. Make some diamond cuts in a nice piece of flank steak, then rub the garlic slurry over both sides of the meat, smooshing it into all the cuts and crevices. You can let it sit like this for a bit but there's really no need -- just whomp it right onto the grill and cook it over high heat for 4-5 minutes per side. Let it rest for 5 minutes or so, then slice thinly across the grain. So yummy!

I'm not sure what took me so long to throw some raw bread dough on the grill, either. I'd heard of people grilling flatbreads and pizzas and whatnot like this -- just slapping the uncooked dough right onto the grill grates -- but I guess I had to see it with my own eyes to believe it really worked. And it does! Honest! I used a hunk of the master recipe dough from ABin5, lightly flouring it and rolling it out into an oval about 1/4-inch thick. Then I really did just toss it right onto the grill grates! The grill was nice and hot and the dough started bubbling pretty quickly. When it looked sort of dry around the edges (like a pancake), I flipped it over with a pair of tongs and cooked the other side. I would say it took maybe 5 minutes total to grill up a nice big hunk of flatbread, which I then cut into squares for serving. The kids love this -- they say it tastes just like pizza crust!

I've made grilled lettuce before but it's been quite a while. I love lettuce this way -- it has such a sweet, earthy flavor when it's cooked. All I do is take a head of romaine lettuce, remove the tough outer leaves (sometimes I just buy packaged "hearts of romaine" in the produce department and have done with it) and give it a good rinse. After drying it thoroughly, I cut it in half lengthwise, drizzle it with a bit of EVOO, then slap it on the grill. You have to watch it closely and turn it with tongs every minute or so -- what you want is just a WEE bit of char and wilting, but with the inner leaves of the lettuce still retaining a lot of body. Take it off the grill and slice it crosswise, then toss in a bowl with some fresh lemon (or lime) juice and a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper. That's the simplest treatment, but you could also whip up a vinaigrette (something mustardy would be nice) for it. Serve warm and enjoy!

Here's the timeline for this quick and easy cool-kitchen supper:
  • Light the grill about 30 minutes before serving time (for a gas grill -- adjust accordingly for charcoal or wood) and set to high heat.
  • While grill heats, prepare the garlic slurry and rub it over the meat.
  • Wash, dry and halve romaine; set aside.
  • Put meat on grill.
  • Flip meat after 4-5 minutes.
  • Roll out dough for flatbread (I use a silpat, but you could put it on a pizza peel or a foil-covered cookie sheet or whatever). I've found that it's better to do this at the last minute if you're using a wet dough, because it gets sort of gooey if it sits for too long before cooking.
  • Take meat off grill and cover to rest.
  • Put flatbread dough on grill.
  • Watch bread closely and flip when needed, then remove from grill when done (about 5 minutes total).
  • Drizzle romaine with EVOO and put on grill.
  • Watch closely, turn when needed and remove from grill when just barely charred/wilted.
  • Cut bread into squares or wedges.
  • Slice lettuce and toss w/lemon juice and seasonings.
  • Slice meat thinly across grain.
  • Serve it on up!

Monday, June 15, 2009

And ANOTHER cool-kitchen supper

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled lamb patties
  • whole-wheat pita
  • lettuce and tomato
  • quick pickled onions
  • herby yogurt dressing
Here's another supper that will keep your kitchen nice and cool, assuming your grill doesn't run out of propane halfway through cooking the lamb like mine did. Oy. (I finished them under the broiler for a couple of minutes, and they were fine. But still.)

I think I've told you that we've been eating a lot of lamb lately, and we've discovered that we really kind of love it. For the patties, I mixed ground lamb with some minced onion and garlic, chopped fresh parsley and cilantro, a bit of olive oil (the ground lamb I buy tends to be VERY lean), salt, pepper, chili powder, and some whole coriander and cumin seeds that were toasted in a dry skillet and then ground to a powder with the mortar and pestle. (Hey, if you've got ground cumin and coriander in your spice cabinet and you can't be bothered to toast and grind whole spices, use what you've got. I'm not here to force anyone to toast and grind spices, though I do think that adds a nice extra layer of flavor.)

The lamb mixture was formed into balls slightly bigger than golfballs and then flattened into patties. Think of them as mini lamb burgers, if you will -- slider sized, rather than burger sized. I grilled them for about 5 minutes per side over medium heat, or I would have if I hadn't run out of propane. Grrr!

The pita was purchased, and the lettuce and tomato was (were?) just leaves of romaine and sliced vine-ripe tomatoes (from the store, because my garden sucks this year AGAIN).

I've made these picked onions before and they are seriously addicting. All I did was whisk together a tablespoon or so of red wine vinegar, maybe a third as much olive oil, and a tiny bit of sugar. Then I tossed in some thinly sliced red onions and just let them sit, stirring/tossing occasionally, while the meat cooked. So good!

For the dressing, all I did was mix some plain Greek-style yogurt with some minced garlic, chopped fresh herbs (mint, cilantro and parsley) and fresh lemon juice.

You can assemble these however you like, but I like to stuff a pita with a couple of lamb patties, some romaine and a couple of slices of tomato, then top it with the pickled onions and drizzle the yogurt dressing on top. This is seriously one of my favorite dinners that I've ever made, people. It beats takeout any day!

Here's the timeline. A LOT of this can be done ahead of time, like even the day before.
  • Up to one day ahead, make the yogurt dressing and stick it in the fridge.
  • Also up to one day ahead, make the pickled onions (you CAN wait until pretty much the last minute on these, if you don't want to make them ahead).
  • And hey, while you're at it, you could totally make the meat mixture ahead of time and form it into patties, refrigerating it on wax-paper-lined cookie sheets until you're ready to grill.
  • For that matter, you could wash and portion out the lettuce ahead of time, too! Wow, this timeline is pretty useless, eh?
  • Okay, at some point you will need to grill the lamb patties. This will take about 10 minutes total.
  • While the lamb is grilling, slice your UNREFRIGERATED tomato. You know not to refrigerate your tomatoes until after they're sliced up or in a mixed salad or something, right? They'll retain a lot more flavor if you keep them out of the fridge as much as possible. So yeah, do this one at the last minute.
  • Take the meat off the grill, lay everything out so folks can build their own pita, and serve it up!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A cool-kitchen supper

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled shrimp
  • garlic bread
  • grilled asparagus
  • green salad "bar"
Oh people. It is already SO HOT here in central Texas. Too hot to sit outside while the food grills, unfortunately. The good news is, this meal pretty much cooked itself on the grill while I sat inside in my nice, cool, air-conditioned kitchen! Yes!

I deviated from the script a bit with this shrimp. We love our usual recipe, but I've been making it like once every 10 days or so and wanted something just a little bit different. So I mixed together about 1/2 cup of canola oil, 1/4 cup EVOO (I would have done ALL EVOO, but I was running low), a few glugs each of Worcestershire and hot sauce, a tablespoon or so of honey, the juice of one orange, one lemon and one lime, a bunch of minced fresh garlic, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper and poured it over two pounds of peeled jumbo shrimp. This marinated in the fridge for about 4 hours before I threaded the shrimp onto skewers and grilled them for 5 minutes per side over medium heat. They were really good!

The garlic bread was purchased at the store. I wrapped it in foil and stuck it on the top rack of the grill to warm up while the shrimp was cooking.

The asparagus was dead easy. I grilled it on a grill screen after I'd pulled off the shrimp. I drizzled it with EVOO and sprinkled it with salt and pepper, then grilled it for maybe 8 minutes total, tossing it around with tongs to brown it all over. Yum! This is my favorite way to eat asparagus (roasting it in the oven is a close second).

The salad bar was just chopped romaine, sliced carrots, sliced cucumber, and wedges of tomato.

Easy dinner, and the house stayed nice and cool! Good thing, because it was about 98 degrees out on the patio -- yikes!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More lamb!

