What joy there is when the right recipe is finally found!
(Who cares about the cookies with company like this?)
(Who cares about the cookies with company like this?)
One of my favorites were Cheddar Cheese Rounds, from the same magazine. These also had a back burn which cut through the richness of ground pecans, extra sharp cheddar cheese, and creamy sweet butter. They are flakey and crumbly. One hint, though: Label them. Everyone thought they were some kind of weird cookie, and didn't try them without prompting. Live and learn.
Normally, I cringe at the thought of Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip. Too often, it's a gloppy, greasy, mayonnaise-tasting mess. Same magazine again--great recipe. The rich artichokes and spinach nicely balance a Parmesan cream sauce. Diagonally sliced mini-baguettes made the perfect dipper.
There was definitely a hot and spicy theme going on with the Honey-Chipotle Glazed Pecans as another appetizer offering. These go together in a snap. First, they take a bath in honey warmed with ground chipotle powder and cinnamon. They bake for about 10 minutes before showering in a mixture of sugar and salt. After a litlte drying time, they are ready to eat.
I'll come back later with some of the vegetarian/vegan foods we've been eating, as well as the results of our upcoming four-generation baking day. In the meantime, I hope you are able to live in the joy of the holiday spirit and focus on what matters. A blessed holiday to all of you.
I did do something today that is certainly not the norm--I cooked lunch and dinner. Usually, it's every man for himself for all but one meal. However, I hadn't gotten to the Chicken Enchiladas with Refried Beans and Jack Cheese from Quick Fix Meals. This is the meal I've been planning to cook since Thursday. (Don't worry; it's been hours since we ate, and no signs of food poisoning yet.) Instead of using raw strips of chicken and sauteeing them as the recipe calls for, I diced two precooked chicken breasts (the leftover Unbelievable Chicken), mixed them with sauteed onions, garlic, and green chiles, then mixed in some refried beans, enchilada sauce, and cilantro. The mixture was folded into whole wheat tortillas, topped with a bit more sauce and some cheese, and popped into the toaster oven for only about 15 minutes to bake. I'll be honest--I didn't love these. However, they work. They're honest, straightforward food that is healthy and, truly, quick. The Husband asked for me to make two more for his lunch tomorrow, and I put enough filling in the freezer to make probably four more.
This brings me to an interesting point about Miller's recipes. I don't think she has any true concept of yield. I didn't have to make the recipe to know that an onion, 1 1/4 pounds of chicken, and an entire can of beans was too much filling for four 8-inch tortillas. I don't know where she comes up with some her numbers. I saw this again when I made the Red Potatoes with Capers, Tomatoes, and Onions for tonight's dinner. She called for 6 small red potatoes to make 4 servings. Um....not where I live. So, if you use her book, use her time estimates and yields as rough estimates, at best.
These potatoes were very good, and could become my favorites. To reach that culinary height, though, I need to make some changes and apply my own skills and knowledge when a recipe leaves out something I know to be important. When making a potato salad (which this is, no matter what the recipe is called), I usually cook the potatoes whole to keep them from absorbing too much cooking water and diluting the dressing. Likewise, I usually toss them back in the pot for a couple of minutes after draining, to be absolutely sure they are dried out adequately. Then, while they are still hot, I add the dressing. In this case, the piquant dressing was watered down significantly from the potatoes' residual moisture. My fault. I know better. Outside of that, though, I loved this. Capers really appeal to me for reasons I don't quite understand. In this case, they beautifully offset the ripe plum tomatoes, sweet red onion, and the classic red wine vinegar and olive oil. We ate this at room temperature, which was fine, but I think it would have really been a standout served warm, as well. It would have even benefitted from a bit of crisped pancetta or crumbled bacon.
I still had some steaks in the freezer from a large Costco package. They seemed to be just right for the Pan Seared Steaks with Garlic-Rosemary Glaze which I topped with Sauteed Wild Mushrooms. Both of these were quite good, although I don't usually pan-sear steaks. I will do it more often now, though, as it allowed me to make a pan sauce of vermouth, onion, garlic, and rosemary which cooked down to a flavorful, silky coating on the meat. The mushrooms weren't really that different from what I do without a recipe, but we love sauteed mushrooms on meat. The key, I think, is too cook the mushrooms by themselves until the moisture has cooked out and a brown crust begins to develop. Then, and only then, do you add wetter vegetables like onions, along with the recipe's salt. The recipe doesn't necessarily follow this order, but in this case, I honored my knowledge and did it right!
