Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ham -n- Bean Soup

Every year my boss gives us a Honey Baked Ham and every year, after hubby is done gnawing at the carcass (ahhh, if only he looked at me that way), the remains go into a big soup pot.

Ham bone, onions, navy beans, salt, pepper and bay leaves (from my bay laurel). Simmered all day, until the smell causes drooling in the males of the home. Simple and so, so good, we it served with cheese crisps on the side. This bugger makes a HUGE pot (18 quarts) of soup, so the leftovers are bagged up for later and much is given away to the many folks who request it. He took a few bags to work and I took a couple as well. That still leaves several bags in the freezer for cold nights when we don't know what to have for dinner.

**I should note that I stole the first picture from Honey Baked's site. If they come looking for it, Andie told me to.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Us with stinkin' colds and Hoisin Pork and Buckwheat Noodles

I think Phillip's sister gave it to our nephew. Then our nephew gave it to Phillip's mom, who in turn gave it to the rest of us at Christmas dinner. Hers hit first, then his dad, then mine, now his. So everyone is kind of pitiful with the hacking and coughing and congestion and such. My mom always says "Well, you're just going to have a cold for 5 - 7 days, so may as well just suck it up and endure." That pretty much sums it up. No, the zinc lozenges haven't helped, and they're utterly vile. Cherry flavor? Please. It's like sucking chalk. No, amend that. It's like licking chalk off a dirty floor. Blegh. Bourbon is much better, and at first helps my throat, then alleviates my consciousness of the symptoms. (No, I haven't had THAT much. I just wish...)

So anyway, tonight I cooked something quick and simple with a lot of flavor to penetrate our diminished sense of smell. Hoisin barbecued pork tenderloin and buckwheat noodles. Pork marinated in hoisin, honey and soy sauce, grilled and sliced thin and mixed with thinly sliced vegetables and buckwheat noodles tossed with hoisin, lime juice, and some other stuff that I forget right now because I'm busy coughing. I'm going to need to Lysol my keyboard. And the rest of the house.
But cold or no cold, I'm back for blogging. The holidays were pretty hectic and I did a terrible job of keeping up. Yep. You can tell, I'm sure. So here we go, forging ahead for 2009. Stay tuned!
Now I'm going to go find some Nyquil. I can go to bed at 7:30, can't I? It's dark...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Dinner with Jenn and David

I know. I'm behind. WAY behind. I haven't logged in here in so long Blogspot forgot me. I had to go thinking about my password and everything. Sorry! I've been nagged by a few of my peeps to get busy. So I'm going to catch you up.

Let's see... dinner with Jenn and David was last Wednesday - almost a week ago. I know! I know! Hush. I'm getting there. I was out of town this weekend, working before that... you know. It's Christmas!

To add to my lameness, I haven't gotten any pictures lately. Here's a shot of Jenn and David that I have.

Yes, you're right! We have some seriously good looking friends! They're disgustingly nice, too. So because they're good looking and nice, and we want them to like us and hang with us some, (maybe some of their mojo will rub off), I made them a festive Christmas dinner. Oh, and also, we got Jenn drunk. (Just a little additional boost.)

Pootie served Jenn not one, but TWO Parkers before dinner. This is a drink that I had at the Algonquin in NYC that is named after Dorothy Parker. It's sweet, but delicious. We hit a really close approximation after we got home. It's 1 part vodka, 1 part Chambord, and the juice of half a lemon. Jenn's a cheap date, and she liked them enough to almost be all "I love you guys!" after dinner. (Score a point for us!)

Before dinner we had some honey roasted peanuts and some Boursin cheese and crackers. Look, it was a school night. I'd worked all day. They didn't complain. Not in front of us, anyway.

For dinner:
Grilled Herbed Cornish Hens with white wine sauce

Rustic Bread, Oyster Mushroom and Cranberry Stuffing

Steamed Green Beans


For dessert:

Apple Pie (delicious and made by Jenn)

Cafe du Leche Ice Cream (delicious and made by Haagen Daz (I can't find the umlaut)

Here. There's the umlaut and another picture so you don't get bored. By the way, they had some peppermint bark ice cream that RULED unfortunately for my taste buds, but fortunately for my butt, the Teeter is already out of it. Dang. Oh well. At least my pants will still fit.

We had a wonderful time. They stayed late, too, so hopefully we got exposed to more mojo. I DID feel better looking the next day, and I got a two emails, (only one from my mother) indicating an upswing in my popularity, so we'll have them over again and see if we continue to improve.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Baking...FINALLY

This has been a tough year to get Christmas going. It's less than 4 days away and I still don't have a single present wrapped that didn't get mailed out. Living here in the desert you don't usually get weather changes to remind you it's even on the way, but this year we had a foot of snow last week, and patches of it are still on the ground.
This shot was taken looking out of our driveway to the west. (In the distance you can see Mt San Jacinto.) We had no mail for several days, UPS was only delivering to the highway and even the military base shut down. It was like the world came to a standstill.

This weekend things started moving again. Mail arrived, the stores were open, the base was back in full swing and I decided once again, at Andie's urging, to do some holiday baking. First things first, the guilty culprit who sabotaged my efforts last time had to be locked away. Look, she's licking her lips in anticipation of catching me off guard and once again breaching the barrier to the kitchen and all the goodies she can find.

