Thursday, July 30, 2009

No post for two days? (for natalie)

We ate out at The Copper Penny last night before going to a movie downtown and tonight we're going sailing with Jack and picking up burritos from Flaming Amy's on the way. I'll cook tomorrow night, Natalie. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Almond Banana Smoothie

1 Tbs. Almond Butter
1 banana
1 tsp. honey
1/2 cup. skim milk
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 cup ice cubes

Blend until smooth. Filling!

Shrimp and Crispy Potato Salad

Last night we needed some veggies, and our Farmer's Market stash has finally run out. So it was salad time! I roasted some baby white potatoes until they were crisp. Then I sauteed some shrimp with minced garlic, a minced pimento pepper, some paprika and oregano. I made a dressing of lemon juice, a touch of honey, salt and pepper, and good olive oil. I dressed some greens with that, then topped them with the potatoes, shrimp, some olives, and some crumbled feta cheese. It was pretty good! P. loved it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Asparagus Soup and Duck

We finished painting on Saturday (see?),
so we actually had a REAL Sunday to just do some cleanup and relax and run a couple of errands, including picking up some beautiful duck breasts from Fresh Market.

Asparagus Soup
Duck Breasts with Peach and Pear Sauce
Stone Ground Grits with Goat Cheese
Green Beans with Garlic

The soup is one of the P90X recipes, actually. Onion, garlic, asparagus, half a potato (to thicken it) and chicken or vegetable broth. Simmer it and then puree it. It was really delicous. It will also be good cold, and there was a good bit left over. Actually, there's less now than we started out with, because P. insisted on putting it in a container that was too small and then forcing the lid down. The kitchen (and he) looked like an alien had been gunned down in there. Green goop EVERYWHERE. Good lord.

For the duck, I did my skillet on the grill routine. Duck is wonderful, but SO messy and smokes up the whole house unless you cut the fat off. But it's perfect for outside in a really hot pan. I just salted and peppered it, then threw it skin-down in the 600 degree cast iron skillet, then got out of the way. After it was nice and crispy on that side (and there was about an inch of melted duck fat in the pan), I flipped it over briefly and pulled it off to let it sit.

For the sauce, I sauteed a minced shallot in some olive oil, then deglazed the pan with about 1/2 cup white wine and 1/2 cup pear nectar. Then I added sliced pear and peach and simmered that until it was reduced. I sliced the duck and poured the sauce on top.

The grits were just prepapred normally and then I added a dollop of goat cheese and stirred it in at the end. Hittin'!

It was good to have a nice meal after a week of black bean burgers and whatever I could throw together quickly. This week looks to be more leisurely, since the floor refinishing is short work, long waiting. And it's a one-person job, so I won't be involved. That will leave me a little more time for planning dinner.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Watermelon Spritzer

Mmmm! I like this. we had some watermelon in the fridge that we need to get rid of before it goes bad. I'm not a big watermelon fan for eating. But I thought it might be good with some seltzer. Nothing new at all here - lots of articles out there now about "add fruit to water or seltzer for an extra zing". (Ew.) But it is, indeed, good. I just took some watermelon chunks and a few sprigs of mint, mooshed them just a little with the back of a spoon, added ice and seltzer, and then got busy painting.

We're making progress! (Remember, the camera adds a hundred pounds to your butt.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan

No picture. Oh, stop. My house is turned upside-down right now and I doubt I even knew where the camera was on Monday night when I served this. Here's what the office looked like on Monday, though...

Scraping the trim took longer than we thought.

So after scraping paint all day long, I was in the mood for something hearty and kind of Italian-y. I made a simple marinara sauce with onions, crushed tomatoes and fresh oregano and basil from the herb garden. Then I fried slices of eggplant in a little olive oil and drained them. Then I coated a chicken breast with panko crumbs mixed with a little parmesan cheese and put those in the hot olive oil, browned it on one side, flipped it over, and stuck it in the oven at 250. When it was about done, I put the sliced eggplant on top of the chicken, then topped that with a little mozarella cheese and heated it up until it was nice and melty, melty.

For serving, I put some whole wheat spaghetti noodles on the plate, topped it with a little of the marinara sauce, then topped that with half a chicken breast for each of us. It was exactly what I wanted. And leftovers for lunch the next day!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Taste of Wilmington

I hesitate to blog about this, because I have some real issues with how they did it this year, and I don't want to just complain. But here it is, I guess, for better or worse.

