Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mushroom and Tomato Lasagne

I must be crazy to attempt this recipe. It's from the Food & Wine 2001 cookbook (I always get their year-end cookbooks, even though I no longer subscribe) and it took something like 5 bowls, 4 pots and 3 1/2 hours to make. It's not even done yet, and I started cooking it at 4:30 -- it is now 7:30. Here's hoping it's worth it!

On Friday, we had the M's over for supper and play, which was lovely. I hit 40 hours at 4:15 on Friday, and left promptly to swing by Whole Foods and pick up a couple of chickens, 3 huge beautiful locally grown Ruby Red sweet potatoes and some wine. Hub and I are cutting back on alcohol during the week, but were happy to enjoy some wine with our friends. We rotisseried the chickens, roasted and mashed the sweet potatoes and also had orzo. Delicious, and the kids ate some of everything...except for Kiddo, who didn't even try the sweet potatoes with brown sugar sprinkled on them. Ah, well.

Last night Hub and I dropped Kiddo off at YiaYia and PaPou's to spend the night, as we were invited to a party in town. What a great party! I. was "re-warming" her house after moving back in recently. She asked guests to bring an appetizer or a beverage. There was so much food! I brought the Minty Lamb meatballs and tzatziki that I had frozen...unfortunately, it did NOT thaw well. The best part was the great conversations with intelligent, engaging people, most of whom we had never met. I. has a charming, small house in an old neighborhood in the city, and the floor plan plus her lovely back porch was very conducive to mingling. She spread the appetizers through several rooms, and the whole party was both easy and elegant.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Grilled stuffed chicken breasts

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted...this getting back to work outside the house thing is really cutting into my cooking and entertaining and blogging time. It's not that I'm not doing any of it, it's just hard to remember to blog about it.

  • 1.5 lb chicken breasts, skinless, boneless (3 halves)
  • 2 oz fresh goat cheese (chevre) - if you can find it with lemon zest flavoring already, that will save you a step
  • zest of one lemon stirred into the cheese, if the goat cheese was not already flavored
  • 6 large leaves of Basil
  • 3 oz Prosciutto
  • 1/2 teas. salt
  • 1/2 teas. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 Tblsp. olive oil
  • 1 oz fresh grated parmesan
  1. Light a grill, spray the grill rack with non-stick spray, put water on to boil for the orzo
  2. Using a meat mallet or a rolling pin, pound the chicken breasts under a sheet of plastic wrap to a fairly even depth.
  3. Use a thin, sharp knife to slice pockets into the sides of the breasts
  4. For each breast, lay out one basil leaf, cover with 1/3 of the cheese, 1 or 2 slices of prosciutto and the 2nd leaf. Stuff the basil "sandwich" into the center of the chicken breast.
  5. Salt and pepper the breasts on each side, and put on the grill
  6. Grill for about 10 minutes a side, or until done. One reason to enclose the filling in the basil leaves is to insulate the inside of the chicken from the prosciutto - if you put the prosciutto on the outside of the "sandwich" it can make it difficult to see if the chicken is done, as the pink color can throw you off.
  7. Cook the orzo according to package directions, toss with olive oil and parmesan.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fish in Grape Leaves

Last night, we had Ms. N and her two little girls, I. and Baby K. over. Ms. N is a very dear friend and we have cooked together for years and years...I told her I was in the mood for fish wrapped in grape leaves, and she said "Wow, we haven't had that in a while" and I responded that I thought she had done it last -- four years ago?

Anyway, follow the link for the recipe. The only modifications I made were to use Tilapia and to use goat butter for the sauce. The sauce is best if you don't cook it hardly at all, just slightly over low heat until the flavors are blended.

I am now looking into Hungarian dishes for Saturday night. We're having a couple of friends over who are interested in cooking with us. And of course, it will be more fun if I'm learning too!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Italian veggies

Yesterday we went for a play date/supper at Ms. J and Mr. B's house. Kiddo and M. had a grand time after learning how to negotiate with each other -- it's a little odd having two such verbal and manipulative small ones to deal with. I've learned from another parent at Kiddo's school that he is a "ringleader." I'm not quite sure what to make of that, if anything. Hub asked at school and they very diplomatically said he simply takes the lead on activities, because he is so excited to be doing them. They're so nice. :)

Ms. J toiled over a lovely dish that her father makes. She was nervous to mess it up on two fronts -- one, it's one of her Dad's signatures, and she had a mental taste/look picture that she was going for. Two, she was cooking for me. I reassured her that honestly, I was just happy to be there! And I was.

Funny thing is, I don't usually like peppers very much. Hub loves them, so I kind of put up with the occasional grilled or roasted pepper. The dish Ms. J was making was ALMOST ALL PEPPERS! And Mr. B even was amazed at how much they had cost...so I was steeling myself for disappointment.

It was lovely. I mean it. I had seconds and thirds. Whee! I've found a way to enjoy peppers! This had 2 red onions (two!), something like one green, one yellow and one red pepper (but it may have been two of each?), garlic, a quart of cherry tomatoes and bowtie pasta, with parmesan on top. I'll either ask Ms. J for the recipe, or try to figure it out on my own.

She also has a HUGE frying pan that I covet.

Tonight, Hub made dinner and it was edible. Enough said.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving at my brother's

Whoo hoo! For one of the first times in years, I didn't host Thanksgiving at my house. Instead, we went down to Bro and Sis-in-law's down in Wilmington. Bro had always wanted to try a deep-fried turkey, especially since he now resides in the South. Hub picked up a fryer at Home Depot a few days ago, and since then, the two of them have been studying up on the dangers and methods of using the thing.
  1. Make sure the turkey is completely defrosted (or fresh, which is the option we went for) and dry. If not, kaboom!
  2. Make sure the fryer is outside, not under a roof, and not on a combustible surface (we had it on the patio surrounded by sand). If not, kaboom!
  3. Make sure the oil is not too hot and not overfilled. If not, kaboom!

The guys did a fantastic job, and the turkeys were amazing (they did two). I've cooked a lot of turkeys in my life, have done some pretty interesting things like injecting them with wine/butter solutions, roasting them in a bag, brining, etc. I've even roasted a goose. Never has the carcass been subject to every single adult picking at it. And a super-bonus is that the oven was free to make/heat big pans of macaroni & cheese, stuffing, dinner rolls, sweet potato casserole, turnips & greens, gravy...the only "missing" item was mashed potatoes, but since Sis wasn't with us, no-one cared.

My contribution to the meal was to make two pies and bring the leftover frozen turnips and turnip greens from my last big dinner party. I actually made a fresh pumpkin pie, which was 100 times better than any pumpkin pie I've ever had before. I don't usually like pumpkin pie, to tell the truth. This was great. I'll post the recipe when I get back home. The other pie was a chocolate scotch pecan pie, also delicious. Kiddo helped me in the preparation of both...if by "helping" we can also include the slurping of leftover pumpkin pie filling with a spoon.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Slow cooker beef stew

Also on Sunday night, Hub followed my directions to prep for a slow-cooker beef stew. This is part of our effort to figure out how to actually work out of the house and get dinner on the table and not resort to fast food too often. He did the prep Sunday night, then I threw everything into the pot on Monday morning. YiaYia and PaPou came over and brought bread...other than that, it was a complete meal and provided enough leftovers for the next night's supper and for my lunch today! I love leftovers...

2.5 lb cheap beef (beef chuck underblade is what we bought)
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 onion, coursely chopped
4 medium potatoes, cubed to about 2"
1 12 oz bag of baby carrots
2 branches rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
1 quart mushroom broth (Pacific brand is what I used) or I suppose beef broth would work
  1. Cut beef into 2" cubes, removing fat and membranes as desired
  2. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a freezer bag
  3. Put beef into the bag and shake, refrigerate
  4. Mix vegetables and herbs and broth in a bowl, refrigerate
  5. In the morning, put the beef on the bottom of the crock-pot, then throw everything else on top. Set on low.
  6. When I got home, the potatoes were still a bit hard (they were cut too big) and I put the heat on high for 30 minutes. But I think if the potatoes were cut smaller like I've said in the recipe, that wouldn't be necessary.

Herb-crusted rack of lamb

On Sunday, we picked up a rack of American-raised lamb at BJ's -- we're not crazy about the meat there usually, but it's never bad. This turned out to be lovely. I called Ms. J to see if they wanted to come over, but they had other plans. Turns out Hub and I ate the whole thing up, anyway. :)

1 frenched rack of lamb, 8 ribs, about 1 1/3 pound
1 teas. black peppercorns
1 teas. kosher salt
Leaves from 1 branch rosemary
1/3 cup packed mint leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 Tbsp. olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 450
  2. Put all the ingredients (except the lamb, lemon juice and olive oil) into a mini food processor, pulse them together.
  3. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl
  4. Place the rack in a small square glass baking dish, and pour the lemon juice and olive oil over.
  5. Press on the breadcrumb/herb mix
  6. Cook for about 35 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 130 degrees
  7. Let rest for 5 minutes before carving. A normal portion would be 2 ribs per person, unless you're pigs like us.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sherry-mushroom pork chops with Braised Red Cabbage

OK, another not-quite-right recipe, but it's definitely worth trying again...the leftovers were delicious, and the red-cabbage side dish was AMAZING. Easy, satiny, rich, completely stole the thunder from the entree. Sometimes, I really impress myself. :) In addition to these, I did some simple buttered noodles, which Kiddo ate like a dog. Literally, he just stuck his face into the bowl. Ideally, the dishes should all come out at the same time...