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless leg of lamb
  • red onion & rosemary focaccia
  • green salad "bar"
I have no idea what possessed me to buy this boneless leg of lamb at my new neighborhood farmers market last weekend. At $9 a pound, it's by far the single most expensive piece of meat I've ever purchased or prepared. As such, I was terrified of screwing it up, so I turned to Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything, my go-to cookbook when I'm preparing something unfamiliar for the first time. And he didn't steer me wrong!

Guided by Bittman, and adapting based on the flavors my family likes and the ingredients I had on hand, here's what I did. First I butterflied the leg out so it was a bit more even in terms of thickness and whomped it into a Pyrex baking pan. Then I mashed up several garlic cloves (seriously, like half a head) with some kosher salt and freshly ground pepper in my mortar and pestle. I dumped the garlic into a bowl, then added a giant handful of chopped fresh herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, fennel fronds and cuban oregano. All but the parsley was from my own herb patch (my parsley has gone completely to seed -- boo!). I mixed that together as best I could, then drizzed in some EVOO until it formed a loose paste. Then I rubbed this mixture all over both sides of the lamb, being sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies. I covered the lamb tightly with plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge for a few hours, then I brought it back up to room temperature before grilling it over high heat for about 13 minutes per side. After letting it rest for about 5 minutes, I sliced it very thin to serve.

Oh. Mah. Gawd. It was SO GOOD. The thinner ends were done medium and the thicker bits were medium-rare. The whole thing was SO flavorful and tender! The boy thought it tasted a bit like beef, and it really kind of did, but it was like really GOOD beef. So yummy! This is definitely going on the menu at my next big backyard barbecue! (Sorry, vegetarian peeps. I'll have stuff for you too, I promise!)

I've made the focaccia before. It's from the bread book. I made it with the olive oil dough and it was tender and delicious.

It's been a while since we had a green salad up in here! There are so many other good veggies to be had right now, but our cupboards were kind of bare so salad it was. This was romaine with sliced carrots & cucumbers and little grape tomatoes. Kind of boring, but it worked well with the rich meat.

Here's the timeline:
  • Earlier in the day, mix up the garlic & herbs, rub it into the lamb, and refrigerate.
  • About 45 minutes before serving, pull the lamb out of the fridge and prepare the focaccia from refrigerated dough.
  • Make the salad while the focaccia is resting.
  • Preheat oven; light grill.
  • Put focaccia in oven and set timer for 25 minutes.
  • IMMEDIATELY put lamb on grill.
  • Turn lamb halfway through the 25 minutes.
  • When timer goes off, take focaccia out of oven and lamb off grill.
  • Rest lamb for 5 minutes (the focaccia will be fine sitting during this time).
  • Slice lamb thinly.
  • Slice focaccia into wedges.
  • Serve it up!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day "picnic"

Tonight's Menu

  • bbq pork spareribs
  • grilled garlic toast
  • potato-artichoke salad
  • coleslaw
Okay, so it was too hot to eat outside. But I grilled a lot of stuff! Does that count?

The spareribs were my usual, finished on the grill (meat side down over medium heat for 4 minutes, meat side up and slathered in Carolina-style barbecue sauce for 4 minutes, rest before cutting into riblets).

I grill everything from meat to veggies to fruit, but I think this might have been my first time grilling bread! We had some leftover boule (yes, from the book -- I SWEAR I don't have any relationship with the authors/publisher) so I cut that into half-inch slices, brushed it on both sides with olive oil (LIGHTLY -- you don't want to soak it), and grilled it over high heat until it picked up some grill marks, which didn't take long at all. Then I rubbed a cut garlic clove over both sides of each slice of bread. So easy, yummy and fresh tasting! The girl particulary loved this bread. Of course, she lives on bread, so take that with a grain of salt, maybe.

The salad was my favorite summer salad. It's finally summery enough to serve this again, yay!

And the coleslaw was my usual, except I used savoy cabbage because that's what I had.

Here's the timeline:
  • Three and a half hours before serving, rub the ribs with spices and put them in the oven at 325 degrees F, TIGHTLY covered with foil.
  • Make potato salad and coleslaw after putting ribs in oven; put both salads in fridge.
  • Thirty minutes before serving, light grill and pull ribs out of oven.
  • Grill ribs as described above.
  • Remove ribs from grill; cover with foil and let rest.
  • Grill bread and remove.
  • Cut ribs into riblets.
  • Pull salads out of fridge.
  • Serve it up!

Friday, May 22, 2009

I had a craving

Tonight's Menu

  • lamb kofta kebabs w/minted yogurt
  • za'atar bread
  • marinated red onions and cherry tomatoes
We've been eating a lot of lamb lately, owing in part to the fact that the new farmers market that just opened in my neighborhood (yay!) has a vendor that sells local, pastured lamb in a variety of cuts. I like to load the ground lamb with spices and make little meatballs out of it, but tonight I had a craving for lamb on the grill. Kofta kebabs were just the ticket!

Bear with me, because as usual I don't have an actual recipe, but I can tell you what I did. First, I stuck a heel of stale bread into the food processor and whizzed it up until I had fresh bread crumbs. I was afraid dry crumbs would make the meat too crumbly. To the bread crumbs, I added some chopped fresh parsley, kosher salt, garam masala, chili powder, paprika and grated onion (fresh onion, not dried -- just peel it and run it over the large holes of a box grater). I also ran a good-sized garlic clove over my microplane zester (love this tip -- no need to peel the garlic!) and added that as well. I pulsed it for a bit to blend the ingredients, then added a pound of ground lamb and one large egg. Whiz it around until it's all combined, then form the meat into sort of oblong sausagey shapes and thread a metal skewer through each one (or a soaked bamboo skewer). Then grill them over high heat on well-oiled grates for about 4-5 minutes per side or until done through.

The yogurt sauce was easy -- just mix some greek-style yogurt with chopped fresh mint, a tiny bit of lemon juice, and a tiny bit of minced garlic. It makes a nice accompaniment to the meat.

I have made za'atar bread before. We all love this as an alternative to focaccia, and again, it went so nicely with the flavors of the meat.

For the little marinated salad I served alongside, all I did was cut a red onion in half lengthwise and then slice it VERY thinly crosswise, dumping the little onion slivers into a non-reactive bowl. I added halved cherry tomatoes (actually, I think these were grape tomatoes, but it doesn't matter) along with some chopped fresh parsley and oregano. Then I mixed some red wine vinegar with a TINY bit of sugar and a small amount of EVOO (use more vinegar than oil), poured that over the onions and tomatoes, seasoned with a bit of kosher salt, and tossed it all together. I just let this sit on the countertop at room temperature while I made the rest of the meal. It was very refreshing!

This whole meal was freaking fantastic, if I do say so myself! I had such a craving for something Middle Eastern or Mediterranean and this was perfect. The lamb kofta reminded me very much of a Romanian dish called mici, and I am half convinced that my occasional craving for spiced meat on the grill is an ancestral memory of some kind (I am one-eighth Romanian on my Dad's side). Every now and then, I need a little garlic and paprika in my life, you know?

Here's my suggested timeline for this meal. This is not exactly the one I followed, but it's the one I WOULD follow when I made this again.
  • Earlier in the day, make the minted yogurt and stick it in the fridge.
  • Also earlier in the day, make the meat mixture and put it in the fridge. It's easier to work with when it's cold.
  • About an hour before serving time, make the marinated onions and tomatoes and let them sit on the countertop while you do the rest.
  • About 40 minutes before serving time, prepare the za'atar bread (it has to rest for 20 minutes while the oven gets hot, then it cooks for 15 minutes or so).
  • About 20 minutes before serving time, light the grill and put the meat on skewers while it heats.
  • Put the za'atar bread in the oven.
  • Put the meat on the grill. Turn after 4-5 minutes.
  • Take the meat off the grill and the bread out of the oven.
  • Slide the meat off the skewers so no one ends up in the emergency room (I speak from experience with metal skewers, here -- those suckers get HOT).
  • Slice the bread into wedges, pull the yogurt out of the fridge, give the salad another toss and serve it all up!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A (mostly) make-ahead meal

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-cooked beef brisket
  • fresh bread
  • tangy coleslaw
  • grilled apricots
My day today was such that my afternoon and early evening were insanely busy, but my morning was relatively calm. So 90% of the work for this meal was done well before the after-school frenzy, and I was still able to get dinner on the table at a decent time. YAY for mostly make-ahead meals!

