Tuesday, December 09, 2008

This meal is cursed

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled skirt steak
  • sweet potato fries
  • caramelized Brussels sprouts w/lemon
Tonight's dinner was a duplicate of our dinner from October 11th which, as you can see if you follow that link, featured a number of mishaps.

This time I decided to grill the steak indoors on the stovetop using my beloved IKEA grill pan (not only was it dark when I started dinner, but it was extremely windy and chilly). Also, I peeled the sweet potatoes into a bowl rather than running the peels down our wonky disposal. So far so good, right?


My portable kitchen timer, which I use EVERY SINGLE NIGHT while preparing dinner, decided to crap out on me while the meat was in the grill pan. I was attempting to grill it for 5 minutes per side -- one minute more per side than when I grill it outdoors, to compensate for the fact that the stovetop grill pan isn't covered like the big outdoor grill is. I put the meat on, set the timer for five minutes, turned away to unload the dishwasher, then checked the timer when I was pretty sure at least four minutes had passed. The display said I still had four minutes left to go! Wuh? The timer was running, but it was taking several seconds for each SINGLE second to tick down. Argh!

Fortunately I discovered it in time to save the meat, but still. I'm thinking maybe I shouldn't make this meal again! As delicious as it is, I think someone is trying to tell me something!

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Tonight's Menu

  • bean soup with ham
  • beer bread
DH and I have been in the mood for bean soup, even though he's totally allergic to it (yes, in addition to poultry and soy, he's allergic to BEANS). I had a big, meaty ham bone in the freezer (left over from Thanksgiving, see: allergic to poultry) so I decided to use that up in a nice big pot of soup.

What I did was buy one of those bags of 15-bean soup mix and discard the seasoning packet. I totally don't trust those seasoning packets, man. This one had soybean oil and hydrolyzed soy protein in it, which was reason enough for me to ditch it. (I think I had somehow convinced myself that the girl, who is violently allergic to soy, would want to try this soup. HAHAHA, what was I smoking?!)

Anyway, I kept the beans, obviously, and soaked them overnight. Then I drained and rinsed them the next day and set them aside while I got to work on the rest of the ingredients.

I chopped up half an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic and sauteed them in some olive oil in a BIG pot. Before they were able to get any color on them, I tossed in two whole fresh bay leaves, several chopped leaves of fresh sage and a bunch of fresh thyme (all from my herb patch), along with maybe half a teaspoon of smoked paprika and half a tube of sundried tomato paste (1.5-2 tablespoons). Feel free to use regular paprika and plain ol' tomato paste from a can; I was using what I had. I stirred that around for several seconds until it started to smell AMAZING, then added the ham bone to the pot and dumped in the beans, along with a quart of vegetable broth (Pacific Organic -- again, it's what I had) and another quart of water. While that was coming to a boil, I stirred in some chopped fresh parsley (from the herb patch again!) and a tablespoon or so of brown sugar. I know, that sounds weird, but brown sugar goes great with beans and ham, y'all. TRUST ME.

Once it came to a boil I reduced the heat to low and just let it simmer away uncovered all afternoon. After two hours I removed the ham bone, scraped off the meat and diced it, then added the meat back to the pot. At that point I tasted the broth and adjusted the seasonings somewhat, adding the juice of half a lemon, a bit of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Altogether I cooked it for about 4.5 hours, tasting and adding more salt/pepper as needed and removing the bay leaves at the very end. Some of the beans broke down and thickened the broth quite a bit so that it was almost stew-like, which is just how I like it. If you like your broth a little thinner and your beans with more shape to them, you might want to only cook it for about 3 hours. Just be sure to taste, taste, taste as you go -- it's the only way to know when it's done to your liking and to get the seasonings right!

The girl wouldn't touch it, and DH had just a little taste, but the boy and I LOVED it and went back for seconds. I stirred just a tiny bit of sriracha into my bowl and washed it down with a cold glass of unfiltered apple cider and it was heavenly!

The beer bread is a favorite here. I only use half the butter called for in the recipe and it comes out just fine. This time I used Shiner Hefeweizen for the beer and it yielded a very tasty loaf that went great with the soup.

I expect this soup to be even better tomorrow, so guess what we're having then? Yep, leftovers!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fall supper

Tonight's Menu

  • pork chops with apples & onions
  • steamed potatoes with brown butter
  • green salad "bar"
It finally looks and feels like late fall around here, what with the brown leaves and the chilly dampness and whatnot. I am all about pork, onions and apples in the fall.

What I did was season some boneless pork chops with salt and pepper and then brown them in a skillet with just a wee bit of EVOO. I removed the chops and set them aside, then added sliced Granny Smith apples and onion slivers to the pan, tossing until they had picked up a bit of color. Then I poured in maybe half a cup of water (you could use cider, white wine, stock, whatever) and added some fresh thyme and thinly sliced fresh sage leaves. I laid the chops on top of the apple/onion mixture, covered the pan, and let everything simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. SO yummy!

For the potatoes, I cut some small red-skinned potatoes (you could use any waxy potato) into quarters and steamed them in the microwave. While they were steaming I put a couple of tablespoons of butter into a small pan on the stovetop over medium heat, swirling the pan every so often until the butter had melted and JUST started to turn a golden brown. You'll need to watch it really closely so the butter doesn't burn -- you want to catch it just at the point where it starts to turn golden. I sprinkled some chopped fresh parsley over the potatoes, drizzled them with the brown butter, sprinkled on some salt and then tossed everything to coat. These were really good and a nice change from our usual chuffed potatoes.

Tonight's salad bar was butter lettuce from the CSA, grated carrots, sliced cucumber and fresh snow peas. Easy!

Can you tell I'm making an effort to cook with more herbs from my herb garden lately? This time of year I tend to rely on rosemary and thyme exclusively, forgetting that I have a bunch of other stuff out there that isn't dead yet! The sage was a nice accompaniment to the apples, onions and pork; and the parsley really brightened up the potatoes. Now I need to find something to do with fennel tops -- mine are going nuts!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CSA day

Tonight's Menu

  • cold boiled shrimp
  • sauteed tatsoi with garlic
  • green salad "bar"
We've already discussed this shrimp, and the salad was just green leaf lettuce, grated carrots and sliced cucumbers, so let's get right to the tatsoi!

This stuff showed up in our CSA box today and it was a new one on me. I had never even HEARD of it before, much less cooked or eaten it. I googled for recipes and most of them featured Asian flavors, which wouldn't work for us due to DH and the girl child being violently allergic to soy. After manhandling the raw veg for a bit it seemed to me that this stuff was vaguely spinach-like, so I decided to season it the way I would spinach.

What I did was cut the tatsoi, stems and leaves, into maybe 3/4-inch pieces. Then I minced two huge cloves of garlic. I sauteed the tatsoi and garlic in a skillet with EVOO, seasoning with a tiny bit of lemon zest (from the first lemon off our "improved" Meyer lemon tree!), some crushed red pepper flakes, and a bit of kosher salt. I only sauteed it until the stem pieces were tender -- this did not take long at all. Then I served it up, and I'm here to tell you, it was goooood! The boy thought there was too much garlic, but I'm of the opinion that there's NO SUCH THING. The lemon zest gave it a bit of brightness and the pepper flakes added just the right amount of zing. Yum!

I LOVE it when my cooking experiments actually work out. It doesn't happen very often, you know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My favorite soup

Tonight's Menu

  • loaded potato soup
  • freshly baked bread
It's been chilly in the mornings here the past couple of weeks (finally!) and that means I'm craving comfort food!

I love, love, LOVE this potato soup. It's the only potato soup I make. I use full-fat dairy in this but you could lighten it up and even use turkey bacon if you like. It wouldn't be as GOOD, but whatever floats your boat!

The bread was just a boule from the book.

Perfect fall supper, if you count potatoes as a vegetable. Which I do.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Which is to say, no more OUTDOOR grilling

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled NY strip steaks
  • baked potatoes
  • green salad "bar"
Hey, I almost forgot I have this nifty IKEA grill pan thingie! So I can still grill SOME things; I just have to do it inside, on the stovetop.

These NY strip steaks were about an inch thick. I just seasoned both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, then popped them onto the grill pan for about 4 minutes per side. I let them rest for a good 5 minutes or so, tented with foil, to come up to medium rare before serving. Easy!

Potatoes were baked in the oven and served with butter, sour cream, shredded cheddar and crumbled bacon. Also easy!

Tonight's salad was green leaf lettuce with shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, and sliced radishes from the CSA. Easy some more!

Sometimes the simple things are best, yo.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No more grilling

Tonight's Menu

  • roasted chicken thighs
  • buttered egg noodles
  • steamed broccoli
I hate the end of daylight saving time, y'all. HATE IT. Because that means it gets dark right around the time I'm starting to cook dinner, and I am not a big fan of grilling in the dark. Sure, we have floodlights out back and whatnot, but it's the PRINCIPLE of the thing. Grilling in the dark just feels WRONG. So while I far prefer my chicken grilled, this time of year roasting is where it's at.

So, all I did with these thighs (bone in, skin on, ten of 'em) was whomp them into a pan, sprinkle them with salt, pepper, snipped fresh rosemary and fresh thyme, then pop them in the oven at 450 degrees F for about 45 minutes to an hour. They came out crispy, juicy and delicious even though they weren't grilled.

Buttered egg noodles are pretty self explanatory, right? Just boil some noodles? And then drain them? And butter them? Yeah. Easy.

The broccoli was steamed in the microwave.

