Monday, March 30, 2009

Lunch - Roasted Turkey Breast

So Phillip has decided that he doesn't want to eat lunch meat from the deli anymore, because our friend Jack, who is a chemist, turned him on to the dangers of nitrates and nitrites. He'll still eat it, but would prefer not to. So in the interest of providing us with lunchtime protein without a bunch of chemicals from processing, I bought a turkey breast roast this weekend.

Man, it was tough to prepare that booger! I sprinkled it with salt and pepper, put it in the roasting pan, stuck it on the grill (you could use the oven, too, obviously) at about 400 and closed the lid. By then I was so exhausted, of course, that I sat my heinie down on the patio and read my cooking magazines for an hour. Here's us, recovering from this extremely tiring task. (Phillip held the door open for me, and Love Boat watched and as you can see, was worn slap dab out.)


Then I carried it inside and let it cool down a little, stuck it in a ziploc bag, and went back outside to read some more. Whew.

Wa-la. Lunch for at least a week, probably two. I'll get a good bead on that tomorrow, and if it looks like we're not going to go through much of it, I'll cut half off and stick it in the freezer for later.

I had a sandwich with it today, and I have to say, it's tons better than the deli stuff - really. And of course, it doesn't have to be used for sandwiches. You have a whole hunk of cooked turkey in the fridge - hash, soups, stir-fries, whatever. I think I'll try a roast beef next.

And an added bonus, the turkey breast cost me about ten bucks. One package of the oven roasted turkey from the deli usually runs us around half that, and is about 1/4 the amount. So I'm pretty sure it's cheaper too.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Entertaining - a personal post

Some of you may be wondering "What is up with no dinner guests in, like, I don't know... ages? How can you call yourself Cafe' 305 with no guests?" And if you're one of our frequent guests, you may be wondering "Have Andie and Phillip abandoned me? Where's the love?"

I do love to cook for other people, and usually I've got someone over here for dinner an average of 3 nights a week. But there have been some things going on that have got us, well, OK, me, on a "hole up in the house" rut that hopefully we'll be able to break out of soon. We do miss our friends a lot.

Without elaborating too much and getting to that "AUGH! Too much information!" area, I'll just say that it's been a rough first quarter for me. No, this isn't a self-pity post. I've just been fairly "andiesocial" for a variety of reasons, and have receded from the picture for a little while. I hope our friends haven't forgotten us. Also, while we're doing this whole "eat healthier" thing, I'm kind of feeling my oats (hahaha... OK...I know. Stick to my day job.) on GOOD meals that are also healthy that I wouldn't be embarrassed to serve company. That doesn't mean that the meals I've been cooking for us have been bad, just not "company-worthy", in my opinion. And finally, Phillip has been waiting to do his workout until pretty late, so we've been eating a lot later, and that doesn't work well for dinner guests.

I think that's all of my excuses. But there's hope on the horizon that things will be all right second quarter, and we can resume normal living. The weather is getting better and our back yard needs to be used!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Carrot Coriander Soup and Salad

Now HERE is a meal you can feel self-righteous and sanctimonious about! (Tony would be so proud.) Carrot soup, flavored with ginger and coriander and a salad with romaine, olives, a LITTLE feta cheese, some sunflower seeds, and a white wine vinaigrette. Easy, too.

I just had to do this for dinner tonight, since I brought it with P90X this morning, doing not one, but three workouts (Shoulders and Arms, Ab Ripper and CardioX) No, I'm not linking to that. The ad is too cheesy. But I love the workouts. Thanks Nat and John! Anyway, after all that working out, I hated to ruin it with dinner. So it was light light light tonight.
Here's the recipe for the carrot soup. It turned out pretty well, I think.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup chicken stock
1 hunk ginger root, peeled and cut in half (about an inch each)
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat small to medium saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, then sauté onions until transluscent, about 4 minutes. Add ginger and coriander and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Stir to blend. Add chopped carrots and sauté until tender, another 4 - 5 minutes. Add chicken stock. Simmer about 15 - 30 minutes, then puree with an immersion blender or put in a blender or food processor and puree. Return to pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer to blend well, then serve.
2. Note: Add more chicken stock if the soup is too thick.

Black Bean Soup and Chicken and Corn Quesadillas

Nooooo picture. Poor you. They've been so crappy lately that I doubt you're missing them. Feel free to whine, though, to massage my ego.

