Friday, October 30, 2009

Curried Lentil Soup and Roasted Lamb

We recently discovered some soups that we love - Pacific Natural Foods puts them out. One of our favorites is their curried lentil soup. But the sodium content is pretty high, and while that doesn't normally bother me, we ARE trying to eat "cleaner", plus I consider it a learning experience anyway. I wasn't trying to duplicate it perfectly, just get a close approximation that we liked. And I think I hit it pretty well. Mine was a little spicier than the store version, but we liked it.

Curried Lentil Soup

1 cup dried lentils, soaked overnight
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. red curry paste
1/2 cup apple juice
1 1/2 cup chicken stock

Sautee the onion, carrots and garlic over medium-low heat in the olive oil until onions are transluscent and limp. Add curry powder, turmeric, salt, pepper, curry paste and vinegar. Stir to incorporate well, until fragrant, about one minute. Add lentils, bell pepper, and all liquids. Stir to incorporate. Simmer for about an hour, to fully cook the lentils. It's ingredient-intensive, but worth it.

At this point, you could eat the soup chunky, or puree it, like I did. Pootie Pie asked for it smooth. He prefers it that way for a first course. So I got out my immersion blender and went to town. I love that thing.
For the lamb, I started as always, with my ratty-ass baking sheet. (Oh, hush. I have nice ones for real baking.)
Then I pulled out the ubiquitous Reynolds Wrap.
Then I lined the pan with the foil, and "Wa-La!". Clean surface for roasting something on the grill. This saves my grill grates, keeps us from eating those char-bits of food that are supposed to be bad for you, and keeps me from having to cook this in the oven, which smokes up the house. (Have I mentioned I don't have a vent-a-hood?) In case you haven't figured it out yet, I cook food this way  LOTS. I love my gas grill. We had it hooked up to the gas line, so no worrying about propane  refills, and it's on the deck right outside the back door. Very convenient.

With the pan prepared thusly, I salted and peppered the lamb, spread it with dijon mustard, then patted on some bread crumbs and a little more pepper. A short stint on the grill at 450 got it nice and browned on the outside and rare on the inside. Poifect!
We do have quite a bit of soup leftover, so that ought to keep us happy for lunches for a while. Plus a little bit of lamb, and a little of the bay leaf mashed potatoes (boil a potato, push it through a ricer, add skim milk, olive oil, salt and a couple of bay leaves and let it sit and warm and grab some of the bay leaf flavor while you're eating soup and carving the lamb).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Steelhead Trout with Brown Butter and Pecans

Crisp Greens with Apples, Grapes, and Apple Cider-Maple Vinaigrette

Steelhead Trout with Brown Butter and Pecans

Mixed Vegetable Hash Browns

I totally forgot to put the brown butter and pecans on the trout until I'd put it in front of my Pootie Pie and walked back in the kitchen and saw it on the stove. At least I made it in time for eating, if not pictures.

The salad was a favorite of mine - I love the apple/pecan/grape combination, and the apple-cider vinaigrette is perfect for fall.

It's just green leaf lettuce, chopped apples and grapes, whole toasted pecans, and just a little feta cheese. Goat would be better, but I'm out. The dressing is 1 Tbs. maple syrup, 3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, a generous pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and about 4 Tbs. salad oil and 1/2 Tbs. walnut oil.

My dad used to trout fish on the Spring River in Arkansas. Rainbow, not Steelhead, obviously. I went with him a few times. He caught a few good-size ones. I can remember eating a decent amount of trout almondine growing up. I was not a fan. I know, I appreciation for the finer things in life, like fresh-caught river trout. I preferred salmon croquettes, made from canned salmon. Go figure. Speaking of salmon, this trout was very salmon-like. Same color and even smelled similar. I'm used to trout being much paler and milder. It kind of lost its salmony-ness (yeah, it's a word - look it up) once it was grilled. For the topping, I browned some butter on low heat in a pan, added just a touch of maple syrup, then put in some crunchy toasted pecans and drizzled the lot over the trout. It got a lot of mmmmms from Pootie so I'm assuming it was good. Well, and I liked it, too.

The vegetable hash browns were also tasty, and fun to make. I grated two parsnips, two carrots, one russet potato, and half a sweet potato. I set the russet potato aside to drain on paper towels for about 45 minutes - they need to be dry for this. Then I mixed the lot together with a couple tablespoons of flour, a teaspoon of pepper, salt and nutmeg, and three eggs. Mix it all up with your hands - go on, get in there! Hands are the best tool you got for this. Wash them first.