Super easy dinner, but DAMN I am going to miss grilling these next few months! Hello, it's still in the 70s and 80s here!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Pork roast redux

Tonight's Menu

  • BBQ pork sandwiches
  • tangy apple coleslaw
It was leftovers night here at Chez Badger, y'all. We have a TON of pork roast left from last night, so I took a bit of that, heated it in the microwave with some bottled Carolina-style barbecue sauce, and served it on buns with sliced onions. Yummy and fast!

The coleslaw recipe is here. I used savoy cabbage because that's what I had (half a head left over from last night's saute).

I probably should have rustled up some chips or pickles or something to go with this, but I couldn't be bothered. Leftovers night = lazy night, yo.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Pork roast

Tonight's Menu

  • cider-braised pork roast
  • mashed potatoes
  • sauteed cabbage w/mustard
Oh, people. If you're wondering where I've been the past couple of weeks, I'll tell you: I've been hobbling around with a sprained ankle! It hasn't been much fun, to say the least. DH has been taking dinner duty while I've been recuperating, and while he certainly made a good effort, he ... well, he doesn't really cook. So, er, there hasn't been much to report as far as our dinners go. But FINALLY I'm off the crutches and able to be up and around long enough to cook a decent dinner, so that's what I did tonight!

The pork roast was a ginormous bone-in pork butt. You could also use shoulder or something of that nature -- basically a big ol' hunk of well-marbled pork. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and then browned it on the stovetop in an enameled cast-iron dutch oven. Once it was browned on all sides I took it off the heat, poured in a 12-ounce bottle of hard cider (Hornsby's Draft) and just a bit of water, then arranged the following around the roast: four big sprigs of fresh rosemary, several sprigs of fresh thyme, a couple of bay leaves (all from my herb garden), a chopped onion and a handful of whole peppercorns. Then I covered the pot and stuck the whole thing in the oven at 225 degrees F for about six hours. The house smelled AMAZING while it cooked and it was soooo tender!

When the roast was done I removed it from the pan (in pieces; it was falling apart!), shredded it and set it aside. Then I poured the pan juices through a mesh strainer to remove all the herbs and whatnot, poured the juices back into the dutch oven, and used flour to thicken it all into a delicious gravy on the stovetop. SO good! It didn't even need added seasoning thanks to all those herbs.

For the cabbage, I just chopped half a head of savoy cabbage (that's the crinkly one) into chunks, then sauteed it in a skillet with a couple tablespoons of butter until it was nice and wilted. Then I seasoned with salt and pepper and stirred in maybe a teaspoon of whole-grain mustard. Easy and delicious!

Okay, can we talk about mashed potatoes for a minute, y'all? Longtime readers know that I tend to skimp when it comes to this dish. I don't like the nasty powdered kind, but I LOVE Ore-Ida's frozen mashed potatoes that you heat in the microwave and then season to taste. Well, suddenly I can't find them anymore! All the store had this week were these new "steamers", which are just cubed, peeled potatoes that steam in a bag in the microwave. You still have to add milk, butter, seasonings, etc., and actually mash them yourself. I went ahead and bought them anyway, but it was hardly worth it. They were tasty, but didn't save me much in the way of work. I guess I'll be making mine from scratch from here on out. Curses!

Oh well, I guess I'll deal. I'm just SO GLAD to be back in the kitchen!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bison loaf!

Tonight's Menu

  • meatloaf
  • twice-cooked potatoes
  • green salad "bar"
Okay, I'm just going to come right out and say this: I've been buying ground bison instead of ground beef. Yeah, I don't know what to tell you. My local supermarket carries it and it doesn't cost much more per pound than the "natural" ground beef I had been buying, plus it's supposed to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol AND it's free of growth hormones and antibiotics. Best of all, it's darn tasty!

So this meatloaf was made with ground bison. I didn't measure anything -- just tossed a pound of ground meat into a large plastic zipper bag, then dumped in some dry bread crumbs, an egg, some chopped onion, some chopped fresh parsley, garlic powder, salt and freshly ground pepper. I also added about a tablespoon of bottled barbecue sauce, just for grins. Then I kneaded the bag until everything was mixed thoroughly.

I prepared my loaf pan by spraying it with cooking spray, then covering the bottom with a sprinkling of brown sugar and a drizzle of ketchup. I read a recipe years ago for meatloaf prepared with this sweet glaze on the bottom of the pan, and I've been making it that way ever since. It sounds weird, but it's so good! Anyhoodle, then I dumped the meat mixture into the pan and, just because I was feeling EXTRA NAUGHTY, I layered strips of bacon on top. (I know, right? I'm pretty sure I negated any health benefits of using bison vs. beef in this recipe, but whatever.) Then I just popped it in the oven at 375 degrees F for about an hour. It was really yummy -- I haven't made meatloaf in forever and it's a total comfort food for me. Perfect for a day when I was feeling kind of gross.

The potatoes were a variation on my usual chuffed potatoes, except that this time I used russet potatoes (instead of the waxier red-skinned variety) and cut them into bigger chunks. I simmered them for about 20 minutes in a pan of water, as usual, then cooked them again in a hot skillet with butter to get them nice and brown and crispy on the outside. I also sprinkled in a bit of garlic powder along with the usual salt and pepper at the end. Delish!

Tonight's salad bar was mixed lettuces (I had a moment of weakness and bought a bag of salad mix last week when DH was out of town and it was just me and the kids at home) with sliced green onions, sliced celery, and thinly sliced carrots on the side.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Always an adventure

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled skirt steak
  • sweet potato fries
  • caramelized Brussels sprouts w/lemon
We had a bit of a late dinner tonight -- my parents brought the kids back from a sleepover after filling them with junk, so they weren't all that hungry at our usual dinnertime, and DH and I had had a late lunch (in the midst of a lovely afternoon of kid-free shopping).

I think I've mentioned before that in the summer it's almost too hot to grill at my house; our back patio faces due north and in high summer there is no shade at all. I'm always thrilled in autumn when the sun moves south and the days begin to shorten, bringing evening shade to the back patio once again. It does pose a problem when it comes to late dinners, though -- this one was cooked mostly in the dark! Thank goodness for those floodlights the previous owners installed on the back of our house!

ANYWAY, the skirt steak was prepared exactly as for fajitas -- rubbed on both sides with a prepared beef fajita seasoning mix, marinated in a mixture of fresh-squeezed lime juice and EVOO, then grilled for four minutes per side and sliced thinly across the grain. We just ate them as-is instead of folding them into tortillas with all the fixings.

The sweet potato fries were made with CSA sweet potatoes in the usual way, EXCEPT I accidentally discovered a way to make them crispier than usual! See, the plumbing in this house was installed by trained monkeys, apparently (along with the electrical wiring, the air/heating ductwork, the floors, etc. -- but that's a story for another time and another blog). What that means is that our garbage disposal backs up at the drop of a hat. Even though I was using PLENTY of hot running water and running them through only a few at a time, the peels from the sweet potatoes were too much for it. So DH had to do an emergency disposal-ectomy in the middle of my dinner prep, which meant that the fries were finished cooking long before I was even able to START the Brussels sprouts. (And I had this all timed down to the minute, too -- argh!) I didn't want the fries to get cold, and I was afraid that if I covered them they'd get all soggy, so I just turned off the oven when they were done and left them in there while everything else finished. Sitting in the warm, turned-off oven actually made them crisp up without getting overdone -- who knew? I think I'll factor this wait time into the recipe from now on!

Anyway, geez, I'm writing a novel here and this was actually a really simple meal, except for the mishaps! The Brussels sprouts were from Everyday Food and this dish was completely serendipitous -- I had bought the sprouts a few days ago and really needed to use them up, when I happened to open the October issue of Everyday Food this afternoon and there was the recipe! We always have lemons in the house so this was a no-brainer for me, and really tasty, too!

Whew! There you have it. A simple dinner that wasn't so simple after all! We are totally having leftovers tomorrow.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Using up the CSA veggies

Tonight's Menu

  • sausage and vegetable stew
This might better be called Kitchen Sink Stew, because I'm pretty sure I threw everything but that into the pot! I am determined not to let any of our CSA veggies go to waste and a stew seemed like the best solution, particularly since I knew the leftovers would freeze well.

So here's what I did. First I chopped up a pooload of veggies: onions, garlic, celery, sweet bell peppers, zucchini, pattypan squash, and a variety of mixed eggplants (ichiban, rosa bianca, some skinny white ones and some skinny green ones). Plus we had a tomato that didn't travel well in the CSA box, so I chopped that up as well, along with some unidentified greens (some variety of chard, maybe?).

Then I browned off a chub of bulk pork sausage (Pederson's breakfast sausage, in this case) in a big heavy pot, breaking it up as it cooked. I was all set to drain off some of the fat, but this particular sausage didn't render much out at all -- I actually had to add some olive oil to moisten everything up! With the sausage still in the pan, I added the onions and garlic and stirred everything around really well until the onions had gone just a tiny bit translucent. Then I added the peppers and celery and stirred those around a bit until I could smell them.

Once the sausage, onions and peppers were all happy in there, I dumped in my mixed squashes and eggplants, along with my chopped tomato and greens, about a tablespoon of tomato paste, one small can of crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen Fire Roasted, in my case), two cans of water, and maybe half a cup of dry white wine. Then I sprinkled on a good teaspoon or so of dried oregano, a healthy pinch of salt, and several grinds of fresh black pepper. Stir, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour or until the veggies are nice and tender. Taste it and adjust your seasonings before serving.