Since it was late and my packages had already been sent out, I scaled back the list to enough for the local folks. It came down to Dark Chocolate Truffles, Cranberry Pistachio Ice Box Cookies, Chocolate No Bakes and Chocolate Pecan Revel Bars. Now, the last two are straight out of Betty Crocker, and if I don't make them every year as I have for the last 20, I am in BIG trouble. The No Bakes disappeared before they made it to a tray, so the candy canes are standing in for them in this shot.

We ran a small container of goodies up to the weekend crew at the hospital, since they always feel left out. We barely set it down on the counter when they descended like piranhas and devoured it before our eyes. I take that as the ultimate compliment. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. (Darn, that line would have worked much better if I'd gotten this typed in last night...)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Baking...or Not

Injury, illness and puppy delays were finally under control, and I was ready. I had my list, checked it twice, and was ready, I tell you. Packages were going out tomorrow and fresh from the yoda-kitchen goodies would be included.

I set a pound of butter on the counter to soften at 7:30 Sunday morning, then Hubby and I headed off for breakfast and the final gift for brat boy. One platter of cinnamon roll french toast (I have got to figure out how they make it, it's TDF) and 200 pounds of gym equipment later we were headed home.

The cell phone rang. It was brat boy, home and laughing. Seems that our 2 Great Danes had broken into the kitchen (thank god the puppy was in her crate) and eaten two boxes of saltines, a loaf of bread and whatever else they could find. "What about the butter?" "What butter?" The only sign there had been butter was a small piece of paper stuck to a cabinet. Don't worry, by last evening we knew which one had eaten the butter.

So no, I didn't do any baking. I was busy cleaning. And scooping. And cleaning. And more cleaning. And if all you get is a box of stale Nilla Wafers that I swiped from Andie, don't be surprised. Wait, strike the wafers. They got those, too. Sigh.

And did I mention the frozen white stuff is only 4 miles away and heading fast for us?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Dinner with Ned and Melissa

Oh, I'm sorry. We were having too chill an evening for me to take pictures. Melissa was a little the worse for wear after their holiday office dinner the night before, and Pootie has been having a host of stomach ailments, so Ned and I were charged with the task of picking up the slack on the festive imbibing. I don't think we were quite up to the challenge. It was a pretty quiet, relaxed dinner. Lovely, really.

Mixed Greens with Cherries and Warm Goat Cheese
Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Blueberry Reduction Sauce
Wild Rice (not Uncle Ben's)
Peppermint Ice Cream and Potato Chip Cookies (these are the ones I made for shipping that are really crispy pecan-sandie-like)
Once again, my gas grill did me right. I put a cast-iron skillet on there and cranked up all three burners for a while, until it was about 600 degrees. Then I put the duck breast skin-side down. No smoke in the house, no grease on my ceiling, no waking up to the smell of stale diner, just perfectly seared, crispy duck skin, and about two inches of melted duck fat in the skillet. It's actually still out there on the grill. It was cold last night, so I decided to just leave it out there so it could solidify and I'll take care of it this morning.
I suppose now is as good a time as any, so I'm off to dispose of duck fat. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Cookies!!

I'm late with this one. It's Tuesday evening, and I did them on Sunday. All. Day. Long. I can tell I'm getting older. I used to spring out of bed at dawn on baking day, yell "Baking Day! It's Baking Day!!", put on my cape, boots and golden lariat of truth and attack the kitchen like I was kicking bad-guy ass in the Mole World of the Underground. I'd whip up multiple batches of several different kinds of cookies and candy so fast Willy Wonka would have hired me on the spot.

Even if I don't look like an Oompa-Loompa. (Thank god.)

As I've gracefully aged to a mature woman, however, I have noticed a gradual slowdown in production. This past Saturday, there were no heralding trumpets. No battle cry. Unless you count "Where the HELL is my coffee?? Is that damned machine not done YET?" at the crack of 8:00 AM. No cape, boots, or golden lariat. Just red pajamas, fuzzy slippers and what looked suspiciously like moths buzzing around my head until my second cup. Yes, to my horror, Wonder Woman has slowly and quietly been replaced by the grumpy old Hallmark lady, Maxine.

So hopefully my gift recipients don't receive their season's bounty and go "Geez. She's really losing her touch. And chinchy! Last year and year before we had boxes and boxes of sweets! And this year only two little paltry boxes of stale cookies!"

I just got too tired after eight hours to make any more cookies. Forget candy!

This year's list was:

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies (well, who hasn't done this with a chocolate chip cookie recipe)
Chocolate Rads (OLD Bon Appetit Recipe - Chocolate cookies with chocolate chips and walnuts)
Potato Chip Cookies (Fine Cooking) - oh, before you laugh and call me white trash, you have to taste them. man!
Molasses Crackles (Fine Cooking - pretty much a ginger/molasses cookie. good!)
White Chocolate Brownies
Chocolate Rum Balls (requested)

Was that it? Yes, I guess it was. I made multiple batches. See what I mean? Kind of pitiful, given how many different kinds I used to make. I fortified myself during the cooking process with iced green tea and saltines, and some of the potato chips from the cookie recipe (ahem). I've not got much of a sweet tooth, so I didn't do much tasting. I know. This does have repercussions. I have been known, in a moment of distraction, to leave out incidental ingredients such as sugar. Oh hush. I usually catch it before I put it in the oven...

So my Pootie helped me box everything up and he even did all the postage pick up paperwork. So yesterday (Monday) the mailman came and picked up the sad little shipment and I suppose it's on its way. It's the thought that counts, folks. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and Felix the Navidad Cat!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Things to do with leftover turkey

Ronda hasn't posted in a while because she has a new puppy occupying her attention right now. Yes, I'm jealous. No, my dogs are not.

