Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

Weeknight meals are a must, but sometimes it's hard to decide just what to make.

Here is just a sampling of my favorites:

Spiced Braised Beef with sweet potatoes, Couscous

Pork Carnitas, Yellow Rice (I buy Vigo), Black Beans. NOTE: You must use Mexican Oregano on the pork. The standard stuff just doesn't deliver the right flavor.

Sun-Dried Tomato Burgers

Spiced Meatballs with Couscous Salad and Hummus

Chipotle Cheddar Burgers - The Chipotle Ketchup is to die for!

Mexican Casserole

Lemon-Garlic Chicken Thighs with New Potatoes and Green Beans

Italian Chicken Soup - This is delicious! I think tortellini works better because it’s smaller than ravioli

Chicken Breasts stuffed with Fontina, Artichokes & Tomatoes - You’ll have some leftover stuffing – it makes a great, simple pizza.

Ham & Swiss Bread Pudding - I’ve made this one for years. Very good.

Pork Loin – marinate in equal parts Dijon mustard and honey. Bake at 500 until done (I let it be rosy pink in the middle then cover it with foil for about 10 minutes. It's still a little pink in the middle and oh-so-juicy). Mmm

Ham & Cheese Turnovers - For a grown-up version, I use prosciutto and Italian-blend cheese w/tomato sauce on the side for dipping. For the kids, I leave out the onion and serve it with honey mustard for dipping.

Baked Ziti with Spinach & Tomatoes

Orzo with Garbanzo Beans - This is delish as a side with barbecue

Roasted Shrimp with Peppers and Lemon

Salmon with Soy & Wasabi Sauces - I don’t make the wasabi that much but this is a great basic recipe. Delish with asparagus.

Salmon with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce - This sounds really odd but it’s great. Even Mitchell likes it.

Baked Fish Sticks Diablo - I make the boys’ first without the cayenne then add it to make ours

Baked Greek Shrimp - serve with Orzo. This is one of Mitchell's favorites.

Meatloaf Muffins - The meatloaf cooks really quick since it's made in a muffin pan. And, kids think it's cool to have their own little meatloaf. Really good with green beans and potatoes.

Salmon with Snap Peas & Rice This is a one-dish wonder! We're having it tonight. Mmmm!!!

Taco Pizza:
Boboli Pizza crust
Refried Beans
Taco Meat (I use turkey and add a can of diced tomatoes along with the taco seasoning packet)
Serve w/sour cream & guacamole

Delish Mashed Potatoes: Start with prepared store-bought mashed potatoes. Add a tub of garlic-and-herb Allouette and some shredded cheddar cheese. Microwave until cheese melts.

My favorite green beans - Sautee a small, thinly sliced red onion and a clove of garlic (minced) in some olive oil until beginning to soften. Add trimmed green beans. Sautee a few minutes until they start to pick up a little color. Add chicken broth (a few times around the pan) then cover and let it cook until the green beans are soft. When done, remove the lid and turn up the heat so the chicken broth cooks off. Just before serving, add about a tablespoon of butter plus the juice of one lime. So easy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ham & Cheese Turnovers

This week, we had a very simple and very tasty meal of ham and cheese turnovers.

First, let me applaud Real Simple for creating something they claim is kid friendly that really is! Too many times, I think magazines call something "kid friendly" just because it has a sauce for dipping.

This meal really was kid friendly. I made the boys' versions with ham and "boy cheese" (what Mitchell calls sliced cheese).
For a more grown-up version, I made our turnovers with prosciutto and shredded Italian-blend cheese. The boys had theirs with honey mustard for dipping, and we had ours with marinara. A yummy salad rounded out the meal (carrots for Noah, as he doesn't quite do salad yet.)

You don't really need to use the recipe to make this meal: You start with refrigerated pizza crust, roll it out, add your filling, roll and bake. Couldn't be easier!

Mitchell enjoyed it so much that he had two turnovers at dinner and even asked if he could have one in his school lunch the next day!
(If you need a recipe, click here. Photo is from RealSimple.com.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Quick Sausage & Mushroom Lasagna

Last night I did something I very rarely do: I made lasagna for real. I didn't open the Kirkland's box and toss it in the oven. I actually layered it in the dish myself and everything. Okay, not everything: I used jarred sauce and those no-boil noodles.

This was really a great lasagna and was quick to assemble, just as the title suggests. I loved that the mushrooms were added to the pan first so they could soak up all the flavors of the other stuff added (instead of adding them at the end so they get too wet and soupy). I used a Le Creuset pan so there would be lots of browned bits to pick up with the wine. Yum!