Cabbage:
- 3 slices country bacon
- 1 small head red cabbage, sliced thinly
- 1 can butter beans, drained
  1. In a large dutch oven, cook the bacon at fairly high heat until crispy, remove to drain on paper towels
  2. Add the cabbage, lower heat to low and braise for 30 minutes
  3. About 5-10 minutes before completion, add the beans and the crumbled bacon.
Pork:
- 4 pork chops, boneless, fairly small, about one pound total weight
- 2 cups sliced "baby bella" mushrooms
- 1 cup light sour cream
- 1/4 cup sherry
- 1/2 tspn salt
- 1 Tbspn chopped fresh thyme
- 1 Tbspn flour? (The problem I encountered was that the sauce was thin...flour would help. A roux would definitely help, but I don't really think any butter is needed in this recipe)
  1. Preheat oven to 400? (That was the other issue, it took too long...we started at 350 and raised the temp to 400 later on)
  2. Layer the pork chops in a small square baking pan
  3. Add the mushrooms
  4. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, then spread over the chops
  5. Cover with foil and put in the oven for 30 minutes?

Ham and potato gratin

I did cook this week, Tuesday and Wednesday, but each time we didn't end up eating until after 8:00 pm, and then I pretty much went straight to bed...no time for blogging! I think we'll be able to work out a normal schedule, though.

More because this is the season of change and I'm re-discovering my Fall/Winter cooking bona fides, both of the dishes I did this week weren't quite right. But in the spirit of blogging, I'm going to go ahead and post them...and that way, when I try again, I can remember my mistakes and correct them.

2 cups Emmenthaler cheese, grated
1/2 onion, chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp butter, melted
Fresh-ground black pepper
4 medium potatoes, sliced thinly (I use the slicing blade of a food processor)
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
4-5 slices ham (not very sugary, Virginia ham is nice), chopped
Dark green leaf lettuce
  • Preheat oven to 385 or so? We did 350, and it wasn't hot enough.
  • Butter a 13x7x2 glass baking dish
  • Mix the breadcrumbs, parsley, black pepper and butter together
  • Layer the ingredients, starting with potato, then onion, then cheese, then ham, then lettuce, then potato, then cheese, and finally the breadcrumb mixture.
  • Pop in the oven and bake for something like 35 minutes?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Iron Man

Congratulations to Mr. B! Last week, he competed in his first Iron Man triathlon, and finished in under 13 hours, which is an excellent time. Last night, Ms. N threw a party to celebrate his achievement, and to celebrate that she'll get a little bit more hub-time for a while. Except that he's already signed up to do two more of these crazy races in the next 12 months. And he has a full-time job and is getting his MBA at night school and has two small daughters. I thought I was tired...obviously I'm just not doing enough.

The party was lovely, with lots of cheeses and dips and crackers and chips and wine and turkey meatballs (Ms. N's signature appetizer) and wine and friends and more wine. And small children running around like maniacs.

My small child wasn't there until late, because he went to the NC Zoo with YiaYia and PaPou and his cousins. Hub and I had ALL DAY to ourselves. We went to the mall and shopped for work clothing, since he also has a new contract starting on Tuesday. Then I spent the afternoon cleaning the crud out of my closet so I'm no so overwhelmed in the mornings. And Hub raked leaves.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Easy Turkey Chili

I had forgotten how exhausting working in an office can be. The commute...the conversations with extremely talkative people...the politics...the commute again. The deciding each and every day what to wear. The attempt to put dinner on the table after said commute.

That being said, I'm really, really enjoying it! The pro's are far outweighing the cons. And, while I haven't cooked that much this week (mostly due to outside circumstances, or the fact that Hub decided he was going to cook) it wasn't because I couldn't due to lack of time or energy. The one night that I did, it was this super-easy, fast and very mild chili...mild enough for Kiddo to enjoy. I'm almost embarrassed to bother to write it down, but perhaps others have not used the "use every can in the pantry" method of cooking chili before...or if you have, now you don't need to be ashamed anymore. You are not alone!

1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 can kidney beans, 15 oz
1 can black beans, 15 oz
2 cans flavored diced tomatoes, 28 oz total (I used one with mild green chilis and one called chili recipe)
1 tsp salt
1/2 t coriander
  1. In a large pot, heat the cooking oil. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the turkey and the salt, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, and cook until all the pink is gone.
  2. Add all the contents of the cans and the coriander. At this point, you might want to up the heat with chili powder or pepper or something.
  3. Bring to a boil, and boil for about 5 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for as long as you like (within reason), it will only get better...but really, it's good to eat right now.
We had it over brown rice. The rice took longer to cook than the chili did, so did require a modicum of forethought. Otherwise, the whole thing took about 25 minutes, if that. And Kiddo liked it, which is always a shock. Plus, there were lots of leftovers to pack for my lunches.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The fake farm and the real farm

I have just signed up for a Community-Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program with Hilltop Farms for next year, and I really can't wait until April to start picking up produce! Just imagine the recipes I'm going to have to create. Mmmmm.

I've been wanting to do this for a while, but never remembered to do the signing up in November when most CSA programs fill up. Strangely, this year that's exactly when I thought of it. Neat!

We went to a completely different kind of farm "experience" yesterday. I started a new job on Wednesday, and managed to snag an invite to the Fall corporate day out at a place called Hill Ridge Farms. They don't seem to do much actual farming here anymore (except maybe some corn, hay and pumpkins to support the real enterprise), it's more of a farm theme park. No matter -- Kiddo had a great time on the hayride and the little train, and I got to schmooze a bit. Hub actually did a much better job at the schmoozing than I did - occasionally the Scot comes out for a blether.

Regardless, we did pick up a nice fresh pumpkin. I have visions of a real pumpkin pie dancing in my head. With fresh ginger? More mmmmmm.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Parmesan Orzo and Lemony Broccoli

Well, even though I started a new job today, I still cooked. My fabulous Hub seemed to sense that it would calm and center me after my first commute/cubicle/commute day in over three years. He reminded me of something I usually like to do in the summer -- grill chicken breasts stuffed with ham and cheese. Except this time we both came up with some twists that made it fantastic. He did the shopping with Kiddo after picking him up from daycare, and also bought a very nice bottle of French wine (going over our usual $14/bottle top limit) as a celebration.

This amount will only serve 3 as opposed to my usual 4 -- but it's very easy to expand.

And for once, this is an entire menu. The sides are super-easy and can be used with almost any entree.

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 oz chevre -- Hub found some already flavored with lemon zest, but if its not pre-flavored you can add the zest of one lemon or the juice from 1/2 lemon to a similar effect
6 large leaves of Basil
3-6 slices Prosciutto (depending on the size of the slices)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup orzo
1 tblsp. olive oil
1 oz grated fresh parmesan
2 small heads broccoli, flowers only
juice from 1/2 lemon

  1. Light the grill
  2. Put 2 quarts of water on to boil for the pasta
  3. In a small bowl, combine the chevre, salt, pepper and lemon zest or juice (if using) with a fork
  4. Pound the chicken breasts out to a relatively even thickness
  5. With a sharp knife, butterfly the breasts, making sure to leave a solid "seam" on one side, and open them up.
  6. On each breast, place 1 basil leaf (or several smaller ones to cover the side), 1/3 of the cheese mixture, 1 or 2 slices of prosciutto and then cover with another basil leaf. Close the chicken breast.
  7. Grill the breast over medium/low heat for about seven minutes a side. Don't overcook.
  8. Put the orzo into the boiling water, cook according to package directions
  9. Squeeze the juice of the 1/2 lemon over the broccoli in a microwave-proof dish, and use the vegetable setting on your microwave. If you don't have a vegetable setting, cook on med heat for only about 3 minutes.
  10. When the orzo is done, drain and combine with the olive oil and parmesan.
Enjoy!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

No recipes this week

1. There were so many leftovers from Saturday night's dinner party, it fueled most of the week's suppers. And lunches.
2. The one night we cooked, it was Hub doing his famous fried fish. Unfortunately, he doesn't measure anything, so I don't think I can do the "recipe" justice.
3. I've been singing, singing, singing, my voice out over the past few days. We have a yearly UU Choir Festival in NC, which takes lots of preparation and then one very long day of group rehearsals before a big performance. This was yesterday (the "mass choir" pieces were a few selections from Orff's Carmina Burana and a fantastic piece called _The Awakening_ by Joseph Martin.)
4. Today my parents and I and a few other members of the UUFR choir went up to the Peace Fellowship in North Raleigh to perform one of my father's compositions, _Evolution_. I felt like I disappointed him because my high notes were simply fried from yesterday, and I had to sing the soprano part an octave lower. Oh, well...I don't think I'm really a soprano anyway, I just tend to be placed in that section because I have a very strong (think loud) voice, and for some reason sopranos seem to be hard to hold on to in many choirs.
5. I start a new job this week Wednesday, so we'll see about new recipes this week.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Roasted Root Vegetables

Oh, wow. Just finished watching the most recent episode of Heroes.

Ms. J has given me the compliment of not only reading the blog, but actually cooking from it recently. Today she sent me an email asking for an appropriate vegetable accompaniment for the pork loin recipe. This is what I gave her -- not recently tested or measured, but it's a pretty easy concept.

Get an assortment of turnips, parsnips, carrots and medium-size yellow-skinned potatoes (or sweet potatoes), cut the carrots and parsnips in half lengthwise, quarter the turnips and potatoes. Toss lightly in olive oil and some fresh thyme, kosher salt and black pepper. Roast at 450 for about 40 minutes (I think, this is from memory, it might be a bit less) -- actually since you're doing the pork, just put them on the bottom rack and they will likely take the same amount of time as the pork, at those temps. Stir them around occasionally. They should carmelize a bit.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dinner Party report

I'm only now feeling somewhat recovered from last night. It went both really, really well and also maybe not so well from a planning/execution standpoint. But did we have fun? Oh, yes, oh, definitely, oh my was my head hurting this morning. But not so much that I don't remember the excellent conversations we had, and I did manage to make it to church to sing a gorgeous piece that I didn't want to miss.