This weekend it's rained and rained and rained some more. It's not especially cold. It got up to almost 70 today. I have all this leftover turkey, and it's not exactly soup weather. But, we did go for a walk right as it was turning dark, and it was damp and was getting down in the low 60s by the time we got home, so I thought "Well... what can I do with leftover turkey that isn't a hot weather dish, but also isn't a freezing cold outside dish either?"

Turkey Hash, of course.

I know. It's not real pretty. But it was tasty and hot and satisfying. Lots of vegetables, lots of diced, leftover turkey, a glass or two of wine, and the conversation turned to my fantasy of opening a breakfast place that served something besides oily, slippery eggs, underdone hashbrowns, greasy bacon, "coffee" you can read the paper through, and Wonder® Bread toast with fake butter.

We had a wonderful breakfast place when we lived in Atlanta, Decatur, actually. It's one of the three things I miss about living there. The Crescent Moon served hashes, whole grain muffins, really good french toast, excellent coffee... it was a proper breakfast. Which is what I would name my place if it ever came to fruition. "A Proper Breakfast". But, I live in Wilmington, NC. And the tall-truck driving people prefer the greasy spoons and IHOP to someplace they can get a decent flannel hash and an almond-cherry whole grain muffin. I know. I sound all granola. I'm not. I like a hearty breakfast as much as anyone. But here, they're all Waffle House knock-offs and are usually oily and underdone with weak coffee.

But I'm obviously not going to open my own place. I think the audience here at 305 is a lot more positive and forgiving than the general public would be anyway. And I can always cop the "Well, you didn't PAY for it!" here now.

Tonight's hash was:

4 Tbs. olive oil
1 small sweet potato - cut into chunks
1 red potato - cut into chunks
2 strips bacon
1 small onion - chopped
1/2 cup leftover turkey - diced
2 Tbs. rosemary - chopped
1/2 red bell pepper - chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese - grated
1 Tbs. butter
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

I boiled the sweet and red potato in a pot of salted water just long enough to get them tender. Then I drained them and set them aside. Meanwhile, I cooked the bacon in a skillet on medium heat. Then I removed the bacon when it was done and chopped it up, and added the chopped onion to the skillet. I sauteed that until it was done, then added 2 Tbs. of olive oil, then the potato and sweet potato, some kosher salt and pepper. Then I tossed in the red bell pepper, the rosemary, and the turkey. I drizzled that with the remaining olive oil, gave it a good stir to coat everything, then put a cast-iron bacon press on the mixture just to mash it down and help it brown. You wouldn't have to do that part. Just mash it a few times with a spatula.

In another small skillet, I melted the butter on medium heat and fried an egg, and added salt and pepper.

When the hash was pretty browned after a couple of bottom scrapings and flippings, I topped it on each plate with some grated cheddar cheese, and a fried egg. It would be a great breakfast for an active day, a good lunch, or, like tonight, a hearty dinner for a damp evening.

Pootie was my only audience tonight, and he dug it. Which is what led to our aforementioned conversation. It's a nice dream, but I know I don't want to work that hard.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Post-Thanksgiving Kitchen Carnage

Holeee cow. I always forget what a mess Thanksgiving is. Pootie cleaned up most of the wreckage last night while we played Turbo Cranium (or whatever it was) but there's still a good bit to tackle this morning. I'm trying to get motivated to go clean it up. See how pretty it was before everyone arrived?

Thanksgiving menu was:

King's Arms Tavern Ham Relish
King's Arms Tavern Corn Relish
King's Arms Tavern Three Bean Relish



Roasted Acorn Squash (P's mom)

Cranberry sauce (P's mom)

Rolls that I got a little too crispy in the oven (P's mom)

Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie (Pootie - it took him all day to make)

Plum Cake

I cooked the turkey in the roasting pan on the gas grill and it turned out just fine and kept the oven free for everything else throughout the day. We have tons left over, which we will distribute to everyone today. If we don't, we'll be eating turkey until New Year's Eve.

After dinner, we played Cranium, as I mentioned. I was on a team with my father-in-law and my nephew Benjamin. We got totally skunked. Diane and Craig were on a team and came in a close second behind my mother-in-law and Pootie. They totally dominated. Our performance was pretty pitiful, so it's looking like next time we're going to have to resort to dirty low-down cheating.

I suppose I've stalled as long as I can. Time to tackle the kitchen! Then I need to start working on my husband about when we can go get a Christmas tree! Whoo hoo!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The house is clean, the table is set, two desserts are cooling, the dressing is ready, the turkey is on the grill, the apps are finished and I am enjoying my favorite time - the quiet right before the party starts.

Don't get me wrong. I look forward to seeing everyone, and we'll have a wonderful meal, and a good time. But for an introvert like me, I have to confess that there's that moment of fear right as the guests pull up in the driveway that instinctively makes me want to "turn off the lights!" "Hide! Hide! SHHHHHHhhhhh!" Hide!". If I have some quiet time to myself to look around, sigh, and appreciate the fact that there aren't huge tubleweeds of dog hair rolling across the floor, I do better.

So now I'm sipping a nice glass of chardonnay, listening to some Mark Knopfler, and soaking in the smells and sights of the Thanksgiving dinner before the relatives create a welcome bustle and happy noise.