The brisket was my usual. I made a dry rub of sugar, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, dried oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper. Then I rubbed it all over the brisket on both sides and put the meat fat-side up in a roasting pan. You could put it on a rack but I no longer have one, so I wad up some tin foil into balls and line the bottom of the pan with those, then place the meat on top. Works great! Add a bit of water to the bottom of the pan, then cover tightly with heavy-duty foil.

The cooking time and temperature can vary quite a bit, depending on the size of your hunk o' meat, the amount of time you have to work with, and how you like your meat cooked. We like a very tender, melt-in-your-mouth brisket with crispy fat; my roast was about 2.5 to 3 pounds, and I had all day, really. So I cooked this at 225 degrees F for about five hours, then uncovered it and boosted the heat up to 400 for 15 minutes or so to get the fat nice and crispy. Then I let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing it thinly across the grain. You could do this same size roast for maybe two hours at 375, as long as there's water in the pan and it's tightly covered. It won't be quite as tender, but you can make up for that by slicing it nice and thin.

The bread was plain boule from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I am STILL loving that book! The authors have a blog where they share recipes, too!

For the coleslaw, I whisked together 1/4 cup each of sugar and apple cider vinegar until the sugar was mostly dissolved, then whisked in a tablespoon of canola oil and about a teaspoon of celery seed. Pour it over half a head of shredded cabbage, toss to coat, and stick it in the fridge for several hours or overnight. I like this version of coleslaw over the creamy mayonnaise type when I'm serving a fairy rich, fatty meat -- the acidity really helps cut the richness.

The apricots could not have been easier -- just cut a few in half, make sure to oil your grill grate, and grill them cut-side down until they pick up some grill marks and get SLIGHTLY soft. Don't overcook these or they will go mushy. I really like apricots with spiced beef -- something about that flavor combination just works for me!

Okay, so here was the timeline I followed:
  1. Make the bread in the morning (or the day before)(or just buy some damn bread, already!).
  2. Prepare the brisket and stick it in the oven (I did this five and a half hours before I planned to serve it -- see above).
  3. Make the coleslaw and stick it in the fridge (you could do this the night before).
  4. Thirty minutes before serving, uncover the brisket and turn up the heat to crisp the fat.
  5. Wrap the bread in foil and slice the apricots in half, removing pits.
  6. Light the grill for indirect heat (for my grill this means two burners on, one off).
  7. Put the foil-wrapped bread on the unlit burner to warm it as the grill heats.
  8. When the grill is hot, take brisket out of oven, re-cover and let rest.
  9. Put apricots on grill; remove bread from grill.
  10. Slice bread and re-wrap in foil to keep warm.
  11. Take apricots off grill, cover to keep warm.
  12. Slice brisket and put on serving platter.
  13. Remove coleslaw from fridge and give it another toss or two.
  14. Soup's on!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Timing is everything

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled garlicky pork tenderloin
  • whole-wheat couscous
  • garlic-kissed carrots and peas
Hey, everyone! Sorry for the long break in posting there. I haven't been making much of anything new, and it seems boring to write about the same meals over and over when all of the recipes are already available on the right-hand sidebar there. I didn't make much of anything new tonight either, but ... well, I kind of missed the ol' blog! What can I say?

So, the tenderloin! All I did was mash up some garlic cloves, kosher salt, fresh oregano (from my herb patch), freshly ground pepper, fresh lemon juice and EVOO in my mortar and pestle, then pour it over a couple of pork tenderloins in a plastic zipper bag. These only marinated for about an hour, but you could certainly do them much longer than that. I grilled them over high heat for a total of 20-23 minutes or so, turning every few minutes to brown them all over. Then I sliced them into 1/2-inch slices before serving. Yummy!

The couscous was just done according to the package directions. I far prefer quinoa to couscous and think it tends to pack more of a nutritional punch, but DH and the boy child like couscous. I compromise by buying the whole-wheat variety, which I can only find at, of all places, my local liquor store! They sell specialty foods there, too. (Spec's, for those of you in Texas.)

The carrot dish was the only relatively "new" thing I cooked tonight. I peeled a bunch of carrots and cut them into chunks, then steamed them in the microwave until they were tender. Then I sauteed them in a bit of butter, along with some fresh green peas from my garden (I picked and shelled them while the pork was grilling) and one tiny minced garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper and you're done! The boy had thirds of this dish! It was really yummy -- I will definitely make this again.

I don't know if I've ever talked about this before on the blog, but I am kind of anal about my meal prep and making sure everything is done at more or less the same time. This can be a HUGE challenge for the home cook when making an entire meal from scratch and it was a real source of frustration for me when I first started cooking whole meals for my family of four. I don't know if this will help anyone, but here were the steps I took to get this meal on the table:
  1. Prepare marinade for pork (at least an hour ahead of time; can do this the night before if you want) and stick pork in the fridge.
  2. Light grill about 40 minutes before you want to serve the meal (for gas; if you're using charcoal then adjust your time accordingly).
  3. While grill is heating, peel and cut carrots and steam them in the microwave (do not remove from microwave until ready to saute).
  4. Put water on to boil for couscous.
  5. While water is boiling, mince a clove of garlic for the carrots and set aside.
  6. Put couscous in boiling water, cover and take off the heat (this can sit for quite a while).
  7. Make a gin & tonic to take outside with you. Hee! What?
  8. Put pork on grill.
  9. Pick peas.
  10. Turn pork.
  11. Shell peas.
  12. Remove pork from grill, tent with foil and let rest.
  13. While pork is resting, saute carrots and peas with garlic. Remove from heat and cover.
  14. Slice pork and put on serving platter.
  15. Fluff couscous with a fork and put in serving bowl.
  16. Dump veggies into serving bowl.
  17. Soup's on!
It doesn't seem like that many steps when you're doing it, I swear. Or ... that might be the gin & tonic talking.

Do you guys want me to do this for all the meals I post? Would it be helpful at all, or is it information overload? Let me know!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tough cuts

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled marinated steaks
  • roasted potato wedges
  • caramelized brussels sprouts
The steaks I made tonight were labeled "chuck shoulder steaks" and were dirt cheap, which is why I bought them. They were large but cut really thin, maybe a third of an inch. I had never worked with chuck shoulder steaks before, though I have cooked chuck roasts and shoulder roasts, and I wasn't quite sure what to do with them. Tougher cuts like this tend to need either slow cooking at a low temperature for a long period of time, or really fast cooking over really high heat for a really short period of time. I decided to go with the latter and grill them.

First, I marinated them for about three hours in a mixture of red wine vinegar, olive oil, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, a tiny bit of sugar, and a small amount of Worcestershire sauce. I think this went a long way toward helping tenderize the meat. Then I grilled them over high heat for only three minutes per side (did I mention they were SUPER thin?), letting them rest for about five minutes before serving. I'm really happy with how these came out -- they had a fantastic flavor and weren't tough at all! Success!

For the potato wedges, I just cut some russet potatoes into fourths lengthwise, plopped them onto a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. Then I stuck them in the oven at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes. This turned out to be a tad too long, actually -- they were chewier on the outside than I would have liked. Tasty, though! Next time I'll knock back the time or the temperature, or both.