Especially if you have Steamboat for a helper. Well, come on. You can't deny him a few head pats when he's that cute! Not that I'm biased or anything.

Then drop little fingerfuls of them into hot olive oil in a pan. Medium heat - you don't want them cooking too fast since the carrots and parsnips take a little longer. Go until they're browned on each side.

It took long enough that I drew an audience. Dinky is trying to be unobtrusive so I won't notice him. And fervently hoping I drop something edible on the floor. I didn't. (This time.)

I had a good number of the little hash browns leftover, and figure they'll be excellent with some turkey sausage and eggs for breakfast. Oo! And some maple apples! Since I'm writing this blog in the AM, I may need to get on that after my workout.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


About a month or more ago, I got an email from someone I didn't know. She asked me if I would be interested in being a judge for a Chowderfest they were having at Waterford. It's a planned community over the bridge in Leland, and they were doing this as an iniative to bring people in to see the properties that hadn't been developed. My first thought was "What? How did you FIND me?" I mean, it's not like I'm paid to do anything with food, and it's not as though my readership is... well... existent. Heck, with the exception of my brother's wife, Nat (holla!), my own family doesn't even read it. (Yes, that includes my husband.) But, it was a volunteer thing, and I figure you get what you pay for, so I said I'd love to. Because I would!

I got an email later from Kace, who organized it.  (Pretty well, I might add - things ran very smoothly, overall, and there was a great turnout! So good, in fact that the competitors ran out of chowder for people to taste. That's a high-class problem.)

She sent the list of judges:
  • Allison Ballard – Wilmington Star News, former food writer
  • Liz Biro – Food Writer / Chef
  • Alexis Fouros – Chef, Professor of Culinary Arts, Author “Feast for the Gods”
  • Norm Harding – Cooking Columnist for Brunswick Beacon
  • Gavin Johnson – Reporter for WECT
  • Andie Reid – POSER.

No, it didn't really say Poser. It said "Food Blogger". But that's what I felt like, looking at the list. Hmmm... professional writers and food people. Aaaannnnnd me. But I gave it my best effort, and given that the results of the competition pretty closely mirrored how I'd rated everyone, that's something. That's us, minus me, getting ready to start.
We were given 8 different chowders to sample, and rated them on aroma, appearance, taste, consistency, and overall appeal. There was a wide variety of types in the 8 we had. Some were brothy, others white and creamy, others red and creamy, all with various types of fish or clams or corn, so the judging didn't get boring.
The winner was Michelle Troegner. Her chowder was a fairly traditional New England Clam Chowder that was well-balanced in flavor and rich without being too thick and goopy. I'm hoping she'll allow me to do a blog about her, so I won't say much more about her entry here, other than that she deserved to win, in my opinion. 
I met some interesting people, and scored an excellent cookbook from Alexis full of gorgeous pictures. I'm planning to blog about that soon, too, so stay tuned.
I do have to say that I'm probably not going to want chowder for quite some time to come, but I had a good time, and was grateful to be asked to participate.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Weekend Chowder Contest

Well, tomorrow should be interesting. I'm one of the judges for a chowder contest for the Waterford Chowderfest. Looking very much forward to it. Hopefully I'll be allowed to take pictures and post about it when it's all over. Anyone who is interested in going, here's the info. Come out and say hi!

New Laptop!

You peeps are out of luck tonight. We're having leftovers. I tried to get Pootie to take me out to eat, but he says he has too much grading to do to take that much time out. (sigh). But I'm not cooking. My new laptop is here, and I'm taking the time to set it up and reinstall stuff. No doubt I'll be doing some recipe fishing and adding some things to MasterCook, though, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

(Frozen) Chili

I am sad. My laptop is still not set up. I had to wait for it to come in (custom build, so they had to ship it) and now I'm waiting for my computer buddy Jim to move all my stuff from my old one to my new one. Yes, I could do it myself, but it would take me one day to his one hour, and there would be a lot of swearing involved. He removed them both from my sight yesterday to copy everything over and I hope he'll have it to me tomorrow. Why is this relevant? Because my MasterCook files are on my old machine and I didn't move them over to this temporary machine. That means no pulling up my "To Try" cookbooks to find something to cook, and if I do find something cool on the internets, I can't import it into MasterCook. Blah blah blahbitty blah, there went my motivation. I like being able to get organized with my creativity. I know you feel very bad for me. Thank you.

