Thursday, October 26, 2006

Grilling in late October is just wrong

Tonight's Menu
  • grilled boneless pork chops
  • sauteed cabbage with bacon
  • steamed baby carrots
As much as I love grilled food, I'm kind of hoping this is the last time I'll have the opportunity to do it for a while. It was well into the 80s today and SO humid. Yuck. The cabbage and carrots were my nod to seasonal appropriateness. I'm in the mood for fall food, but the weather is not cooperating, dammit!

Unless I'm doing some kind of Asian marinade or barbecue or something, I nearly always season my grilled chops the same way -- with Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt and McCormick Garlic Pepper Blend. That's it, and that's all. Just sprinkle generously on both sides and grill away. If you've bought decent chops and don't overcook them, they'll be plenty juicy and SO tasty.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Lasagne for everyone!

Tonight's Menu
  • cheesy lasagne
  • crusty garlic bread
  • big-ass salad
I could swear that years ago, DH told me he didn't like ricotta cheese. So all these years I've been making my lasagne with mozzarella only. Sometimes I'd throw in some spinach and/or mushrooms, but ever since the boy child decided he liked PLAIN lasagne, I haven't even been doing that. So it's been sauce, noodles and mozzarella. No meat, no veg, no nothing. Yeah. Kind of flat and yucky, actually.

HOWEVER, DH has suddenly decided that he would be okay with trying some ricotta after all. So today I mixed ricotta (part skim) with the mozzarella and layered THAT with the noodles and sauce, and my lasagne was much closer to something resembling normal. DH declared that he liked the ricotta version better, so thank God.

Oh, and by the way? Those oven-ready lasagne noodles are the best invention since microwave popcorn.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Portuguese soup

My mom swears she has been making this sausage and cabbage soup (recipe here) for years but I don't remember it at all. The first time I remember eating it was when Malcontent Mama served it to Bookhart and me at her house on a very cold evening last winter. I've made it several times since and it always takes me back to that icy/drizzly evening and all the laughter and alcohol and broken glass. Good times! (Er, you probably had to have been there.)

Anyway, I was in the mood for it tonight so I put a pot on to simmer while the kids were at taekwondo. I leave out the kidney beans because DH is allergic to them, but in my opinion the soup is better with them in. This is a wonderful soup for cold weather -- it really warms you up inside! It's even better the second day, after the flavors have really had a chance to meld.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

She's got legs

Tonight's Menu
  • roasted chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • leftover steamed rice
  • green salad
There was plenty of pork and pineapple leftover from last night so I let DH have that while the kids and I had roasted chicken leg parts. Yum! I'm going to make an Asian-inspired chicken salad from the leftovers, I think. I'll let y'all know how it comes out!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Skillet supper: pineapple pork chops

Tonight's Menu
  • skillet pork chops w/onion and pineapple
  • steamed rice
  • steamed broccoli
I love stir-fried pork and pineapple but I suck at stir-fries in general. No matter how I cook the meat -- in small batches, at high temperature, etc. -- it gets tough. I had some really nice, thick, boneless pork chops tonight and I was dying for some stir-fry, but it would have been a sin to ruin them with my lackluster cooking skills.

So instead, I left the chops whole and browned them in a skillet. I tossed in a chopped (into wedges) sweet yellow onion and a big can of pineapple chunks (which I had drained, reserving the juice). I added a little bit of pineapple juice to the pan, brought it to a boil, then covered the pan and turned it to low for about 20 minutes. While the chops were simmering and the veggies and rice were cooking in the microwave, I put the rest of the reserved pineapple juice into a bowl. I whisked in some ketchup and mirin (a sweet rice cooking wine) along with a little bit of worcestershire sauce (because DH and the girl are allergic to soy). Then, when the chops were done, I removed them from the pan and turned it up to high. I whisked some cornstarch into the juice/ketchup mixture and added it to the juice and whatnot in the pan. I stirred it until the sauce had thickened, then added the chops back in and covered them with the sauce.