Ps mother and I have split Thanksgiving dinner for years, with me hosting and doing the appetizers, bird and dressing and desserts, and her doing the rolls, a vegetable, and the cranberry sauce. It works well for us. The main meal is pretty much the same every year. A big turkey, this year I'm roasting it on the gas grill to free up the oven, my grandmother's dressing, Mrs. Reids wonderful rolls and cranberry sauce. She mixes up the vegetable every year, and I do a different app and dessert every year.

This year, I wanted to do some relishes out of my Colonial Williamsburg cookbook. We had a short vacation there years and years ago with the Reids and we ate at the King's Arms Tavern. The relishes they served were wonderful - a corn relish, a three bean salad, and a ham relish. I've done them all and think they turned out pretty well. We'll see.

Time to go pull things together. It's 5:00 and everyone should arrive around 5:30. More later! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Stomach Ailments

Sadly, Cafe' 305 is having to take a break from anything blog-worthy. My best patron, Pootie, has come down with what is apparently an acute case of gastritis (no fault of mine). So we're eating "sick food" for the next couple of weeks, excluding Thanksgiving, which of course, I'll post about. Tonight's dinner is grilled chicken and wild rice, which I just can't get too excited about photographing and posting here. Whee. Look everyone. A grilled chicken breast and a little mound of Uncle Ben's.

Except I don't use the fast cook kind.
Hey. The commercial says the best restaurants use Uncle Ben's!
So anyone out there who has any suggestions for mild, tummy-friendly dinners, I'm all ears. Post your suggestions so that poor old Pootie doesn't have to eat bullion and lime Jell-O all week.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Black Bean Soup and Spades with Carol and David

Carol and David are our original spades partners. They're good, and we love to play cards with them. Since they live in Raleigh and part-time in St. James, we don't get to see them enough, and we had a devil of a time getting this dinner on the calendar, with everyone's schedules. Needless to say, we were looking forward to it.

Carol has recently changed her diet to improve her lipid profile, and has pretty much gone vegan. This presented an enormous challenge for my meat and cheese-centric cooking universe. Thank god for beans! Here's dinner:

Sun-dried tomato and white bean dip with crostini

Spicy black bean and tomato soup



There were no complaints, and Carol asked for the bean dip recipe, so I suppose it was OK. David mentioned that he was worried I'd serve them some yuckky vegetarian dish, and was pleased that I didn't. He also said that it was fine to serve him a steak next time and let Carol fend for herself.

Before dinner, we played a good game of spades, and Carol and I won. (Pootie just informed me that he lost every game he played yesterday.) After dinner, they taught us how to play Euchre, for future reference, and we taught Carol how to play Lost Cities. (I helped her and she beat Phillip. Poor Pootie.)

The evening ended way too soon. They could have stayed another few hours and we'd have been happy. We're hoping it doesn't take as long to get the next dinner and rematch scheduled.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Meatloaf and Cards with the Reids

OK, shoot me. I didn't take pictures last night. My meatloaf did look better than this, though. At least it wasn't fat and sweaty. And I didn't dress it in a tux shirt.

No, MeatLoaf did not come to our house and have dinner and play cards with Phillip's parents. Although now that he's old like the rest of us, he probably would have been pretty well behaved.

Pootie would have made him sing Paradise by the Dashboard Light, though, and I'd have had to ask him to leave.
You know, I'd probably get sued if anyone ever read this thing.

Last night was cold! I loved it! It never got above 46 degrees yesterday, and there were reports of snow flurries around town. The dogs were thrilled. They spent a lot of time sitting outside on the back deck, basking in the Icelandic temperatures. So I figured it's cold, and we're having a family meal, what's more appropriate than meatloaf? Besides, the last time we went out for dinner at the Copper Penny, Mr. Reid tried to order it, and they were out. So I decided to make it up to him. And then just decided to pretty much go retro for the rest of the meal as well.

Iceberg Lettuce Wedges with Blue Cheese Dressing and Bacon

Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy

Mashed Potatoes (of course!)

Homemade Bread

Apple Turnovers with Vanilla Ice Cream

After dinner, we played spades. (That's me, with the cigar.) Mr. Reid and I got set a couple of times and were WAY behind at one point. I got smacked down a couple of times by my mother-in-law for table talk (ahem) but we managed to pull out of the hole toward the end of the game and only lost by about 16 points. Not bad! If I'd been allowed more table talk, we could have won. I need to work on secret signals with my father-in-law for the next game, instead of "I'm about to have to play a spade! Cover me!" A little obvious? Probably. We'll work on that for next time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mushroom Soup, Spinach Salad and Bread with us

Just us tonight. Shhh... Pootie is doing the dishes and I've sneaked off to write the blog. (This was during a beach break on our paddling trip yesterday morning with Virginia and Curry. Those are spray skirts for kayaks, not a fashion statement.)

It's getting cold outside, and supposed to stay that way all week. I love cold weather, I really do. Especially for cooking. I can be perfectly happy with a nice hot soup and a salad this time of year, which is exactly what we had tonight.

Mushroom Soup

Spinach Salad

Fresh Baked Bread

I think the bread was Pootie's favorite part. I baked a loaf of plain white and a loaf of cinnamon walnut for us to have with our coffee in the morning. Baking bread always smells so good. Toss a little cinnamon in the mix and it's heaven in the house. It was coming out of the oven just about the time it got dark outside - talk about soothing.

So now that we've had our dinner, we're headed out in the cold to go see Robert at Great Outdoor Provision so that Pootie can finalize his Christmas list. We should come back with a detailed description of everything he needs for kayaking. It's a long list. He'd better be good. Santa is SO watching him like a hawk.