I'm actually backtracking on this one because I have a little catching up to do. This was several nights ago. The black bean soup was one of those quickie affairs - chop up half an onion, sautee it in some olive oil, dump in a can of black beans (yes! horrors! CANNED black beans!) add some chicken stock, and simmer. I hadn't decided what I was cooking for dinner until about 5:30, so I didn't have enough time to simmer the dried black beans in time for eating at a reasonable hour.

The quesadillas were actually made with leftover grilled chicken thighs. I took the other half of the onion from the soup (see above), chopped it, sauteed it in olive oil, then chopped the chicken up, and added that to the onions with some corn. (FROZEN). It's not corn season. Come on. Then I put that on whole wheat tortillas with a little pepper jack cheese and cooked them in a skillet until they were browned.

Dinner was good, but I have to say that for quesadillas, I do prefer white tortillas to the whole wheat. They seem to get crispier. The whole wheat ones taste fine, but I just like the texture of white flour tortillas better. They have that nice satisfying crisp exterior. These were fine, though.

I do promise soon I'll do my ode to chicken thighs.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry

Yeah, that's right. JASMINE rice. Not brown rice. I know. I'm a Healthy Eating Heretic. (bitch, bitch, bitch, Natalie.) But sometimes you have to sacrifice a little health for the taste of the dish. And heck. The Thai people are skinny and reasonably healthy...
Stir-fry some chicken thighs (my next blog is totally going to be about chicken thighs) with some garlic, green onion, carrots and yellow bell pepper. Toward the end, toss in some snow peas and some sugar snap peas, then add about a tablespoon of fish sauce, a tablespoon of lime juice, some chopped cilantro and fresh mint, and a teaspoon of brown sugar. Stir that all up and serve with the rice sprinkled with lime zest and sprinkle some chopped peanuts on the stir-fry. Pretty fast, and apparently decent, since P. said "You should serve this to company." Not that we have much company these days. But that's another blog.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Vegetable Pasta

Fire up the gas grill, toss on some salted and peppered chicken thighs and a red pepper. Pull those off when they're done, then toss on some asparagus and zucchini strips that have been drizzled with a little olive oil. Lose a few between the grates and curse. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook whole wheat spaghetti noodles. Drain that, and toss them with chopped basil and parsley and a squirt of lemon juice, then top with the vegetables and chicken, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

Not bad, really. It was light and satisfying and didn't take much time to put together. Of course, today I have to go rescue the charred bits of vegetables from under the grill grates, but such are the hazards of grilling small things.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Note about comments

OK, folks - I've lifted some of the restrictions on the comments, because my husband was complaining loudly about having to type in that funny-shaped word. If I start getting spam or junk, I'll change it back, but in the meantime, knock yourself out. And remember, I know where the three of you live!

Homemade Pizza

Another seriously crappy picture. Sad. I was doing all right for a while there...

OK here we go. Homemade whole wheat pizza crust, sauteed mushrooms, a little anchovy paste, fresh basil, garlic, kalamata olives, a smidge of lowfat mozarella and parmesan. All good so far. But P. wanted to try this tofurkey "italian sausage". Heaven help me. "Mmmm!", he said, nibbling a piece of the strangely-colored sponge with little bits of something in there. I think it was supposed to be sun-dried tomato. I'm not positive. Meanwhile, I was cooking a piece of lean bacon to crumble over my 10% of the pizza. I can't say the stuff was nasty. You know my relationship with tofu is not a warm one. But I can say that it was FAR from enjoyable. Too red, too salty, too "flavored", and the texture is just wrong. Perhaps if I had drunk more wine, it would have tasted better. At any rate, I can't recommend it. And we have three more pieces left. Anyone want them?

I'm thinking now that the picture is unfocused because I was trembling with fear at the thought of the tofurkey "italian sausage" touching my part of the pizza. Yes, that must have been it.

Southwest Turkey Burgers and Crisp Shredded Sweet Potato

Well, not real pretty, but it was tasty. I mixed some cumin and a little canned chipotle peppers with adobo into some ground turkey, then grilled them. Served them with some pepper jack on toasted whole wheat english muffins, a side salad with a lime vinaigrette. I also grated half a peeled sweet potato and cooked those in a pan with a little olive oil until they were nice and crisp on each side, then sprinkled them with chili powder. No, it didn't make a great picture, but neither did the next meal. I need a white background and better lighting...

This is in our new trying to be healthy mode. Whole grains, lean meat, etc. But I'm not leaving out the cheese all the time. Nope, no way.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chicken and Mushrooms on Whole Wheat Pasta

I know that some of you are groaning out there. Yes, Mac and Cheese is SO much better. But again, we're opting for the healthier choices. (sigh) So here it is.