Since I'm sulking, I don't really feel much like cooking tonight. And it's officially chili weather. So I am pulling out chili I made a while back and stuck in the freezer. I always make more than we can eat. Tonight's dinner prep so far has consisted of thunking a big hunk of frozen chili into a pot. But I DID cook it at some point.

Now I am going to let you in on a dirty little family secret. The Family Chili Recipe, handed down from generation to generation. (Specifically, my mother's generation to my generation, since this is my mom's recipe.)

[Insert opening to Also sprach Zarathustra here]

Yes, people, that's right. It's a mix! (A mix?) A mix, Ben! I know, I know. This is supposed to be a COOKING blog! Not that - what is it - "Semi-homemade" stuff with doctored up Betty Crocker. I will say that as far as I recall, this is the ONLY dish I make with any kind of a mix. And I do modify it. (That's what separates me from the hoi polloi - HA!) But you know, if it's good, it's good. So here's the formula, since I hesitate to call it a recipe.

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 lbs. of lean ground beef or turkey, or half and half. (It's better with beef)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cans tomato sauce
2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained
1/2 bottle good beer (my favorite is Negra Modelo. Obviously, I drink the other half. Did I need to say that?)
1 package Wick Fowler's 2 Alarm Chili MIX (That's right!)

OK, now pay attention, because I don't just dump in everything from the box all willy-nilly. Here we go, kids.

In a large, heavy pot (2 quart works fine), turn the heat to medium. Sautee the onion in the olive oil, then add the garlic. Add the ground beef when the onion is transluscent. Stir and brown the ground beef. I usually add a healthy pinch of kosher salt here and a good grind of black peppercorns. Strain off any grease. (If you use lean ground beef, there shouldn't be much.) OK get ready. Here's where the mix comes in.

Add the following packages from the mix box:
All of the chili pepper
All of the paprika
All of the cumin/oregano
All of the onion/garlic (Oh, what the hell? It won't add much, but it won't hurt.)

Now. That's where I stop. The Masa is to thicken the chili, which I've never found I needed. The cayenne pepper is for you real men out there who like your food HOT. I find this chili plenty hot enough without adding that. I already salted the meat. You can taste it and see if you think it needs more salt, but dang, that's a lot of salt, and I don't think it needs it. And I love me some salt. I don't know what Wick was thinking with that.

Stir in all those spices, then add the tomato sauce and the beans. Drink half the beer, then pour the rest into the chili. If you do like I do, and drink more than half the beer, open another one and use the beer to thin the chili to a good consistency. Then drink whatever is left over. Negra goes well with this chili.

Simmer that as long as you can get away with before dinner. The longer the better, over low heat, and stir it occasionally, or it will make a godawful mess on the bottom of the pot.

When I was growing up, Mom always served this with sweet gherkins, celery and carrots as go-withs. I like to do the same, and add grated cheese and sour cream for the top of the chili and maybe some crisped tortillas. (Although I'd honestly prefer Fritos, which my husband, my conscience, Tony Horton and Beach Body won't let me buy.) Tonight, I'm serving it with a side of browned apple slices with a little lemon juice and maple syrup. Not much.

Let me head off the great Chili debate here. I know there are thousands of wonderful chili recipes I should try, many of which are much MUCH better than this crap I'm pushing. I know that there are the beanless disciples of pure Texas Chili who would call me a heretic and throw dried chili peppers at me. I know that my mother is possibly going to read this blog and say "I can't believe you gave away our secret in public!" AND I know that my brother's wife is probably going to read this blog and say "You know... I never have liked that chili." But it's nippy outside, my husband (The Pootie Pie) is in the den doing Ab Ripper X and dinner is up to me. And I say, it's a good night for Wick Fowler's Doctored-Up-Alarming-Frozen-I-Don't-Have-To-Do-Much Chili.

And the rest of the Negra Modelo.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sasquash, Chickens and Butter Peas

Oh, OK, it wasn't really Big Foot. It was Butternut Squash. Still, he takes a good picture, doesn't he?

Tonight's dinner:

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Pecan-crusted Chicken Breasts
Butter Beans

I was going to cook green beans, but Pootie immediately started whining "Ohhh WHY are you making GREEN BEANS when we have blackeyed peas, and green peas and lima beans and butter peas and okra and ALL KINDS of vegetables I love! I don't even LIKE green beans!" Ohhhkaaayyyy! Green beans went back into the fridge and out came the butter peas.