I'm not completely sure just yet what this week will bring in the cooking realm. I just haven't pulled it together enough to make a comprehensive shopping list and a real meal plan--that's never good! I'm just going to grill some burgers this afternoon and serve them on the leftover Moomie's Buns that are stashed in the freezer, and I think I'll roast some potato wedges to go with them. I have chicken thawing now to go into a sweet and tangy (supposedly) marinade for tomorrow night's dinner, and I'm also tossing around the possibility of another kebab dinner that has a surprising, new to me ingredient threaded onto the skewers with the meat and vegetables. That's assuming, of course, that I don't invoke the 12-hour rule! Check back in to see what happens.
For dinner tonight, I made a "morph" recipe (Robin Miller's term for planned-overs) from Thursday's Balsamic Roasted Pork Tenderloin. (Other recipes included for the planned-overs include wonton soup and pork fried rice.) I morphed the recipe a little more, adding antioxidant rich red and green bell peppers and chopped onion. While her recipe calls for a 5-minute simmer, I threw everything in the pan, covered it, and went and did other things for about 45 minutes. I didn't have to, but I couldn't figure out how to shred the pork tenderloin in it's original form, so I just sliced it really thin, then simmered it until it began to fall apart. It didn't change the taste, just made me happier. And it IS all about me! I was a little uncertain about the corn in this, but it ended up being quite good. Unlike most sloppy joe recipes, this one contains cumin and chili powder. It is also thinner than most, due to the addition of a can of diced tomatoes and their juice. I upped the ketchup a bit; I don't know how much--I just eyeballed it. I just didn't have enough liquid, and I wanted what was there to be a bit thicker.
This recipe was by no means a jaw-dropping WOW!!! But, it would definitely work for a weeknight. In fact, I've already packaged up two nights' worth of sloppy joe mixture to pull out of the freezer at a later date. All part of my move toward eating at home instead of eating out. I mean, seriously. This may not be a WOW!!! but it's gotta be better than Taco Bell! I've also packaged up diced pork for the Pork Fried Rice, and sliced pork for a morph from another recipe. They're vacuum sealed and in the freezer, ready to pull out for some quick, easy dinners later. Another bonus--one pan dirty. That's it!
To prove what a truly unselfish person I am, I packed up the leftovers for the Husband's lunch. It wasn't easy, though. He owes me...maybe the Hope Diamond.
We went out for lunch at a new neighborhood place today, and after that, really felt the need for some good, home-cooked food. I did cheat a little; I had some Trader Joe's Garlic and Herb "Marinated" Shrimp in the freezer. I say "Marinated" because I think somebody told a little white lie. If they were REALLY marinated, they probably would not have been cardboard dry. Whatever. Note to self: This is why you don't buy things in boxes in the freezer case!
I did make some Broccoli Rabe with Garlic from The Barefoot Contessa at Home (bet you thought she was gone, didn't you?), and had a replay of her Mustard-Roasted Potatoes. I'm pretty sure that roasted potatoes in any form will be what we eat all day in Heaven; yum. I also made some corn on the cob, but despite it's nice, full appearance, it wasn't very good. It didn't pass the fingernail-pop test, so I should've known.
There is cooking planned for tomorrow, again from Barefoot Contessa. In case you're wondering, this cookbook came up on the Sunday Game of the Week over the Cooking Light Bulletin Board. It's number 141 on my book shelf--this week's lucky number. I have a couple more recipes planned from that, then an old stand-by that I haven't seen for years. I found it when I was cleaning out a closet. Stay tuned, and I'll reveal that one on Tuesday.
The "Maui" in the meat led my thoughts to pineapple, in two forms. The first was a Pineapple Vinaigrette drizzled over smokey greens and scallions wilted on the barbecue while the meat cooked, then given a rough chop before hitting the salad plate. I'd still like to work with this dressing a little bit, but it was very good even on this first go-round. I used some coconut oil in the dressing to continue the tropical theme. A little bit of serrano chile added just enough heat to wake up the taste buds.
Another go-with was Tyler Florence's Cold Sesame Noodles. These were good, although I think I need to step away from the Asian influence for a few days. The same notes are showing up too often! The Sesame Noodles would be a great picnic dish, as there is absolutely nothing in there to go bad, and they can be served cold or at room temperature.We finished off with a dessert of pineapple and bananas brushed with coconut oil, brown sugar, and cinnamon before being sizzled on the grill, then topped with honey-sweetened Greek yogurt and chopped almonds. (I wanted macadamia nuts, but they were $20 a pound at Whole Foods--and they were rancid. Um...thanks anyway!) I also used a little bit of Tuesday night's fresh raspberry sauce to decorate the plate and add another burst of flavor.