There's a few things I'd change if/when I make it again:
  • The recipe recommended hot Italian sausage. I subbed mild because of the boys. The sausage I bought didn't have much flavor, which was a shame because I bought it at the butcher counter. I really figured it would have been better. I may do half hot, half mild next time.
  • The recipe is called "Quick" because it uses no-boil noodles. I was really disappointed in the noodles. I cooked the recipe just as instructed and the noodles didn't soften. I put it back in the oven before putting it away after dinner - hopefully they've softened enough for when I recycle it for left-overs tomorrow night! (Mom's going to Girls Night at a friend's house, so the boys are having left-overs.)
  • The recipe instructed to make three layers. My dish would only hold two full layers so I had to improvise the top. I think two layers would be better in the future anyway because it would allow for more of the sausage and mushrooms between the pasta. I thought it was a little skimpy as is.
  • I think I'd use more ricotta next time too. I would have liked to feel that gush when I took a bite.

The recipe is available at epicurious. (Photo is from epicurious.com as well)

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Heart Mashed Potatoes

Since I was a young child, I have loved mashed potatoes. No matter how full I am at the end of a meal, none shall go wasted in my house.

One thing I don't like is actually making mashed potatoes. I even have a potato ricer so I can make smooth, velvety spuds like my MIL made when Paul was a child.

So, I'm in love with prepared spuds that can be purchased in all different varieties at the Crazy B.

This week, I tried the H-E-B brand Homestyle Mashed Potatoes. It was love at first bite! The texture isn't like the other prefab ones - nor is it like the ones served with an ice cream scoop. Instead, they were this fluffy, starchy pillow of potatoey goodness.

Others I've tried and think are buy-worthy:
  • Simply Potatoes. I love all the varieties, though I haven't tried the sweet spuds.
  • Ore Ida frozen mashed potatoes. They were my intro to premashed pots. I first tried them as recommended in a recipe for my delish Cheesy Garlic Potatoes (see below). I think this may have been the first incarnation of the prefab spuds, but looking at their site - they no longer offer them. (I've moved on since those days in 1998-99.)
  • Country Crock. I have to admit that I like the Deluxe Loaded variety. I bought them once by accident, and I think they're pretty tasty (when I'm in the mood for bacon).

Cheesy Garlic Potatoes

Your choice of prepared mashed potatoes, heated according to package

Garlic and Herb Alouette spread

Shredded Cheddar Cheese, to taste

Add the Alouette and cheddar cheese, to taste. Microwave and add a
little milk, if needed. Yummy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred (a MeMe)

As I've said before, I'm quite known as the Foodie in my circles. I've had dinner at The French Laundry (and I covet my wooden clothespins that I keep in my top drawer in my bathroom - looking at them every morning reminds me of these delicious little smoked salmon "ice cream cones" filled with creme fresh). I've personally prepared a multiple-course meal and even stir-fried with Martin Yan. Yep, I'm a foodie.

So, when I saw this list, I thought, "How Fun!"

British food blogger Very Good Taste cooked up a list of a hundred things that every good omnivore should try.

Here are my notes. Things I've tried are in bold and red. Things I'd never eat in a million years are italicized and in blue.

Once you've made your list, leave me a comment so I can compare notes! (I've only missed 23 on the list - and just 2 made the list of NEVER, though I may have had a Scotch bonnet in salsa, but I think of this as a challenge to have it solo!)

The Omnivore's Hundred

1. Venison (This is Texas!)
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros (Ditto Numero Uno!)
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (I've had alligator, though!)
6. Black pudding (just learned about this on "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern - like, about 45 minutes ago - no lie!)
7. Cheese fondue (Though, Paul will call it "fon-don't")
8. Carp
9. Borscht (not a beet fan, but I'll try - almost - anything)
10. Baba ghanoush (Is any other food more fun to say?)
11. Calamari (mmmmm....)
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich (not a fan, but I'll eat it)
14. Aloo gobi (also fun to say!)
15. Hot dog from a street cart (in Central Park, no less!)
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle (delish in mashed potatoes!)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns (mmm, buns)
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras (I heart foie gras!)
24. Rice and beans (again, this is Texas)
25. Brawn, or head cheese (ditto)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (I'm a foodie, not a glutten for punishment!)
27. Dulche de leche
28. Oysters (fried, raw, chicken fried, sauteed, with ginger sauce ...)
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (from Boudin Bakery to now-closed Barnacle Bill's - yumO)
33. Salted lassi (have enjoyed with No. 14)
34. Sauerkraut (deslish on No. 15!)
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (though, one time I did try a "gourmet" amaretto cigar from Cuba at a party - and I threw up out the window while my smarter hubby drove down the freeway!)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (here in the South, we call 'em "jello shots," and my mother once called me to ask how to make them!)
39. Gumbo (my mama makes the best!)
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal (My fave Indian restaurant doesn't make it - probably too hot to appeal to the masses. I bet they'd whip some up for me, though, if I asked.)
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth 60 GBP/$120 or more (No, but I can name one!)
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala (Buy Ethnic Gourmet's meal in your freezer section and check this one off your list - you'll go back for more! And, hit your local Indian buffet for the real deal!)
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (I've made a rule to only eat them hot and fresh - that prevents me from eating too many! And, I've only pulled over twice because of the beacon on the sign!)
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly Pear (You can get it as a margarita at Boudro's on the River Walk!)
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer (Again, get thee to an Indian buffet and check a lot off the list.)
55. MacDonald's Big Mac Meal (sadly)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (oh so good, and yet oh so bad!)
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine (Sort of - I've had fries covered in cheese and white cream gravy)
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores (As a kid, I've even had one made with marshmellows toasted over the open flame of my mom's gas cooktop!)
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frog's legs (again, I'm from Texas)
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (yes, yes, yes and yes)
68. Haggis (Paul just tried to convince me that "it's just sausage, in a natural casing." Just the name turns me off - and I've tried some really gross stuff!)
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini (When preggo with Mitchell, I actually asked the OB if I could have caviar on New Year's. He said no, so Mitchell came out early. - I don't think I had any that New Year's, though.)
73. Louche, absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (Granny always had a ton on hand, and the coconut was always my favorite.)
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini (The white peach bellini at the Rose Pistola in San Fran kicks butt!)
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict (Try it with smoked salmon!)
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (Again, The French Laundry)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse (Rumor has it that it's what's inside the 2 for 99 cents tacos at Jack in the Box, so maybe ...)
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam (not a fan, but mama likes hers fried)
92. Soft shell crab (Decedant at Louisana Lagniappe in Destin, Florida - served on top of grouper!)
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole pablano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake (rattlesnake in chili or as nuggets, yikes!)