So the deal is, I really like raw spinach. So if I can make a bed of it for something, I figure go for it. I'll get great big forearms, an anchor tat, a pipe, and a cute hat. And I'll be able to punch Bluto into the next page of the funnies.
For the record, I don't mind whole wheat pasta much, especially when it's one of the shorter ones, like penne or fusilli. The longer ones (Spaghetti, fettucine, etc.) just feel kind of wrong.

So this was the night before the grocery trip. You all know what that's like. "What do I have? How fast can I put something together?" I had fresh spinach, mushrooms, chicken breasts, some parmesan cheese, whole wheat fusilli, onions, garlic, and some canned diced tomatoes. You see where this is going. Chop up them mushrooms, onions and garlic, sautee them in a little olive oil, add some hunks of salted and peppered chicken, and then simmer the whole batch with a can of diced tomatoes (drained) while the pasta boils. Toward the end, I added a little of the pasta water to the chicken mixture. Then I drained the pasta, mixed it with the veggies, sprinkled with parmesan, and put it in a pyrex baking dish. Baked that at 350 for about 15 minutes, then served it over a good handful of raw spinach. The heat of the dish wilts the spinach and it adds a decent texture and flavor to the whole meal.

Again. No, it wasn't as good as mac and cheese. But we're trying to be good. So here's a reasonably healthy dinner that didn't take much time to put together. (Hang in there. Once I get the feel for all this healthy stuff, and get my herb garden going for the season, we'll have better meals.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chicken and Black Bean Burritos

I know, Natalie. (She's one of my THREE readers. Hey, Karen and Mitch!!) I promised you the pasta dish from last night. But I realized I never posted these burrito things, so we're taking a detour first.

First of all, we're trying to eat "healthier". Now, don't misunderstand that. I am not turning into a food zealot, and you will NOT find vegan-friendly meals on here, unless it's just a fluke. I'm quite fond of meat and cheese and bread and cheese and cream and cheese and crackers and cheese and butter and cheese and ice cream and cheese and pretty much all things dairy. And cheese. Not enough good things can be said about cheese. But we are trying to eat more whole grains, more lean protein, and more vegetables and fruits (and less fat. shhh! Don't say that too loud!). Good timing, since it's pretty much spring here, and I'm tired of heavy meat dishes for the most part. Bring on the basil and tomatoes! (yes, we have a while to go but I'm about ready.)

In the meantime, I'm ramping up. Slowly. These burritos were a good midway kind of thing. Whole wheat burritos, black beans and onions, tomatoes, a little skim fresh mozarella, chicken thighs (my favorite chicken part), oh, whatever. I hear the yawning. Here's what I did:
  1. I sauteed a chopped onion in olive oil (about a Tbs.) until it was limp. Maybe 3 minutes.
  2. Then I added diced, WELL salted and peppered chicken thighs. (People. PLEASE salt your food. It takes so much less salt on the front end, and salt is a flavor carrier!)
  3. (A small commercial break: I LOVE the chicken thigh packs Costco has. The thighs really don't have that much more fat, they're moister, have more flavor, and are cheaper than chicken breasts! So I keep packs of the boneless, skinless chicken thighs in my freezer all the time. I should probably write a whole blog about that, don't you think?)
  4. I dumped in a can of black beans. It was so hard. Don't I rock?
  5. I simmered that and added a can of drained diced tomatoes (because the real ones aren't available yet at any quality level), and 1 chipotle chile from a can with a little bit of the adobo sauce. You can find this in the Mexican section of the grocery. It adds a little heat.
  6. I got out a pyrex lasagna type dish. This was exhausting, because my tiny little galley kitchen with 1950 cabinets SUCKS!!! Don't you feel sorry for me?
  7. I poured a little olive oil in the bottom to cover the pan. The Pyrex pan, that is.
  8. I got out some skim mozarella, nibbled a little, drank some wine, then got out whole wheat tortillas. Then I put a tortilla in the bottom of the dish, drank a little more wine, added some of the skim mozarella, then some of the chicken/black bean mixture, then rolled up the tortilla. Repeat until you have a panful. Of these burrito things, not wine.
  9. I sprinkled them with a little more mozarella (so sue me! You saw the cheese entry above, right? )
  10. I baked them at about 400F for 15 minutes, until everything was nice and bubbly and happy.
  11. I served them with a little salad of chopped avocado, grape tomatoes (the only fresh ones worth anything this time of year) and spinach (for your iron, Popeye!) and some sour cream. Yes, REAL sour cream. That lowfat stuff tastes like chemicals. Either eat the real stuff or leave it out completely. Seriously. Dairy is dairy. Cows produce delicous, nutritious food products, in moderation. "Non-fat Half and Half" isn't. It just isn't. Eat the real stuff, or don't bother. The chemicals are probably worse for you than the fat.
Very nice. I am sure that we will get "leaner" mealwise as we go on, but hey. I used whole wheat tortillas. That ought to count for something. Coming up! We have a whole wheat pasta (which isn't as bad as you think) and turkey burgers (which might be as bad as you think. We'll see.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Latin-Style Flank Steak with Liz