1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 tablespoons mild oil, such as canola oil
1/4 serrano chile, seeds and ribs removed
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
When she came to live with us again, we had to do a little reconfiguring of the spaces in our house to give her a place to sleep and put her stuff. That meant that, among other things, my cookbook collection had to be incorporated into the rest of the house--somewhere. The only place that gigantamongous book case would fit was in the hall, which really wasn't a bad solution. Until we found out that the Beast had an appetite. For cookbooks. For vegetarian cookbooks, to be precise. I know labs will eat anything, but this one really pushes his luck--and my patience!
For the past few months, in an effort to salvage the cookbook collection, the book case has been wrapped in lovely green plastic garden fencing, with the dining room chairs pushed up against it for insurance. Just a few weeks ago, I came home to find that the chairs had been moved, the fencing unraveled, and at least 20 cookbooks in various states of "chew" were strewn around the living room. Good thing Nonni moved out, because those cookbooks had to be moved back to safety. In an interim attempt to protect them, I moved them into the granddaughters' bedroom, since they don't come over that often until school is out. The size of the piles they made was a little bit frightening. Oh, and that box you see in the room? That's new ones I ordered and haven't even unpacked yet. They're keeping company with the pair of shoes I ordered from Zappo's right before they casted my foot, so I haven't even tried them on to see if they fit. Hope so, because I think I would be stretching even Zappo's generous return policy to try to send them back now!
Anyway, after a couple of good workouts at the gym, it was time to move the bookcase and replace the books. The Husband helped with part A, but wasn't really interested in part B. That's fine, because it was a chance for me to get acquainted with old friends. The only hard part was to keep working, and not sit down in the floor, thumbing through all the cookbooks. Since he had a work function, it was a good night for me to just have my goat cheese and arugula sandwich and move books. It was a lot of work, but I'm enjoying the end result.
Wednesday night, I ventured into the Greek section of the cookbook and turned out the Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken. All I can say is "Opa!" My only regret is not using kosher chicken. I've gotten so used to the moist, flavorful results from kosher chicken that I am never satisfied with grocery stick chicken any more. However, once I tasted the potatoes, the chicken didn't matter. Quartered red potatoes begin to brown in a hot oven by themselves, and after 20 minutes, the chicken is added on a rack, and the remaining garlic and lemon infused marinade and a bit of water are poured over the potatoes. They continue to cook until they are crispy and caramelized outside, but moist and silky inside. Portion control was very difficult for this one.
Do you notice what's wrong with this picture? Yep--there is a distinctly monochromatic look to the plate.I have an excuse though, really. It was 9:30 by the time dinner was ready, and the grilled hearts of romaine and grilled zucchini I planned to serve alongside just didn't happen. When I plated up dinner, the Husband looked at it and said, "Even I know the food isn't all supposed to be the same color." Everybody can be an armchair quarterback!
Last night, we had a fiesta with Skinny Chimichangas. In this dish, ground turkey (I used 97%
lean beef instead) simmers in tomato sauce, Mexican spices, and green chills. The mixture is rolled into tortillas (we used some high fiber ones) and sprinkled with a little grated cheese. The resulting burritos are sprayed with cooking spray and baked at 400 degrees until they crisp up, which they did surprisingly well. I served mine with a spoonful of nonfat Greek yogurt and a bit of salsa on top. We both really liked these.
In an effort to use up some odds and ends, as well as up the overall nutritional value of the meal, I put together a side dish consisting of a can of black beans, zucchini in a 1/4" dice, corn, minced jalapeno, minced onion, some chopped red and yellow peppers, and garlic. I started the zucchini first, letting it sit over a medium-low heat until it developed a brown, caramelized surface, then turning it to let the other sides brown as well. Only then did I add the fresh vegetables and turn up the heat, letting the flavors meld. I added the black beans at the end, giving them time only to heat up. I finished the dish with salt, pepper, and smoked Spanish paprika, which provided a nice hint of smokey heat. I think this would be fabulous served over brown rice, with a little bit of tofu, feta cheese, or diced chicken added in.
I went through the cookbook today, and it looks like it has about 30 main-dish recipes I'd like to make, so it should keep things moving along here for at least a couple of months. So...check back often. There are lots of delicious-sounding meals on the list for the coming week.