I thought this was absolutely delicious! So fresh-tasting from all the veggies, and the sausage and tomatoes made it nice and hearty. If I had it to do over again, I would have peeled the rosa bianca eggplant -- the skin is a little tough on that one, even though the flesh came out nice and tender.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that the kids wouldn't even touch the stuff, and DH didn't much care for it. But then, he doesn't like squash, peppers OR eggplant and this stew was chock-full of all of them. Oh well. I froze a bunch of it and will look forward to having fresh vegetable stew all winter when those yummy summer vegetables are gone!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

More ribs!

Tonight's Menu

  • baby back ribs
  • chili potatoes
  • tangy apple coleslaw
Why yes, ribs ARE all we ever eat around here! Thank you for asking! (Hee!)

These were pork baby back ribs; I'm not sure of the weight but it was a rack of 14 ribs. I rubbed them on both sides with a mixture of brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, dried oregano, salt, pepper and a wee bit of garam masala. Then I stuck them on a rack in a roasting pan (I had to cut the rack of ribs in half to make them fit) with a bit of water on the bottom, covered the pan tightly with heavy-duty foil, and popped them in the oven at 300 degrees F for two hours. I finished them on the grill like this: meat-side down over high heat for about five minutes, then flipped to meat-side up and basted with bottled Memphis-style barbecue sauce. As soon as I basted them, I turned off one of the burners on my grill, turned the other two burners to low, and put the ribs on the unlit burner for about 10-15 minutes, just to bake the sauce onto the ribs. They were tender and delicious, and honestly, they probably would have been fine without the sauce. What can I say, I like messy ribs!

For the potatoes, I just cut some unpeeled baking potatoes into chunks, tossed them in a foil-lined pan with some EVOO, and sprinkled them with salt, pepper, chili powder and garlic powder. I popped those in the oven at 450 degrees F for 30-35 minutes (this was after the ribs came out), stirring every 10 minutes or so, until they were nice and crispy. Yum!

The coleslaw was kind of an experiment. I wasn't in the mood for my usual creamy coleslaw, so I went the vinegar route instead. I actually paid attention to what the heck I was doing so I could write this one in recipe form for a change! Yay, me!

Badger's Tangy Apple Coleslaw

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
1-2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and shredded
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. canola or other mild vegetable oil

Toss the shredded cabbage and apples together in a medium bowl. Whisk the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl or glass measuring cup and pour over the cabbage mixture; toss to coat. Chill for at least 2-4 hours. Can be made the night before. Serves about 4-6 people.

This was way yummy and made a nice change from my usual coleslaw. The vinegary dressing was a great complement to the richness of the ribs!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Short ribs!

Tonight's Menu

  • slow-cooked beef short ribs
  • steamed rice
  • green salad "bar"
It's finally fall, and that means short ribs! Our favorite recipe is this one from Allrecipes.com. They slow-cook in the crockpot all day -- what could be easier? I used boneless short ribs and thickened the gravy on the stovetop instead of in the slow-cooker (my crockpot is ancient and doesn't do high heat well), but otherwise I followed the recipe exactly. Yummy!

The rice was steamed in the microwave, and the salad was left over from last night. WAY easy!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A lovely night to grill

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled pork chops
  • crispy potatoes and onions
  • garlicky grilled zucchini
  • green salad "bar"
It's been SO NICE in the evenings here lately. Temperatures in the upper 70s or low 80s, no humidity, and now that the sun has moved south, my back patio and grill are once again in the shade for the later part of the day. Heaven!

Soo, I have been grilling. These were pork loin chops on the bone, which I just sprinkled with Jane's Krazy Salt and garlic pepper, then grilled over high heat for about 4 minutes per side. SO yummy!

The potatoes were a variation on my "chuffed" potatoes, but with onions added. I get a lot of requests for detailed instructions on the chuffed potatoes, so here is exactly what I did. First, I cut several small red-skinned potatoes in half. You could also cut them in quarters or eighths depending on how big they are. Put them in a pot and add enough water to cover the potatoes by about an inch. Then put them on the stove, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer them for about 15 or 20 minutes before draining off the water. You want them pretty tender, but not mushy.

Then melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a skillet and add the drained potatoes. (I also added half of an onion, cut into slivers, this time but you could leave that out.) Toss the potatoes around in the butter over medium-high heat until a nice brown crust forms on the outside. The more violently you toss them around, the more crust you'll get. Once they've gone nice and golden brown on the outside, season with salt and pepper and serve! They should be soft on the inside -- if not, then you didn't simmer them long enough in the first step. Of course, you can adjust that to your liking if you prefer a firmer potato.

That's all there is to chuffed potatoes!

For the zucchini, I bashed up a couple of garlic cloves in my mortar and pestle, along with a little kosher salt. This acts as an abrasive and makes it easier to really smush the garlic into a pulverized paste. Then I mixed a bit of EVOO in with that to make a really garlicky oil. I cut a couple of zucchini into quarter-inch slices lengthwise, brushed them on both sides with the garlicky oil, then sprinkled with a bit of pepper. Grill them off for maybe 2 minutes per side over high heat and they're done! The boy LOVED these and I don't think I've ever seen him eat zucchini before except in quinoa pilaf!

Tonight's salad bar was torn green leaf lettuce, sliced celery, shredded carrots and wedges of tomato from the CSA. My kids STILL stubbornly refuse to eat salad since I switched from the pre-bagged greens. But DH and I are loving our salads lately!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Another catchup post

Oh, people! I didn't realize it had been so long since I posted. Sorry about that! I have not been making much of anything new for dinner, but have instead been revisiting some cool-weather favorites. (Yes, I KNOW it's still in the 90s here. But the calendar says September so I am cooking fall food anyway!)

Here's what we've been eating the past couple of weeks:
The CSA has been giving us various shelled beans (this time it was a big bag of butter beans) and I've been mostly cooking them up with bacon, onion, brown sugar and vinegar because we LOVE them like that.

We've also gotten some winter squash lately and at first I had no idea what to do with it! These are sort of the "ugly pumpkin" variety squash -- vaguely pumpkin-shaped but all mottled and weird looking on the outside. (Er, I mean weird in a GOOD way. My taste in squash is similar to my taste in shoes, apparently.) I finally decided to cut them into wedges, plop them into a baking pan (after scooping out the seeds), drizzle with honey and cinnamon and bake them off at 375 degrees F for about two hours or until they were really soft and tender. They were delicious and my house smelled AMAZING while they were cooking! I've been eating them as a side dish with various meats, stirring them into oatmeal along with raw pumpkin seeds or slivered almonds, and now I'm wondering how they'd be in muffins and/or pancakes.

My birthday was the 20th of this month and DH gifted me with something I've been wanting FOREVER -- a 6-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven! So I foresee a LOT more soups/stews/roasts in my immediate future. Hooray!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mystery beans

Tonight's Menu

  • spiced pork tenderloin
  • toasted rice
  • okra and beans with bacon and onions
  • green salad "bar"
Today was CSA pickup day, hooray! In addition to loads of other goodies, our box today contained a bag of unidentified shelled beans. I have no idea what they are! They're shaped exactly like a lima bean but are a bit larger and they're brown instead of green. They're not mottled brown, either -- just a uniform brown. They don't look like pinto or fava beans but I have no idea what they could be -- maybe some bizarre variety of a lima or butter bean? Who knows?!

Anyway, I decided to treat them like lima beans and put them in a pan with water to cover, then brought them to a boil and simmered them for a good 30-40 minutes until they were tender. Then I set them aside while I got to work on the rest of the dish.

We got a nice bunch of okra (both green and purple) in the box so I cut that into maybe 3/4-inch chunks. Then I chopped some red onion and bacon (Pederson's apple smoked, which is local to my area, uncured, and certified humane). I put the bacon in a large skillet and cooked it over medium heat until it was almost, but not quite, crisp. Then I added the onion and okra and let them cook for a bit, stirring occasionally, until they were tender and had picked up a wee bit of caramelization. Then I drained the beans and dumped those in, stirring to heat through. Finally I added equal parts (maybe a tablespoon each) of brown sugar and red wine vinegar. I stirred this around until it formed a sweet-sour glaze on the veggies and bacon, then seasoned with salt and pepper and served.

This was SOOOO GOOD, y'all. I have used that same brown sugar-vinegar-bacon combo before with other veggies and it's always awesome, so I was glad to find that it worked great with the okra and beans as well. Even DH liked this and he's a little bit veggie-phobic. I am totally eating the rest of it tomorrow for lunch!

The spiced pork tenderloin and toasted rice were left over from last night, as was the salad (green leaf lettuce, tomato wedges, sliced red onion and shredded carrots).

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Oven goodness

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-cooked beef brisket
  • baked potatoes
  • coleslaw
This was a really easy dinner. With just a bit of prep up-front, this will cook all day with no interference from you. You can even make the coleslaw the day before!

For the brisket, I made a dry rub of brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, salt & pepper and rubbed that on both sides of the meat. Then I sort of improvised a roasting rack by putting crumpled balls of tin foil in the bottom of a roasting pan and laying the meat, fat side up, on top of that. I poured a bit of water into the pan (around, but not on top of, the brisket), then covered it tightly with foil and put it into a 225 degree oven for about five hours. That's it! All you have to do is take it out of the oven, let it rest for about 10 minutes, then slice it thinly against the grain and serve. Easy!

The potatoes were likewise easy -- they were wrapped in foil and baked alongside the roasting pan for the last 3 hours of cooking time. I put out butter, shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped cooked bacon so everyone could fix their own potato however they liked it.

I would have served some freezer pickles along with this meal but I forgot to take them out of the freezer ahead of time. D'oh!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rushing the season

Tonight's Menu

  • pork chops with apples & onions in a cider mustard cream sauce
  • mashed potatoes
  • sauteed cabbage with bacon
Oh people, it's not even quite September yet and I am SO ready for fall! I can't help it; it's been a loooong summer here in central Texas. I was in the mood for fall food tonight, and nothing says fall to me like pork, apples and cabbage.