This was really good considering I totally winged it. The chops stayed moist and juicy, the onion was perfectly tender (but not mushy), and the sauce was delicious. I'll definitely make this again. And when I do, I'll try to pay attention to the quantity of ingredients so I can give y'all an actual recipe!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Potato soup

It's been rainy the past couple of days, and that means my fibromyalgia is in flare (BIG TIME), and that means I want comfort food. This is my favorite potato soup, which I made for dinner tonight. It's very filling and very NOT healthy, so try it at your own risk. You could probably lighten it up a bit with low-fat or fat-free dairy products and turkey bacon, but I haven't tried it that way and don't intend to. It may end up killing me one day, but what a way to go!

Loaded Potato Soup

2 large baking potatoes
1/3 cup butter
half of a sweet yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
3 1/2 cups milk (okay, so I use 1%)
1/2 cup sour cream
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. snipped fresh chives or spring onion tops (the green part)

Bake the potatoes for about 1.5 hours at 375 degrees F. Or, you know, however long you usually bake your potatoes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. (I do this earlier in the day and stick them in the fridge after they've cooled.) Once they're cool, peel and cut them into small cubes.

Melt butter in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add chopped onion and saute until the onion releases a bit of fragrance. Stir in flour until smooth. (Yes, you are making a roux. With onions. Just go with it.) Slowly stir in the milk and continue to stir constantly until thickened. Add cubed potatoes and bring to a boil while stirring constantly, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so (giving it a stir now and then).

After 10 minutes, add the sour cream, bacon, cheese, salt and pepper and stir until the cheese melts. Ladle into bowls and top with snipped chives or onion tops (you could also add a bit of extra sour cream and bacon crumbles, if you want).

Makes 4-5 servings and the recipe is easily doubled (or halved, if you're cooking for 1 or 2). It doesn't keep well because of all the dairy, so try to eat it up within a day or two. That's never been a problem around here!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Even more meat and potatoes!

Tonight's Menu
  • meatloaf
  • mashed potatoes
  • leftover big-ass salad
Wow, I am totally on a beef kick right now. No idea why.

Not much to say about this dinner. It was comfort food. I told the boy that the meatloaf was basically a hamburger in loaf form (I make mine with onions, which he likes on burgers) so he deigned to try it and actually liked it! Woo!

Oh, I do have a tip, though: mix the meat and seasonings and whatnot in a big gallon-sized freezer bag instead of a bowl. Nothing to wash and your hands don't get messy! Just form it into a loaf right in the bag and dump it into the pan. Plus as long as you seal it up really good you can let the kids have at it for a bit. My girl child loves to help me mash up the meatloaf ingredients even though she refuses to eat it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Meat and potatoes

Tonight's Menu
  • pan-seared thin ribeyes w/sauteed mushrooms and onions
  • tiny red potatoes, parboiled and then chuffed up in a hot pan with butter
  • big-ass salad
Yeah, sometimes you just need a little meat and potatoes. This meal takes some prep time but is still pretty quick and easy. First I washed/cut the potatoes (into quarters; they were kind of big) and put them in water to simmer. While they were going, I cut up the onion (sweet yellow, as usual) and mushrooms ("baby bellas") and started them sauteing in a pan with some EVOO. By the time the mushrooms/onions were done, the potatoes were tender, so I transferred the mushrooms to a bowl, drained the potatoes, and added them to a hot pan with a couple of tablespoons of butter. While they were getting a nice crust, I tossed the salad (if you went to the dirty place when you read that, then SHAME ON YOU)(hee, kidding!), seasoned the steaks and quickly seared them off in a VERY hot nonstick pan.