I think I forgot to mention that this was a politically-themed party, and I selected my guests carefully to ensure that we all fell on the liberal side of politics -- not necessarily Democrat, but definitely liberal. This close to an election, I get very, very sensitive about politics, and I wanted a group where we could loudly declaim this or that policy, and not get into actual fights about it. That's exactly how it turned out -- we had wonderful, very loud discussions about a fascinating array of topics.

The loudness was one of the logistical problems. Kiddo, E. (5) and A. (2) were upstairs with the hired sitter, as planned. But they did not go to sleep. I've discovered that our house, with it's open floor plan, is just not suited for our party-loving children to tune their party-loving parents out enough to go to sleep. Hence, Kiddo and I did not go to bed until 1:00 AM. Oops! I think next time, I'll have him stay at Yia Yia's and Papou's house.

Logistical problem #2 - the schedule slipped due to A. still being asleep at 5:30. So the first guests didn't arrive until about 6:15. The rest of the adults trickled in over the next hour, with the final couple arriving at 7:15 or so. No big deal...Ms. C and Ms. J brought appetizers, so no one was hungry. I had made some cheese quesadillas for the boys - since they arrived a bit late, it was already too dark to play outside, so they went upstairs to the pinball machine, skipping dinner downstairs. I think it was close to 8:00 when Ms. C reminded me that they should probably be fed! The parenting skills were definitely a bit loose last night.

Logistical problem #3 - after we had soup, we convened back in the kitchen so I could cook the dinner. I don't have enough burners on my stove for the menu I had planned! So it took a fair amount of time -- enjoyable, loud, fun time, and Mr. M and Mr. E both chipped in to help (they are both excellent cooks in their own rights). So, in a way, this was not at all a bad thing. Dinner parties are NOT restaurant experiences!

I think we finally sat down to eat at around 10:00. On a plus note, everything turned out absolutely perfectly. On a minus note, I made waaaay too much food. I think we have enough chicken/duck to last a week of sandwiches. And I've frozen the turnips and turnip greens in the hope that they will reheat well for Thanksgiving.

Mr. D called to say he and Ms. P and their girls would not be able to make it after all, which was too bad. But the ice cream and dark chocolate bark worked just perfectly for dessert. And then everyone pitched in to help with the cleanup. Mr. T and Hub stayed up until 3:30 or so gabbing (T is Irish and Hub is Scottish, they are both champion talkers), and then Hub stayed up even longer to do more cleanup.

Exhausting, fun, delicious and we met two new friends who are thinking of moving to the area (Ms. C and Mr. M brought them, and we clicked immediately). Overall, a success. I'll be ready to do it again in about six months. :)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Dinner Party prep

I just spent an enjoyable evening preparing for a dinner party I'm having tomorrow night. I really can't remember the last time I had an honest-to-goodness sit-down dinner party. With china and everything. I think it was before Kiddo was born.

Dinner parties are quite different from bigger, appetizer-heavy grazing parties. The menu planning must include courses, side dishes, presentation. I am not a Martha Stewart fan...for the most part, I let the food speak for itself, and any presentation finesse is provided by Hub. In our house, he's the one who can arrange flowers, he's the one who will drizzle sauce expressively on a plate, he's the one I turn to when meats must be sliced Just So.

And really? It's because I think that's all hooey. What I always remember from any party or gathering is the conversation, and how happy and comfortable I felt. Too much presentation lowers actual hospitality, in my opinion. In fact, my brand of cooking may even lower the hospitality meter, because I love to cook...sometimes it dissuades those who don't love to cook from inviting me over for dinner. What most people don't understand is...I'd be happy with pizza and beer! Plus the right combination of people to talk to.

For this one, I've hired a sitter to watch kids here, if the parents so desire. Partly that's because I remember being sent upstairs when my parents had parties, with my siblings and the other children who came. We always had an excellent time. Our children are still a bit too small to send up on their own. Not all the participants are planning to bring their kids (some have decided they'll have a better time if they don't have to think of them in the house) but enough are coming to provide playmates for Kiddo.

So here's the plan -- I'll let you know how it actually turns out:

Start at 5:30 pm -- adults start grazing on appetizers (which my friends Ms. C and Ms. T have graciously voluteered to provide, we thought cheese fondue with bread and crudites would be lovely) and the kids in attendance will have quesadillas, veggies and juice boxes, then be sent out to play on the playset with the sitter. Hub's planning on mixing his killer martinis.

When the light starts to fail (7:00 or so), send the kids upstairs with the sitter. At our house, the TV is upstairs, along with Dance, Dance Revolution, Kiddo's playroom and a real, full-size pinball machine. The hope is, they'll mostly stay there. Sitter will be provided with popcorn when needed, and pajamas, and maybe we'll set up a group bath. Or what we call "Penis Soup" since most of the kids in the cohort are male.

Actual recipes for the following will depend on whether they turned out well or not...

Soup course. Roasted Butternut-Squash and Garlic, which I prepped for by roasting the squash and garlic and doing the food-processor thing (Kiddo ran it). I'll reheat, add Greek yogurt and seasoning tomorrow.

Dinner. Spice-Rubbed Chicken/Duck with Port Wine Sauce. Hub removed the skins from the duck breasts tonight and I made, then rubbed in the spice mix. Also, I prepped the sauce.
Brown-butter orzo, no prep needed
Turnips and greens, no prep needed

Dessert: I made a dark chocolate/dried cherry/walnut bark last weekend, which I will serve with vanilla ice cream. And Ms. P (who can't make it until dessert) promised some kind of divine-sounding chocolate pie.

I don't have enough good china to go around. Oh, well. Like I said, that's not what matters!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Fig-Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

Today was a good day. I slept last night (having given in to the realization that Benadryl is simply necessary right now). I resigned my current job yesterday, and signed a contract for a very exciting new project. I had no contact with any of the excessively dramatis personae of my life today. I walked with Hub, played with Kiddo, started transferring my work.

And I cooked something really, really satisfying. In November, I won't be able to start a roast at 5:30, because I'll be in an office again. That will certainly be a change, one I'm more than ready for, as working from home has become lonely. Roasts will be weekend food again. Still, this one didn't take much time at all...

1 ¼ lb boneless pork loin roast
4 figs, sliced
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 t kosher salt (Is it common knowledge that a small t is a teaspoon, and a large T is a Tablespoon? I learned that a long time ago when getting my cooking badge for Girl Scouts, but does everyone know it?)
½ t fresh ground pepper
1 T olive oil
1 cup water

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sliced figs, 3 Tablespoons of the chopped parsley, the olive oil, the salt and pepper
  3. Using a long, thin knife (like a slicing knife), pierce the roast lengthwise, running the knife down close to the hilt but making sure you don't get too near the outside circumference.
  4. Do it again, making an X lengthwise down the roast.
  5. Stuff the cavity with the fig/parsley mixture.
  6. Roll the roast in the rest of the parsley, then put in a roasting pan. Top with any remaining parsley.
  7. Add 1 cup water to the pan
  8. Roast for 15 minutes
  9. Reduce heat to 350°, roast for 40 minutes more or until a meat thermometer reads 150°.
  10. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
I served this with fried polenta (purchased, sliced, then fried in olive oil) and turnips and greens (frozen), so it was very easy. Kiddo opted for chicken nuggets, but that's not unusual. Really, they are just a ketchup delivery system. He did try a little polenta. Maybe if I let him put ketchup on everything, he'd eat more of my food?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mussels and Swiss Chard

We just got back from the NC State Fair, which, for the first time, surpassed my expectations. I always loved going to our little county fair growing up, and idealized what the Ohio State Fair must be like. Six years ago, when we moved here, I was terribly excited about finally going to a real state fair! I ended up being disappointed.

This year, with a 3-year-old experiencing everything for the first time, and Hub in tow (he had declined to accompany on the previous visits) we had a grand time. We rode 2 of the available 4 ferris wheels, ate a giant turkey leg and sweet potato fries, saw 8 piglets follow their mama pig around rooting for a nipple, and Hub won Kiddo a HUGE Nemo fish - it is bigger than Kiddo. He did this at the start of the afternoon, so he got to carry it around the whole fair for 4 hours.

Hub is a former carnie himself, and knew the trick to this particular game of skill, so it only took him one try for $2. You could tell the guy running the game was none too pleased. Hub, on the other hand, gloated...so carrying the fish for 4 hours was not really a burden.

Anyway, last night I did cook something new...recently I've been working from recipes a bit more, hence haven't had as much to write about. But I was inspired to try a new spin on a mussels dish last night, and it turned out beautifully.


1 bunch swiss chard
3 med tomatoes or 8 small
2 lb mussels
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 shallot
Rossi parsley garlic fettucini (I seem to be tearing through this box fairly quickly)
4 T salted butter
2 anchovy fillets
2 rosemary branches
1 cup wine (red or white, I find it doesn't really matter, both taste nice. Last night I used some Pinot Noir)
2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
Fresh grated parmesan

  1. Soak chard in the sink, in cold water. Stem it, chop coarsely, spin dry.
  2. Check the mussels - if they are not very clean, scrub with a brush and pull their "beards" off. Discard any that are open or that do not close when prodded. Put mussels in a large bowl, cover with cold water, and sprinkle the corn meal over. Let rest for about 20 minutes. The mussels will feed on the corn meal and disgorge sand.
  3. Start heating water for the pasta
  4. Start heating a large, heavy pot, such as a Le Creuset
  5. Chop the shallot
  6. Separately, chop the tomatoes and smash the anchovies.
  7. Heat the butter in the large heavy pot
  8. Add the shallots, saute until butter is golden
  9. Add the anchovies and tomatoes, stir
  10. Add the wine and rosemary branches
  11. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels from the bowl of water into the pot, checking to make sure they are closed tightly.
  12. Put the chard on top.
  13. Cover and steam for about 14 minutes. The chard should be wilted, and the mussels should be open...but it will be difficult to check the mussels since they are buried under the chard.
  14. Start cooking the pasta after you cover the mussels, cook according to package directions.
  15. Serve the mussels over the pasta, with chopped flat-leaf parsley and fresh grated parmesan on the side.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Lost recipe - Blueberry-vodka cream sauce with roasted chicken and pasta

Darn it. I knew this would happen sooner or later...I'm diligently trying to write down my recipes as I cook them, but if I don't run in and transcribe them...they get thrown away. And this was a REALLY good one, too! Don't worry, though, I'll try again.