So, the pork! I had some really large but thin bone-in chops that I just seasoned with salt and pepper and then browned on both sides in a heavy skillet with a little bit of oil. I removed the chops to a plate and covered them with foil to keep warm, then dumped half a Granny Smith apple (peeled and sliced relatively thin) and half a sweet yellow onion (also sliced thin, lengthwise) into the skillet. I tossed them around to pick up some color, then briefly removed the pan from the heat so I could pour in about 10 ounces of hard cider. (You could also use regular non-alcoholic apple cider, in which case there's no danger of a flareup and thus no need to take the pan off the heat.)

I put the pan back on the heat and left it to simmer away, uncovered, until the onions and apples were tender and the cider had evaporated by about half. Then I stirred in one tablespoon of whole-grain mustard (because I like the seeds) and slowly added about half a cup of heavy cream. I let it bubble away for just a minute before taking it off the heat.

The idea is to serve the apple-onion sauce over the chops, but I put it on the side because I knew the kids would never eat it that way. And yes, they are still free to Make (Their) Own Damn Dinner(s) if they don't like what I'm serving, but they both DO like pork chops and it's no skin off my nose to put the sauce on the side.

The mashed potatoes were my usual frozen Ore-Ida, jazzed up with milk, butter, salt and pepper. I KNOW! But for a processed food this one doesn't contain too much scary crap, and I just HATE making mashed potatoes from scratch.

For the cabbage, I just browned off some chopped bacon in a skillet and then dumped in a bunch of chopped cabbage. Stir, stir, stir until the cabbage is tender, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Easy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What's cookin'

Hey, everyone! I know my dinner posts have been a little spotty lately, so I thought I'd list some stuff I've been making that I haven't had a chance to tell you about.

Cold Boiled Shrimp
This is the girl child's favorite way to eat shrimp, and it really could not be easier to make. I buy shrimp with the shells already split down the back and the mud veins removed, but it's pretty easy to do that yourself with a pair of kitchen shears. Bring a big pot of water to a boil with a couple of tablespoons (or more, if you like it spicy) of crab/shrimp-boil seasoning. You can buy this already made, which is what I do, or mix up your own blend of spices, which is what I keep telling myself I'll do one of these days.

Give your shrimp a good rinse in the sink and then, once the water on the stove is at a full boil, CAREFULLY add the shrimp. It only takes a couple of minutes for them to cook. As soon as they curl up, fish them out with a slotted spoon and dump them directly into a big bowl of ice. This will stop them from cooking any further and getting rubbery, plus make them easier to peel. And spicy, cold shrimp is soooo good on a hot day! I like to dip mine in a little melted butter with some hot sauce mixed in, but you could go the cocktail sauce route or whatever. Yum!

Spiced carrots
I made these the other night while DH was grilling steaks. I had a gorgeous bunch of organic carrots (with the tops still attached! love that!) and ended up using the whole bunch for this -- about 8-10 carrots -- because they were kind of small. But you know, adjust the amount however you like. All I did was peel them, cut them into 3/4-inch chunks, stick them in a bowl and steam them in the microwave until they were crisp-tender.

While the carrots were nuking, I bashed up a couple of teaspoons each of whole coriander and cumin seeds with my mortar and pestle. Then I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat, added the spices and stirred them around for a bit before dumping in the steamed carrots and tossing them to coat. Season with salt and pepper and you're done! These were really yummy with the grilled steaks (and baked potatoes, which the kids DEVOURED after claiming not to like baked potatoes. go figure!).

Coconut milk ice cream
We bought an ice cream maker this summer and I had resolved my lactose-intolerant self to a summer full of TEENSY dabs of homemade goodness, with the occasional fruit sorbet (boring!), when I learned there was such a thing as ice cream made with coconut milk. I was hesitant to try it because my past experience with non-dairy ice creams has NOT been good (ice milk, Rice Dream, bleargh!). But the one VERY expensive pint of coconut milk ice cream I purchased at the store was good, so off I went to Google to find some recipes for the homemade version.

I didn't find all that many, really, but I did find one for chocolate coconut milk ice cream over at The Nourishing Gourmet that sounded fabulous and really easy. AND it was sweetened with my new best friend, agave nectar! So I whipped up a batch of it and OH DUDES. It was seriously the best ice cream I've ever eaten IN MY LIFE. A monster was born in that moment, because I figured that with a base of coconut milk and agave, the possibilities were ENDLESS. And so far they have proven to be!

So yeah, I have been making a LOT of coconut milk ice cream this summer! My machine only makes one quart at a time so I use one can of organic coconut milk (NOT the "lite" variety) and three tablespoons of agave nectar and go from there. For a simple vanilla ice cream, I just add one teaspoon of vanilla to the above ingredients. For a kick-ass strawberry ice cream, I add the vanilla plus a bunch of fresh strawberries (you could use frozen, but thaw them first) and whizz the whole thing up in the blender before adding to the machine. My next experiment will be strawberry chocolate chip (or chunk).

This ice cream is sooooo rich and creamy, you'd never know it was non-dairy (and hello, IT'S VEGAN). Some flavors do retain a bit of coconut taste, but others don't really taste of coconut all that much. Or maybe I'm just getting used to it, I dunno. Anyway, DELISH! Thank you, Nourishing Gourmet! (And OMG, you all have GOT to check out her blog. It's full of fantastic whole-food recipes and tips!)

Homemade "magic shell" for the ice cream!
My kids are flat-out ADDICTED to that hard shell/magic shell ice cream topping. You know, the stuff that starts out as a liquid and gets hard (behave, children) when you pour it over ice cream? It's pretty expensive for a teeny little bottle of it, not to mention it's full of crappy ingredients, and after purchasing a new bottle pretty much every week for a couple of months solid I figured there HAD to be a better way.

Google came to my rescue once again, when I found this recipe for a homemade version over at The Accidental Vegetarian. Dudes, it's just coconut oil (I used unfiltered, organic) and chocolate chips! Melt it in a pan or the microwave, cool it, and pour it into a squeeze bottle! I have no idea how long it keeps because we're mowing through it at a rapid pace, but you don't have to refrigerate it or anything (which is good, because it would turn solid). It tastes and works EXACTLY like the stuff you buy, but it's healthier and way cheaper.

So yeah, I am topping my VEGAN ice cream with VEGAN magic shell over here. Right after a nice big steak dinner. Heh. (Sorry, vegans. I have a condition!)

Well, that's all I can come up with for now. My kids are back in school which gives me a little more free time to blog, and our CSA is off its one-week hiatus, so look for more dinners and whatnot coming soon. I'm also working on a FAQ, finally, so stay tuned for that!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Plan B sausages

Tonight's Menu

  • mild Italian sausages with onions
  • buttered noodles
  • green salad "bar"
We had kind of a crazy dinnertime tonight, y'all. The girl child has been doing a theater camp all summer and tonight was their performance, with a dress rehearsal beforehand. So she wasn't home for dinner, and the rest of us had to wolf ours down so we could get to the show on time.

I put the sausages on the stove to simmer as usual and had planned to finish them on the grill, but while they were simmering away this freak rain/wind storm popped up from out of nowhere. We are talking black skies, wind that nearly bent our trees in half, and giant pounding raindrops. Welcome to Texas weather, y'all! Sooo, yeah, I was not going out to grill in that! Instead I browned the simmered sausages in a skillet on the stovetop (say that three times fast!) and decided to drop in a chopped onion along with them. I added just a tiny bit of EVOO to the pan because the sausages were fairly lean, and just flipped everything around for 10 minutes or so until the sausages were nice and brown and the onions were tender. Not as good as grilled, but really yummy nonetheless!

The noodles were just plain old egg noodles, cooked according to package directions and tossed with a little butter.

Tonight's salad was torn green leaf lettuce, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots and wedged tomatoes. The boy is NOT happy about my decision to stop buying bagged lettuce. Apparently he didn't get the memo that I am no longer catering to his whims. Since, oh, about two years ago!

We DID make it to the play in time, by the way. And it was SO cute!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Pumpkin seed pesto

Tonight's Menu

  • penne with pumpkin seed pesto
  • green salad "bar"
I have a complicated relationship with basil, y'all. I love the way it tastes and I love having a supply of fresh basil in-season, but I have a horrible time growing it. I don't know what it is, but sweet basil HATES me. Whenever I plant it, either something eats it all or it dies within a week.

However, my parents bought me a plant this summer that was called Pesto Basil and I've had a great deal of success with that one, finally! It has smaller leaves than sweet basil and they're sort of variegated light green and white. I planted it in my garden instead of in a pot and it's done really well. With summer drawing to a close I've been worried about losing it all and decided that the thing to do was make pesto with it. However, as you know, the girl is allergic to tree nuts so pine nuts are out. I googled for nut-free pesto recipes and found several that featured various types of seeds instead of nuts -- why didn't I think of that?! We know she isn't allergic to pumpkin seeds (we always roast them after carving jack o' lanterns and she pretty much eats her weight in them) so I bought some raw ones in bulk and set to work.

I wasn't really measuring but here's approximately how I made it:

2 cups basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese (NOT the stuff in the green can)
extra-virgin olive oil

Dump the first four ingredients into the food processor and whiz them until blended. Then, with the processor running, drizzle in the EVOO until the pesto is to the consistency you like. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. (I've heard it helps to cover the pesto with a layer of olive oil before storing it, so that's what I did.)