Let's begin with the length of the selection. They announced the competition and nominations at the beginning of the year, then there was vote after vote after vote to narrow the field. I lost track, because honestly, I lost interest. The whole process really ought to be trimmed down to a month or so. Leaving the voting open that long just brings about its own problems, which brings me to my second complaint. People should be allowed to vote ONCE. This is not difficult. If the newspaper can post stories on the interwebs, and have something as complex as a login and preferred story interests, they can set up a voting online method that forces you to register so you can't vote multiple times. Given the finalists and the word on the street, some restaurants sent many email blasts out to their patrons and urged them to "vote early, vote often". To me, this makes the "Top Chef" moniker meaningless. It's a popularity contest. If that's what you're after, instead of who actually cooks the best food in Wilmington, so be it. But if you're really after who is the best chef, limit votes to one, and nip this sucker in the bud earlier so it doesn't drag on for months and months.

We weren't even going to go this year, but Sara invited us to help her at the Marc's on Market booth. Marc wasn't competing this year since he won last year - he got to judge instead. We helped Sara serve their dessert sampler - strawberry buckle with honeyed goat cheese and pistachio. Now, I can say this here, because my readership is not far and wide, but that's MY recipe (she said proudly) adapted by Marc, that helped win last year's Top Chef for him. It's an old family recipe of Apple Squares. I've had it growing up, and it's one of the easiest desserts in the world, and seriously tasty. Marc and Sara were over here for dinner one night, and Marc actually raved about it (which was high praise in my book for sure) and he asked for the recipe, which I gladly gave him. Then he turned it around, modified it for whatever fruit was in season, and added the goat cheese, which was perfect, of course. Genius. So obviously I can't take too much credit. But the base is mine and my family's and I'm proud anyway.

Back to Taste of Wilmington. Phillip and I went and did the booth tour pretty soon after we got the booth set up. This year, I think the restaurants had it together a little better. Last year it was kind of a chinchy little tiny bite here and tiny bite there and we couldn't really get a feel for what the restaurants were all about. Not so this year. Most restaurants had a pretty wide variety of samples (no small feat for something like this) and generous servings. By the time Pootie and I waddled back to the booth, we were stuffed and happy.

Our favorites: Big Thai - which is one of our favorite restaurants anyway. They had a couple of new things they were trying out for their menu, which I hope make it. There was a cabbage leaf with larb (chopped chicken and herbs topped with peanuts), some spring rolls, and the two new things, which I couldn't catch the name of because it was loud, but they were delicious.

Another favorite was Double Happiness, which I shamefully haven't blogged about. I need to get back there so I can. Really good Chinese. They had some wonderful selections at their booth. Pot stickers, a curried beef that I could have eaten all night, spring rolls, and more.

We tried the pastries from La Gemma. Oooo, they were pretty! Tasty, too! Someday when I'm skinny after doing P90X, I'll pay them a visit. Last night I had a couple of bites of a few things and everything was good.

We had a "Martini Meatloaf" from Trebenzio, which has apparently been downtown by the Post Office for three years and we've managed to miss. I think it's kind of a martini lounge, which could explain why we've missed it, but I sure did like their tiny little meatloaf meatball on top of a bed of mashed potatoes.

What's Cooking did some excellent shrimp and grits, and we hadn't been there before either. This was obviously a good chance for us to discover some new places. Mad Boar was another one we didn't know about. They had some pork that was beyond tender on a bed of decent risotto.

Other places didn't dazzle so much. Temptations, which I used to love, was kind of "meh", which reflected the change since the new owners took over. I have stopped going there for lunch because the food just isn't as good and I feel ripped off. Portions are tiny (and I'm NOT a big portion fan) and it's just not the warm, inviting place it once was. River Landing gave us some potatoes wrapped in beef over a bed of corn that was just bland and boring.

We didn't taste any of the wine, because Sara was gracious enough to bring some for us, and our experience last year put is in a "why bother" mood. The samples were ridiculously small, and most (not all, but most) of the wines being poured were cheap and bad. And I am seriously not a wine snob.

What impressed me a LOT was the military food service folks. Wow! They were serving a beef bourguignon and a creme brulee' that looked hittin'! I hope that our military get to eat that stuff periodically instead of the rations my dad showed me in the closet from when he was in Viet Nam. I didn't try it because it was at the very end of our tour and I was about to pop. But Greg, who is another Marc's fan who worked the booth with us said it was great.