What the heck, I'll try to do it from memory. Later I'll come back and test it again. This fed five adults (Mom, Dad, Hub, Sis and me) on Friday night, and there was 1/2 a chicken breast as leftovers. Sis was in town on her way to Mexico.

This recipe (or a variation thereof) that I invented years ago is one of the reasons I ordered the Rossi pasta recently.

1/2 cup dried blueberries
Vodka to cover (about 1/2 cup?)
1 small container creme fraiche
3 large chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Juice of 2 lemons
1 pkg Rossi lemon pepper fettucine
Salt & pepper

  • About 2 hours ahead of time, put the blueberries into a small bowl and cover with vodka.
  • Preheat the oven to 425.
  • Wash and dry the chicken breasts, put skin up in a roasting pan. Juice the lemons with a reamer right over the breasts (no need to strain). Salt and pepper them.
  • Roast for about 35 minutes.
  • When there are about 15 minutes to go, heat the water for the pasta and cook it.
  • Put the vodka/blueberry mix into a small saucepan and heat gently. When warm, stir the creme fraiche in.
  • Toss the pasta with the sauce. Serve with the chicken and a green salad.
If you don't have lemon pepper fettucini (poor you!), you could add lemon juice and pepper to the sauce. In the past, I've usually used boneless, skinless breasts and sliced them and sauteed them in olive oil and lemon juice, and then incorporated them into the pasta. But this time, I forgot to specify for Hub, and he arrived home with the bone-in, skin-on variety. Honestly...I think it was even nicer.

Friday was actually pretty crazy, hence the need for Hub to go shopping. There was a huge explosion at a chemical plant not too far from here late Thursday evening, and Kiddo's daycare was in the evacuation zone. We were a bit nervous we would have to be evacuated ourselves. Ms. J and Mr. B and their kids were right on the edge, and fled to Ms. H's house. So I took the day off work and Kiddo and I went over to Ms. H's to join the news-watching and fretting. The kids played, the mothers worried...after noon, Ms. N and I and our kids returned to our cul-de-sac, let Kiddo and Boo run around for a while (outside! by that time we had relaxed a bit about toxic fumes) and then retired to nap. So I never got a chance to shop.

After dinner, I dragged Sis to a birthday party at Ms. D's. There was o-so-much wine and crazy conversation. At one point, Sis told me I am in a sorority. I am? Wow. I've never been in a sorority before. I guess the difference is, I'm not paying for the privilege and I don't have to live with these women. And our menses are not in sync.

Saturday afternoon, the church had a block party, and I ran a Name That Tune booth. We kazoo'ed tunes for people to guess. It was a riot.

Saturday night, Bro and Sis-In-Law came in, and we all joined the sorority and fraternity (the husbands) for a big night out to a comedy club in the City. At dinner time, I found myself channeling the General (my dearly departed Aunt who ran social events with an iron fist). Someone needed to organize this crazy party of 16! We dined at a fantastic restaurant right next to the comedy club. While Hub did have to send his sea bass back, the tilapia that came out to replace it was excellent.

Sunday was quiet. I was exhausted.

And then tonight I went out with girlfriends again. Do I never learn???

I'm tired. Good night.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Shrimp and Shiitake stir-fry

Sunday night at the concert, we ran into The Lint Queen and Ms. H and their significant others, and I had my first inkling that someone might be reading this blog other than Jenorama. I think Ms. H's comment was something like "I thought I was a pretty darn good cook until I saw the out-of-everything mac'n'cheese...did you have to go milk the cow?"

Which is soooo not the point! I was kind of hoping to impart my heck-try-it-it's only food philosophy, not make anyone feel daunted. Anyway, she was kidding and we've decided we'll do a cook-together gathering soon, which should be fun. And yummy.

Another thing the ladies had to offer was advice on the alcohol (and cheese and chocolate) issues I had been having, which was...gastro-esophogeal reflux disorder (GERD). Helooooo, Pepcid AC! Yes, I know, I should see my doctor.

I haven't been cooking much this week, but tonight put together a shrimp stir-fry that turned out very, very nicely. Hub's comment upon first taste was "what kind of butter did you use?" None, of course (who uses butter in a stir-fry?) but somehow the combination of the mushrooms and the sesame oil created both the mouth-feel and taste of a very rich butter sauce. Odd.

I know this seems like a long ingredient list, but this is the kind of stuff I keep in my pantry, in case the stir-fry mania strikes.

1 cup short grain brown rice, cooked according to package directions. If you don't have a rice cooker, get one!
1 lb shrimp (I tend to buy 2 lb bags of frozen easy-peel shrimp)
1/4 lb snow peas
1 small head bok choy
1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms
3-4 cloves garlic
1 knob fresh ginger or 1 T ground ginger
Juice of 1 lime
2 T Thai fish sauce or soy sauce
1 T chili-garlic sauce
1 T sesame oil
2 T rice vinegar
peanut oil

Mise bowls!
  1. Start defrosting the shrimp, if it's frozen.
  2. Get the rice started. Expect it to require about 45 minutes, if not a bit longer.
  3. Wash the snow peas, snip the ends off, transfer to a mise bowl.
  4. Brush any dirt from the shiitake's, remove the stems and slice the heads into strips, put in a mise bowl.
  5. Slice the bok choy widthwise, put it into a salad spinner, wash and spin dry.
  6. Mince the garlic and ginger and put in a small bowl.
  7. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar to the bowl, and whisk with a fork.
  8. Shell and de-vein the shrimp.
  9. When the rice is done or almost done, heat the wok. When it is quite hot, add 1-2 T peanut oil...really not much.
  10. Very carefully add the shrimp (since it's wet, it's likely to splatter) and stir-fry for about 1 minute, just until barely pink.
  11. Add the mushrooms, stir-fry for about 30 seconds
  12. Add the snow peas and bok choy, stir-fry for about 30 seconds
  13. Add the sauce, stir completely and then cover the wok. Let steam for about 3 minutes.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dance party!

Last night was busy for us - we had two parties to go to. Kiddo was so excited he couldn't nap, and instead bopped around the house singing "We're going to a party, a party, a party, we're going to a party, yay, yay, yay!" Of course, by the time 4:30 rolled around he was about to fall asleep on his feet, but as soon as we got to the first party he perked right up. Nothing like the promise of birthday cake and the presence of lots of kids to get that boy's motor running.

The first party was a 2-year-old's birthday party in the cul-de-sac behind us. Ms. D had sandwich makings, chicken nuggets, yummy chips and dips, meatballs and plenty of adult liquid refreshments...after all, how do we parents get through the 2's? It was great fun.

The second party also started at 4:30, and I had promised Ms. K to make Mint Pesto pasta, so I had run that over at 4:00. We arrived at about 6:15 and the fun was in full swing. Although Ms. K's birthday had been the week before and her eldest daughter's birthday was on Friday, this party was really more in celebration of her mother-in-law's visit. Sort of a "meet our crazy friends" event. And we lived up to it! Mr. J's mother is a hoot, and we had a fun, fun time...by the end of the evening, we were all dancing to 70's and 80's music. Kiddo did not want to leave, but we managed to drag him out just before 10:00. He fell asleep within about 30 seconds of his head hitting the pillow.

Tonight we're off to see Aimee Mann and the Indigo Girls. Whee!

Yogurt-marinated Lamb

Something about writing this blog is actually inspiring even more creativity in the kitchen. I prepared this Thursday night before choir practice, and it was juicy, tasty and delicious. I served it with tzatziki (Yogurt and Cucumber Salad - I use a recipe from A Little Greek Cookbook, but this one I found on the web is pretty close...just add 1 1/2 T finely chopped fresh mint), couscous and steamed broccoli. We managed to convice Kiddo that couscous is really macaroni, and he also ate the broccoli (hooray!). The lamb was really enough for four people.

1 lb lamb leg sirloin steaks
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup Greek yogurt (Fage Total, if you can find it...if not, use regular plain yogurt that you have strained for 30 minutes or so)
1 T Aromatic Pepper (recipe from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider, reproduced here:
- 2 T black peppercorns
- 2 T white peppercorns
- 2 T pink peppercorns
- 1 T allspice berries
- 1 T coriander seeds
- All ground up together )
1 T olive oil

  1. Combine everything except the lamb and stir
  2. Coat the lamb in the yogurt mixture and let stand for about 30 minutes
  3. Grill over medium/indirect heat, turning about every 5 minutes, for a total of about 25 minutes.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Turkey roulades

I didn't write down the measurements for this one, because as I was just trying to get Kiddo to allow me to cook, Mr. M and Ms. C and their boys came over to play. I was so happy! There's no better distraction. So here it is from memory...and by the way, Hub and I ate it all up, so it's a recipe for 2.