I served it with penne pasta (dried, prepared according to package directions) and it was really good! The pumpkin seeds give it a slightly different flavor from pine nuts, but the texture is the same. I used CSA garlic to make it and it was REALLY strong so I'm going to have garlic breath for a week, but it was worth it!

Tonight's salad "bar" was torn green leaf lettuce, shredded carrots, and wedged tomatoes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Za'atar bread = yummy

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled marinated shrimp
  • za'atar bread
  • green salad "bar"
Okay, well this was just plain tasty! A perfect end-of-summer meal.

The shrimp was the usual. So yummy. I've finally figured out how to tweak this recipe to our liking -- use ACTUAL tomato paste instead of my usual substitution of ketchup (the ketchup makes it too salty), the full amount of KOSHER salt (not sea salt), half the hot sauce, and put my grill burners on LOW, not MEDIUM-LOW. The skewers are messy to assemble but it's SO worth it, y'all.

I have to tell a story about the za'atar bread. The girl and I were at World Market the other day and I was browsing the spices (looking for whole cumin seeds, if you must know) when I saw a packet of za'atar spice. For some reason that pinged something in my brain -- I KNEW I had read a recipe recently that sounded really good and featured za'atar, but I couldn't remember what the recipe was for. The spice packet was only a couple of bucks so I bought it anyway and brought it home, and then I remembered that the recipe was from my beloved bread book. (I don't have a deal going with the authors of this book, I swear. I've just been using it A LOT and really loving it.)

ANYWAY, the za'atar bread was really easy to make -- it's a flat bread that's similar in concept to a focaccia, only sprinkled with za'atar spice instead of fresh herbs and onion (or whatever you like on YOUR focaccia). I made it with the olive oil dough from the book and it came out so flavorful and tender and delicious! DH has requested that I make this bread again, and often (and hello, OMG, my picky DH ate something kind of exotic AND LIKED IT!) so I'd better head back to World Market and stock up!

I think I've managed to work through my salad boredom. Tonight's salad was torn green leaf lettuce (I tried that romaine thing you all suggested but the kids wouldn't touch that either! curses!) with sliced red onion, shredded carrots and tomato wedges. So far, so good on my plan to avoid pre-bagged salad greens! I'm sure I'll have an even easier time of it when greens are actually in season, argh.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Strange meats

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled cross-cut baby back ribs
  • chips
  • coleslaw
  • sliced tomatoes
  • freezer pickles
My grocery store has had some unusual cuts of meat lately. I usually go for spareribs if I'm going to do ribs, but these cross-cut baby back ribs were WAY cheap. We'd had some at a neighborhood potluck not too long ago and they were yummy, so I decided to try something different for a change.

I had purchased a locally produced molasses-garlic marinade for the ribs but upon getting it home, I discovered that soy sauce was the second ingredient on the label. Argh! DH and the girl are allergic to soy, so that meant I couldn't use it. (I have GOT to learn to read those labels a little more closely in the store! I never dreamed a molasses-garlic marinade would be soy-based. Stupid!) So I had to cobble together a marinade from what I had in the pantry/fridge. I ended up whisking together some bourbon, brown sugar, orange juice & zest, minced garlic (I actually grated a large clove on my microplane), garam masala, salt & pepper, onion powder and cayenne. I marinated the ribs in a big plastic zipper bag for about 3-4 hours.

After the ribs had marinated I grilled them over medium heat for just a couple of minutes per side to get some nice grill marks/browning on them. Then I moved them to an unlit burner for a good 45 minutes. They weren't QUITE as tender as I would have liked, but they weren't too terribly chewy, and they were super flavorful! If I made these again, I'd leave them a bit longer over the unlit burner to really render out all that fat and get them nice and tender.

Coleslaw was the usual, left over from last night when we had fish tacos.

We're still eating the freezer pickles I made a few weeks ago from the CSA cucumbers. Yum!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pizza night

Tonight's Menu

  • homemade pepperoni pizza
The girl told me after tonight's dinner that I'm not allowed to buy frozen pizzas from the grocery store anymore. Um. Okay, then. Fortunately, with a little advance planning, the homemade version was just as fast and easy as the frozen version.

The crust: was made with the olive oil dough from the bread book. I mixed the dough up the day before so it could sit in the fridge overnight. This was my first time working with the olive oil dough (we usually make the master recipe or European peasant dough) and it was fabulous! It made for a soft, tender, and delicious crust.

The sauce: was made from roasted tomatoes, eggplant and and garlic, pureed with a stick blender. I made this earlier in the day -- chunks of tomato and eggplant, whole garlic cloves, a bit of fresh basil and oregano, salt and pepper, a glug or two of balsamic vinegar, and lots of olive oil roasted at 300 degrees F for about two hours, stirring occasionally (do this on the weekend and it'll keep in the fridge for use during the week). I let it cool and then pureed a small amount with my stick blender, adding a bit of tomato paste and water to get it to the right consistency. The puree was NOT pretty -- hello, red and green make BROWN -- but it was delicious! And no, I did NOT tell my family they were eating eggplant. That's just between you and me, a'ight?

The toppings: since I live with a bunch of pizza traditionalists over here, I went with fairly mundane toppings -- shredded mozzarella and sliced pepperoni. That's it.

It really wasn't any trouble to assemble. While the baking stone was heating up in the oven (at 500 degrees F), I covered the pizza peel (that's the wooden paddle thing) with cornmeal, rolled out the dough on the countertop, moved it to the peel, spooned on some sauce and sprinkled on the toppings. By that time the stone was hot, so I transferred the pizza to the stone (I get a little thrill out of successfully executing that jerk-and-tug motion it takes to get the pizza off the peel and onto the stone)(though I am NOT always successful at it, I hasten to add) and baked it for 8-10 minutes. While the first pizza was baking, I made another one (we can put away A LOT of pizza over here, y'all) and stuck it in the oven when the first one came out.

There is something about pizza made with FRESH dough, y'all. I don't know. I think I agree with the girl -- we can never go back to frozen now!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Tonight's Menu

  • bay scallops with bacon and spinach
This was kind of an experiment, y'all. I think it worked out okay, but there are a few things I'd do differently if I made it again.

All I did was take about 4-5 thick slices of bacon (I used Pederson's Apple Smoked) and chop them up, then stick them in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the fat had rendered out and they were about 90% on their way to being crispy. Then I dumped in a pound of bay scallops (those are the little teeny ones) that had been rinsed and blotted dry. When I make this again I will do the scallops in BATCHES, because the idea was for them to get a nice sear, and in reality they just kind of simmered in their own juices. Oh well. I tossed them around for 3-4 minutes until they'd gone opaque, seasoned with salt and pepper, then removed the bacon and scallops from the pan with a slotted spoon.

With the pan still hot, I dumped in a pound of fresh baby spinach and let it wilt down. When it was nearly done, I sprinkled in a couple of teaspoons of sugar and an equal amount of red wine vinegar and tossed the spinach around to mix it all together, then seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. The combo of sugar and vinegar gives a really nice, slightly sweet and sour flavor to the spinach and works especially well with the bacon fat still left in the pan.

To serve, just make a nice bed of spinach on the plate and spoon the scallops and bacon over top. This was really tasty -- the flavors were all there -- but like I said, I'd do the scallops in batches next time so they'd sear instead of simmering. By some miracle I managed NOT to overcook them, so they weren't rubbery, but the texture wasn't quite what I was going for. Or maybe sea scallops would be better, cooked a few at a time? Hmmm. Must experiment!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chicken skin revisited

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled chicken thighs
  • herb-onion focaccia
  • garlicky green beans
  • green salad "bar"
Okay, well this was just plain yum.

The girl and I decided that while chicken drumsticks were an iffy proposition with braces, chicken THIGHS with the bones in and skin on would probably be okay. So that's what I made. I just sprinkled them with Jane's Krazy Salt and garlic pepper as usual, grilled them skin-side down over medium-high heat until the skin was nicely browned (but not BLACK this time; I watched them pretty closely), then moved them all skin-side up to an unlit burner and left them alone for 35 minutes or so. They were crispy, juicy and delicious!

The focaccia was made with the master recipe boule dough from the book. I topped it with snipped fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, sliced red onion, EVOO, coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Yum!

The green beans were from my garden! Yay! I had thought that my Kentucky Wonder pole beans weren't setting fruit, but it turns out the vines were so freakin' dense that I just couldn't SEE any. I poked around in there yesterday and managed to harvest a good-sized handful of beans. Some of them had obviously been on there a while and looked more like broad beans that you would pop out of the pod than string beans that you would eat all in one gulp, but oh well! I cut them in 2-inch pieces and simmered them in water for a good 15 minutes to make sure they'd be tender. Then I sauteed a large minced garlic clove in some EVOO in a skillet and tossed in the beans to get them nice and garlicky. Season with salt and pepper and you're good to go! Now I just have to remember to check the bean vines more often so I can get them while they're still young and tender!

I'm trying to move away from bagged, prepared salad greens for no particular reason other than pure contrariness on my part. So tonight's salad "bar" was torn green leaf lettuce (from the store and out of season, ugh), the last of the cherry tomatoes from my garden, and the last of the sliced carrots from the CSA. The kids apparently think green leaf lettuce = poison so they didn't eat any (they had chopped raw apples instead), but DH and I thought it was worlds better than our usual salads made with packaged lettuce. Yay! Non-boring salad, for a change!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Indoor picnic

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-cooked pork spare ribs
  • chuffed potatoes
  • coleslaw
  • freezer pickles
We were expecting rain today courtesy of Hurricane Dolly, but not much materialized. I planned an indoor dinner just in case, though!