Final score, competition - 0, Booths 9. I think if they can streamline the competition and make it genuinely fair, it will be a much better event. And if they'd kill the fluorescent lights at the Convention Center and use the other incandescent lighting they already have in place, it will look less like a triage unit in a field hospital and more like the event it wants to be.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cheeseburgers and Paint Scraping

I know. You're so inspired that you can't wait to get in the kitchen! I'll remind you that we're in the middle of redoing the office, and maybe you'll cut me some slack.

Yesterday was busy. We only played a couple of games of Freecell all day! We got up, went to the farmer's market and stocked up on fresh veggies and fruit. Then came home and unloaded all that. Then we went to Costco, started out buying groceries, and wound up also picking up two Henry Miller office chairs. I HATE our current office chairs. They're huge, haven't held up well at all, and mine just kills my back. It supports in all the wrong places. So we were overdue for new ones. These were a great deal and Henry Miller makes some seriously comfortable office chairs. We came home and unloaded all THAT stuff, put the chairs in the attic (we have limited space in the house right now with all the office furniture all over the rest of the house), then went out again, this time to the Teeter for remaining groceries.

Now you're probably thinking "Dude! You just stocked up! Why on earth couldn't you come up with anything better than cheeseburgers for dinner? That's just lame!"

A couple of reasons, actually. First, once we got back and put all the groceries away, we did KenpoX. By then it was 3:30 and we still hadn't started working on the office. And yesterday was "Scrape Day". (whee.) Second, I had promised my husband I would cook cheeseburgers for dinner. Bless his heart, while we were in there scraping away, he kept saying "It's OK. Cheeseburger's comin'." Now how can you disappoint someone who is standing there scraping paint off window mullions?
Since we started so late, we didn't finish scraping. I did the baseboards and around the windows, but as you can see, the mullions are a big job. Between this one window and taking down all the nails from the wall and spackling, he didn't finish. So that continues today. We were supposed to paint the walls, but since we didn't finish scraping AND we forgot to add "buying paint" to our errand list yesterday, that plan is pretty well hosed. Since there's only one window scraper, I'll be bathing the dogs, cleaning the house, and doing some weedeating outside.

We're helping Sara with the Marc's on Market booth for Taste of Wilmington tonight, so there won't be anything to report for dinner tonight. That should give me some time to come up with something a little more blog-worthy for a meal.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Black Bean Burgers

I worked until late yesterday, then still had to do YogaX, which is four days long, so dinner needed to be expedient. We pulled some black bean burgers out of the freezer - I think we get Morning Star, but now I can't remember - and threw them on the grill. I boiled two ears of corn and we called it good.

The cupboard is getting bare, so I see a trip to the grocery in our near future. We have started the office redo also, and will be spending the next 11 days moving all our stuff out of the room, scraping, painting, refinishing the floor, and moving stuff back in. Well, I use the term "we" loosely. I will be helping over the weekend and leaving Pootie Pie to his own devices during the week until the evenings when I can help him. Since that's the plan for the next couple of weeks, we'll probably be leaning toward convenient dinners. Here's an office "before" shot for you so you can appreciate our efforts and the lack of decent postings for the next little while.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Leftovers for lunch

Out of last night's (and one other night's) leftovers, comes today's lunch. Or a light dinner.

Shredded Romaine Lettuce topped with some of the leftover white bean salad, and some shredded roasted chicken and reheated roasted potatoes. Very tasty!

Roasted Chicken and Ned and Melissa

See? Dinky can behave sometimes.

Ned and Melissa are on something of a break, having sent their children packing to Camp Grandparents for the week. We booked this night a couple of weeks ago or more, and had them come over straight after work - their office is right down the street from us.

So what do you do when you have to work all day, fit in three workouts, desperately need to run the vacuum, then discover that you also need to clean up the catalogue your dog shredded in the bedroom before company crosses the threshold at 5:00? You roast chickens, that's what. And you look at your pantry staples and your farmer's market veggies and say "what can I toss together out of this?" So here's what I came up with:

Roasted Chicken
White Bean Salad with Rosemary Garlic dressing
Stone Ground Grits
Whole Wheat Pita

Hopefully it wasn't too much of a hodge-podge menu, but I thought it was good. Of course, that could have been the Prosecco talking.

The chickens are pretty self-explanatory. I pulled a couple of whole chickens out of the freezer, thawed them, salted and peppered them, stuffed an onion and a sprig of rosemary up their hinders, and put them on a baking sheet on the grill. Ten minutes prep time. Then the nice part - put it on the grill and forget about it for about 45 minutes.