Voila! Dinner!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In which I am sick of cornbread

Tonight's Menu
  • grilled ham steaks
  • sour cream biscuits
  • steamed broccoli
I nearly always make cornbread with ham but today I was just sick of it for some reason. So I googled a recipe for sour cream biscuits and made those instead. (Super easy recipe: mix 1 cup self-rising flour, 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 3/4 cup sour cream and 2 tsp. vegetable oil; knead; cut; bake at 425 for 10 minutes or so.)

I dunno. They were okay, I guess. I think my self-rising flour was old, though. I keep it in a Rubbermaid container but just in the pantry. Next time I buy some (which should probably be TOMORROW) I'll put it in the freezer instead.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Cooking disasters: The crock pot o' blandness

Okay, so here's what happened. Yesterday I fancied something autumnal for dinner, so I did the following:
  1. Peeled a sweet yellow onion (Maya Sweet, I think it was) and cut it into wedges.
  2. Peeled a large Granny Smith apple and cut it into wedges.
  3. Peeled three smallish sweet potatoes and cut them into wedge-like chunks.
  4. Tossed all of the above into the crock pot and stirred in a bit of marsala and a couple of spoonfuls of frozen apple juice concentrate.
  5. Sprinkled a boneless pork loin roast with salt and pepper and then seared it off in a pan so it had a nice brown crust.
  6. Stuck the roast on top of the veg mixture and cooked the whole thing on low for 10 hours.
Can you see what I FAILED to do up there? Anyone? Bueller?

That's right. NO SEASONINGS! What the hell?! I think the fact that the garbage disposal chose to vomit into the sink when I was shoving the peels into it is what threw me off. (The trap was full. DH fixed it. Gross.)

So yeah, this was pretty damn bland. We made do with salt and pepper at the table, but there's still a lot of food leftover and I can't bring myself to waste it. So I'm left with trying to salvage this thing at the re-heat stage. Now I just have to decide if I want to go the sage-thyme route or the allspice-ginger route. Anyone have suggestions?


Monday, October 02, 2006

DH cooks!

Tonight's Menu
  • grilled ribeye steaks
  • mashed potatoes
  • a honkin' big salad
Today was our 13th wedding anniversary, and while DH and I don't really celebrate it as such beyond exchanging cards, neither were we really in the mood for leftover tortilla soup. So DH picked up some steaks on his way home from work and grilled them, and I made the potatoes and salad. Quick and easy and yummy, and we washed it all down with plenty of wine.

Both kids have become steak eaters as well, so they loved this meal too! Except the girl doesn't like mashed potatoes. What is WRONG with that child?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tortilla soup

I have an awesome recipe for tortilla soup that calls for chicken thighs, but since DH is allergic to poultry I've had to modify the recipe to make it vegetarian. So here's my recipe, which we had for dinner tonight. The boy child even tried it and liked it!

Okay, first chop up half an onion (I like the sweet yellow ones; you do whatever) and saute it in some EVOO until it starts to get tender. Then add a couple of minced garlic cloves to the pan and stir them around just until they start to release their aroma. DO NOT BURN THE GARLIC.

Dump the onions/garlic into a blender or food processor and add the following:

3 tsp. dried cilantro (or 3 Tbs. chopped fresh)
4 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 14.5-oz. can of Del Monte Petite Diced Tomatoes With Zesty Jalapeno (try to get this exact item if you can - RoTel is NOT an adequate substitute)

Whiz all that together until the lumps/chunks are the size you like. Then dump the whole lot into a pot and add two 14 oz. cans of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer.

While the soup is simmering, heat about half an inch of oil (I use canola; you do whatever) in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cut five corn tortillas (the soft ones) into strips and fry them in batches in the oil until they're crisp and only LIGHTLY browned. Drain them on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. By the time the tortilla strips are done, the soup will be done.

Here's how I like to serve it: put a handful of tortilla strips in the bottom of the bowl, ladle the soup over them, then top with shredded Monterey Jack cheese, diced avocado and dollops of sour cream.

This soup is SO YUMMY and I swear it helps cure head colds and bad allergies and whatnot. Which is why I made it today. Achoo!