I bought a HUGE rack of pork spare ribs at the grocery store. These are cheaper per pound than baby back ribs, at least where I live, and I think they're tastier (probably because they have a lot more fat). I cut the rack in half so it would fit in my roasting pan, then rubbed it all over with a mixture of brown sugar, garam masala, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and cayenne. I put the ribs on a rack in the roasting pan, added a bit of water to the bottom of the pan, covered it tightly with heavy-duty foil and stuck it in the oven for about three hours at 300 degrees F. Then I uncovered the ribs, boosted the heat up to 425 degrees F, and let them get nice and brown for 20-30 minutes. I didn't bother basting them with sauce; just served some on the side (bottled). They were falling-apart delicious and the girl had seconds!

Chuffed potatoes were the usual, as was the coleslaw.

The freezer pickles were sort of an experiment. Our CSA has given us quite a few pickling cucumbers lately and I wasn't sure what to do with them because I have NO desire to get into the whole canning thing. My mom used to can stuff and it seemed like a huge pain in the ass. I just don't want to mess with it at all. So I tried my hand at freezer pickles instead, and it was way easy! I used the top recipe on this page for this batch of pickles. I think they're pretty darn tasty -- kind of sweet/tangy. I'll probably try a more ambitious recipe for my next batch, but if you're new to freezer pickles like I am/was, that's a pretty good recipe to get you started!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Easy dinner

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless pork chops
  • grilled cabbage wedges
  • green salad "bar"
This was super easy and really good, if a tad bit boring.

All I did with the pork chops was sprinkle them on both sides with Jane's Krazy Salt and some garlic pepper, then grilled them 5 minutes per side over high heat (they were a little thick -- you could knock that back a bit for thinner chops). STUPID easy, y'all.

For the cabbage, I halved a head of green cabbage lengthwise, reserving one half for coleslaw tomorrow. The other half I just cored and cut into four wedges. I brushed the cut sides with EVOO and sprinkled them with salt and pepper, then cooked them exactly the same way, and at the same time, as the pork chops. They did tend to fall apart just a little bit when I turned them, but not so much that I lost them down the grill slats or anything. This was really tasty and easy and I'd definitely make cabbage this way again!

Tonight's salad bar was mixed leaf lettuces with sliced carrots, sliced cucumbers, and wedged tomatoes. Have I mentioned that I'm getting totally BORED with the salad bar thing? The kids are still eating it so I'm still making it, but I'm also making all these awesome CSA veggies and no one is eating them but me! Argh. It's not like the salad isn't HEALTHY or anything, so I don't want to press the point, but I'm pretty much OVER green salads right now, y'all.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A farewell to chicken skin

Tonight's Menu

  • herb-marinated chicken thighs
  • toasted rice
  • steamed broccoli
Hey, everyone! Sorry for the lack of posting. We've been busy, busy, busy over here and I've been falling back on some old standbys, meal-wise. Up until a few days ago, that is, because that's when the girl child got braces! And the boy is getting his on Friday! Yipes! Suddenly I've had to banish popcorn from the house and re-think things like corn on the cob and chicken drumsticks.

Soo, tonight's chicken was made with boneless, skinless thighs. I know, I KNOW, I always say that the skin is my favorite part of the chicken, but I'm here to tell you that these were really good even without it! All I did was dump the thighs into a big zipper bag. Then I mixed together some fresh lemon juice, EVOO, minced garlic, a TON of minced fresh herbs (flat-leaf parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme -- maybe I should call this Scarborough Fair Chicken?), kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I dumped the herb mixture over the chicken thighs, sealed the bag, and then sort of massaged it around so that all the thighs were coated. Then I popped it into the fridge for a couple of hours before grilling the thighs over medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes per side. They were juicy and delicious, the girl was able to eat them without breaking a wire on her braces, and we hardly missed the skin, I SWEAR!

Okay, now for the rice. The girl recently insisted that I used to make a brown rice that she absolutely loved. Well, I can only remember making brown rice maybe TWICE before, and as I recall, everyone hated the texture of it. Then I remembered that before we got our current microwave, which has a "smart" setting for rice, I used to make it on the stovetop and I would toast the rice in a bit of butter before adding the water. This gave it a golden, nutty-brown appearance, and everyone DID love it that way. So I made it again tonight to see if maybe that was the dish that the girl remembered.

All I did was melt two tablespoons of unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat (you could use salted, but I didn't have any), then add a cup of uncooked long-grain white rice and toss it around until it was lightly toasted. This doesn't take very long and you have to watch it because it'll go from toasted to burnt REALLY fast. As soon as it turns golden brown and releases a nutty aroma, add two cups of water and bring it to a boil. As soon as it boils, cover and reduce to a low simmer. Then just leave it alone for about 20 minutes before taking it off the heat and letting it sit, covered, for 5 minutes or so. Fluff with a fork, season with salt and pepper, and serve. I had forgotten how much I like rice cooked this way!

(Full disclosure: the girl said this wasn't QUITE what she remembered. She still insists it was BROWN rice. I have no memory of this whatsoever. Back to the drawing board, I guess.)

The broccoli was steamed in the microwave. I'm not cooking THAT on the stovetop unless it's in a stir-fry!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Grilled pork

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled spicy pork tenderloin w/mango salsa
  • roasted chili-garlic potatoes
  • quinoa salad
  • green salad "bar"
Okay, this was pretty darn easy.

Tenderloin recipe is here. Mango salsa is here (except I used THREE mangoes, and a jalapeno from the CSA). Quinoa salad is right over here. The salsa and quinoa salad were made ahead of time; they'll keep for a few days in the fridge.

For the chili-garlic potatoes, all I did was cut up four LARGE red-skinned potatoes into bite-sized chunks and toss them into a baking pan. Then I drizzled on some EVOO, tossed to coat, and sprinkled them with some kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, garlic powder and chili powder. I roasted them at 475 degrees F for about 40 minutes, stirring them around every 15 minutes or so. Delicious!

Tonight's salad bar was purchased mixed lettuce, sliced carrots, sliced cucumber from the CSA, and cherry tomatoes also from the CSA (oh, the potatoes were CSA goodies, too).

Very yummy and summery!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fajitas two ways

Tonight's Menu

  • beef & chicken fajitas
I had never made chicken fajitas until a couple of weeks ago when my grandpa was in town. I wanted to make him a quintessentially Texan meal, and fajitas are pretty much it. I usually make beef fajitas since DH is allergic to poultry, but grandpa doesn't eat beef! So I made both beef and chicken, and the kids and I loved the chicken version so much that I decided I'd make both from now on.

Instructions for the beef fajitas are here.

The chicken fajitas are pretty darn similar. I buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you could do breasts, but the thighs have WAY more flavor), lay them between two pieces of wax paper, and pound the heck out of them with the edge of a small plate. I know, it sounds weird, but it manages to tenderize and flatten the thighs so that they'll take the marinade a little better and also cook really fast. Then I sprinkle them with a pre-made chicken fajita seasoning blend (I use HEB's store brand spice mixes for both the chicken and the beef fajitas, for those of you in HEB country) and press it in a bit just to make sure it sticks. Then I mix the juice of one lime and about half an orange with some EVOO, pop the thighs into a zipper bag, and pour the juice/oil mixture over top. Press the air out of the bag and seal it, then stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours. To grill, just pop them over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes per side or until done (if you haven't pounded them pretty flat, it'll take a little longer). Then just slice them into strips and serve 'em up with warm flour tortillas, grilled onions & bell peppers, shredded cheese, sliced avocado, sour cream and hot sauce!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Notes for next year's potluck

So hey, everyone! I hope all of my fellow Americans had a good Fourth of July yesterday. We went to our neighborhood potluck, as usual. I've been told not to show up without my extremely fattening potato salad, so I made that, but I had cut down the recipe because fewer people than usual were expected and that tiny little bowl of potato salad looked ... lonely, somehow. Sooo, I also made some zucchini bread and quinoa salad!

I followed the zucchini bread recipe I found here, except that I left out the nuts (DH and the girl are allergic to tree nuts) and added just a bit of grated orange zest to the batter. Oh my GOD, y'all! This is some damn good zucchini bread! It's almost more of a spice cake than a bread because it has a really fine, cake-like texture. The boy child is flat-out addicted so it's a good thing this recipe made two loaves (we only took one to the potluck). I will have a freezer full of this stuff before zucchini season is over, mark my words!

I totally winged it with the quinoa salad and it turned out to be the sleeper hit of the potluck. Go figure! I was afraid nobody would want to touch it, but I haven't gotten that many raves over a dish since ... er, the first time I showed up with that fattening potato salad, probably. I wasn't measuring but here's approximately how I made it.

I had some plain, unseasoned, cooked quinoa leftover from dinner the night before -- I'd guess it was maybe a cup and a half, cooked. So I dumped that in a bowl. Then I took a large-ish cucumber, peeled it, cut it in half lengthwise and scraped out the seeds with a spoon before chopping it into a relatively small-ish dice (not a PERFECT dice -- you know me -- but I was going for more or less uniform pieces). I dumped that into the quinoa along with about 1/4 cup chopped (small, again) red onion and 2-3 sliced scallions, green tips included. I had some colorful bell peppers (yellow and orange) in the crisper so I diced up just a bit of those for color (like maybe 1/4 of each pepper -- not much) and tossed them in. Then I went out to the herb patch and snipped a handful of basil, flat-leaf parsley and mint, brought it inside, washed and chopped it and tossed it into the bowl with everything else. Finally I seasoned it with salt and pepper, then shook some fresh lemon juice (NOT bottled) and EVOO in a jar and poured it over, tossing the quinoa mixture to coat. There was only a small amount of dressing -- not enough for it to pool up in the bottom of the bowl or anything. I just wanted to moisten and loosen everything up a bit while giving it a hint of that bright lemon juice flavor.