The brussels sprouts were trimmed and cut in half, then steamed in the microwave until crisp-tender. I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then added the sprouts along with just a bit of red wine vinegar and sugar to help speed the caramelization along. Once they had gone golden, I sprinkled on a bit of salt and pepper and served 'em up! I LOVED brussels sprouts prepared this way!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Homemade lasagna

Tonight's Menu

  • beefy lasagna w/homemade noodles
  • green salad "bar"
Is there anything more comforting than a big ol' pan of lasagna? I think not, people. This one featured homemade noodles and sauce, and I'm not going to lie and say it was fast and easy. But it did seem a whole lot less fiddly and meticulous than the ravioli experiment, which made it FEEL easy. Ish.

Okay, for the noodles I made my usual pasta dough and just rolled it into sheets and let them dry on the counter for a couple of hours. That part WAS easy, now that I've gotten the hang of my cheap-ass pasta machine.

For the sauce, I chopped up an onion and minced several cloves of garlic and cooked them in a big pot in a little EVOO until they were soft. I kept them on a low-ish heat because I didn't want them to brown or anything, just soften. Then I dumped in a large can of tomato paste (the ones that are about the size of a soup can) and stirred that around a bit until it started to smell kind of toasted. I thinned it out with a bit of red wine (pinot noir -- it's what I had), then dumped in a huge can of crushed tomatoes. (It would have been helpful if I'd noted the ounces on these cans before I chucked them, huh? This one was about a quart, maybe? I dunno.) I was worried the sauce was still too thick, so I thinned it out some more with water, then stirred in a couple of tablespoons of sugar, some dried oregano, basil, salt and pepper and let it simmer uncovered for maybe 30-45 minutes.

For the meat, I browned some ground bison (feel free to use beef, turkey, whatever floats your boat) over medium heat in a skillet, then turned the heat down to low and stirred in a couple spoonfuls of sauce to moisten it. Then, just for the heck of it, I stirred in whatever was left of the ravioli filling from the other night (would you believe I STILL had some left, even after stuffing mushrooms with it?).

Then I just layered the noodles, meat, some fresh mozzarella (you could use ricotta, but DH doesn't like it) and the sauce in a 9 x 13-inch pan and baked it uncovered for about 40 minutes at 375 degrees F. It was super tasty and definitely worth the time it took to make it.

The salad bar was the same as last night.

Remind me from now on to BUY my cheese ravioli, but make my lasagna from scratch whenever possible, okay?

Monday, March 23, 2009

The long-awaited reappearance of trout

Tonight's Menu

  • sauteed trout fillets
  • ricotta-stuffed mushrooms
  • green salad "bar"
It's been forever since I made fish for dinner and I'm not really sure why. We were eating a lot of tilapia for a while there, and I guess I kind of got sick of it. Anyway, my supermarket had some really nice rainbow trout fillets today, so I bought a couple and just seasoned them with a bit of salt and pepper before sauteing them in EVOO on the stovetop. I always start them skin-side down but I have no idea if that even matters. They were delicious and the boy had seconds and made a point of telling me how good they were. Remind me to start cooking fish more often!

I had a bunch of cheese filling leftover from when I made ravioli the other day and was looking for a way to use it up. I figured I could either make more ravioli (um, no), make lasagne (maybe, but that would involve the making of a meat sauce, which takes a while) or stuff mushrooms with it (bingo!). I modified the cheese filling slightly by mincing the mushroom stems and a couple of cloves of garlic and cooking those together in a skillet with some EVOO until soft. Then I cooled them and mixed them with the leftover ravioli filling, stuffing the mushrooms from whence came the stems and baking them in a foil-lined pan for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees F. I thought they were absolutely delicious, but DH is not a huge fan of ricotta and prefers the cream cheese-based mushroom stuffing. WHATEVER. More mushrooms for me!

The salad bar tonight was chopped romaine, sliced cucumbers and the last of the carrots from my garden (sliced). Time to make way for the spring veggies!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Tonight's Menu

  • grilled bratwurst
  • grilled potatoes and onions in a foil packet
  • steamed broccoli
I did not notice until I was putting them in water to parboil them before grilling that I had actually bought BRATWURST at the store instead of Italian sausages. Heh. It's hell getting old, man. But it didn't really matter, because I cook them pretty much the same way -- simmer them on the stove in a big pot of water for about 15 or 20 minutes, then grill over high heat until the skins are nice and brown and crispy. The kids said they actually liked these better than our usual Italian sausages and both had seconds!

For the potatoes and onions, just slice some red-skinned potatoes (or some other waxy potato) and some onions into quarter-inch slices and layer them on a big piece of heavy-duty foil with some little hunks of butter, salt and pepper. Just for the heck of it, this time I stuck a wad of whole herb sprigs (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme -- the song doesn't lie!) on top before tightly sealing the foil packet on all sides. I stuck this on the top rack of my grill when I lit it, and just let it hang out there while the grill warmed up and the sausages browned. It cooked for maybe 30 minutes total. Then just (CAREFULLY) open up the packet, chuck out the herbs, and dump everything else into a bowl! Easy and delicious!

Broccoli was steamed in the microwave.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Even MORE adventures in homemade pasta

Tonight's Menu

  • homemade cheese ravioli
  • green salad "bar"
I will be honest with you: I don't know that I'll be making homemade ravioli all that often in the future. It's not that it was difficult at all, but OMG, it was SO TIME-CONSUMING. I'm not sure the results were worth all the time that went into this dish. I mean, the ravioli was really good, but I don't know that it was two hours worth of good, you know?

ANYWAY, what I did was mix up a batch of pasta dough (two cups flour, one teaspoon salt, three eggs, whizz it all up in a food processor then wrap it in plastic and stick it in the fridge) and roll it out into sheets. That part was easy.

For the filling, I combined some whole-milk ricotta (if yours is runny or weepy, drain it first) with some shredded parmesan (NOT the stuff in the green can), chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper. Also easy.

Then, I think I may have done something stupid. I'm pretty sure most people who are crazy enough to make ravioli at home dollop the filling onto the pasta sheets and then lay another sheet on top, sealing everything around the dollops of filling and then cutting the raviolis apart. But I'm such a doof, I wasn't sure I'd be able to get everything spaced out right. So I cut my pasta sheets into squares and made my raviolis one at a time and OH MY GOD, never again. It just took FOREVER, and they were kind of jacked-up looking. Maybe I just need practice.

But whatever, I boiled them in salted water for about five minutes and served them with my usual tomato sauce and they were fine. Really good, even! But holy cats, y'all. My back is killing me from all that ravioli assembly.

The salad bar was just romaine lettuce, sliced cucumbers, and sliced carrots from the garden.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Lamb pita FTW!

Tonight's Menu

  • tiny spiced lamb meatballs w/tzatziki
  • whole-wheat pita
  • green salad "bar"
Hey, so I cooked lamb for the first time ever tonight and it was surprisingly (because as you longtime readers know, I don't have such a great track record with kitchen experimentation) delicious! It almost tasted like I knew what I was doing! Weird!

What I did was take a couple of cloves of garlic and some fresh herbs from my garden (mostly parsley, with a bit of oregano and mint -- my mint is JUST NOW coming back from winter) and whiz them up in a little mini food processor that I always forget I have. It made a sort of paste, which I added to 1.5 pounds of ground lamb, some salt and pepper, dried cumin and coriander, chili powder, garam masala, an egg and some dry bread crumbs. I formed it into teeny tiny meatballs, using about a teaspoon of lamb mixture for each ball, and put them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Then I popped them in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes. (Digression -- I ALWAYS bake my meatballs instead of frying them. It's so much easier, and there's less to clean up. Plus they are lower in fat, without the added oil and whatnot. Try it!)

Oh, people. They were so good! Really aromatic without any one spice overpowering another. I only wish I had measured the spices, so I'd know how much to tell you to use if you make this. You'll just have to wing it like I did!

