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.)