Monday, March 31, 2008

Fish tacos

Tonight's Menu

  • fish tacos, deconstructed or not according to taste
Okay, so here's the deal. I made panko-breaded tilapia in the usual way, and also coleslaw (ditto). Then I warmed some flour tortillas in the microwave and set out a bowl of shredded cheese. Diners had the option of filling their tortillas with crispy fish fillets, cheese and coleslaw, or eating any combination of those items separately.

I was surprised to see the kids really going for it, loading up their tacos! The girl ended up not liking hers and took it apart to eat piece-by-piece. The boy opted for just a fish and cheese taco with coleslaw on the side, and didn't eat much, but he's been sick for the past few days so he doesn't have much of an appetite anyway.

I, of course, thought they were delicious.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Tonight's Menu

  • spiced pork tenderloin w/mango salsa
  • whipped chipotle-orange sweet potatoes
  • whole-grain tortilla chips
  • green salad "bar" w/homemade ranch-style dressing
Dudes! I know, I have not posted in forever. Sorry about that. We've had a stressful couple of weeks here in the Badger household, and for simplicity's sake I reverted to a lot of old standby meals that I've already told you about ad nauseum.

Tonight's spiced pork tenderloin was this recipe, broiled in the oven for 10 minutes per side (for a total of 20 minutes). I actually made this and the mango salsa (this recipe but without the peaches) a couple of days ago and just warmed up the pork tonight.

In last week's CSA box we got three tiny little sweet potatoes, not enough to make fries with, and I've been trying to think of a way to use them. I ended up chopping them into chunks (without peeling) and simmering them in water until they were tender, then peeling them and dumping them into the food processor with a canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (I didn't add any extra sauce, though), some salt, and about a teaspoon or so of orange zest (the oranges were also from the CSA box, whee!). This made a nice, slightly spicy puree which I dumped into a serving bowl and drizzled with a teeny bit of really good EVOO. I thought it was fabulous but DH didn't care for it because he doesn't like chipotle. More for me!

Tonight's salad bar was just mixed greens from the CSA along with grape tomatoes, sliced cucumber, and sliced baby carrots. However, we were nearly out of ranch dressing and I haven't had a chance to get out to the store to buy more (did I mention STRESSFUL WEEK?) so I made my own. It was so easy, too! I don't have measurements because I just kind of winged it, but basically I took some mayo and whisked in enough buttermilk to get it to the consistency I wanted it. Most of the recipes I saw online called for sour cream, but we were pretty much out of that too (I KNOW! I'm going shopping tomorrow, I swear) so I added a little bit of plain yogurt for extra tang. Then I whisked in some garlic powder, onion powder, dried dill, dried parsley, salt and pepper. I'm really happy with how it came out, except that I added a little too much dill.

Alrighty! Tomorrow, grocery shopping! And Wednesday, another CSA box!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Eating locally (at least partially)

Tonight's Menu

  • sauteed tilapia fillets
  • red quinoa
  • green salad "bar"
Okay, this was pretty easy. The tilapia fillets were just seasoned with salt and pepper and sauteed in a pan with EVOO. My family has come to prefer the panko-breaded version but it was a long day and I couldn't be arsed. The sauteed version is delicious too, so bite me. (Did I mention it was a long day? Yeah. A REALLY long day.)

The red quinoa is Ancient Harvest brand. It's supposed to be just like regular quinoa, I think, but it tastes different to me and has a slightly different texture (crunchier and a wee bit bitter, to my palate). Frankly, I prefer the traditional ("blonde") version. But this one was okay, too. I tossed my individual portion with a bit of EVOO, salt and pepper and that made it a bit more palatable.

Tonight's salad bar was quite an exciting affair, owing to the fact that we picked up our first CSA share today! I've been wanting to get involved with a CSA for ages, but most of the ones in my area have long waiting lists and/or no distribution points that are convenient to my house (I mean, saving fuel IS part of the point, right?). We finally found one with no waiting list and a relatively close pickup point, so YAY! Fresh, local, organic produce! Can you tell I'm excited about this? (Incidentally, if you're in the Austin area and want the scoop on this particular CSA, feel free to email me at makeyourowndinner AT gmail DOT com.)

Anyway, so tonight's salad bar was mixed salad greens (from the CSA) and diced raw kohlrabi (ditto), along with cucumber, baby carrots, and mixed cherry/pear tomatoes, all of which were from the supermarket. It won't be long until we have lettuce and veggies from our own backyard salad garden, though! Hooray for spring!