This was SO GOOD! Seriously, everyone raved about it (and asked what the heck quinoa was, and where they could buy it, and how to cook it...). There were no leftovers so I am going to have to make another batch just for me. This would make a fantastic lunch -- quinoa is really high in protein, and when you add in all the veggies, that's a complete meal as far as I'm concerned!

Of course, now I'm stuck bringing both the potato salad AND the quinoa salad to every neighborhood potluck henceforth (and probably the zucchini bread, too) but I don't mind.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Skillet yummies

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled Italian sausages
  • okra & corn with bacon & onions
  • sliced tomatoes
Gah. CSA pickup was on Wednesday, but since then we've been eating out more often than not (which is unusual for us) and I'm starting to FREAK OUT that all these delicious veggies will go bad before I can use them. I have CSA STRESS, y'all.

First let's talk about the sausages, which were pretty much the usual deal. Mild, fresh Italian sausages simmered in water for 10-15 minutes, then browned off on the grill. Super easy.

I've been drooling over the idea of okra with bacon ever since a recent post about it by my fabulous foodie pal Jaye. I had a couple of cobs of already-cooked corn left over from a recent dinner (Friday night fajitas) and corn usually plays nicely with okra so I decided to kill two birds, as it were. All I did was chop up a few slices of good bacon (Pederson's apple-smoked, in this case) along with about 1/4 of a sweet yellow onion. Then I sliced up a bunch of fresh okra from the CSA and sliced my already-cooked corn off the cob. I tossed the bacon into a skillet and once it had gone about half-crisp, I added the onions. Stir, stir, stir until the onions start to go translucent, then add the okra. Stir, stir, stir until the okra gets tender, then add in the corn and just toss around a bit to warm it through (and let it pick up a bit of color, if you like). Then just season with salt and pepper and Bob's your uncle!

EVERYONE loved this. The boy scarfed his down, and the girl actually TRIED it and thought it was pretty darn good. Holy crap, y'all, my kids ate okra!

Tomatoes were from the CSA. I have GOT to use these up; they are almost over-ripe after a few days on the windowsill.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

An old favorite

Tonight's Menu

  • shrimp & spaghetti squash with Moroccan spices
  • green salad "bar"
The boy child was very excited to see that we got a nice, big spaghetti squash in our CSA box this week and he immediately asked if I would make it his favorite way. Um, what? My 12 year old has a favorite spaghetti squash recipe? WHO KNEW?

With a bit of discussion I figured out that he was talking about this recipe from Epicurious, which I'd made several times in the past and had completely forgotten about. One of my favorite meals way-back-when was to make this recipe as directed except that I would prepare the spiced butter in a heavy skillet instead of a saucepan. Then, after dumping the butter mixture onto the squash, I'd use that same skillet to saute some tilapia fillets. This time I did it with peeled, de-veined shrimp and it was every bit as delicious! Guess I'll have to put this recipe back into rotation!

The salad was the same as usual. Ugh.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Tonight's Menu

  • farfalle with roasted tomatoes
  • peasant bread
  • green salad "bar"
We eat pasta at least once a week around here but I don't usually post about it because, well, it's boring. But tonight's pasta was anything but!

It was CSA pickup day again and we got loads of tomatoes. Up to now some of the tomatoes in the CSA boxes have been not quite ripe, which allowed us to put them on the windowsills and then forget about them for a few days while they ripened up. However, all of today's tomatoes were perfectly ripe, which means I need to use them FAST since I'm not into canning or preserving or any of that stuff (might have to GET into it though, if this keeps up).

Sooo, all I did was follow this recipe for roasting them with garlic, basil and balsamic vinegar, then I served the resulting delicious melange over farfalle (aka bow-tie pasta). It was SO yummy, y'all. This time I refrained from tarting it up with any eggplant or zucchini (though we got bunches of both in today's box).

The bread was from the book. I SWEAR I will post a review of this soon. A few people have emailed me with questions and I will try to get those answers out this week, I promise!

The salad was the exact same one we've been eating for the past week, but with fresh ingredients. I'm getting a little bored with salad, frankly, but the kids are always happy to eat it so it's a painless way to get veggies into them. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Garlicky pork

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled garlicky pork tenderloin
  • grilled zucchini
  • green salad "bar"
Okay, this was really easy.

For the pork, I got out my giant mortar and pestle and bashed up three garlic cloves, a couple of teaspoons of kosher salt (might have been closer to a tablespoon; I wasn't measuring), a tiny bunch of fresh oregano from the herb garden, the juice of one lemon, and a couple of tablespoons of EVOO (equal to the amount of lemon juice, more or less) until it formed a slurry. Then I stuck a pork tenderloin in a plastic zipper bag, poured the garlic slurry on top, smooshed it around to coat the pork, and stuck it in the fridge for about 5 hours. Then I grilled it over medium-high heat for a total of 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so to get all the sides in contact with the grill. Tent with foil and rest for 5 minutes or so, cut into half-inch slices on the diagonal, and enjoy!

This was the last of the CSA zucchini -- just in time to pick up another box tomorrow! Heh. I will probably be begging you all for zucchini recipes before long. Anyhoo, this was a HUGE zucchini that I sliced lengthwise into quarter-inch slices, brushed both sides with EVOO and seasoned with salt and pepper, then slapped on the grill (while the pork was resting) for a minute or two per side. Delish!

The salad bar ingredients were identical to last night's.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My new go-to meal

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled chicken drumsticks & thighs
  • rosemary-onion focaccia
  • leftover zucchini with bacon & onions
  • green salad "bar"
This is becoming my new go-to meal this summer. Tonight's dinner was basically a repeat of our dinner from June 4 of this year, except that we had the leftover zucchini from Saturday, and tonight's salad bar featured purchased mixed lettuce, sliced carrots from the CSA, sliced cucumbers from the CSA, sliced banana peppers from the CSA, and mixed cherry tomatoes from my dad's garden. Yum!

Make your own damn lunch!

I was so busy this morning that I sort of forgot to eat lunch until about 1:30 or so, at which point I was STARVING. Unfortunately I was feeling totally uninspired by the contents of my fridge and pantry. The only thing that looked like it MIGHT have possibilities was a can of butter beans. I know, right? So here's what I did.

First I peeled three cloves of garlic and stuck them in the food processor, whizzing away with the chopper blade until they were nicely minced. Then I dumped in the can of rinsed, drained butter beans, along with a bunch of fresh herbs (parsley, basil, oregano and a bit of mint from my herb garden), some salt and pepper, the juice of half a lemon, a good glug of EVOO (I dunno, couple of tablespoons, maybe?) and pulsed it a few times just to mix everything together. I wasn't going for a smooth puree, but you could certainly do it that way if you don't want it chunky.

Voila! Bean dip! I scooped it into a bowl, drizzled on just a wee bit more EVOO for good measure, and shoveled great gobs of it into my mouth via some torn-up hunks of whole-grain tortilla. (Pita, ciabatta or focaccia would work great, too!) It was delicious! The leftovers are in the fridge awaiting a midnight snack attack.

The only drawback? Whoa -- MAJOR garlic breath. But I don't care.

(Incidentally, if you're just tuning in today, I've posted several backdated entries below this one. Sorry it took so long to get them up, but if you read them, you'll see why I've sort of had my hands full. Poor little-big boy child!)

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Tonight's Menu

  • barbecued pork on buns
  • marinated cucumber salad
  • sliced tomatoes
Finally, the boy was feeling good enough to eat "normal" food tonight! So I went whole hog (hee! see what I did there?) and made some barbecued pork sandwiches for dinner.

I have to admit, this pork was sort of an experiment. What I did was take a shoulder roast, rub it with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika, and stick it on a rack in a roasting pan. Then I added some water to the bottom of the pan and dropped in two large-ish whole sprigs of rosemary. The idea was to get the rosemary to barely scent/flavor the meat. I covered the pan tightly with heavy-duty foil and stuck it in the oven at 200 degrees F for about 5 hours.

When I pulled it out of the oven I stuck an instant-read thermometer in the roast just to be sure it was fully cooked, which it was, so then I removed it from the pan and set up the grill for indirect heat (two burners on medium, one burner unlit). I put the roast on the unlit burner and started basting it with a Carolina-style barbecue sauce (I buy this already made; it's a mustard-based sauce that goes great with pork).

After maybe 15 minutes total, flipping it from one side to another halfway through, the sauce had kind of baked on to the meat. There still wasn't any browning, though, so I flipped the roast over to one of the lit burners for just a couple of minutes per side to get some nice grill mark action going. Much better, aesthetically speaking! After resting it for a few minutes, I shredded it and served it on buns with thinly sliced sweet onions and more barbecue sauce on the side. Delicious! And not as much trouble as it sounds, honest.

This cucumber salad is one of my favorite things. DH and I first discovered it at a Hungarian restaurant near here and we absolutely fell in love with the way this refreshing, cool salad contrasted with the rather rich main dishes (I admit it, I'm a chicken paprikas addict). A couple of years ago I was poking around in an antique store when I found a little pamphlet of Hungarian recipes. Lo and behold, there was our favorite cucumber salad!

Here's how you make it: take two good-sized cucumbers, wash and peel them, then cut cross-wise into thin slices. Put them in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt, then set aside for one hour. After an hour, start squeezing the cucumber slices in your hand, discarding the liquid. Put the squeezed cucumbers into a non-reactive bowl, then mix together the following:

3 Tbs white vinegar
3 Tbs water
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp minced garlic (I grated it with my microplane)

Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers, toss to coat, then sprinkle another 1/4 tsp or so of paprika over top. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. We like to serve it the way they do in the restaurant, with a tiny dollop of sour cream on top.