I had never made tzatziki before tonight, either. I know! I love it and could eat it on just about anything, but I've never actually MADE it, and it was so easy! All I did was peel and grate a bit of cucumber (I used the seedless kind, but if you use the regular just scrape out the seeds before grating) onto a paper towel, then wrap it all up and squeeze it over the sink to get most of the water out. Then I dumped the cucumber into a bowl and added a couple of very finely minced garlic cloves, the juice of half a lemon, and a bit of EVOO. I tossed that around with a fork to combine, then stirred in about a cup of Greek-style yogurt (I found this at my local SuperTarget, believe it or not) and a wee bit of salt to taste. I refrigerated it for a few hours to let the flavors meld before serving. It was really good, but I used a WEE bit too much garlic, I think. I'm sort of breathing fire now. At least I don't have to worry about vampire attacks for the next few days. Hee!

The pita was purchased. I've heard it's easy to make and keep meaning to try it, but not tonight!

The salad bar was chopped romaine lettuce, sliced green onions, sliced carrots from the garden, and the last of the cherry tomatoes.

What I did, and no one else really followed my example, was fill my pita with chopped romaine, top that with some meatballs, and drizzle some tzatziki on top. It was pure heaven, people. Thank goodness there were leftovers!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

One of the few meals everyone will eat

Tonight's Menu

  • pork spare ribs, spiced & sauced
  • homemade cornbread
  • coleslaw
Seriously, this is one of the few meals I make that everyone in the family will happily eat (with no substitutions of cheese for meat or mundane vegetables for the coleslaw). It's one of those meals that require a bit of advance preparation, but then very little actual work at mealtime. Everyone's happy!

The spare ribs (which are cheap at my local grocery, and very few meats are these days) were rubbed with a mixture of brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, dried oregano and garam masala. Then I stuck them in the oven, in a pan tightly covered with heavy-duty foil, for about 3 hours at 300 degrees F. I usually cook them longer on a lower heat with a bit of liquid, but they tend to fall off the bone when I do that and I wanted these to have some structural integrity so I could finish them on the grill. Which I did! I put them flesh-side down over high heat for about 4 minutes, then bone-side down over low heat for maybe 7 minutes, slathered on both sides with bottled Carolina-style (think mustard-based) barbecue sauce. They came out tender and extremely delicious, if I do say so myself!

I've already given you the recipe for the cornbread. I swear this isn't much more trouble than those "just add water" mixes. This particular cornbread was leftover from last week. It freezes really well! To reheat, I drizzled it with a bit of water and then stuck it in the oven, tightly covered, for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. It tasted freshly baked! Honest!

The coleslaw was my usual -- half a head of green cabbage, shredded, tossed with a mixture of mayonnaise, white vinegar, sugar and celery seed. Even the girl will eat this, and she doesn't like ANYTHING.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

More adventures in pasta

Tonight's Menu

  • homemade spaghetti w/quick meatless tomato sauce
  • green salad "bar"
I am determined to get this homemade pasta thing right, y'all. After posting about my most recent attempt at it on my other blog, some kind readers offered tips and I incorporated those this time around with very satisfactory results!

I used the same recipe as last time (two cups flour, one teaspoon salt, three eggs -- is it weird that I have that memorized now?) but after rolling the dough through on a couple of different settings, I folded it in thirds and went back to a larger setting and rolled it through again before repeating the process a couple of times. This time I was able to get it to a #6 thickness before chickening out. My crappy pasta maker has a built-in cutter for spaghetti so I tried it and it worked! I tossed the strands with a bit of flour, then hung them on a kitchen towel over the back of a chair to dry for a couple of hours. They cooked up in about three minutes and were really, really good! Yay! Success!

The tomato sauce was my usual. And actually, it was left over from some purchased tortellini I made several days ago. It keeps well in the fridge.

Tonight's salad bar was chopped romaine and green leaf lettuces, sliced green onions, sliced carrots from the garden, and some tiny cherry tomatoes (I caved and bought some at the store, which I would not normally do this time of year, but I NEEDED tomatoes, y'all).

I am SO excited about this whole pasta thing, can you tell? If I ever get brave enough for homemade tortellini or ravioli, you all will be the first to know.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Breaking the curse

Tonight's Menu

  • fajita-spiced grilled skirt steak
  • sweet potato fries
  • steamed broccoli
Yes, I know. I KNOW. The combination of this particular skirt steak with these particular fries appears to be cursed, at least as far as my household is concerned. But hey, I was feeling lucky. And fortunately, tonight's dinner came off without a hitch! Maybe it's because I served broccoli instead of Brussels sprouts this time.

The skirt steak was sprinkled on both sides with a prepared beef fajita seasoning mix, then stuffed into a big plastic zipper bag with the juice of one lime and some EVOO. It marinated in the fridge for a couple of hours, then I grilled it outside over high heat for 4 minutes per side. After resting for 5 minutes or so, I sliced it across the grain into thin strips (like for fajitas). So yummy!

The sweet potato fries were the usual: several sweet potatoes peeled and then cut into fry-sized sticks, tossed with EVOO, sprinkled with sea salt, garlic powder, chili powder and ground cumin, then popped on a foil-lined baking sheet and into the oven for 45 minutes at 425 degrees F. I tossed them around with a spatula every 15 minutes or so, then turned them off and let them sit in the oven for 15 minutes before serving to allow them to crisp up a bit. I LOVE these fries; they're much healthier than regular fries and make the house smell fantastic while they're cooking.

The broccoli was just steamed in the microwave. Most of it was some Cal-Organic crappe that I bought at the supermarket, but about 15% of it was from my garden -- yay!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

And now for something COMPLETELY different

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled mild Italian sausages
  • homemade egg noodles
  • buttery green cabbage
Dudes! I made homemade pasta for the first time ever! I am a little excited about it, so we're going to have to discuss it first, if you don't mind. I've been wanting a manual pasta machine for AGES and I finally got one last week. It's a really cheap-ass model, which may have been a mistake, but oh well. Homemade pasta! It's all good!

I used a recipe from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything. It was super easy: just combine two cups of all-purpose flour (I used unbleached), one teaspoon of salt (I used fine sea salt) and three eggs in a food processor until it forms a ball. Knead until smooth, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour. Then divide the dough into 4-6 pieces and work these pieces through your pasta machine one at a time until they're as thin as you want them. Cut into shapes, dry, then boil in salted water for 3-5 minutes. Easy, right?

WRONG, if you have a crappy pasta machine, which I apparently do. The first batch was a disaster -- it stuck to the rollers and made a godawful mess. Eventually I got the hang of it but it required adding a LOT of flour to the dough and I was worried that the end result would be super tough noodles. I pressed on, though -- making about five pasta sheets, cutting them into 5- to 6-inch lengths and then cutting those into 1/4-inch strips. I was going for a basic egg noodle kind of thing. I shook off all the excess flour I could and then spread them on my kitchen counter to dry for about an hour before cooking.

They actually came out really good! They were super tasty and the kids both had seconds. Next time I'll roll them a little thinner -- I was so aggravated by the sticky roller issue that I only did them to number 4 on the dial, and they thickened a bit while cooking, so the end result was vaguely dumpling-like. But still very tasty! Not bad for a first effort, I think. I'm excited about experimenting with this!

I cooked the sausages inside because it was WICKED windy/chilly outside today. First I simmered them in water for 15 minutes, as usual, then I browned them off on my beloved IKEA grill pan. You can just brown them in a skillet if you don't have a grill pan, or broil them in the oven until the skins are nice and crispy.

For the cabbage, I chopped half a head of green cabbage and sauteed it in a skillet with three tablespoons of butter. I had the heat up fairly high because I wanted the cabbage to caramelize and pick up some color. When it was just the way I wanted it, I seasoned it with salt and pepper, turned off the heat, and kept it covered until serving time. It was tender, buttery and delicious! I loves me some cabbage, y'all.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled chicken thighs
  • whole-wheat couscous w/green onions
  • green salad bar
  • King cake!
  • hurricanes!
Hey! Happy Mardi Gras, y'all!

I told myself I was going to wait until daylight saving time (only a week and a half away now!) to start grilling every damn thing but, well, I lied. To myself. It happens. It was sunny and in the low 80s today, people -- how am I supposed to resist grilling under those conditions?! I ask you.