The soup I started by roasting the squash outside on the grill.

While that cooked (gas grill at 350 - 400, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt), I chopped an onion and an apple and sauteed those in a medium heavy pot.
Scooped out the squash innards and added those to the pot, then simmered that in some chicken stock. I pureed the lot when everything was tender. That gave me the consistency of baby food. I guess you could stop there if you have a little one. But we don't, so I added about a cup of skim milk and stirred it and reheated it. Tasty and sweetish. Pootie liked it.

For the chicken, I pounded boneless, skinless chicken breasts until they were nice and flat. Then I dredged them in a little wheat flour, shook that off, then into beaten egg white, shaking off that excess, then dipped that into a mixture of pulverized pecans and wheat flour. A short browning in a little olive oil was all they needed to crisp and cook.

The butter peas got unceremoniously dumped from a frozen package into some sauteed onions and some chicken stock and simmered until they were done. They taste an awful lot like lima beans to me, which is what I actually grew up calling lima beans - butter beans. I need to look up what the difference is. The butter beans look rounder and a little paler, but that's about all I could tell. Maybe slightly milder flavor? They were good, anyway, and we enjoyed them.

I said to Pootie, "Did you enjoy your dinner?" and he said "Yep." And I said, "How was it?" he said "Good." I said "... but not spectacular." And he said "It wasn't as spectacular as the meal we had at Marc's on Market Saturday night, but I don't want that every night. Some nights I just want simple, wholesome, tasty food, like we had tonight."

You know? I'll take that.

Roasted Pesto Chicken and Greens

I know we just had a roasted chicken, but I need the carcass today. I'm out of chicken stock, and Pootie has requested a soup re-stock for the fridge. It's just such a good way to get vegetable servings quickly. So I took a chicken, spatchcocked it (well, "her", I guess), and smeared pesto under the skin. Forty minutes on the gas grill at about 400, and we were ready to eat.

I also cooked some gorgeous greens that I got from Dave and Christen at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. Of course, I started out with a bushel and wound up with two tablespoons. I crisped up some pancetta and minced garlic, added the greens and some chicken stock (what I had left) and salt and pepper, and simmered them until there was almost nothing left. They tasted fresh and OK, but I'm just not a greens fan. They have that weird bitter aftertaste that I find unpleasant. Pootie liked them, though, and he's also not a greens fan. He said his mom and dad would love them. (They grew up with greens). I probably won't make them again anytime soon.

We also had a salad with the fresh Winesap apples I got Saturday. Those are SO good.

So this morning, I start a big pot of chicken stock, and late this afternoon, when I finish working, I'll put together some soups. I'm thinking broccoli, asparagus, carrot, tomato-basil, and butternut squash.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mom and Dad come to Wilmington

It has been a busy and fun four days! The parents came for a visit on Thursday and left at the crack of dark this morning. Looking back on the trip, it appears that all we did was eat and shop. Even though I am NOT a shopper, I had a blast.

They arrived Thursday at noon and I picked them up at the airport and we went straight to lunch. One of our premier restauranteurs opened a new place recently, and I wanted to try it out, so we headed over there. It's called The Union Pub.

Dad made fun of the wait staff's get-ups right off the bat, and I can't really say I blame him. I don't know what Ash is going for here, but it's a little too "upscale Hooters" to me. They're all wearing really short plaid skirts and white shirts and kneee socks or boots. Like sexy schoolgirls. And don't say it's just because I'm getting old. I know that already. Kind of reminded me of a heavy metal video. Then the fact that the menus are on wooden paddles didn't help. Oh... the food? It was fine. Not up to his usual standards, I don't think, although I have to admit, I was totally stoked that they had tater tots on the menu. (!) The food was good, not great. Dad had a burger and said it was fine, Mom had the sliders (one pork, one burger) and said they were "really good", and I had one of their hot dogs and the tots and they were also good. Not "wow", but good. They do grind their own meat for the burgers, and can therefore serve them to you to order, instead of well done, like everyone else in the state. (Blegh.) So for tots and a medium burger, I'll probably go back, short skirts, wooden paddles and all.

We went from lunch to Red Bank Wine to pay a visit to Sara and Eric and pick up a few bottles. After shopping a little at Mayfaire, we swung by Fresh Market so I could grab something to cook for dinner and so my dad, Snack Man, could load up.

For dinner, I opted for a simple roasted chicken. It sounded good. I served that with roasted fingerling potatoes, a salad with blood orange vinaigrette and dried cranberries, and asparagus. Dinky played host for Dad.