Roasted Chicken with Robert and Melissa

Well, while Ronda was laid up with her back and dreaming of mashed potatoes, we were laid up with a stomach bug. I was unfortunate enough to get hit with it right at the end of dinner Friday night with Jack and Beth. Talk about an abrupt ending to a party... Jack says it was just my lame excuse to get out of playing cards because I looked at my hand and knew there was no way I was going to win. Phillip was polite enough to wait until 4:00 AM to get sick, so that it didn't inconvenience our guests. It was a lovely night, let me tell you. I don't want to talk anymore about dinner Friday night, since it brings back rather unpleasant memories, and Saturday was spent mostly sleeping. We'd recovered pretty well by Saturday night, though, and managed to get out to a concert in the evening.

Sunday we were pretty well mended, which was fortunate, since we had an early morning kayak trip planned with Virginia and Curry and of course, dinner with Robert and Melissa in the evening. (You were wondering when I was going to finally get to that, weren't you?)

Robert was our kayak instructor, and Melissa is his lovely wifelike girlfriend. She is a metal artist - check it out. I cooked a stomach-friendly meal for us, but fortunately, we were fine enough that it didn't need to be plain chicken and rice.

Roasted Pesto Chicken

Sliced Garlic Baked Potatoes

Green Beans

Mocha Filled Chocolate Roll

For the chicken, I just rubbed pesto sauce under the skin and roasted it on the grill and served it with a pesto-cream sauce on the side. The potatoes were a little fussy, but I liked the results. I cut them in half lengthwise, then sliced them almost all the way through and slipped thinly sliced garlic between the slices, then drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and baked them at 400 for about 45 minutes. They were nice and crispy on the outside and bottom and tender with roasted garlic flavor on the inside. Mmm!

We spent a lot of time talking about kayaking, and P. of course wanted to talk about gear, since Christmas is coming (he's working on his list). We have a date with Robert tonight to talk about his list at Great Outdoor Provision Co. Lordy, lordy... who knew you could buy so much stuff for a little 15 foot boat? Well, 'tis the season, almost.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mashed Potatoes

I've been laid up the last few days on an ice pack and made a startling discovery: TV during the day is extremely limited. There are lots of shows telling you how many folks have abandoned their children, sued their in-laws or just how bad the new first ladies fashion blunders are. And then there is FoodTV. They have several ladies showing lots of cleavage (no, not cleavers, cleavage), a chef who is saving 6 inner city youth, another fixing dinner impossible while riding a motorcycle and catering for a James Beard luncheon from a hot dog cart and then there was Tyler.

Tyler hooked me with the ultimate mashed potatoes. I thought I'd seen all the ways to do it, but he showed me a new way to make mashed potatoes. Then, after fantasizing for a few hours about those potatoes (hey, I've been laid up with not much else to do and my menfolk have been less than accommodating about feeding me) I had to try it. I sent hubby off for Yukon Golds and got ready to try this new method out. Oh, yeah, we also had grilled steaks with roasted broccoli and cauliflower. (Andie's already lavished praise on roasted broccoli so I'll just second her opinion.) But the mashed potatoes were the star.

Start off with 2 cups of cream, 2 cups of milk, sprigs of thyme, 2 garlic cloves and a bay leaf. Add 6 to 8 yukon gold potatoes, quartered (unpeeled). (Nope, no salt and pepper, not yet.) Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife.

Using a potato masher, mash potatoes adding about a cup of the cooking liquid (minus the thyme and bayleaf) with a couple of tablespoons of butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Taste for the salt as the cooking method gives several layers of flavor and it doesn't need much.

They come out creamy and flavorful. The potatoes have a rich texture, very different than when you cook them in water, and they are smooth yet still a bit rustic since you are leaving the skin on and using the masher instead of a ricer.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Spice-Rubbed Tilapia with Mango Salsa

ISN'T that BEAUTIFUL??? Have I mentioned that I love my new camera? Most of the time, I don't even have to try very hard with it. It makes me want to throw my old camera out into traffic. No, I'm not as good as Scott Phillips (see But I'm conveying the dish, I think.

Tonight, it's cloudy, muggy, and in the 70s. Serious bummer for me, who's been waiting for fall temps since June. Dammit! I'm uncomfortably warm, have closed the windows, and have the A/C set. We've been eating pretty heavy food for the past few nights anyway, which you've no doubt noticed. ("No WONDER they're plumpish!", you've thought.) Well, tonight was relatively light.

I rubbed a couple of tilapia filets with a mixture of cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper, made some black beans, and did up a salsa of chopped mango, some sauteed onion (I simply can't eat raw onion, purple or otherwise), lime juice, some lime zest and chopped cilantro. It was light and refreshing. OK, are you as sick of hearing that as I am? If you read a lot of food reviews, you see a lot of the same descriptions used over and over. From "zesty lime fish" to "light jell-o desserts". It gets boring after a while. But seriously, how many adjectives are there to describe how food tastes? Dinner. Was. Good. That's about the most you can say about it, really. And we needed a night of "lighter" fare.

Tomorrow night, Jack and Beth are coming over for dinner and a Spades rematch. It was Jack's birthday yesterday, so perhaps you'd think "oh, you should let him win!". Well, you would be WRONG!! Beth and I will be out for blood! Muaaahahhhahaaaahaaaaaaa!