So yeah, I grilled some chicken thighs. They were bone-in, skin on and I just sprinkled them on both sides with some garlic pepper and Jane's Krazy Salt. I grilled them skin-side-down over medium-high heat until the skin was nice and golden brown with sexy grill marks, then I flipped them skin-side up for a few minutes, then I moved them to an unlit burner (with the other two burners turned up to high heat) and left them alone for a good 45 minutes. So, so yummy! I swear, grilled chicken thighs make EVERYTHING better (even having two members of the family on antibiotics at the same time, oy).

The couscous was packaged. I just stirred in some sliced green onions before serving. Easy!

The salad bar tonight was green leaf lettuce, sliced carrots from the garden, and more sliced green onions.

The King cake was purchased at my local supermarket bakery this morning. I'm guessing not every grocery store in the nation rolls out the King cakes on Fat Tuesday. Gotta love the South, y'all! My supermarket's version of a King cake is really just a big cinnamon roll type thing with powdered sugar icing and colored sprinkles. It's SO good, though. I'm going to have more for breakfast tomorrow with my coffee!

I improvised the hurricanes. They are NOT traditional -- I was just working with what I had. But for what it's worth:

6 oz. pineapple juice
6 oz. orange juice
1 oz. grenadine
2 oz. silver rum
2 oz. dark rum
2 oz. spiced rum (Bacardi 151 is traditional, but I didn't have any)

Shake all ingredients together and serve over crushed ice in hurricane glasses with straws. Makes about 2 or 3 depending on how big your glasses are and how much ice you use.

Woo! I am stuffed. Fat Tuesday, indeed!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Making its first appearance this season: garlicky flank steak!

Tonight's Menu

  • garlicky grilled flank steak
  • crispy potatoes w/garlic and rosemary
  • sauteed spinach
I would like you all to know that in the course of making this dinner I changed out propane tanks on the grill ALL BY MYSELF. And yes, that IS a big deal, because the whole propane issue kind of terrifies me. (There was a bunsen burner incident in college chemistry. I ... I don't like to talk about it.) Before I got my new grill with its sexy electronic starter, I refused to even LIGHT the thing. Now that I know how to switch out tanks, I pretty much only need DH for garbage removal, bill paying and occasional sex. Whee!

Oh, but you probably want to hear about the FOOD. Fine, then.

As longtime readers know, this flank steak is a HUGE favorite here and I make it umpteen times per year during grilling season. I've told you how to make it before, but it's easy enough to repeat: just bash up some garlic, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper with a mortar and pestle, then add fresh lemon juice and EVOO until you've made a nice slurry. Make diamond cuts in your flank steak and rub the garlic-lemon slurry all over it on both sides, pushing it into the cuts. Then pop it on a screaming hot grill for 4-5 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your steak. Let rest for 5 minutes or so, then slice thinly across the grain and devour. It is the BEST THING EVER.

For the potatoes, I just cut some russets into chunks and put them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Then I drizzled them with olive oil and tossed them with some bashed-up garlic cloves, snipped fresh rosemary, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. They roasted in the oven for about 30 minutes at 450 degrees, and I stirred them every 15 minutes or so to make sure they browned evenly. Delicious!

The spinach was SUPER easy -- just fresh baby spinach sauteed in olive oil until wilted and then seasoned with salt and pepper.

This is one of my favorite dinners, and it's so easy! I started heating up the grill when I put the potatoes in the oven. (And then the grill burned out, and I had to change tanks, oy.) I put the meat on the grill when the potatoes were halfway done, then sauteed the spinach while the meat was resting. It's a no-brainer, y'all!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pasta & 'shrooms

Tonight's Menu

  • spaghetti w/mushroom-herb sauce
  • green salad "bar"
I am in such a rut with pasta that I usually don't even bother to tell you when I make it. I tend to do one of three things with it: spaghetti with my quickie tomato sauce, some sort of pasta shapes (penne, usually) with Knorr Parma Rosa sauce (a packet of powder to which you add milk and butter), or any sort of pasta with just butter and shredded cheese mixed in.

I know, right? BORING.

So tonight I decided to experiment. I know what you're thinking -- that NEVER ends well, at least for me -- but this time it came out pretty darn tasty! As usual I didn't measure anything, but here's essentially what I did.

First I sliced some crimini mushrooms (these are sometimes called baby bellas) and minced some fresh garlic. I melted some butter over medium heat in a skillet, tossing in the mushrooms and garlic and letting them sweat out fairly slowly without picking up any color. Then I added some fresh thyme, some minced fresh rosemary, salt and pepper and just tossed it around a bit (this smelled AMAZING) before adding in some heavy cream (left over from the pork and gnocchi the other night). I let that simmer over low heat until the cream had thickened just a bit. Then I drained the spaghetti (which had been cooking all this time) and dumped it right into the skillet with the mushroom sauce. Toss, throw on some chopped fresh parsley, and serve! This was really pretty darn tasty and a nice change from our usual boring pasta dinners!

The salad was still boring, though -- just green leaf lettuce and sliced carrots from the garden. We ate up the last of the CSA greenhouse tomatoes last night when I made hamburgers so this salad was even more bare than usual!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cookbooks to the rescue!

Tonight's Menu

  • mustardy pork chops w/gnocchi
  • green salad "bar"
Whoops! Didn't mean to disappear on you for a couple of weeks there. Would you believe I got sick AGAIN? This time with some nasty fever virus thing that mutated into a sinus infection. Fun! So yeah, there's been a whole lot of takeout pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches happening around here.

HOWEVER, tonight I did something different. I have a metric ton of cookbooks but I've realized lately that I hardly ever actually cook from them! Determined to remedy that, I was flipping through Nigella Express looking for something that would use ingredients I already had on hand and came up with this one. It wasn't bad -- I don't usually cook bone-in chops in a skillet without braising them because they always end up tough and dry, and these did, but the sauce made up for it somewhat. The gnocchi were just packaged (I DID have to go out and buy those, and the cream), boiled quickly and then tossed in the mustard cream sauce.

Tonight's salad was just green leaf lettuce, wedged tomatoes (greenhouse-grown, from our last CSA box) and sliced carrots (from my garden!).

Did I tell you all we let our CSA subscription expire? We picked up our last box last week. We just weren't keeping up with the supply of vegetables, and I HATED wasting them. I've decided to redouble my efforts to feed us from my backyard garden, along with making more frequent trips to our local farmer's market(s) and food co-op. We'll still be eating local food as much as possible, never fear!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Typical weeknight meal

Tonight's Menu

  • spiced pork tenderloin
  • whole-wheat couscous
  • sweet and sour red cabbage
I'm feeling MUCH better today so tonight I made what is pretty much a typical meal for us.

The pork tenderloin recipe is here. It's pretty easy and a nice "bridge" entree between cold-weather oven meals and warm-weather grilling meals.

The couscous was just made according to the package directions. The final vote is in for our family on the couscous: the boys prefer it to quinoa, while the girls have the opposite preference. Go figure!

The sweet and sour cabbage is a favorite of mine, but it's been ages since I've made it. It's really pretty easy, though it does require some babysitting while it cooks.

Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage

1 small onion, halved lengthwise then sliced cross-wise
1 Tbs canola or other vegetable oil
1/2 head red cabbage, shredded (ours was from the CSA)
1/2 cup water
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 Tbs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

In a large skillet, saute onion in oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, cover pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender. Uncover pan, turn heat up to high until all liquid has evaporated.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Just like Mom used to make

Tonight's Menu

  • beef roast with veggies
  • green salad "bar"
I've had some sort of rotten head cold for the past several days and now that I feel good enough to actually cook dinner, I want comfort food! I had a big hunk o' beef in the fridge and a bunch of veggies in the crisper, so I decided to make a pot roast similar to the way I remember my mom making it when I was a kid. (I could have actually called her to get the recipe, I suppose, but I enjoy trying to reconstruct dishes from memory. I'm weird, I know.)