So yummy, and the crunchy, vinegary cucumbers were a nice foil to the rich barbecued pork!

Oh and P.S.: the cucumbers and tomatoes were from the CSA, natch.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

More soft-ish things

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled ham steak
  • cornbread
  • sauteed zucchini with bacon and onion
This was Day Two of Get Some Real Food Into The Boy After His Tooth Extractions. Hmm, I should come up with an acronym for that, maybe. It's a little long as-is. Anyway, tonight I made food that was slightly LESS soft than last night, but still easy on the gums. And still easy, period!

The ham was just a packaged cross-cut ham steak, slapped on the grill over high heat for maybe 4-5 minutes per side (you'll want to adjust that based on the thickness of your steak). Yummy, easy and super fast!

I've given you the cornbread recipe before. It's easy, too. Honest!

And I KNOW I am making zucchini with bacon and onions practically every single night, but tonight it was different because the zucchini was cut into a different shape. Yep. (Picture me nodding earnestly at you here.) Usually I slice it into coins and/or half-moons, but tonight some of it was shredded (leftover from a couple of days ago when I made these cupcakes, which were FABULOUS) and some was cut into batons. TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

Why are you looking at me like that?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Soft things

Tonight's Menu

  • sauteed tilapia fillets
  • buttered egg noodles
  • steamed broccoli
The boy child had four primary molars pulled Wednesday in anticipation of braces, and he's been eating nothing but pudding, applesauce, Jello and the occasional bowl of overcooked pasta ever since, poor kid! I wanted to cook a dinner he could actually EAT that contained a bit of protein and veggie. This worked out great and he was happy to get some real food in his tummy. Who knew a 12 year old could get tired of pudding and ice cream?!

This was also a super easy dinner to make. I just seasoned some tilapia fillets with salt and pepper and sauteed them in a skillet with EVOO -- done! The egg noodles were from a package, just boiled until done and then drained and tossed with some butter. Broccoli was steamed in the microwave. I cooked everything a little longer than usual to yield a softer texture for the boy, but nothing was mushy. Hooray for easy, nutritious, AND soft on the gums!

Monday, June 16, 2008

My favorite summer salad

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled sweet Italian sausages
  • corn on the cob
  • potato-tomato-artichoke salad
The sausages were grilled the same way as always, working around my sausage-grilling handicap: simmered in water for about 15 minutes, then crisped up on the grill over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side or until nicely browned. Delicious!

I love grilled corn on the cob but NO ONE ELSE in this family will eat it. I know! So I cook it in the microwave. I remove the leaves and silk, give it a rinse, wrap each ear toffee-style in some wax paper with the edges twisted shut, then nuke them on high power for 10 minutes (for four ears). They come out just fine and all, but BORING.

It's finally time for my favorite summer salad! I've told you about this one before, but here it is again: just take some red-skinned potatoes, cut them into bite-sized chunks, simmer them in water until tender, then let them cool. Once they've cooled, whomp them into a bowl with some fresh mozzarella (you can buy the teeny balls, or get the larger ones and cut them up), some halved cherry tomatoes or larger tomatoes cut in wedges/chunks, and a chiffonade of fresh basil (that just means rolling up the leaves and slicing them into thin ribbons). Then take a small jar of marinated artichokes, drain and reserve the marinade, and mix the artichokes in with the potatoes and whatnot. Drizzle on enough of the reserved marinade to moisten everything up nicely, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss to coat, and chill it for about an hour.

This is SO GOOD! This time around, the potatoes and some of the tomatoes were from the CSA box, the other tomatoes were from my dad's garden, and the basil was from my own herb garden. And if I haven't yet tempted you to make this salad, here's a photo of tonight's version to tempt you further!

Yeah, you know you want it.

More cooking from the CSA box: slow-roasted veggies? Oven-poached veggies? Veggie confit?

Yeah, I am not sure what to call this one, y'all. Here's what I did; maybe YOU can figure it out!

I wanted to slow-roast some of the CSA tomatoes in a bunch of olive oil based on this recipe by my lovely pal Kim. So I cut a bunch of tomatoes into wedges and tossed them in a baking pan along with some unpeeled garlic cloves, and then I thought, "Hey! I bet those little ichiban eggplants from the CSA would work a treat in here, too!" So I tossed those in as well (some of them were whole because they were just finger-sized, and others were cut into chunks).

I could have left it there but you all know me; I can never leave well enough alone. So I chopped up a medium-sized zucchini and popped that in the pan as well. Then I tore in some fresh basil (from the CSA), drizzled over quite a lot of extra-virgin olive oil (REALLY a lot -- I didn't cover the veggies entirely or anything but I definitely covered the bottom of the pan), shook on a few glugs of balsamic vinegar, sprinkled the lot with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and popped it into the oven, uncovered, at 300 degrees F. The total cooking time was about 90 minutes, and I gave it a stir every half-hour or so.

Oh DUDES. This is one of the most delicious things I've ever made, I'm not kidding. After it came out of the oven I took a spoon and squished the garlic cloves so the smooshy garlic goodness squooshed out of the paper (which I threw away). I let it cool a bit and then spooned some into a bowl, scooping up great gobs of it with thick slices of peasant bread (from that bread book I can't stop talking about). HEAVEN, people. Absolute heaven.

This is going to be my lunch every single day until I've eaten it all. And possibly my breakfast, as well. It's THAT good.

But I still don't know what to call it!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day dinner

Tonight's Menu

  • seafood-sausage gumbo
  • rice
Yes! It was gumbo for Father's Day over here. I made it pretty much the same way as last time, including chickening out on the roux before it was really dark enough. Oh well. It was still very tasty, and the onions, garlic, okra (fresh this time -- add it with the other veggies at the beginning) and green peppers were from the CSA. And the bay leaves were from my little bay tree! Can't get much more local than your own back patio, eh?

The rice was just plain white long-grain, cooked on my microwave's "smart" setting. You put it in the bowl and pour the gumbo over top. Yum!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A peek inside the CSA box

Now that our CSA shares are featuring oodles of veggies and not so many greens, I'm starting to go a little nuts, but in a GOOD way. Opening the box every week (well, every two weeks in our case) is like opening a big surprise package, and I find myself oohing and aahing over each item and fantasizing about what I'll make with it!

Yes, it's true. I'm a food nerd.

Here's a little peek inside this week's box, and the fantasy recipes I've been concocting:

Early Girl Tomatoes - oodles of 'em! We usually just eat these sliced on sandwiches or wedged in salads, but I have a secret desire to roast them a la my fabulous foodie pal, Kim. Maybe I'll set a few aside for salads/sandwiches and roast the rest!

Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes - I KNOW what I'm doing with these -- they are going in a big bowl with the red cherry, red pear, yellow pear, chocolate cherry and snow white cherry tomatoes that I've picked this week from my garden and my dad's. Then I'll shred in some basil (see below), maybe sprinkle on some very thinly sliced red onions (ditto) and dress them very simply with some good EVOO and balsamic vinegar. Voila, tomato salad!

Onions - several little bulbs of white, red and yellow onions. We've been loving the red ones on focaccia lately and they're great in salads and sandwiches as well. The yellow and white ones I'll use in everything. I go through a LOT of onions when I cook, y'all!

Sweet Basil - we got big hunks of this in our box and I am SO EXCITED, because my own basil is doing horribly this year. We'll eat this in EVERYTHING -- salads, casseroles, in sandwiches in place of lettuce, you name it!

Zucchini - two HUGE ones and two medium-sized ones. I'm using some to make these chocolate cupcakes (can't WAIT to try them!) and will probably grill the rest or fry them up in a skillet with bacon and onions.

Pattypan Squash - OMG, we got two of these and they are as big as pumpkins! I really like the pattypan squash casserole I made last night, but I'm wondering how these would be if I peeled them, chunked them up, then stuck them in the oven with some orange juice & zest, honey and cinnamon? I know that works with acorn and butternut squash, but what about pattypan? I don't know. It sounds good, but it could be gross.

Okra - quite a few pods of this! I love okra just breaded and fried, but I'll bet money DH wants me to make gumbo with it. And I just might! He's been really hungry for it lately and I haven't made it in forever. Ooo -- possible Father's Day dinner idea? Here's hoping he doesn't read this beforehand and ruin the surprise!

Cucumbers - two skinny ones and two big fat ones. The skinny ones will go into our almost-nightly salads, but I'm going to make a marinated cucumber salad with the big fat ones. It's a dish DH and I love from a local Hungarian/Romanian restaurant and I finally found a recipe for it in an old Hungarian cooking pamphlet at the antique store. I'll share the recipe when I make it!

Peppers - both sweet banana peppers, which I love sliced in salads, and green bell peppers, which I'll throw into side dishes or grill with fajitas.

Red Potatoes - we use a lot of these! I can make my chuffed potatoes with them, or my favorite summer salad (which also features tomatoes and basil), or potato-onion packets on the grill. Yum!

Ichiban Eggplant - we received several of these teensy, adorable eggplants and this is where I started getting a little weird. I want to roast some garlic and mix it, along with some shredded basil, into some ricotta cheese (obviously it would be seasoned with salt and pepper and whatnot as well). Then I want to grill the eggplant the way I do zucchini and wrap the grilled strips around spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture. And then just pork them down like chips. Is that nuts? Would it work? I'm going to have to try it!

We also got some lovely zinnias, but I have no plans to eat them. Hee!