Man, I hope we win now that I've said that. Jack's kind of a card shark, and pretty skilled, when you come right down to it.

White Bean and Chicken Soup with Derek

This is Derek, getting a little free advertising in while he eats his soup. He's been in CA working the past couple of weeks, and is home, so we took the opportunity to catch up.

Spinach and Mushroom Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
White Bean and Chicken Soup
Rosemary Bread
It was a good weeknight supper that I had no trouble putting together when I finished working. The soup is simple - some chopped veggies, garlic, chicken, chicken stock and white beans. I used canned, since I didn't think far enough ahead to soak the dried ones. Pretty typical, since these days I don't usually decide what I'm cooking for dinner until 4:30 or later.
It was a coolish evening, so the soup was a good call. Now it's gotten all warm again - up to 70ish and muggy and rainy, so we'll probably do something lighter for dinner tonight. But I don't have to start thinking about that yet. It's only lunchtime!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dinner Several Nights Ago

Look. Tonight just wasn't all that great. It was this pasta mish mash that was fine for fortification, but not what you'd call "good". So here's a rerun that I didn't post about a week ago.

Chicken Coconut Soup (Thome Kha Gai)

Crab Purses

Keep your crab purse comments to yourself. No, THESE crabs obviously don't carry Prada. I know. I'm not very good at beautiful food. They're lifeless blobs of brown. And I suspect that they might have made Pootie sick, since the crab was tinned and a little on the (ahem) older side. But the soup was excellent. Fortunately, we had some phenergan left from my surgery last December. Shut up. I didn't get sick, so it couldn't have been the food.

The soup, which is one of my favorites, is pretty simple. Lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce, mushrooms chicken, coconut milk... it's actually pretty wholesome, and great for a cool night. Look. Here's the thing. We have so few of those "cool nights" that I land on those suckers like a duck on a junebug with the soups and stews and other hearty cold weather fare. Most of the year, we're looking at evening temps too high to contemplate much except lime-sauced fish, shrimp or chicken and some greens. You'd think we'd be thinner, actually...

But I do love this soup. It's simple to make, and really tasty. You don't have to do the scary crab blobs with them. It would be fine by itself. Here:

2 stalks fresh lemongrass (I do grow my own. Down here it's not that hard.)
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice (And if you're already juicing them for margaritas, then easy! Yay!)
2 Tbs. fish sauce (nam pla) (Is it me, or does that stuff stink?)
2 scallions (white and green parts), trimmed and very thinly sliced crosswise
6 fresh or frozen wild lime leaves (also known as kaffir lime leaves), torn or cut into quarters
10 thin slices galangal (the hell?), fresh, frozen, or dried (or 10 to 12 thin slices fresh unpeeled ginger) (10 to 12) (Clearly, I used the ginger.)
8 fresh hot red and green Thai chiles, stemmed and lightly pressed with the side of a knife (or 3 or 4 serranos, thinly sliced) for garnish (optional) (8 to 10) (For us, ONE thai chile. Who can tolerate that heat? Not me!)
2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 boneless chicken breast half (about 6 ounces), cut into bite-size chunks or sliced across the grain into strips (I actually use a couple of thighs. I think the meat is better and more flavorful.)
1/4 lb. white mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed, and thinly sliced to yield 1 cup
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (shake the can before opening it) (14 oz.)
1 can low-salt chicken broth or 1-3/4 cups water (14 oz.)

1. Trim away and discard the root end and the top 3 inches of each stalk of lemongrass, along with any brittle leaves. Pound each stalk lightly with the spine of a cleaver or an unopened can. Cut each stalk crosswise into 2-inch lengths and set aside.
2. In a large serving bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, scallions, and half of the wild lime leaves. Set the bowl by the stove, along with small dishes containing the galangal, lemongrass, and remaining lime leaves; the chiles (if using), the chopped cilantro; and the sliced chicken and mushrooms.
3. In a medium saucepan, commbine the coconut milk and broth. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves. Add the chicken and mushrooms. Return to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the flavors and cook the chicken.
4. Remove the pan from the heat, pour the hot soup over the seasonings in the serving bowl, and stir well. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve hot. Pass around the chiles for those who want them. (Good lord. Is Satan eating dinner with you?)

I love this soup and will make it again as soon as P. forgets his phenergan evening...

Dinner Last Night - Chili with Sara, Marc and Clay

No breathtaking pictures of the food from last night, sorry. Oh, come on. You people know what chili looks like. It's not especially photogenic anyway. Here was the menu:

Chips and Salsa (yeah, baby! I went all out!)

Chili with assorted toppings

Premium Saltines (you betcha!)

Onion, Smoked Gouda and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

White Chocolate Brownies and (leftover) Mocha Chocolate Cake with Rum Cream Filling

Clay vetoed the chili. Not his favorite. I think he ate the Goldfish, though. And maybe some cheese. The adults seemed to like their chili just fine. Phillip provided his high proof margaritas (none of that sissy sweet and sour mix for us) and we caught up in between playing hide and seek with Clay.

Around 9:00 or so, Clay announced "I've had enough of this! Time to go!" And there you have it, folks. The refreshing honesty of a four-year-old who has heard enough talk about health insurance, home repair, and taxes.

After they left, P. and I were cleaning up, and I was putting away the chili into smaller bags so that we can eat it for the next six years. (I made enough to feed a small village. No, I have no idea why.) Baggies don't like to stand up when you're ladeling chili into them. Tump! All OVER the floor, my pants, my shoes, the front of the stove, the front of the cabinets... we'll probably find some on the ceiling before it's all over. WHAT a disaster! My shoes are being soaked in Shout as we speak. Good lord.