So, you know how sometimes you have someone over to dinner who you'd REALLY like to impress? But then you chicken out and think "I'd better stick to familiar and comfortable, because otherwise, I may make an ass of myself. And also, it's Tuesday and I've been working all day and time is pretty limited. And my cupboard is also kind of pitiful." Well this was one of those nights.

I have enormous respect for Liz. (See terrible, grainy, dark picture below. Hey. Back off. I don't see you people with work on the cover of National Geographic.) Liz, if that link doesn't get you to update your website with all MY followers, I just don't know what will!

She has an amazing palate, the ability to write well, and is funny, interesting, great company, and kind. She writes for the Star-News, among other things. She cyber-stalked me, but I wasn't afraid. I'm taller than she is and I have mad Ninja skills. She invited me to lunch to do an article about me and my restaurant reviews on Chowhound. (Shut up, Natalie! No, I didn't pay her!) So anyway, she wrote said article and then was nice enough to keep inviting me to lunch from time to time. So I invited her over for dinner after the Holiday Dry Spell kept us from seeing each other - plus some personal stress on my part what with the whole hard drive crash and other stuff blah blah blah, you don't care, so shut up already, right?

I should have invited her husband-like boyfriend Bob, too. I thought she would already be in town for work - she lives a little ways away from us. Next time, Bob. For sure.

I know, I know... back to dinner. No, I'm not intimidated about cooking for Liz, or Marc and Sara, or any of my friends who have professions in the food industry. I figure they've eaten bad, mediocre, and great food, and no matter where mine lands on the line, it's about the company, and the fact that the meal is free. I'd wanted it to be special, initially, so I could really celebrate with a shebang that she was here for dinner. But, because of a lack of initiative, time, and resources, I opted for a Latin-style flank steak, served with cumin-seed rice and a salad with avocado, tomato, and a lime-cumin vinaigrette. So much for celebratory. Sorry, Liz.

Latin-style Grilled Flank Steak
Cumin-seed rice
Green salad with tomatoes, avocado, and lime-cumin vinaigrette
Sopapillas with Vanilla Gelato

The flank steak was rubbed with a spice combination of cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, oregano, coriander, salt and pepper, then grilled over high heat and sliced on the bias. For dessert, we had sopapillas. (I have no idea how to spell that - we pan-fried whole wheat tortillas, cut them into wedges, drizzled them with honey and cinnamon, and served them with a small scoop of vanilla gelato.)

We talked about restaurants, cooking, food, and all manner of wonderful things. The evening was over too soon, and I want her back here again with Bob soon. Soon!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tofu Stir-Fry

Well, they can't all be winners.

I wasn't too stoked about this meal to begin with, but it was what Pootie requested. And I was in a generous mood. Tofu. Not a fan. No, I didn't take any pictures of it. Who wants to look at little cubes of browned sponge? Here is a picture of cubed tofu.

Mmmmmm... Not.

Aside from the veggies in it, which were just OK, it was like eating space food. Decent nutritional value, but that's about all I can say about it.

Now, before you get all "Oh, tofu is GOOD! You just didn't prepare it right!", I'm going to just put it out there that I've had tofu prepared by some really good chefs, and I STILL don't like it. Not that my preparation was anything special, but there it is. To my palate, tofu = Styrofoam.

For those of you still interested past this point, (and I have no idea why), I will give you the dinner breakdown. Chopped ginger and garlic, wokked with the tofu, add snow peas, broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, and bean sprouts. Wokked that for a short while, then added a sauce of black bean sauce, chili and garlic sauce, and a little rice wine vinegar, and stirred that in and served it over Jasmine rice - which was the only "good" part of dinner.

Definitely a dinner you could feel smug and self-righteous about, but not all that tasty. I've got some making up to do for myself tonight. Maybe we'll just have ice cream.