0.8 lb turkey cutlets
~ 1 T fresh mint
1 bunch parsley (I just shave the main bunch of leaves from the stems with a sharp knife)
1 small wedge goat cheese (4 oz? not sure)
pepper
3-4 slices country-style bacon
red wine

  1. Put the mint, parsley, cheese and pepper into a food processor, pulse
  2. Pound the turkey cutlets out, then spread the parsley mixture on them, fold, and wrap with bacon. Use toothpicks to secure.
  3. Heat oven to 350ยบ
  4. Heat a frying pan that you can transfer to the oven (ie, metal handles). Put the turkey roulades on the pan and sear on as many sides and you can, about 2 minutes a surface.
  5. Splash about 1/4 cup of red wine into the pan, and transfer to the oven
  6. Cook for about 10 minutes, then turn roulades over and cook another 5 minutes.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Out-of-milk Macaroni & Cheese

What a busy day! We went to the NC Zoo for the afternoon. It's about 1 hour 20 minutes away, which is a very comfortable distance for me because from the little town where I grew up, the nearest "big" city was pretty much 1 hour 30 minutes away. And for a while up in Cleveland, my commute was 1 hour 20 minutes each way...on a good day.

We arrived home after 5:00 and I was too hungry to go shopping, so I had to make do with what was on hand. This is actually my favorite time to cook, because according to Hub it forces my creative juices to flow. If I ever get any more readers/commenters in this forum, I plan to do a sort of "Stump the Cook" thing like Splendid Table does. It would be fun to see if I could come up with something delicious given five ingredients any given someone has on-hand.

I had corn on the cob. Husked it, broke it in two, covered with cold water, put on to boil. Check.

I had a leftover piece of grilled London Broil that Hub sliced thinly and we ate cold, sort of more as a side dish.

I went to make Macaroni & Cheese, and immediately noticed two problems - 1) out of milk. 2) no regular cheddar. Plenty of cheese in the house, but all a bit more esoteric. This is how I managed to do the dish, and it was honestly some of the yummiest mac & cheese we have ever tasted.

2 T butter
2 T flour
6 T light sour cream
1 cup shredded goat cheddar
1 cup shredded feta (really, 2 cups of whatever cheese you have on hand will probably work, but go easy on bleu cheese)
1/2 lb macaroni

  1. Put the water on to boil for the macaroni
  2. Melt the butter over low heat in a large saucepan
  3. Add the flour to the butter and cook over low heat just until it starts to turn golden. Stir constantly to remove lumps. I like a wooden spoon for this.
  4. Add the light sour cream gradually, stirring, stirring, stirring. This will be very thick.
  5. Add the cheese 1/2 cup at a time, stirring, stirring, stirring
  6. It's much too thick at this point, but here comes the magic - add 2 tablespoons of the hot pasta water and stir, stir, stir. Voila!
  7. Drain the pasta and add it to the cheese, stir (once more) and serve.
Just as we were finishing up, Ms C. called and offered us tickets to see a circus/dance performance. Unfortunately, she wasn't feeling well. So we up and went (luckily the venue is only about 5 minutes away) and it was very fun.

Plus, so far, potato vodka isn't making me ill. It's probably only a matter of time, but at least there's one option still open.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Allergy to alcohol?

I seem to be developing an intolerance to alcohol. It started with any kind of grain alcohol...even just one beer or one glass of single malt whiskey would leave me feeling ill in the morning. If I mixed that with any wine, it was a recipe for serious upchucking.

I'm not talking about getting drunk here...and up until this started happening (about one month ago) I had a very high tolerance for alcohol.

So, I stopped drinking anything with grain. Then I started noticing that after one glass of wine, the wine would start tasting like vinegar. And now I'm feeling very ill the next morning if I have more than one glass of wine.

This stinks. I really like to relax with a glass of wine. I like pairing wine with food. Hub and I used to collect single malt scotches, for goodness' sake. I know this can only be good for my health, but I'm still very annoyed.

Off to drink some green tea...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tortellini with Lemon Chicken

On Sunday, we went to the local Greek Festival. Then on Monday, my parents returned from a 3-week trip to Greece. One might think I would have cooked some Greek food last night for dinner welcoming them back? One would be wrong.

20 oz fresh, filled tortellini (filling is pretty much your choice)
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts
8 oz cremini (baby bella) mushrooms
3-4 medium tomatoes
2 zucchini
5 cloves garlic
.75 oz fresh sage
2 lemons
olive oil
salt & pepper

I find the order of preperation for this dish important, so here it is explicitly. I use "mise bowls" - little glass bowls to put all the prepared ingredients into so that they are all ready to dump into the saute pan.
  1. Put on a pot of water to boil
  2. Chop the tomatoes and put them in the serving bowl.
  3. Slice the garlic very thinly. This may seem laborious, but it's worth it
  4. Slice the sage thinly lengthwise
  5. Brush and quarter the mushrooms. Did you know you shouldn't wash mushrooms with water? They soak it up. Instead, use a mushroom brush.
  6. Dice the zucchini into small cubes
  7. Heat 5 T olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and saute briefly, about 1 minute, just until turning golden. Then add the sage and saute about one minute more until garlic and sage are crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the garlic and sage from the oil and set aside in a mise bowl. By the way, this crispy garlic & sage trick is one I absolutely love, you can apply it to so many dishes.
  8. You probably want to put the pasta in to cook right about now.
  9. Add the mushrooms and zucchini to the oil, and saute until the mushrooms start to express some of their liquid. Transfer all the contents of the pan to your serving bowl.
  10. Add 2 T olive oil to the pan and heat.
  11. While that is heating, slice the chicken breasts lengthwise in approximately 1/2 inch wide strips.
  12. Add the chicken to the pan and saute, just until pinkness disappears. Salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Using a reamer (preferably), juice the 2 lemons directly into the pan. Who cares about seeds?
  14. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 2 minutes
  15. The pasta should finish up right about now, so drain it and add to serving bowl. You may want to add a ladle-full of the pasta water as well.
  16. Add the chicken and it's sauce to the bowl, toss. Top with the crispy sage and garlic and serve.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

That's the last time I buy cod

I was so excited yesterday...I saw what looked like a nice piece of cod at Whole Foods, and an idea popped into my head -- wrap it in sliced figs and prosciutto and saute in a lemon and wine sauce. Sounds good, yes? So it put me in the mood for Spanish food and I picked up potatoes for a Spanish Tortilla (completely unrelated to a Mexican tortilla, the Spanish one is sort of a huge potato omelette) and chard for Spanish greens with raisins, garlic and pine nuts. Both of these dishes turned out absolutely perfect, which is a good thing because when I put the prosciutto wrapped chunks of cod into the pan, a LIVE PARASITE started wiggling around. We had to toss the whole pan out, which due to the cod and prosciutto and figs was a $20 pan of food.

I called up Whole Foods, and the fish guy said that it was fairly common for cod and grouper to have parasites, but very uncommon that they are still alive. They'll refund my money or give me another piece of fish. I think I'll take the money.

I'm a pretty fearless eater, I love things like sushi and rare meat, but when you pick a little worm out of your pan of fish...I'm still shivering with disgust.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Linguine with Tuna, Walnuts, Lemon and Herbs

Have I mentioned my heavy usage of the Food & Wine Quick From Scratch books?

Tonight I prepared this recipe, with some variations so I'll go ahead and write the whole thing down. It was incredibly good.

3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and then chopped
Rossi Lemon Pepper fettucini - 12 oz
1 jar Ortiz Bonita del Norte tuna in oil (I'm trying to find a link, haven't yet)
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
zest & juice from one juicy lemon
2 fillets Ortiz anchovy in oil, chopped
1/4 cup thyme, chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1 zucchini
  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta
  2. Toast and chop the walnuts, and put in a big pasta serving bowl
  3. Use a vegetable peeler on the zucchini to make "ribbons", add them to the bowl
  4. In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, anchovy and herbs
  5. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the tuna and its oil, breaking it up with a spoon. Cook for 1 minute just to heat the tuna through.
  6. Cook the pasta according to package directions (Rossi pasta cooks fast). Add it to the big pasta bowl, top with the tuna and oil and toss. Then add the dressing from the small bowl and toss some more.
For once, this requires no added salt or pepper. The anchovy provides nice, mild salty flavor (but Hub could not detect my "secret ingredient" at all), and the lemon pepper fettucini has plenty of peppery bite.

I've used regular canned tuna in oil before, and it's very good...but this Ortiz stuff is on a whole other level. We're lucky to have it stocked at the local Whole Foods. I'll search the web to see if I can find a good source for mail order.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I hate Chick-Fil-A

It has to be the worst-tasting chicken of all, even surpassing McDonald's level of badness. Why is it only the truly terrible fast-food restaurants have the play areas, where I can read my book/newspaper while Kiddo runs wild? Oh, I know...because otherwise, adults would never eat there.

Bleagh. Maybe this nice glass of wine will wash away the taste.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Calves liver and mushroom pasta

Ms. J's potluck was a rousing success...she completely embraced the spirit of the thing by having Mr. M actully do her cooking for her. Another sign of relaxation? Her hub, Mr. B, had forgotten that he was expected at a poker game in the neighborhood, so at 9:30 or so he had to leave. She was surprised and pleased at how easy the whole thing was. Hooray!

My favorite dish of the evening was one Mr. M brought and prepared on site -- tuna medallions seared with garlic and oil, and then green beans and halved cherry tomatoes added to the pan. It was fantastic with a splash of soy sauce.

Hub challenged me tonight by bringing home 1/2 pound of calves liver. He knows that I love liver, but he's more hesitant. Here's what I did, I thought it turned out very well. Hub even went back for seconds!

1/2 lb sliced calves liver, cut into 4 pieces
1 pkg Wild Mushroom Linguini (from Rossi pasta, of coures)
8 oz mushrooms, quartered
4 shallots, sliced very thinly crosswise
2 T chopped fresh thyme
6 oz spinach (one bag, if that's how you like to buy it), coursely chopped
6 slices country smoked bacon
1/4 cup flour
salt, pepper (do I even need to list these?)