ANYWAY. What I did was generously season my hunk o' beef on both sides with salt and pepper, then brown it in a big enameled cast-iron dutch oven. After removing the pan from the heat, I arranged some red-skinned potatoes, yellow onions, celery and carrots, all cut in fairly large chunks, around the meat. Then I poured in some wine (a Malbec, I think -- something red, anyway) and sprinkled on maybe a tablespoon of whole peppercorns before nestling some fresh thyme sprigs and bay leaves in amongst the veggies. After that I covered the pot, stuck it in the oven, and let it cook for about three hours at 325 degrees F. It was delicious! Mom would be proud.

I put the roast and veggies in the oven right after picking up the girl child from school, and there was absolutely nothing else I had to do (for dinner) for the rest of the afternoon/evening except make the salad! How easy is THAT?

Oh, and the salad was just green leaf lettuce, shredded carrots, sliced radishes from the CSA, and wedges of tomato (ditto).

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Tonight's Menu

  • chili con carne
  • cornbread
I actually made this chili last night but forgot to tell you about it! Well, we ate it tonight too so it still counts, right?

I used Martha's recipe, as usual. This time I pretty much followed it exactly except mine was about half pork and half beef. And I used Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes. SO good, y'all. We love this chili!

The cornbread was also my usual.

And it's true, we ARE pretty much eating nothing but soup this week! I'm in a soup mood, I guess. I've suddenly come down with a rotten cold so that's not likely to change anytime soon, either!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Soup weather

Tonight's Menu

  • Portuguese soup
  • beer bread
It was damp, foggy and generally yucky out today, which gave me the perfect opportunity to make something I had been craving for a while -- this delicious sausage soup! It's been forever since I've made it. The original recipe calls for potatoes but I didn't have any, so I substituted kohlrabi from the CSA instead. It really made no difference at all in the taste of the soup -- it was delicious as always!

The beer bread was leftover from a couple of nights ago, just wrapped in foil and reheated in the toaster oven. Yum!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Couscous FTW!

Tonight's Menu

  • citrus shrimp w/couscous
  • green salad "bar"
For the past two nights we've been eating pork spare ribs (with chuffed potatoes the first night, beer bread the second night, and coleslaw BOTH nights) so tonight I wanted something light. Or lightER, anyway.

So, I had two pounds of raw, peeled, deveined, individually quick-frozen shrimp, which I thawed in a colander by running cool water over them. Super easy.

I juiced two oranges (from the CSA) and two limes (from the grocery store), added three minced garlic cloves and a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) and marinated the shrimp in this mixture on the counter for about 15 minutes while I made the salad. ALSO super easy!

Then all I did was cook the shrimp in a skillet with EVOO in a couple of batches before setting them aside in a serving bowl covered with foil to keep them warm. I dumped the rest of the marinade into the skillet along with a couple of green onions that had been thinly sliced on the diagonal and brought that to a boil, letting it reduce a bit and seasoning it with some salt to taste. Then I added the shrimp back to the pan, tossed them around in the sauce to coat, and drizzled on just a TEENY bit of raw, local honey (Goodflow, for you Austinites) before dumping them back into the serving bowl along with the sauce.

The couscous was a whole-wheat, organic variety that I prepared according to package directions. Timing-wise, I started the couscous while the skillet was heating up for the shrimp, then dumped the first batch of shrimp into the skillet when I turned off the heat for the couscous. If that makes sense. It will if you have a package of couscous handy.

The salad bar was just organic green leaf lettuce, sliced organic cucumbers, and shredded organic carrots. I know, with the organic! Here is the thing: we hardly ever eat out, so the money we save not eating in restaurants lets us buy organic produce more often than not. I'm not going to insist YOU do that, I'm just telling you what WE do and how we manage it. Organic produce ain't cheap, yo.

This meal got an enthusiastic thumbs-up from the entire family, which is INCREDIBLY rare around here. Even DH, who is a self-proclaimed couscous-hater, declared that it worked great for soaking up the yummy shrimp sauce and really complimented the dish. YES!

I am SO full of myself right now, I can't even tell you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Skillet supper

Tonight's Menu

  • sausage and potato skillet with cabbage and onions
  • green salad "bar"
This was one of those "throw it together" suppers. I honestly had no idea what I was going to make until about five minutes before it was time to start dinner. Thank goodness for a well-stocked refrigerator!

I had some smoked beef sausage -- the kind that comes in a big ring, usually found near the kielbasa in the supermarket -- so I sliced some of that up and tossed it in a big skillet over medium-high heat with a little bit of canola oil. When the sausage started to brown, I added one small yellow onion cut into chunks and maybe 6-8 very small red-skinned potatoes cut into quarters. Once the onions and potatoes had picked up a little color I added about a cup of chopped green cabbage (you could use any kind, really) and snipped in some fresh rosemary. I stirred this around for a bit before grinding on some fresh pepper (I didn't add salt because the sausage was salty), then I added a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan, covered it, and turned the heat down to low to let it all simmer until the potatoes were tender (this took about 15 minutes).

This is one of my favorite comfort meals -- sausage, potatoes, onions and whatever veggies are lying around, all tossed together in a skillet. It's definitely not DH's favorite, but guess what, y'all? The boy child had THIRDS of this! He was crazy about it! I'm pretty sure he wouldn't even TOUCH it the last time I made it, but that was quite a while ago. Kids! They keep you guessing, that's for sure!

The salad tonight was just green leaf lettuce, shredded carrots, and sliced cucumber (out of season, and you have no idea how it pains me to buy it, but DH and the kids insisted).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Using up the CSA veggies (again!)

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-roasted pork chops and sweet potatoes
  • buttery cabbage
We only get a CSA share every other week (our choice) and we end up using most of it pretty quickly, but there are always a couple of long-storing items left over right before the next pickup day. Tonight we still had a lovely head of plain green cabbage and a couple of sweet potatoes in the fridge, so I threw together this meal.

What I did was take a couple of sweet potatoes and cut them into lengthwise wedges. I didn't bother to peel them first or anything, just cut them up and chucked them into a foil-lined roasting pan. Then I threw in four nice, thick boneless pork chops. I drizzled everything with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, then snipped some fresh rosemary onto the chops. The pan went into the oven uncovered at 400 degrees for about an hour, until the potatoes were tender and the chops were cooked through (with crispy fat around the edges -- unhealthy, but SO YUMMY).

For the cabbage, I cored a small head and cut it into wedges (it yielded about 8). I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet and carefully laid the cabbage wedges in cut-side down, not moving them until they had browned on the bottom. At that point I flipped them so the OTHER cut side was down and let them get nice and brown on that side, too. (Don't sweat it if they fall apart a little bit -- they'll still taste good!) Then I reduced the heat to low, added a couple of tablespoons of water, covered the pan and let them simmer for just a minute or two before turning off the heat altogether. They sat, covered, until the chops and potatoes were done, and I seasoned them with salt and pepper before serving.

This was a super easy but delicious meal, and a great way to use up some winter veggies!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I couldn't help myself

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled chicken thighs
  • steamed Texmati rice
  • crunchy vegetable salad
We had gorgeous weather here yesterday so I decided I wanted to grill outdoors for supper. I know! Crazy! It meant eating a little earlier than usual so I wasn't grilling in the dark, but oh dudes. I have SO missed grilling!

The chicken thighs were boneless and skinless. I just sprinkled them with prepared fajita seasoning, then marinated them in a mixture of fresh orange juice, fresh lime juice and EVOO. I grilled them about six minutes per side over high heat (they were pretty big) and they were DELICIOUS! I am really looking forward to longer days so I can get back to grilling on a regular basis. Of course, you know by September I'll be sick of it and craving roasts and stews.

The rice was just steamed in the microwave. Easy!