For the White Bean Salad, I drained and rinsed two cans of white beans, added about a cup of diced tomato, 1/4 cup of chopped Kalamata olives, sauteed 2 minced cloves of garlic with about 2 tsp. of chopped rosemary, then added that to a dressing of the juice of 1/2 lemon, generous pinch of salt, 1 tsp. of dijon mustard, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Then I tossed the whole thing and let it sit while we visited. That whole process took me another 10 minutes.There's not a bunch of it left, so I'm going to assume it was well-received.

At this point, with getting things out of the freezer, prepping and tossing, I'd spent all of half an hour getting dinner ready. Rock!

Melissa and I picked on the chickens when they came off the grill. That's just the best. I served the whole thing family style and everyone seemed to enjoy it. We ate inside because the cushions are still damp. We left them out after our dinner with Heather and Walt the other night and it rained in the middle of the night. Whoops. We also hadn't sprayed for mosquitoes, so figured we'd be more comfortable in the house.

Now we go on an in-house entertaining hiatus for a couple of weeks. We begin the office redo tomorrow, and most of our office will be strewn across the house, so it's not really conducive to entertaining. Feeding ourselves will be kind of a challenge as well, since both of us get kind of obsessive about stuff like this and we'll be spending a lot of our time scraping and painting. We may be eating a lot of black bean and turkey burgers in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Shrimp Stir-Fry

This was Monday's dinner. I don't really know why I'm even blogging about it, since it wasn't particularly noteworthy. Mainly to keep Natalie entertained, I guess. (Holla!) It was fine, but you know, just a shrimp stir-fry. A bunch of chopped veggies, shrimp, rice, and an egg in a sauce of fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, and a little sugar. It was good enough, but I was hungry again before bed. Oh, isn't that always the way with Chinese food?

Salmon with Heather and Walt

I know it's not the best picture. I feel lucky to have gotten one off at all with guests. I almost never do. So here it is.

Grilled Salmon
Toasted Corn, Cherry Tomato and Edamame Salad (from the latest Fine Cooking)
Whole Wheat Rolls

I'll admit that I overcooked the salmon a little. Oops! I got busy yapping with everyone and left it on the grill a little too long. It wasn't burned, but it was drier than I like. I'm hoping I gave them enough pomegranate margaritas before dinner that they didn't notice.

We ate outside again, and this time the bugs weren't bad at all. We were sorry when they had to leave, and even sorrier that they had to drive as far as they did, since the used to be able to just walk back next door. They were good neighbors. We love our new neighbor, but still miss having them right there.

Steak with Sara and Eric

Sara and Eric own Red Bank Wine, and they generously provided the wine for the evening. And when I say generous, I mean GENEROUS. They brought some really good stuff - wines we would not have gotten to try otherwise, believe me. We get all our wine from them, and they're both really good at matching wines and meals. So we went out Saturday afternoon to pick up wine and I collaborated with Eric on what they would like for dinner. He asked for beef, partly because he wanted to try out a couple of reds with it, and partly because we all just really dig beef.

So here was the menu:

Watermelon, Feta, and Kalamata Olive Salad with Mint and Lime juice
They brought a nice sparkling Rose for that. It was dry as a bone and went perfectly.

Seared Beef Tenderloin Filets
Roasted New Potatoes with Parmesan
Green Beans

The beef was done the way I love it - turn all three burners on the gas grill as high as they'll go, stick the cast iron skillet on there and let it heat up, then sear the bejeezus out of the salted and peppered filets on each side. Let 'em rest for about five minutes, then slice thinly and serve with some sea salt for sprinkling. The beef had that nice caramelized "crust" on the outside, and was rare and gorgeous on the inside. We tried two reds with it - both were wonderful. One was a really black-cherry juicy one and the other one was slightly sweeter, but both delicious.

We ate outside and talked about all kinds of stuff, including wine. We always learn so much from them. Then I started getting bitten by something and we headed back in the house for some ice cream with warm fruit compote. Really great evening and no, I was not hungover the next day. I tasted all, but partook modestly. And knocked back a couple of ibuprofen with a big glass of water before I went to bed. Ready to roll the next day!

Just for Natalie

This post is for my sister-in-law, Natalie, who was complaining last night that she's bored reading the same post over and over again.

Hey Natalie. Send me your Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe! And the lettuce wraps one! And later today, I promise I'll post from the last few days.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Turkey Cutlets and a new toy

My husband surprised me with a tripod! No more blurry pictures! Now, that doesn't mean they're going to look that much better, other than not being blurry, but at least if I get the DTs before dinner, the shot won't come out looking like I've had a seizure just as I've pressed the shutter. Here's Steamboat taken from the tripod:

Here's Dinky (Love Boat). He's a punk. He's slightly blurry because a.) he's always drunk and b.) he's a spaz. Steamboat is a little easier. He's pretty stationary most of the time.