  1. Put on the water to boil for the pasta, lightly salted. (I know this step seems obvious, but Hub always forgets)
  2. In one large frying pan that has a lid, heat the olive oil, then add the shallots. Fry them, stirring, for a few minutes until they turn golden brown. Watch them! They very quickly could turn dark brown, then black, and then all that careful slicing was for naught. Anyway, when done, use a slotted spoon and transfer them to a plate with a paper towel, and sprinkle with about 1/2 t kosher salt.
  3. Add the thyme and mushrooms to the oil, and saute until well coated with oil. Then add the spinach in handfuls, letting each addition wilt a little so there's room in the pan for the next. Saute to make sure everything has a very light coating of oil, then put the lid on and steam for a few minutes, just until the spinach has released it's water. Slide the whole panful into a serving bowl Cook your pasta and toss it in. Add salt and pepper to taste, and about half of the shallots.
  4. Meanwhile (don't you hate that?) you should have been cooking the bacon in another frying pan until it's crispy. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel.
  5. Combine the flour and about 1/2 t each salt and pepper on a board, and dredge the liver in it. Then, over medium-low heat, cook the liver on both sides in the rendered bacon fat just until it springs back when prodded. Don't overcook! Liver is nasty when overcooked. If you think you hate liver, it's probably because your mother killed it in the frying pan when you were young, cooking it to the texture of rubber. I know mine did.
  6. Serve the liver sprinkled with the rest of the shallots.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Rossi pasta

I'm soooo excited! I just got a box of Rossi Pasta in the mail. This is by far the best pasta I've ever had, and the amazing flavors always inspire my pasta creativity, so expect to see some pasta recipes soon. This company actually started in little Athens, OH where I'm from, and now does the Williams-Sonoma brand pastas...but unfortunately, it is not available in stores here. Ah, well, instead I got a big box in the mail!

I'm taking a half day today, went to get my toes done with Ms. N and Ms. C earlier. Ms. J stopped by to say hello, and decided as we spoke that she was interested in doing the Friday night potluck thing at her house. She's new to the group, so kudos! In fact, she organized the Thursday night play date just last night (we met at a park rather than at a house) so obviously, she fits right in.

So, I'm rotisserie-ing a couple of chickens right now, then at 3:15 I have a haircut/dye job scheduled. Rotisseries are fantastic...if you are in the market for a new grill, get one. We have the Turbo STS with the rotisserie added as an option. Other than the cleanup (which I mostly let Hub do) it's really easy to use. Thread the chickens on the bar, then turn on the motor and shake on lots of herbs. Maybe I'll post a photo..they are really pretty. :)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Roasted Rabbit

I need a vacation from my vacation. Kiddo has yet to play on his own for any length of time...even though he is very imaginative, he likes to have at least one other person involved in his play. That's usually me.

Last night after Ms. T's party, I decided I'd better roast that rabbit we picked up from the farmer's market. Rabbits really need to be cooked and not held in the fridge for any length of time...they really start to stink.

I mostly followed a recipe from Sally Schneider's fantastic A New Way to Cook. It was kind of stressful, but turned out delicious -- very like the chicken I've had in Europe, which tastes so much better than our bland chickens here. (By the way, my only modification was due to a lack of prunes and of 8 hours. I used currents and soaked them for about 1 hour. The stuffing was lovely.)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Quesadillas

We just got back from Ms. T's very, very relaxing pool party. The day was hot, the pool was cold, the kids splashed and played, and the parents drank pomegranite/blueberry mimosas or beer. Ms. T supplied a couple of party platters of very nice cut sandwiches, and everyone else brought a dish -- my favorite was the tomato/basil salad Ms. T's sister-in-law brought. Simple, classic, delicious.

I didn't have much time after church to prepare anything fancy, so I threw together some quesadillas. I've been playing with quesadillas for a while now, and the trick seems to be to get the ingredients fairly dry. This is what I had in my fridge, so this is what went in today...

1 bag tortillas (6)
1/2 block monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 round queso fresca, shredded
8 quarters of marinated artichoke hearts, chopped and rolled in a paper towel to remove some moisture
2 handfuls salad greens, dried and chopped
1 big squeeze of cilantro in a tube (I would have used fresh if I had it)

  1. Heat a griddle
  2. Combine the grated cheeses in a bowl
  3. Combine the other fillings in another bowl
  4. On one tortilla, spread out a layer of cheese, a layer of filling, and a little more cheese on top
  5. Press another tortilla on top
  6. Spray lightly with oil
  7. Toast gently on the griddle until the cheese starts to melt, then spray the other side and flip it
  8. After you take them off the griddle, let rest for a few minutes before cutting into wedges.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Shrimp, Green Beans and Mushrooms in Garlic Sauce

A few years ago, I subscribed to Food & Wine, and they have a line of cookbooks called Quick From Scratch. These are amazing cookbooks, I highly recommend them. Anyway, I was going to prepare the Shrimp-and-Feta Stew for the potluck last night, but Ms. T was already making a fish stew, so I went to the book and saw Shrimp in Garlic Sauce. I've done this one before, but from a Spanish Tapas book. Anyway, I also had a pound of fresh green beans and 1/2 pound of mushrooms in the fridge, and decided they could easily complement the sauce. Basically, I followed the recipe from the book up to the point the shrimp were cooked through. I removed them with a slotted spoon and added the quartered mushrooms and the beans (which had been cut and blanched). I omitted the sherry and used the juice of 2 lemons. Tossed it all together, and it was wonderful!

Mint Pesto

As Ernesto passed through NC yesterday, it was grey and dour. In the morning, I received an email from Ms. T inviting a bunch of us to her house for a pool party on Sunday. I realized we hadn't had an impromptu Friday potluck in a while. So out went the email: potluck party tonight!

The party was very well attended, pretty much everyone could make it on such short notice except for Ms. L (who wasn't at work, and didn't get the email) and Ms. D (who was on her way to Virginia Beach to run in a half marathon). That's one of the things about this neighborhood -- we all have kids, and most of us hang out on the weekends...and any excuse to get the kids all together where they can entertain each other is a good one.

I quit work at 3:00 and checked out the fridge and pantry, and here's what I made. It's super-easy and usually a big hit.

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled
2-3 cloves garlic
2 oz parmesan, cut into manageable chunks
Large bunch mint, about 6 oz before stemming, stemmed, washed and spun dry
2-3 T olive oil
salt & pepper

1 box rotini pasta
1/3 lb feta, preferably goat's or sheep's milk
  1. Throw the pine nuts, garlic, parmesan chunks and mint into a food processor, pulse.
  2. Add the olive oil, pulse some more
  3. Add salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
That's the pesto...I use it in several ways -- on brushetta with a smear of chevre, spread on a tortilla then topped with herb-roasted turkey from the deli and rolled up, then sliced for party rounds. But the most common way is to cook up a pot of rotini and toss it with the pesto and some nice goat's milk feta. This is popular with the adults and the kids, who call it "green mac & cheese".

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reporter magnets

On Saturday, our little town (not really so little any more, but it likes to maintain a facade of small-townness) threw it's annual Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival. There were upwards of 50,000 people there, but for some reason, my boys were both featured in the local newspapers.

First, a reporter from the town newspaper asked to take Kiddo's picture while he painted on a wall. It's on the front page of that paper today. Above the fold, no less. The link above goes to the picture.

Then, a reporter from the big Raleigh paper cornered Hub and asked him how he felt about the recent spate of civic "disasters." He had his quote featured in Sunday's paper. That was a bit more buried inside the City&State section, but still one of our friends read it.

Honestly, what are the odds?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Spanakopita

Sorry, I don't have a recipe to share...this is my mother's specialty. They are off to Greece and Turkey for a few weeks, for the last Big Fat Greek Wedding my generation is likely to have, so tonight we went there for dinner. Kiddo shocked me by eating and enjoying spanakopita, then following that with eating an entire carrot. Hooray!

I'm tired and grumpy, so I'll do a meme I stole from Jenorama

TECH-OLOGY:

Number of contacts in your cell phone?
<10. It's new, and I hate cell phones.

Number of contacts in your email address book?
<100

What is the wallpaper on your computer?
Hub and Kiddo.

What is your screensaver on your computer?
It's a laptop -- a screensaver would be a power-waster.

Are there naked pictures saved on your computer?
Yes. Of me, chronicalling the hugeness of pregnancy.

How many landline phones do you have in your home?
Does VOIP count? If so, 4.

How many televisions are in your home?
One, and it's only 27". And over 10 years old.

What kitchen appliance do you use the least?
The bread machine. It seems to think it's a brick-making machine.

What is the format of the radio station you listen to most?
NPR

BI-OLOGY:

What do you consider to be your best physical attribute?
Eyes.

Are you right handed or left handed?
Very, very, very right-handed.

Have you had anything removed from your body?
A baby.

Would you like to?
I doubt it.

Which of your five senses do you think is keenest?
Sight, ever since I had it fixed with Lasik.

When was the last time you had a cavity?
I've never had a cavity. Ever.

What is the heaviest item you lift regularly?
Kiddo, who is almost 40 pounds. He's a bruiser.

MISC-OLOGY:

If it were possible, would you like to know the day you're going to die?
No.

If you could change your first name, what would you change it to?
I love my first name. It suits me perfectly.

How do you express your artistic side?
Cooking. My work is surprisingly artistic (Software architect). Singing in choir.

What color do you think you look best in?
Bright blue.

How long do you think you could last in a medium security prison?
As long as the library is well stocked, I could do a few years.

Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake?
I have no clue.

If we weren't bound by society's conventions, do you have a relative you would make a pass at?
No.

How often do you go to church?
Regularly, if you count a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship as church. Many UU's would loudly protest that designation. :)

Have you ever saved someone's life?
No.