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

PNO: Silo

Instead of blogging about a great meal I made this weekend, instead I'll share a great meal we enjoyed for Parents' Night Out.

This past Friday, Paul and I enjoyed the best perk of daycare: Parents' Night Out. One night a month, the daycare will keep the kids until 11:30 so we can go out on a date. Like grown-ups.

I like to take full advantage of PNO and go somewhere we can enjoy fancy grown up stuff like foie gras or pretty much anything that doesn't come with a side of fries (unless, of course, it's the delicious pommes frites at Bistro Vatel!).

This weekend, we decided to go to Silo. Their tag is "elevated cuisine," and their gimmick is that the restaurant is upstairs so you take an elevator from the bar and the hostess greets you by name at the top.

We arrived a few minutes before our reserved seating but declined to wait in the bar. (I think their bar is kinda creepy, and they allow smoking inside, which I think is disgusting.) Instead, we went up to our table and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink there. Paul had a Heineken, and I had their signature cosmo, which was so smooth it could be very dangerous if consumed in quantity.

We skipped appetizers since neither of us were extremely hungry and, instead, preordered the molten chocolate cake for dessert.

Paul had the surf-and-turf special with a petite filet and lobster tail. Both just melted in your mouth. The steak was beautifully rare and had the perfect amount of smoky flavor. (Wood-firing is big here in San Antonio.) The lobster tail was served split and was sublime.

I started with the spinach salad, which was perfection. It featured dried apricots and cranberries plus a dressing that I could bathe in. For my meal, I chose the foie gras special appetizer. It was Heaven on a plate! It was perfectly seared and served on toasted brioche with a rich demi glaze.

And, of course, that warm chocolate cake was the sweet ending to a great night out.

Sad to report that I was at the daycare to pick up the boys before 9 o'clock!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Burgers, Pasta and Play Dough (oh my!)

Okay, I've been a little lax about posting here. But, I haven't been lax about cooking.

Here are the highlights of the past week or so:

  • One-Pot Salmon with Snap Peas and Rice. I'm in love with this recipe. You put the rice on to cook, then add the salmon, a little later toss on the peas and then throw on the sauce. One dirty dish, dinner in less than 30 minutes - what's not to love! Even Mitchell will eat this one - and apparently so will Noah! He was loving the salmon. (I must say, something awesome happens to the salmon when this dish cooks. It comes out soft as butter - but not mushy or anything. It just melts in your mouth. Delish!)

And, food's not the only thing cookin' in our house. Mitchell's new preschool asks that parents bring homemade play dough to the parent orientation. Given my track record with strange stuff that I have to make, I thought I'd test drive the recipe. Lo and behold, I made play dough! The stuff is so smooth (though it is very salty smelling).

Cooked Play Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup salt

4 teaspoons cream of tartar

2 cups cold water

2 tablespoons oil

Food coloring (Use WAAAAY more than you think you need! The few drops I added at first made something that looked like snot!)

Mix the dry ingredients in a large pot. Mix the wet ingredients (including the food coloring) in a measuring cup then add to the dry ingredients. Turn on the heat and stir like a mad woman - this required quite a bit of strength, as this is a thick mixture. Something strange happens and it magically becomes a ball of play dough!

Remove from heat and let cool then knead to make it smooth. Store in plastic bags.