Monday, March 17, 2008

No corned beef here

Tonight's Menu

  • Guinness roast beef
  • mashed potatoes
  • buttered cabbage
I literally dreamed up this beef recipe. At night, while I was asleep. I know. I'm a freak.

What I did was take a big ol' beef roast (I think it was either chuck or shoulder), season it with salt and pepper, and brown it on both sides in a skillet. Then I whomped it in a baking pan with about a tablespoon of whole peppercorns, one chopped onion, three large bay leaves and a bottle of Guinness stout. Cover, cook in the oven at 250 degrees F for about 4-5 hours, then remove from oven. Take the beef out of the pan (it will be falling apart, if you're lucky) and set it aside to keep warm. Then pour the pan juices through a mesh strainer into a saucepan, discarding the onion, peppercorns and bay leaves. Whisk a bit of flour and water into the pan juices, bring to a boil, and cook until the gravy has thickened. Serve alongside beef.

The mashed potatoes were Ore-Ida frozen, jazzed up with butter, salt and pepper. I know, my Irish ancestors are all rolling in their graves.

The cabbage was half a head of savoy, chopped into large-ish chunks, then steamed in a pan on the stove (just add a couple of tablespoons of water to the cabbage, then cover and simmer) until crisp-tender. Then I tossed in a big knob of butter, some salt and freshly ground pepper. Then I poured myself a Guinness and forgot that I'd left the stove on. Heh. It didn't burn, thank goodness, but it got a bit more caramelized than I was really going for. Oh well, it was still good.

I don't usually talk about dessert on here, but you all have to bear witness to the degree that I half-assed this thing. I knew I should make SOME sort of special dessert, it being St. Patrick's Day and all, but I didn't want to mess with cookies or cake or anything like that. Besides, by the time I thought of dessert, the meat was already in the oven on low heat so I couldn't have baked anything anyway. I had just about decided to run to the corner drugstore and pray that they had a box of lime Jello (what? it's green!) when I remembered some no-bake cookies that I used to make for my kids when they were little. I knew they involved oatmeal somehow, and oatmeal = Irish! It does! Shut up!

Anyway, I found the recipe! (If that link doesn't work, search for Carolina Delights.) So I made them. I couldn't even be arsed to make them into drop cookies; I just dumped the pot of goo into a 9x13-inch baking dish (which made for REALLY thin bar cookies -- you might want to go with an 8- or 9-inch square pan instead if you try this at home).

For an extra measure of Irish-osity, I drizzled them with an icing made from powdered sugar, milk and green food coloring. Oh hell yeah, I did.

If I were Catholic, I'd have to go to confession over this, y'all. But I'm not, so I believe I'll just have another Guinness!


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pork two ways

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled pork tenderloin, two ways
  • coleslaw
  • sweet potato fries
Holy cow, y'all, I can't believe it's been so long since I posted! Sorry about that! I guess I've been really tired in the evenings or something. Too pooped to post.

ANYWAY, it has been really warm here the past few days so I am grilling YET AGAIN. Tonight I did pork tenderloins two different ways, which sounds all fancy until you find out that only the marinades/rubs were different. They cooked the same amount of time at the same temperature.

I used this recipe on one of the tenderloins. I've been making this all winter in my oven broiler (just broil for the same amount of time you'd grill it -- about 20 minutes or so) but grilling adds an extra smokiness that is just SO GOOD.

For the other tenderloin, I crushed about four cloves of garlic with my mortar and pestle, then added the juice of one lemon, about 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest, maybe a teaspoon of dried oregano, some sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a bit of EVOO. Then I just poured it into a big plastic zipper bag with the tenderloin and marinated it for about an hour before grilling alongside the spiced tenderloin.

I made the latter marinade because I was craving something nice and garlicky. My kids have complained in the past that my garlicky dishes make their throats itch, which is why I made them the spiced one above (which they've eaten many times with no problems). So, guess which tenderloin had NO leftovers and which one was barely touched? Yeah. Apparently they can tolerate garlic again. If I'd known that, I'd have made BOTH tenderloins with the garlic/lemon marinade! Oh well. Next time.

Pretty sure we've already discussed sweet potato fries.