Tonight I'm going to cook something that is spill-proof and smells nothing like chili.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Last Night's Dinner - Lamb with Sara

It was supposed to be Lamb with Sara and Eric. But Eric ran a half-marathon earlier Sunday, and was toast when he was done. Sorry, dude! We missed you! But we're happy that Sara came. Pootie is always happy to have the women all to himself. And she brought some most excellent wine! (Thanks!!)


Spinach Salad with Dried Cherries and Warm Goat Cheese

Grilled Rosemary and Garlic Lamb

Crispy Baby White Potatoes

Mocha Layer Cake with Chocolate Rum Cream Filling

We had gourgeres on the patio with a really lovely bottle of Chardonnay Sara brought. It was delicious. I love a buttery, creamy chard. The salad is one of my favorites - the goat cheese is cut into rounds, dipped in egg, then rolled in sliced almonds and baked until the almonds are browned and the cheese is soft. So good with the dried cherries and tart spinach. The lamb I just salted, peppered, spread with some dijon mustard, then pressed on a mixture of bread crumbs, chopped rosemary and garlic. The potatoes were boiled, then pressed to smash in a towel, then drizzled with olive oil and roasted until crisp.
The dessert was fabulous. I'll definitely make that one again. Very rich, but so good. A spongy chocolate cake drizzled with rum syrup, filled with basically a rum chocolate mousse and then glazed with chocolate. I didn't get a picture. Sorry. It's a pretty cake, though. It will make a nice one for the holidays.
An excellent evening!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pale Ale Beef Stew

It was a dark and stormy night.
Ok, not really, but a cold wind did blow in last night and kept things on the cool side today. Taking advantage of perfect stew weather, I went for it. A pale ale stew, simmered all day in the slow cooker. Tantalizing us with those scrumptious smells. Not as exciting as racing kayaks, but the best I could do.

The thing to remember about slow cookers is that if you dump the food in to cook, you'll end up with a not very flavorful boiled mush. To layer the flavors I started by browning the seasoned beef (a cut up chuck roast) before putting it in my 'crockpot'. The onions and carrots also hit a hot skillet for just a quick bit of color, then I deglazed the pan with the pale ale. If I was doing this stew on the stove I'd use 2 bottles, but in a slow cooker you only need one as less is lost in evaporation. Veggies that don't take as long are added at the end, such as red peppers or cauliflower. Potatoes would go in at the beginning, but tonight I opted to serve the stew over baked potatoes.

Of course, you can't serve stew without rolls to sop up the broth. And chocolate cake for dessert. Don't look too close at the ganash, it shows definite signs of over beating. That's what happens when you try to use a mixer and talk on the phone at the same time. Still tasted good though, and that is all that matters.

Pale Ale Beef Stew
Potato Rolls
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Post Kayak Race Roasted Chicken

Roasted Chicken with Rosemary Pan Sauce

Blue Cheese Potato Gratin

Green Beans Almondine

We "raced" today. No, we didn't win. Someone has to be last, and nip the heels of the herd. This shot pretty much sums it up. That's everyone stretching out in front of us. We were bringing up the rear. Yes! That was us! We played safety crew and made sure no one fell out and needed to be rescued! Luckily, no one did. ONE of us was pretty crabby about being last (not me) but fortunately, we got some loot from the drawings. Let's see... we got a lovely wooden paddle, a GC for a Southport tour, three T-shirts, and a pair of Costa del Mar sunglasses. So we can't really complain much. And ONE of us had a good time.

So after coming home and cleaning up, I figured a nice roasted chicken with a rich poato gratin was in order. I got lots of "mmmmmMMMMMmmmmssss" from tonight's dinner.

The potato gratin was sliced potatoes layered with blue cheese and cream. The chicken was just roasted with salt, pepper and lemon. I made a sauce out of the chicken drippings, some white wine, a sauteed shallot, some chopped fresh rosemary, and a little cream and chicken stock. It was a tasty, wholesome dinner and we were both pretty happy to have it.

We had a gorgeous day - temps in the mid 70s, a stiff breeze, and a mostly blue sky. It was (for one of us) a great day, and now we're nicely fed and justifiably tired (paddling against a strong incoming tide AND 15 knot winds isn't all that easy). Everything is cleaned up and we're thinking in terms of a nice, soft bed. This is one of those days when you earn a good dinner and a good night's sleep.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tomato Soup with Basil Whipped Cream

One of hubby's favorite meals as a child was grilled cheese and tomato soup. This is the grown up version.

Tomato Soup with Basil Whipped Cream

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion -- diced
2 cloves garlic -- minced
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
3 cans diced tomatoes -- fire roasted (15 oz cans)
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh basil -- chopped
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup fresh basil -- chopped

Scald whipping cream then pour over the 1/4 cup of basil. Chill until ready to whip.

In a large skillet saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Add worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, stock and thyme. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 25 minutes.

Add basil, then puree in batches in a blender (or with a stick blender in the pan) until smooth.