Has someone ever saved yours?
No.

DARE-OLOGY:

For this last section, if you would do it for less or more money, indicate how much.


I just won't bother with the last section. I wouldn't do any of those things for money. I'm just not that kind of girl.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Kiddo is 3!

In the airport on Friday evening, Hub called in a bit of a panic - E. coli had been detected in our town, and there was a Boil Water Advisory. This put a wrinkle into our planned water play for Kiddo's birthday party. But a quick call to Ms. C netted us the use of their big bouncy castle.

I made a solemn vow to NOT COOK A THING for this party. This is really hard for me. I guess I'm cook-proud -- I feel like I have a reputation to uphold or something stupid like that. I am proud to say that I managed to do this party without breaking the vow. And remember, this was a 4-7 pm party for kids and parents. Dinner was expected.

The menu:
- PB&J sandwiches (the frozen Smucker's kind, 32)
- Juice boxes
- Bottled water (lots, especially since tap water was out of the question)
- Mac & Cheese, which Mom made
- Fruit salad, which Dad made (OK, my solemn vow does not include my parents)
- Veggie tray, which Mom made
- Spinach dip, that I bought
- Hummous, that I bought
- Deli station, which consisted of sliced meat and cheese I had to call to Raleigh to order (because of the whole Boil Water Advisory thingy) and which I ordered way too much of, but am very much enjoying the leftovers of...
- 2 lbs roast beef
- 2 lbs roast turkey
- 1 lb sopressata (really not a mover. But I love it)
- 1 lb cheddar
- 1 lb havarti
- 1 lb lemmi (don't ask me, they recommended it)
- mayo
- 2 mustards
- sliced tomatoes
- lettuces
- 3 types of excellent bread
- butter
- assorted pickled veggies
- purchased fancy roasted potato salad
- purchased fancy cole slaw
- beer
- wine

We had 28 kids. Actually, 30 if you count the infants. I'm not even going to try to count the adults. It was a really fun party, with multiple generations and everyone pretty much stayed in the backyard and we didn't lose track of Kiddo too many times and he only had one pass-out episode and no one else got hurt...he has a strange reaction to hitting his head, which is really too frightening to even write about...but luckily it happened 5 minutes into the party and he recovered by 30 minutes in.

Generally, it was a really good party. Kiddo was very happy, surrounded by all his friends. And that was the point.

Today we went for his 3-year well child visit and received a height prognosis...6'1" to 6'4". I'm a little freaked out by that. Where is that coming from? I'm 5'4" in shoes and Hub is 5'9". The only tall guy in my family is my brother, who's adopted. I buy mostly organic milk and meat, so it's not hormones...and yet Kiddo has been at least 95th percentile in height practically since he was born.

BTW, I would be remiss in not mentioning all the amazing cleanup, de-bugging (literally, our backyard is full of mosquitos) and toy setup Hub did for this. He's a rock.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pasta with fresh tomato sauce

I have about a hundred permutations on this theme...so easy, so delicious. This is what I accompanied the lamb meatballs with tonight.

2 large tomatoes
1/3 lb feta cheese, preferably sheep's milk, also preferably in brine
1 zucchini
2 T mint
12 oz whole wheat or multi grain pasta

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions
  2. Chop the tomatoes, put in a bowl, making sure you keep all the juices. At my house, that means guarding the cutting board from Hub, who is very likely to stick his face right down onto it and slurp.
  3. Chop the mint, add to the bowl
  4. Use a vegetable peeler on the zucchini to make "ribbons", keeping the peel but stopping when you hit seeds. Toss those into the bowl.
  5. Crumble the feta into the bowl
  6. Add a little salt and pepper to taste, and toss.
  7. When the pasta is done, take 2-3 ladlefulls of pasta water and add them to the bowl.
  8. Then drain the pasta and add it to the bowl, toss, and serve.

Minted Lamb meatballs

As mentioned in the previous post, I'm in a minty mood lately and have been buying and using a lot of it. Tonight I made minted lamb meatballs, which I served separately from pasta with a fresh tomato sauce (which I'll put in the next post, sort of trying to keep a recipe index thingy going here). The reason I kept them separate is for Kiddo's sake, they could be thrown in. Also, I froze the leftovers for use as an appetizer for Saturday's big 3-year birthday party. Which I'm starting to stress out about. I did a preliminary count tonight and we are expecting at least 25 kids, plus their parents. What was I thinking?

1 1/2 lb ground lamb
2 cloves garlic
1 t kosher salt
3 T mint
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs

  1. Toss all of the above into a food processor (or bowl, in which case, mince the garlic)
  2. Mix it up.
  3. Fry in olive oil, turning frequently
  4. Drain on paper towels

Minted Shrimp salad

If you follow the link, you should see the recipe that inspired this one. I made this last night for my parents. Basically, the substitutions are due to what I had on-hand. As you can tell, I've been in a minty mood lately.

2 lb shrimp, shelled, deveined and poached, cooled
1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions, cooled
Juice of 1 grapefruit
.75 oz Mint, chopped
2 T Olive oil
2 green onions, green and white parts, sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped

  1. Combine the shrimp, grapefruit juice, olive oil and 2 T mint in a bowl to marinate for about 30 minutes
  2. In another bowl, combine the quinoa, green onions, tomatoes, salt to taste and rest of mint (about 5 T).
  3. Mix it all together
I didn't put any feta in last night, and I think it probably could use it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A summer week of fun...

Two reasons for not posting recently... 1) just not in the mood to cook so much and 2) been hanging out with my buds too much. But here's the lowdown on the past week.
  • Tues. 8/8: went to book club, where we selected the books we'd be reading for the next nine months. Ms. H2 made a gorgeous fruit tart, I'll have to get the recipe.
  • Wed. 8/9: went to the pool in the evening with Kiddo, ate really bad pizza
  • Thurs. 8/10: headed over to Ms. H's house for Thursday night play date. I'm a somewhat infrequent participant in these because during the year I have choir rehearsal on most Thursdays, but it's a neighborhood women and children night and the guys go for beers. I brought the corn and tomato salad, but instead of zucchini I used an avocado, which made it quite different...nice and creamy. I think I prefer the zucchini, though. Ms. H. made an excellent linguine with tomato and goat cheese sauce, which was incredible, and Ms. D. brought and nice salad with walnuts and dried cranberries. The kids ate mac & cheese, chicken nuggets and broccoli, and basically ran wild. Kiddo was very, very happy.
  • Fri. 8/11: I have no idea what we did on Friday. Nothing, I think. Chilled. Played with Kiddo.
  • Sat. 8/12: Actually hired a babysitter for the first time, because my parents were out of town. We went to Mr. T's (that sounds funny) 40th birthday party, and it was great. They live on the lake, and Ms. T. hired caterers to do a "Hawaiian BBQ". Also hired a steel drum band, and even a bartender...it was swank, and I drank waaaaay too much white wine. I had great conversations with new and old friends, and it was a great night out. And Kiddo had fun with his sitter!
  • Sun. 8/13: We were going to have Ms. N. et famille over, but they canceled, so we did ribs for ourselves again. This time we tossed the broth, though, since I'll be out of town later on in the week.
OK, I have some cool cooking plans tonight, I'll see if I can actually write down any of the recipes. My parents are home, and haven't seen Kiddo in 2 weeks, so they're coming over. It is shocking how much he has changed in only 2 weeks, actually -- and he'll be 3 on Friday! Check out my budding chef...cutting ribs with his Dad.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Asian" noodle soup

After making Carolina BBQ Ribs, you'll have a big pot of lovely broth left. Let it cool, then skim the fat off the top. Then have fun creating your own "Asian" soup - this is what we did on Sunday, but it all comes down to what we happen to have in the fridge and pantry.

3 Quarts broth
4 pork chops
2 inches fresh ginger, skinned and chopped
4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
4 green onions (we happened to have the whole bulbs, not the green parts)
1 box rice noodles
2 hearts of Romaine, chopped
2 T hoisin sauce
2 T chile and garlic sauce
  1. Simmer the broth
  2. Add the ginger, garlic and green onions
  3. Add the pork chops, cook gently for about 30 minutes
  4. Remove the pork chops
  5. Add the rice noodles and lettuce, cook for 5 minutes
  6. Add the sauces
  7. In the meantime, cut the pork chops from the bones, remove the fat and cube the meat.
Serve in big noodle bowls with chopsticks. If you have cilantro and lime, garnish away.

This is soooooo good. You can substitute about a million ways - using tofu or chicken for the protein, using actual bok choy or spinach for the greens, adding mushrooms, heck, you can even use angel hair instead of the rice noodles. The real key is the fresh ginger, I think.

Oh, and by the way...we threw this together as a quick meal before going to see Fiona Apple in concert last night. Kiddo really enjoyed the cubed pork and noodles, sans broth. And he enjoyed his first non-classical concert, too. The boy is destined to play in a band, I'm sure of it. After all, his mom did!

Carolina BBQ Ribs

Ms. C. called at about 10:00 am on Saturday, with the news that they were filling up the wading pool and doing a casual cookout at 5:00. This is not atypical, and really one of the best things about this neighborhood -- spontaneity.

We had picked up a couple of racks of ribs when at BJ's earlier in the week, so we decided that would be our contribution to the potluck. This is an all-day process, but not at all difficult. I can't be specific on some aspects of it...but here goes.