And coleslaw.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Crispy fish, take two

Tonight's Menu

  • pan-fried tilapia in panko
  • coleslaw
  • green salad "bar"
Yeah, this was pretty much a repeat of our dinner from January 23 but with last night's salad bar instead of the warm veggie salad. (And also, I used the food processor to chop the cabbage and shred the carrots tonight.)

No leftovers tonight! The girl had seconds on fish and the boy had thirds on coleslaw!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Grilled sausages

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled sweet Italian sausages
  • onions caramelized on the grill
  • green salad "bar"
Yep, I'm grilling again. But now that it's March, it seems less wrong somehow. And besides, today was a beautiful weather oasis in what is otherwise supposed to be a chilly, nasty, rainy week.

Okay, these were fresh sausages (not cured/smoked/dried) so I did my usual deal of simmering them in a pan of water for about 15 minutes before slapping them on the grill to crisp and brown the skins. They were completely delicious. Grilled sausages rock my world, y'all.

I cut a large, sweet yellow onion (think Texas 1015, Vidalia, or something of that ilk) into half-inch wedges, laid the wedges on a piece of heavy-duty foil so that they were BARELY overlapping, dotted with butter, seasoned with a little salt and freshly ground pepper, then folded the foil around the onion so it made a sort of packet. I slapped this on the grill as soon as I lit it and just left it alone while the grill warmed up for the sausages. When I turned the sausages, I also flipped the packet over. It ended up cooking for around 20 minutes or so, I think, and the onions came out tender, sweet and delicious. I actually crave onions this way from time to time!

Incidentally, if it's not grilling weather yet where you are, you could make this whole meal in the oven. Prepare the foil packet of onions and put it in a 400 degree oven (either on a cookie sheet or right on the rack) before you put the sausages on to simmer. When the sausages are through simmering, remove the foil packet of onions and turn on the broiler. Then just broil the sausages, turning occasionally, until the skins are crisp and nicely browned. Your house will smell AMAZING, I promise!

Tonight's salad bar was mixed greens with sliced carrots, sliced cucumber, and a medley of cherry-sized tomatoes. My local sucky supermarket had assortments of red and yellow pear tomatoes along with some that looked like tiny watermelons, so I figured what the heck? They were good, but I can't WAIT until I have my own fresh tomatoes from the garden! Only a few more months, I hope!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Another (delicious!) take on cabbage

Tonight's Menu

  • sauteed rainbow trout fillets
  • mixed-grain rice
  • savoy cabbage with bacon and mustard
Yes, I know. I'm talking about cabbage again. But hey! Don't run away! This time there was BACON!

All I did was lop off about half a head of savoy cabbage and cut it into 1-inch wide strips (more or less). Then I chopped up a few thick strips of bacon and cooked them in a large skillet until they were not quite crisp and had rendered out quite a bit of fat. I tossed in the cabbage, stirring until it had wilted down a bit and the bacon had crisped up. I ended up having not QUITE enough bacon fat to really wilt down the cabbage, so I added just a few tablespoons of water to get some braising/steaming action happening. When the cabbage was tender, I stirred in a teensy amount of stone-ground mustard (like maybe half a teaspoon) and some freshly ground pepper. I didn't add salt because both the bacon and mustard were salty.

This was absolutely DELICIOUS, I am not kidding. You couldn't really taste the mustard at all, but it gave the dish a nice depth and provided some acidity to balance out the richness of the bacon. The crinkly texture of the savoy cabbage (as opposed to my usual plain green cabbage) was a perfect vehicle for the crunchy mustard seeds and crispy bits of bacon. SO GOOD! I will make it this way again for sure.

The trout fillets were just seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper, then sauteed in a large skillet with some EVOO (that's extra virgin olive oil, for those who don't know). I started them skin-side down and then flipped them halfway through. They really only take about five minutes total, if that.

The grain thing was something new. My favorite skincare company, DHC, also sells a few high-end food items and when I placed my last order for moisturizer I decided to give the multi-grain rice a try. It was kind of a pain, actually -- you have to soak it for 30 minutes, then cook it for 15. Not all of the water got absorbed so I let it sit, covered, for a while and then ended up draining it. It was actually really good, though! It has barley and rye berries in addition to a couple of different types of rice, and it has a lot more flavor and texture than plain rice. With a little salt and pepper, it makes a really tasty side dish. DH even liked it, and the boy had multiple helpings!

It was SO cold and windy and nasty today, but I'm hoping this is winter's last hurrah. I have a bunch more GRILLING to do, yo! Stay tuned!