Remove basil from whipping cream, whip until soft peaks. Serve soup with a dallop of the basil whipped cream and Parmesan Toast.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Leek and Potato Soup

We've been having a run of lovely, warm, blue sky weather. Nice, since we spent yesterday afternoon falling out of our kayaks (on purpose) so we could practice the various ways of getting back in. That said, the water is starting to get a little chillier, and a stiff breeze will send you running for the heat of the interior of a black car that's been sitting in the afternoon sun.
In that same weather mindset, we woke up to a pleasant 60 degrees, with the windows open all day. It got up to 73, and then about 4:00, it got dark and grey, and the wind piped up. We went outside around 5:00, and within thirty minutes, I was in the back door with hair full of fallen pine needles, closing the windows. The temperature has dropped precipitously. It was in the low 50s when I started dinner, and I thought something warming was in order. So of course, my thoughts immediately turned to bourbon. I had Pootie make me an Old Fashioned.
Oh, and then I thought about soup for dinner. It's supposed to get in the 30s tonight! Unheard of for us this time of year - them's February temperatures! (And frankly, I'll believe it when I see it.)
But 30s or not, half of a stiff bourbon drink under my belt, potato soup sounded good and wholesome. So I chopped up a leek, a stalk of celery, a carrot, a couple of slices of bacon, and a russet potato (peeled), and sauteed them in a couple of tablespoons of butter with a generous pinch of kosher salt, then added about a cup of chicken stock, and simmered it for half an hour or so, until the potatoes were tender. Then I added about a cup of cream, warmed it through, and garnished it with a little parmesan cheese, some more bacon, and some chopped scallions.
I loved it. It didn't elicit the telling "Mmmmmm" response from Pootie, but he's been craving salads lately, so it may have been too heavy for what he was in the mood for. But we're out of salad greens, so oh well. At least he's fed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion and Sausage Casserole

I had an idea but no recipe. I was in the mood for butternut squash and my taste buds were telling me that sausage would be good. But where to go from there? I did a quick search online with those two items and came up with a few ideas.

I roasted the squash, whole, for an hour at 350. It was then peeled and cubed and tossed into a 2 quart casserole dish. After that I browned a half pound of turkey sausage and then simmered it in white wine until reduced by half.
The sausage then went into the casserole dish with the squash while I went back to the burner with a pat of butter, a splash of olive oil and an onion sliced really, really, really thin. I caramelized the onion, adding garlic towards the end, then tossed it in to party party in the casserole dish, leaving the oil in the pan. To the oil I added a tablespoon of flour and made a roux. Stir in 2 cups half and half, bring to a boil, then toss in a cup of fontina cheese and 1/2 cup of parmesan (the good stuff). Into the casserole goes the cheese sauce, a sprig of sage (chopped) and a pound of rigatoni, cooked per package directions. This was all tossed together and another handful of each cheese thrown on top.

Bake for 40 minutes at 375, let set 15 minutes and serve with a salad on the side.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chicken Paprika

Today was hard on me. And when you have a day that's hard on you, you tend to reach for comfort food. Since I wasn't able to eat much during the day,(I'm not a an eater when I'm upset), once I managed to wind down, I needed something that said "It'll all be OK". This is not the kind of night for inspired, experimental food. This is the kind of night for something my mom made on a regular basis, that's not terribly complicated. (This is the kind of scene that will really soothe your soul. A hot dinner, a sweet Pootie, and some candles. Except that I need to straighten that lampshade, don't I? ...)

Probably my favorite "mom dish" was chicken paprika. No, to my knowledge, no one in the family was Hungarian, and this meal probably wouldn't even qualify. I'm sure true Hungarians would be righteously indignant at this ripped off meal. But it's still one of my favorites, and frankly, I don't care.

The sauce for the chicken is simple. Sauteed onions, a cup of chicken broth, a tablespoon of paprika, some salt and pepper, and sour cream. Add chicken and put it over rice, and you've got dinner. I also added roasted broccoli. P. hates broccoli. But he ate a bite of it and said "mmmmm..." then followed that with "don't tell anyone, and I'm not eating all of this." But he LOVES the chicken paprika.
I feel better. I feel well-fed and cared for and hopefully tomorrow will be better. It's Friday, at least, so if it isn't better, I have a two-day break. And after tonight's dinner, I don't even mind going in to clean up the kitchen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pot Roast and Carbs

Since I don't drink coffee, mornings can get off to a slow, kind of fuzzy start. If I can focus long enough, I try to get a jump start on dinner. This morning, at O'dark hundred, I put a blade roast in a hot pan and browned one side. Turned around and fixed hubby's lunch and then decided to turn the roast and brown the other side. This is where a running video would have been good. WHOOOOSH and flames exploded from the pan. As many times as I've made pot roast in mumble-mumble years of marriage, I have NEVER whooshed with flames. I quickly slammed a lid on it and the flames were extinguished. But I must say, I was now wide awake and ready to greet the day. No caffeine required. Sorry, tho, no pictures.

Anyway, back to the roast. I put it in the slow cooker, then put a chunked up onion into the pan for a bit of color as well. In went that, whole garlic cloves, carrots, bay leaves (from my Bay Laurel twig that calls itself a tree), carrots and the red wine used to deglaze the pan. Secure the lid, make sure it's plugged in and turned on and then off to dream about mashed potatoes the rest of the day.

When I got home, the roast was done and along with it would go roasted broccoli, mashed potatoes and biscuits. Then the phone rang and hubby wasn't coming home until late. In walked my son who said "thanks mom, but I had Subway with my girlfriend" and off he went to bed to rest before his graveyard shift. So it was me, the dogs and pot roast.

I decided to forgo the veggies (don't tell my mother) and enjoyed the pot roast and carbs. I'll save the broccoli for another day.