2 racks pork baby back ribs
1 onion
vinegar-based BBQ sauce, mixed up with some ketchup

  1. Fill a very large stockpot (I use this one) half full of water. Add about 1 T salt.
  2. Cut the ribs at every 2 ribs
  3. Chop the onion coarsely
  4. Simmer the ribs and onion in the water gently for 1 hour, basically until the house smells strongly of pork&onions.
  5. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the ribs from the water and put in a large container,
  6. If you are so inclined, keep the broth for the next recipe.
  7. Pour the sauce over - this is where I have to be vague. We have a good friend, Mr. R., who makes batches of the best vinegar-based Eastern North Carolina BBQ sauce that we've ever encountered. He has instructed us on how to combine it with ketchup, but beyond that, it's a secret recipe. We get batches by feeding him regularly. I would have to guess that it contains apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, whole peppercorns, lots of other spices...oh, heck, who knows? Find a BBQ sauce you like.
  8. Fire up the grill, get it hot, then put the ribs over indirect heat.
  9. Cook them over low, indirect heat for 2-4 hours, turning every 30-60 minutes or so.
The party was great fun. Everyone brought something, cooked or bought - including a cole slaw, potato salad, green salad, lots of chips/crackers and dips. Mr. M. grilled turkey dogs for the kids and set out bowls of popcorn and chips for them. For the adults (fed after the kids) they grilled a turkey breast and a pork loin that had both been marinated in teriyaki sauce. There were 2 coolers on the back porch - one for juice boxes and bottles of water, one for beer.

Out front there was the "wading" pool - a bit larger and deeper than your traditional plastic one - and lots of camp chairs for the adults to sit around and holler at kids from. Kiddo actually got completely wet (he tends to resist his head going under) and learned lots of bad splashing habits from the older boys -- at one point, they decided the best game was to soak me (the sole watching adult) and did a fine job of it.

We ended up closing out the night, as our Kiddo likes to stay up late, as do Ms. C and Mr. M's kids. The only downside of the evening was that Mr. J. cut his finger pretty badly on a bottle that didn't open properly, and Ms. H had to take him to the emergency room. He's OK, though.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Macaroni & Cheese

I used to always make mac & cheese by first making a white sauce, then stirring in grated cheese. While this is still a fun thing to do, my sister-in-law found a super-easy, lower-fat baked mac & cheese recipe for Thanksgiving a few years ago...I found the link as she did on the Cooking Light website. Try it! It is really great.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Insomnia

I hate insomnia. I should be used to it, it seems to hit me about once every month for 2-3 days at a time. Unfortunately, I have no clue why, maybe I need to start an insomnia diary. What did I eat today? Where am I in my cycle? What is the weather like?

Nah. I'll just ride it out like always.

What I'm mulling over is what to do for Kiddo's birthday, which is on Friday the 18th. I'll be travelling for work that day (argh) but probably want to have the party on Saturday anyway. I certainly don't want to spend much time cooking or preparing for it, because Kiddo will be wanting serious Mommy time - today when Hub told him I would be traveling on an airplane, he said "But I just miss Mom all the time." He then repeated that sentiment to me...making me feel glad, very loved, and guilty as hell.

So, do I give in and get the catering trays from Chick-Fil-A? Ms. H. did that for A's birthday, and it was a hit. Or do I have Hub grill burgers and hot dogs, and make mac & cheese, etc, etc? That's what I usually do, I just don't know that 1) Kiddo will appreciate that and 2) it's his day, not mine. None of the 3-year-olds will care if I made the pesto from scratch.

I'm thinking a compromise...get the catering trays, but make the cake myself. And Kiddo can help me make the cake. I'll even make it chocolate, which he loves, but which revs him up to insane speeds.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Cornish Hens with Herb Butter

We went shopping at BJ's yesterday. I know, the name sounds like a bad joke, but it's our version of Sam's Club/Costco. One thing they tend to have is fresh Cornish Hens, which we picked up in addition to things like fruit snacks, toilet paper, and _Nanny McPhee_.

This is what we did with them tonight - it's a variation on a very generic theme, taking advantage of whatever herbs/seasonings you have in the fridge or in the garden. Me, I have a black thumb, you know whatever I'm using came from the store.

2 Cornish Hens
4 T butter (I used goat butter tonight, because I had some - wow, that was nice) OR olive oil
Handful of dill, chopped, or parsley, or oregano, or mint, or rosemary, really whatever strikes your fancy here. I've used them all, they're all nice. You can even go dried, but fresh is nicest.
Fresh-ground pepper
1 lemon OR 1 lime
If you like heat, add 1 seeded jalapeno, chopped, or some paprika

  1. Preheat oven to 450°
  2. Split hens lengthwise, removing breastbone with a sharp knife or kitchen shears
  3. Arrange hens in a baking dish, not too shallow (probably not a rimmed baking sheet)
  4. Use a zester to get the zest from the citrus. I love the Oxo one. Then, chop the zest up.
  5. Juice the fruit. If you don't have a wooden reamer, get one. They are hands-down the best way to juice a citrus fruit. And I just like the fact that I own a reamer. Cue Beavis & Butthead laugh.
  6. In a small dish, combine the herbs, butter (if you are using butter), pepper, zest and juice. Mash it up as well as you can.
  7. If you decided to use olive oil, drizzle some on the hens
  8. Smear the mixture over the hens, then pour whatever wasn't incorporated over.
  9. Put the hens in the oven on the top rack, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the juices are basically boiling under the skin. You probably want to turn the pan around a few times to account for uneven oven temps.
We usually have this with a salad and some nice bread. The bread is used to mop up all the gorgeous crusty bits in the pan. This is not a first-date dish, it is messy and decadent and greasy and GOOOOOOOD.

I now resolve to go running in the morning. Believe me, I need to.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

What to do with tomato pulp

Hub decided he absolutely needed gazpacho tonight. I was very lazy and kiddo wanted to play with me, so he manfully followed a recipe (sort of) and ended up with a bowl full of leftover tomato pulp/seeds/skins and also more garlic than the recipe called for. It called for 4 cloves, he chopped 9, he's that kind of guy. He tossed the extra garlic into the pulp and said "hey, we can make pan con tomate". True, but we didn't have any fresh bread. We were drinking the gazpacho with ice, sort of virgin mary-ish, and were still wondering about dinner. So, I heated up the pulp, threw some frozen whole-wheat raviolis in a pot, chopped some parsley and grated some fresh parmesan.

It was fantastic. The gods were smiling, that was a really excellent tomato sauce. And no tomato wastage!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Life Experience

Bold the ones you've done..

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said 'I love you' and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne.
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was shit faced
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your cds
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Had a one-night stand
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror.
96. Raised children.
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived.
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146: Dyed your hair
147: Been a DJ
148: Shaved your head
149: Caused a car accident
150: Saved someone's life

Now, it's your turn. Do it on your blog, and then leave a comment saying you've done so.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Corn, Tomato and Zucchini salad

Corn
Tomatoes
Zucchini (optional)
Cilantro
Salt & pepper
Olive Oil
  1. Cut the corn from about four ears of fresh corn that has been either boiled or grilled.
  2. Chop about 3 large tomatoes or halve a pint of cherry tomatoes. That means an entire pint of cherry tomatoes, each little tomato cut in half, by the way.
  3. Use a vegetable peeler to make zucchini "ribbons" out of about 3 medium zucchini
  4. Chop a bunch of cilantro leaves - I don't bother to stem cilantro, but just chop off the "head" of the bunch.
  5. Toss in a big bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste.

Dolmades (Stuffed Vine Leaves)

I follow a recipe from A Little Greek Cookbook by Rena Salaman, with a few modifications.

At least 16 oz preserved vine leaves (I usually need a bit more than one jar)
3/4 cup long-grain rice
2 oz pine nuts (at least)
10 oz onions (one large) and 3-4 spring onions, green and white parts
3 T fresh dill
2 T fresh mint (at least)
3 T fresh parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lemons
1 cup hot water
salt and black pepper

Instructions - this is where I veer off-recipe:
  1. Carefully reach into the jar and squeeze the roll of leaves up to the side of the jar. Wiggling back and forth, ease them out.
  2. Put the leaves into a colandar, put the colander into a big bowl. Run hot water over them and set aside.
  3. Measure the rice into a fine strainer, put that in a bowl. Run cold water over it and set aside.
  4. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan. Be careful! I have a terrible tendency to forget about them and burn them. When done, set aside to cool slightly.
  5. If you feel like it, chop the onions, spring onions, dill, mint, parsley and pine nuts by hand. If not, throw them all in a food processor and use on/off pulse to get them chopped. Do not liquify!
  6. Strain the rice and put into a bowl. Add the chopped ingredents. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil, and juice of one lemon. Stir.
  7. If you're tired at this point, set it in the refrigerator...you can roll them tomorrow. Or just make pilaf.
  8. Rinse the grape leaves. On a cutting board with a drippings trough, start rolling the grape leaves, as follows - you are never going to read this in a cookbook. If I remember, I'll take pictures the next time I do it. I learned on my momma's knee.
    1. Select a whole leaf without too many holes. Set aside very tough or very torn ones. Use them to line the bottom of a large, heavy pot (Le Creuset is really the best for this that I've tried so far). Remove any long stems.
    2. Veins up, stem at the bottom, place about a teaspoonful of filling near the stem - the amount will depend on the size of the leaf. Spread it out horizontally a bit.
    3. Fold the right bottom section in on an angle, then the left bottom section
    4. Fold the right entire side vertically towards the middle, then the left side.
    5. Roll up from the stem, tucking as you go if you need to
    6. Put the roll into the pot (if you have your layer of bad leaves) or into the trough with the edge down.
    7. After you've tightly packed one layer, put another layer of bad leaves on and keep on going.
  9. When you have all the parcels tightly packed into the pot, pour over the other 1/4 cup of oil, the juice of the other lemon, some salt and pepper and the cup of hot water.
  10. Place a small plate in the pot on top of the dolmades.
  11. Simmer gently for 50-60 minutes (the Le Creuset takes 60 minutes, a regular pot usually 50)
  12. Let stand for a while before attempting to remove, or you will burn your fingers.