I was channeling my inner Jamie Oliver with this salad. I was tired of green salad but wanted something fresh to go with the grilled chicken. So, what I did was slice up some carrots, celery and radishes in the food processor (using the slicing blade, NOT the knife blade) and then I sliced some green onions and chopped some broccoli by hand. I whomped it all into a big bowl, added some chopped fresh parsley and cilantro, then drizzled on some fresh lemon juice and EVOO and seasoned it with a bit of salt before tossing it all together. It was really good! Nice and crunchy and fresh-tasting, just like I wanted. Mint would have been a nice addition, but mine all bit the dust after our first frost.

The radishes, broccoli, cilantro and the orange I used in the chicken marinade were all from our CSA. The parsley was from my own garden. I've also got thyme and rosemary going strong out there, along with my bay tree. I love using fresh herbs in winter!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Soup weather

Tonight's Menu

  • potato soup w/roasted garlic and kale
  • rustic peasant bread
Our CSA gave us a big bunch of kale recently so I thought I'd use it up in a soup, especially since the weather today was cold and yucky. This was totally an experiment, by the way, but it turned out great!

Earlier in the day, I roasted a whole head of garlic. I actually had to look up how to do this because I tend to be kind of an idiot when it comes to the basics. In case you're also basics-impaired, here's how I did it: peel the outside paper off of a head of garlic (leaving the paper on the individual cloves), cut off the top with a serrated knife so the tops of the cloves are exposed, put it on a sheet of foil, drizzle over some olive oil, wrap the clove in foil and place it on a pan of some sort (to catch drips, just in case), then put it in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes. If I'd known it was so easy, I'd have been roasting buttloads of garlic all this time!

Anyhoo, if you do that ahead of time you can just let the garlic cool and then stick it in the fridge. To prepare the soup, I chopped two ribs of celery and a large carrot, then peeled and diced about five smallish russet potatoes. (I only just realized that we've been eating a lot of potatoes lately. Not sure what that's about, but hey, they're cheap! And full of potassium and stuff!) I put the veggies in a big pot and squeezed in the roasted garlic cloves from earlier (they slip right out of their skins), then added some vegetable stock to cover the veggies, along with a bit of fresh thyme and some freshly ground pepper. Then I just let it simmer until the veggies were tender.

While everything was simmering, I washed and trimmed a bunch of kale and chopped it up. When the veggies were tender, I used my immersion blender to de-chunkify the soup. You could also just pour the soup into a blender or food processor and then pour it back into the pan. Or heck, leave it chunky, if that's your thing! At this point I added the kale so it could wilt down. Then I adjusted my seasonings, adding more salt and pepper and tasting as I went.

At this point the soup was basically ready so I decided to make a garnish of sorts. All I did was chop up some nice, thick, smoky bacon (Pederson's apple smoked, of course) and crisp it up in a skillet. Then I removed the bacon to paper towels to drain and tossed some fresh sage leaves, which had been washed and VERY thoroughly dried, into the hot bacon fat so they'd fry and get crispy. I quickly removed those and let them drain as well. To assemble, just ladle out some soup and top with the crispy bacon and a couple of sage leaves.

This was really good! The bacon and sage kind of made the whole dish, though, which made me wish I'd just added those at the beginning! Oh well, live and learn.

The bread was purchased at the store and heated up in the oven. I totally forgot to make bread dough today! That's on the to-do list for tomorrow.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Easy supper

Tonight's Menu

  • baked potato "bar"
  • green salad "bar"
Sometimes, you just want something easy. Also, sometimes you don't have any food in the house because you've refused to go shopping while everyone was on vacation. Heh. This was perfect for our last dinner before school and work started back up again.

And it was extra easy, because I forgot to put the potatoes in the oven ahead of time and ended up doing them in the microwave instead! D'oh! I used to not like the way our microwave did baked potatoes (it has a "smart" setting for them) but tonight I finally dug out the instruction manual and read the cooking guide. D'oh, again! You're supposed to wrap the potatoes in foil when they're done cooking and let them sit for 10 minutes or so before you crack into them. They came out perfect, and so fast!

Toppings for the potatoes, set out in little bowls so everyone could make their own to their liking: butter, sour cream, shredded cheddar, crumbled bacon. I would have liked to add chives to the mix, but I didn't have any, and didn't think of green onions until AFTER. Oh well.

Tonight's salad, also done bar-style: torn romaine lettuce, chopped celery, shredded carrots, and GORGEOUS multicolored radishes (sliced) from the CSA. It's what we had. Our cupboards are nearly bare!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy 2009!

Tonight's Menu

  • pork and sauerkraut
  • mashed potatoes
  • mixed greens w/black-eyed peas
Hey, everyone! Happy New Year! This is our traditional New Year's Day dinner, more or less. When I was growing up in the midwest, everyone ate pork and sauerkraut (or cabbage in some other form) on New Year's Day. But down here in Tejas, they are all about the greens and black-eyed peas. So, I combine them, just to make sure we're covered.

The pork was a big Boston Butt roast that was labeled bone-in but turned out not to have a bone at all. I seasoned it liberally with salt and pepper, browned it on all sides in a big enameled cast-iron dutch oven on the stovetop, then removed it from the heat and made sure the roast was turned fat-side up.

Then I opened a big jar of sauerkraut (I like the jar kind better than the canned kind; I don't know why) and drained off most of the liquid before distributing the sauerkraut around the pork roast in the pan. I poured on a bit of apple cider and then sprinkled on some brown sugar and tossed it with the sauerkraut, leaving the meat more or less uncovered. Then I popped a lid on the dutch oven and threw the whole thing in the ACTUAL oven at 225 degrees F for about 5.5 hours. For the last 20 minutes of cooking time, I uncovered the pan and cranked the heat up to 400 to crisp up the roast. The pork was falling-apart tender and delicious! And the sauerkraut was awesome, too. I was worried it would get mushy from cooking that long but it didn't, whew!

The mashed potatoes were from scratch. I know! It's a new thing for me! (I used to use Ore-Ida's frozen mashed potatoes religiously, but they discontinued them. Bastards!) I guess I should tell you how I make them, though it's really not exciting and I'm betting your mashed potatoes are way better than mine! I just peel some russet potatoes, cut them into chunks, simmer them in water until they're tender, then whomp them in a mixing bowl with some butter, milk, salt and pepper and go at them with the electric hand mixer. I know some people add cream cheese or sour cream or roasted garlic or whatever, but to me mashed potatoes are just a vehicle for the gravy (or sauerkraut and pan juices, in this case) so I like to keep them fairly plain. I dunno. I'm weird.

Anyway, the greens in our beans 'n' greens were from this week's CSA box. They gave us a bag of something they call "braising mix", which is really just some baby greens that you would want to cook rather than eat raw. I recognized rainbow chard, beet greens and mustard, but I'm really not sure what all was in there. No matter, though -- it's all good!

So, what I did was chop up some bacon (Pederson's Apple Smoked -- I have become addicted to this bacon!) and half an onion and toss them in a skillet until the bacon was nearly crisp and the onions had a bit of color. Then I added the greens (which I had washed, drained, and given a whirl in the salad spinner) and let them wilt down just a bit. I added a small amount of water to the pan, then covered it and just let the greens steam/braise down until they were nice and tender. Most of the liquid cooked off, and at that point I added one can of black-eyed peas that had been rinsed and drained.

After I'd tossed the beans and greens around enough that the beans were heated through, I sprinkled on just a wee bit of apple cider vinegar and some brown sugar and stirred until it was all incorporated. This is my favorite treatment for cooked greens -- well, the kind that don't have to be cooked very long, anyway. It has kind of a sweet-sour effect that plays nicely with the smokiness of the bacon and the earthiness of the greens. I added a bit of sriracha to my portion at the table and it was FANTASTIC!

Anyhoo, there you have it! The last of our decadent holiday feast meals for the next couple of months, anyway. Now it's back to quinoa and tilapia and other healthy crappe like that! (Just kidding.)(But only a little.)