Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hello, General Tso

Tonight's theme was Asian, with General Tso's Chicken and Broccoli with Garlic Sauce, both from Weight Watchers Take Out Tonight. I served a Cook's Illustrated Tart-and-Sweet Cucumber Salad, spiced up with minced jalapenos, alongside. I wasn't sure it would work, but it did. I personally would've liked the chicken a little hotter, but the Husband declared it another "keeper." My taste might still be off because of my cold, but I still think I'll add extra crushed red pepper the next time. I overcooked the broccoli a bit, so I'll be more careful of that the next time, as well. The flavor was good, but the texture was off. Short posting tonight, as I'm ready to go back to bed, although I've slept most of the day. Hopefully, tomorrow I will once again be able to participate in the fine sport of breathing through my nose!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Remembering with a grateful heart

Memorial Day...Surely, a day with growing significance in light of ongoing conflict around the world. No matter where one lands on the issue of the United States' involvement in Iraq, there is no doubt that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who are serving, those who have served, and the families of all of them.

Today was a quiet day around our house, just the Husband and I--accompanied by a bad cold which kept me moving pretty slowly. I was looking forward to a full day at home, but we decided to go see the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie first thing this morning. Although I heard many raves from those coming out of the theater, I frankly didn't enjoy it all that much. Perhaps it was the cold (which kept me nodding off), or perhaps it was just that this movie was more of the same when compared to the last two in the series.

When we got home, I started a couple of simple, but time consuming, cooking projects from the Cook's Illustrated summer supplement, Summer Grilling & Entertaining. The first thing I started was some Boston Baked Beans. Odd, it seems, that a dish virtually destined to go with summer barbeque requires six hours in the oven. These beans had a nice, smoky quality and a velvety texture. To suit our tastes, though, I think I'd add a bit of barbeque sauce, a little more mustard, and a minced chipotle to create some complexity and burn.

My next effort was a Grill-Roasted Beer Can Chicken. I started by brining the chicken for about an hour in a simple salt and water bath. After drying it, I applied a spice rub to the inside and outside of the chicken. Finally, I sat the chicken firmly on a can of Budweiser and planted it in the middle of the grill for an hour and a half. The cinnamon and allspice in the rub resulted in some fabulous aromas coming out of the grill. I'm sure the neighbors were all jealous. When the chicken came off the grill, it was moist inside, and had a perfectly crisp skin all around. We did learn not to use tongs with a serrated edge to remove the beer can, though. If you choose to try it, be sure you're standing by a sink. It leaks!

We finished the meal with some steamed corn on the cob and fresh strawberries.A dip in the pool finished off a perfect, beginning of summer day.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Purple People Eater

Eggplant. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Some, like me, are in between. Really, it just depends. Tonight, we wanted something light and fairly simple, as we had been at a family function all day. Eggplant Parmesan Heroes seemed to fit the bill. After all, veggies, marinara sauce, cheese, Italian rolls--what's not to love? Right? Right? Um...wrong. Forgettable--so much so that it was almost gone from my mind before I got my plate into the sink. I think there is potential in this dish, but as written, this Weight Watchers recipe gets two thumbs sideways.

For one, the flavor of Parmesan cheese was indistinguishable from the rest of the dish (not a good thing in anything ______ Parmesan). Since I rarely use bottled marinara (and by rarely, I mean absolutely never), I ended up being highly disappointed with the one I had. It was far too liquidy and just soaked into the bread. The eggplant probably should have been sliced thicker than the 1/4" the recipe called for, and a little more seasoning would have been in order. Also, I think the whole wheat Italian rolls I used really overwhelmed the flavors of the sandwich. Ultimately, I think this is just one of those recipes that is functional, but not begging to be repeated.
On a happier note, Baby Brooklynn came over for some quality time. She says she likes to spend it with us, but we think she just wants to play with the dogs!

Taste of Thailand

After a couple of months of Ina, then a couple more months of catching food whenever because of my broken foot, it became apparent that the Husband and I really needed to take off some weight. So, we started Weight Watchers a few weeks ago. So, for the next few weeks, I'll be cooking primarily out of Weight Watchers Take Out Tonight, a collection of recipes featuring popular (you guessed it) take out foods.

We kicked things off with Shrimp Pad Thai, which I have never ordered or eaten before. Therefore, I have no idea if this tastes like the real thing, but I know we liked it. As he went back the third time, the Husband asked, "How many servings am I allowed to have?" Considering his hard work in the yard all day, I figured he could have as much as he wanted. I "doubled" the recipe (I didn't have double the amount of rice noodles, but had double everything else), and it made eight very generous servings.
We are off to spend the day with family visiting from Australia. I'll be taking deviled eggs and another veggie tray, although a much smaller one this time. Unfortunately, the dip I made ended up being "killer" in a not very flattering way, so it's going into the trash. I'm going to have to stop and (gulp) BUY dip. Yikes.
Baby Brooklynn is coming home with us this afternoon for some quality spoiling while her family goes to see a movie. Poppa will have to hold and entertain her while I whip up some Eggplant Parmesan Heroes, also from this cookbook. Check back and check them out.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Back in the Kitchen--Where Every Mother Belongs

Wow! I feel like I've been out of the kitchen for months (probably because I have.) The broken foot really slowed me down, as any extra standing just made things worse. I am now two weeks into physical therapy (Jeff Fahrenbruck--you rock!) and five days out of "the boot," so things are looking up. This next week will be very, very busy as we wrap up the school year, but I plan to get back in the kitchen in a meaningful way right after that.

My biggest foray into the kitchen was for Mother's Day. My contribution was the veggie tray. While this isn't a dish that showcases my cooking talents, it is pretty, and I found a couple of dips in The Big Book of Appetizers that were standouts, and certainly had a little more sophistication than the ubiquitous ranch dressing. They were also very well received, and I can see more applications for them than just a crudite accent. The dip in the bell pepper (foreground) is a Blue Cheese and Toasted Walnut Spread. The blue cheese taste was there, but pretty mild. Even those who aren't blue cheese fans (or walnut fans) seemed to enjoy this. I used the recommended Saga blue cheese, but a stronger flavored cheese could be used for a more pronounced blue cheese flavor. I'd actually like to try tossing this in a fondue pot and using it as a dipper for sliced apples and pears.

The other dip was a Yogurt and Green Onion blend from the same cookbook. This dip had a wonderful, fresh from the garden taste which could easily be modified by changing the herbs used. This would also make a fabulous baked potato topping.

Of course, the real reason to gather is family, and here are my two granddaughters, who top the list of my favorite family members: