Sunday, February 28, 2010

Insufficient Payback

My parents must be breathing a sigh of relief. For about two weeks now, I've been a guest in their house. I've had (almost) all my meals made for me, breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. My dog has been walked, my bed has been made, my laundry washed, dried and folded and my clothes ironed. It's really been wonderful. I have been extremely spoiled. And all that I have offered in return? Fried fish and onion rings. Not exactly a fair trade, although they are really delicious onion rings.


Onion, sliced thickly to create rings
Left over batter from the fried fish recipe
Oil (canola, veg, etc)

Fill your deep pot with about 2-3 inches of oil. Allow the temp to get to 360 F. Lightly flour then batter several onion rings. Make sure to shake off excess flour and then excess batter, so it's not goopy. Toss several rings in at a time. Cook for 3 minutes, turning halfway through. Use to bribe thank family members.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Love Lost

We've never been big on Valentine's Day. I don't want overpriced flowers, and Ryan doesn't want to go out to eat on a night so busy that most of the restaurants premake all the meals and everthing is crazy, crowded and does not live up to expectations. So we usually exchange cards and small gifts, and cook something delicious and fancy at home. This year however, was a total bust. This year, I had the stomach flu. While visiting Ryan's mother. There were no cards and no gifts. Just some chicken soup and whimpering. We promised we'd celebrate the next weekend. He stayed behind in New England on business and I came home. The next Saturday, I was excited. Ryan was flying home and we'd finally get our Valentine's Day. But I couldn't find a single card, Ryan had forgotten entirely, and I went to make these fancy Linzer cookies, and screwed up completely. Evidently, Ina Garten's recipe does not want to be halved, because the dough would not hold together AT ALL. I ended up adding extra butter, and then overcooked the first batch. The second batch was all I could really salvage and scrape together. They were delicious though, so I guess that will have to be enough for me, until next year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


When I was small I had a very best friend. She was the very best kind of best friend, with an infectious laugh, an old house filled with secret passageways and a tire swing and she lived right around the corner from me. We played countless games of tag, sardines, ghost in the graveyard and hide and seek, and when things got dull, we'd find new ways to torture her baby brother, like telling him the potato chips tinged with green gave you magical powers. When it was finally time to say goodbye we'd take turns walking each other home until one of our mothers hollered, and even then we'd walk to the midpoint together, part and slowly head back home alone. Back in those days, Chrissy and I were so close. And Chrissy's most beloved stuffed animal was a lamb named Wammy. So while I ate beef and pork and veal and lobster and crabs and liverwurst and calamari and all sorts of other things that many children would refuse, I absolutely, positively, under no conditions would try lamb. I couldn't. "But....but...Wammy!" I'd cry, and my patient and somewhat indulgent mother would sigh and let it drop.

I'm not sure exactly when I relaxed my ban on Wammy's relatives, but now only a very small part of me winces when I enjoy a delicious piece of lamb. Tonight my mother made this super easy recipe, and provided that you have no interfering attachments to the loveys of your childhood friends, you'll very much enjoy it.


2 pieces boneless lamb loin
1-2 cloves garlic minced
1 T fresh or 1-2 t dried rosemary
1 t olive oil for the loin plus 2 t for the pan
kosher salt and pepper

Mince the garlic and add 1/2 t kosher salt and mash together to make a sort of paste. Rubbing the lamb with the oil and add 1/2 t kosher salt plus as much pepper as you like. Then rub in the garlic mixture and pat on the rosemary. In a large cast iron pan add the 2 t olive oil and turn the heat to medium high. When the pan is hot, add the lamb loins and cook for 4 minutes per side for rare and 5-6 for medium.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sausage and White Bean Pasta

You may have caught on that there's been a wee bit of snow around these parts lately. We're currently experiencing a lovely bouncy type of sleet while waiting for the nor'easter to begin pounding our region. While many are getting a touch of the cabin fever, I am still completely pleased and looking forward to a long day of movies, books and baking. Beer bread, perhaps? I'm also very much looking forward to having my leftovers from this sausage and cannellini bean pasta for lunch. It's so delicious and warming. It reminds me a bit of black eyed peas and sausage, but you know, without the hours of work. Although, I suppose I do have hours available, what with waiting for the next 12-18 inches of snow and all.

from Cooking Light (probably made not light - sorry)

This makes a ton. I made a full recipe of the sauce, and a half recipe of the pasta. I took half the sauce and froze it for use later. The half recipe of pasta was probably about 4 conservative servings or 3 hearty servings.

1 lb penne or ziti pasta
1 C chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb turkey sausage (remove the skins that make them into links)
1/2 C dry white wine or vermouth
1/2 C chicken broth
1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 15 oz cans cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
1/2 t fennel seeds (I had none, so skipped them)
1/2 C shaved Romano cheese (I used parm, still super yummy)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. I think I started the water when I added the onion and garlic and it worked out well.

Brown the sausage in a large skillet on medium high heat. Use a spoon to break down the sausage into nice little bits. When the sausage is cooked through, remove it to a plate covered with a paper towel and set aside. Lower the heat and add the onion and garlic and cook on medium low until softened, about 3 minutes. Then add the sausage back in. Increase the heat and add the vermouth and stir to get up all the browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the broth, the tomatoes, the beans and the fennel (if you're using it). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Add plenty of pepper, but I found it needed no salt. You can add the pasta to the sauce to incorporate it, or just spoon the sauce over the pasta (which is what we did since we wanted to save half the sauce for another meal). Top with the shaved cheese.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Indoor Barbecue Chicken

For those on the East Coast, the weather isn't exactly conducive to outdoor food prep. That is if you can even tell which of the snow drifts in your yard might be hiding a grill. So we cooked up a little barbecue chicken in the oven. It can't compare to the years when I've done a real spread, including three types of chicken wings, but it will do for our little ultra-exclusive, two person Superbowl party. At the last minute I decided I needed to make the sauce from scratch, which it turned out could be done without so much as a trip to the store (ha!). The good news is the sauce is delicious, the bad news, that the chicken wasn't super impressive. It was juicy, but it didn't have enough saucy goodness. It was yummy, but I'd hunt up another recipe next time. Luckily, I have a jar of tasty homemade sauce in the fridge, so there has to be a next time.

P.S. The broccoli was NOT my idea.


Sauce from Ina Garten (who else?)
3/4 C minced yellow onion (1/2 large onion)
1 large clove minced garlic
1/4 C (or less) vegetable oil
6 oz tomato paste (one small can)
1/2 C cider vinegar
1/2 C honey
1/4 C Worcestershire sauce
1 C Dijon mustard (I didn't have enough Dijon, so I went half Dijon have Guldens)
1/4 C soy sauce
1/2 C hoisin sauce
1 T chili powder
1/2 T ground cumin
1 t crushed red pepper flakes

gluten-free note: In all prepared sauces, please find a gluten-free brand, Lee and Perrin's Worcestershire, Maille mustard, Premier Japan hoisin...

Put the oil, the garlic and the onion in a large saucepan over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Watch very carefully, I had a hard time getting the heat low enough here. Then add all the other ingredients, mix well and let simmer uncovered on low for 30 minutes. For me, this meant little splatters of sauce all over anything anywhere near my stove. I was not pleased, but then I tasted it, and felt slightly better about the continuous wiping up. It's sweet, tart and has a nice spicy finish. Also, Ina claims it will last for months in the fridge. Whoo hoo!
2 bone in, skin on chicken breasts
1 T butter
salt and pepper
1 t veggie oil
1/2 C to 3/4 C barbecue sauce - use recipe above, your own recipe, or the stuff you buy at the store.

Preheat oven to 425F.
Rub the butter under the skin of the chicken, baste the skin with the veggie oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a cooking rack in a roasting pan. Cook for 15 minutes. Add 1/2 C of water to the pan and baste the chicken with the barbecue sauce. Let cook for 20-30 more minutes until the juices run clear.

Pantry Raid

I am always amazed by the crazy number of people (number of crazy people?) who run panicked to grocery store at the first whisper of snow. Do they have no food at home? Do they anticipate that here in the mid-Atlantic it will take WEEKS to dig out? I'm just not sure. So here's the deal. In honor of our fearful friends, one week's worth of plans that do not require ANYTHING I don't already have in the house. We usually run out for fresh produce nearly daily, and here in a major city, it would be easy to still do that. But let's go with the worst case scenario here. Let's say there was nowhere to buy food for a week. What would I do?