Here's dinner. It wasn't moving. And thanks to the tripod, neither was I. I mean, the camera. I was probably still wobbling all over the place.

Next I'm thinking a backdrop (maybe white) and a light that's brighter than the one on the buffet. I know the pictures are kind of dimmish. But honestly, the flash is just horrible.

Back to dinner. Tonight was just the two of us, which is nice now and then.

Turkey Cutlets with Dijon Mustard Pan Sauce

Roasted Squash with Rosemary

Brown Rice

I dredged the salted and peppered turkey cutlets in a little flour, then pan browned them in some olive oil. Then added about a half cup of white wine to the pan, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, and scraped up the brown bits. I had to add a little water to get it the right consistency, but then it was good to go. The squash I just sliced thin, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and chopped rosemary, and roasted at 450 for about 35 minutes. The brown rice is, well, brown rice. Wahoo.

One of my standbys, actually. I like the pan-browned cutlets with a pan sauce. You can do chicken, turkey, whatever, and any kind of flavor that suits you for the sauce. And tonight I just didn't feel like "bringing it" in the kitchen. But I also didn't want to go out. What I wanted was to sit in the living room and mess with my tripod and figure out how it worked. Which I did while the rice and the squash were cooking. I think this is going to pay off. Whoo hooo!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Flounder with Melissa and Robertiak

This was Sunday night, after a successful foray to the Farmer's Market on Saturday. We picked up some fresh locally caught flounder along with a ton of fresh veggies, so we shared the spoils with Melissa and Robertiak, our kayak instructor-friend-dude.

Grilled Flounder with Lemon and Garlic Butter

Crispy Parmesan Yukon Gold Potatoes

Corn on the cob

Fresh Tomato and Basil Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Vanilla Ice Cream with Bourbon Blackberry Peach Compote

Not much explanation needed here, I don't think. Flounder is such a delicate fish that it doesn't need much besides salt and pepper and maybe some garlic and lemon with butter. The potatoes were cut into wedges, tossed with salt and olive oil and parmesan cheese, then roasted in the oven.

After dinner, we relaxed in the living room.

Do we know how to make our guests comfortable, or what? Just so you know, if you come to my house and gush over my dogs, I'm leavin' 'em out. If you don't say much, I'll usually put them in the bedroom so they don't smother you when you sit down. Melissa said she didn't mind. I hope she wasn't lying.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Salmon with Christin and Dave

I purposely blurred the picture so you couldn't see Christin and Dave. That way, they won't be mobbed by fans when they walk down the street. Right! (Sigh) Yeah, I know. I need a tripod. I just hate using the flash. It washes everything out and the colors are awful.

Christin and Dave are our new friends. We met them originally through another friend, and then got to know them by chatting them up at their booth at the Farmer's Market. They sell delicious produce and gorgeous flowers. I'm seriously jealous of the flowers. I love fresh flowers, but they're expensive to buy to just have to toss them in a week, and I don't get enough sun to grow much of anything. I got lucky and they brought me some beautiful gladiolas. Yay!

They run Federal Point Farms and work their heinies off to grow and harvest local, sustainable, organic produce. And their stuff is hittin'! So of course, I showed my support by serving them bland grocery store vegetables. Hey. Back off. It was Wednesday, and the Farmer's Market is Saturday and we'd already inhaled all the fresh veggies from there. We need a twice a week downtown Farmer's Market. I don't have time to drive all the way the hell to Poplar Grove on Wednesday morning. I have to work!

Here was the menu:

Whole Wheat Grilled Pizza topped with Lemon Parmesan dressed Spinach Salad (appetizer served with a nice dry Riesling that Sara picked out. It went great!)
Grilled Wild Caught Salmon
Roasted Red Potatoes with Rosemary
Green Beans with Garlic
(served with a Sauv. Blanc that Sara picked out too. Also great!)
Lemon Cornmeal Cake with Blackberries

We had a great time sitting out in the dusk, talking about farming, produce, composting, the fact that Dinky was sitting on Christin's leg under the table and knocked off her shoe, crappy grocery store food, rats, roaches and other pests, (including Dinky), what their work schedule is, and how they manage to do what they do. I learned a ton and was very impressed with how hard they work at something they're passionate about and devoted to. And something with which they do a really bang-up job. I'm looking forward to seeing them again on Saturday and replenishing our fresh produce supply!