First: Take stock of my pantry, fridge and freezer.
Freezer -
1lb ground turkey
1 lb turkey sausage
1 package bone in chicken breasts & 1 package boneless chicken breasts
frozen corn, peas, butternut squash
homemade chicken stock
Pantry -
black beans, red beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas
pasta, rice (regular and arborio)
flour (barely), cornmeal
canned tomatoes
milk (Parmalat)
potatoes, onions, a lemon, garlic
Fridge -
a limited amount of cheese
normal condiments (bbq sauce, soy, ketchup, mustard)
beer and vermouth
mushrooms and flour tortillas (I'm going to avoid these in my official plans, since I
doubt most people would have them on hand)

So can it be done? Can I make a week's worth of tasty dinners without going to the store even once?

BBQ Chicken and Cornbread - While we're not fans of the Colts or the Saints, we're still watching the Superbowl, and barbecue seems festive enough, right? I'll use the bone in breasts so that it can get nice and tender in the oven.

MONDAY - Ziti with White Beans and Sausage - Oh the shame. We still haven't tried this recipe. But it doesn't require a trip to the store!

Corn Chowder - We've got stock, frozen corn, potatoes, onion, and stock, and enough milk and cheddar. Besides, if there's any leftover cornbread, that would help round out the meal.

WEDNESDAY - Lemon Chicken - pretty much only requires, lemon, butter, chicken and pepper. We'll cook up some rice, and break out the frozen peas. Simple.

THURSDAY - Tortilla - eggs and potatoes, check. I'll have to be a little creative with the cheese, we don't have a ton of any one kind left. But this is great for throwing in whatever else is lurking in your fridge (like those mushrooms I didn't want to count on having).

Chickpea Pasta - Always easy and I always have the ingredients.

See? Success. Now to go shovel out the car.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Maureen's Applesauce Muffins

Before this morning, it had been over four years since I'd had the deliciousness that is an applesauce muffin. Maureen's son Sean had brought a batch to a Thanksgiving party, and presented them to me saying "My mom thinks you'll really like her muffins." Oh, did I. I asked Maureen for the recipe, which she promised to pass along. And I was thrilled. I couldn't wait to bake myself up a batch. But the recipe never materialized. Maureen got a job where I work and I saw her every day, but still, no muffin recipe. Then Maureen got a new job. I was concerned. It had been over two years and I was still trying to get the damn muffin recipe. How was this going to work if I lost track of her? She promised to get me the recipe. I didn't see her on her last day and was pretty forlorn. I liked Maureen, and I liked her muffins. But there in my mailbox, just waiting to cheer me up, was the recipe. I was ecstatic! Muffins for me! And I promptly lost the recipe. But a crazy fit of cleaning last weekend unearthed it. And this morning, finally, after four long years, more muffins. Thankfully, they live up to my memory, sweet, comforting, perfect.


1 egg
1/2 C oil
3/4 C sugar
1 C applesauce
1/2 T vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t baking powder
1/2 C nuts or raisins (I've never made them or had them with either, but you may be more daring)

Preheat your oven to 400 F.
Beat the egg. Add the ingredients in the order given (mixing as you go). Pour into a greased and floured (or cooking spray-ed) muffin tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes (mine were definitely done on the shorter end). Makes one dozen muffins.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Catching Up

Ever since the dog got sick, I've been catching up. Catching up on work, on housework on cooking. And then of course, when I felt like I was getting close, my computer died. So now, I feel guilty because I need to catch up on blogging too. Also, it was hugely annoying to have to meal plan without my lovely spreadsheet. Grrr. Then last night, my parents lured me away from the kitchen with offers of sushi dinner, so I didn't cook then either. Sigh. But here I am, still catching up.

TUESDAY - Polenta with Spicy Greens and Poached Eggs - I'm making plain polenta, using the basic recipe I posted here. I'm going to fry it in happy little triangles and then saute up some greens and spice them up with red pepper flakes and then top it all off with some lovely poached eggs. I hope they'll be lovely anyway. Can't say as I've ever poached an egg before...

WEDNESDAY - Honeycomb Tofu and Sesame Noodles - It seems like forever since we've had Chinese food, so a little stir fry and noodles should be delicious. I've never made tofu that way before, but the noodles are an old favorite.

THURSDAY - Bacon and Leek Turkey Burgers - Turkey burgers need a little extra love, and finely chopped leeks and bacon are SO good. I tried it once to use up leeks, but now I'm hooked.

FRIDAY - Quesadillas - Look, I keep flaking out on Friday dinner because it's just TOO MUCH WORK. Quesadillas I can handle. Or if I can't maybe Ryan can. Someone can. Or better anyway, because there's nothing left in the freezer!


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