Friday, our first mission was to get a flu shot at Costco. (Do we know how to party, or what?) "Unfortunately", Costco was out. We consoled ourselves with a giant jar of Jelly Bellies for Snack Man while we were there. (I come by that predilection honestly).

I insisted on lunch at Catch, and silenced my seafood-fearing father's faint protests by rolling his finger up in the car window. (Sorry, Dad!). Keith Rhodes (chef) had prepared a delicious duck noodle soup. Crispy duck confit nestled in a bed of ramen noodles (not the college kid kind) in a mild and fragrant duck broth with broccoli and carrots. It was a grey, drizzly, cool day outside, and that was just perfect. Mom had the blackened catfish and grits, and given the fact that there wasn't much left of it, must have enjoyed it. Dad reluctantly ordered the the firecracker shrimp (he's not a huge seafood fan) and licked the plate. And sort of forgot about his injured digit. Keith knows his stuff.

After a little more shopping, it was time to take Snack Man to La Gemma.  Ohhhhhh, man. Dad's face lit up like a Christmas tree when he walked in there. See?

We pointed and asked questions, and ordered and pointed some more and ordered some more, until we ended up with a nice sample of almost everything they had.

We took our treats to the car and most of them were gone by the time we got out of the parking lot. Holy my cow-thighs, those cookies were good. We scooted down the street to Walgreen's for another attempt at the flu shot, and were foiled again. They'd already stopped giving the shots for the day. (Whew.)

Dinner that night was at Marc's on Market. Marc and Sara were very good to us, as usual. Marc made a salad special for Dad (in case you haven't picked up on this yet, my dad is a little picky about food), and he and I both had the ribeye, done perfectly, all tender and well-seasoned with perfect mashed potatoes. Mom and Phillip both had the salmon, and ate every bite. For dessert, Mom had the pumpkin cheesecake, which I'm totally snagging the recipe for from Sara. Dad and I shared the carrot cake, and given his oooooohhhhs, and mmmmmmmssss, I'll guess it was a pretty huge hit.

Saturday morning found us down at the Farmer's market, where we visited with Dave and Christen, bought some produce (Dad said "You're not planning on cooking that eggplant tonight, are you?") and some flowers. After we got home to dump our goods, Phillip decided he needed to get in on the shopping since the temperature dropped pretty drastically and he realized he "didn't have a thing to wear!" When you drop 45 pounds, your old fall clothes don't fit anymore. We ate lunch at Brasserie du Soleil, another Ash restaurant. It was excellent, as always. Dad really liked that one. He agreed with me that the pommes frites were the best.

Saturday night I cooked a pork roast in an apple cider glaze with apples and onions. I served that with mashed sweet and white potatoes and a salad with apples, maple pecans, and an apple cider vinaigrette that Dad pronounced "Um... tart." He ate it anyway. No eggplant, though, so I think he was happy.

This morning I got up at 5:00 AM, toasted a bagel for my mom and picked them up at their B&B and took them to the airport. I miss them already. But I probably need to get back to eating a little cleaner and do a couple of extra rounds of plyo to work off this visit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Onion Soup, Chicken Thighs and Filled Squash

It really went together better than it sounds. I started out tonight only knowing that I wanted to make onion soup. But we needed more slots filled on our P90X nutrition chart than that would handle. Plus, I knew it wouldn't keep us filled up for longer than about an hour, and much as I like bedtime, 8:00 is a little early, even for me.

I started with the soup. I love onion soup. It's so simple, it's brown, and so good. Here's my basic method. It would serve 4 as a first course or 2 for a light supper.

4 to 5 small onions
2 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbs. Vermouth
3 - 4 cups chicken or beef broth
Saute the onions in the butter over medium low heat. Add the kosher salt. Stir occasionally.

When the onions get to the limp stage like this, add the brown sugar and stir it in. Keep stirring. Eventually, the onions will start to caramelize and deepen in color.

And you'll wind up with a smattering of onions on the bottom of the pot instead of the half a pot you started out with. Add the vermouth and the chicken stock and then put a lid on it and turn the heat to low and simmer it.

I had some squash, I think it's Hubbard, and thought "I guess I need to use this". So I whacked it in half, scooped out the innards, drizzled it with olive oil and sea salt, and (guess what?) put it on a foil-lined pan on the gas grill! I know! You could do it in the oven, obviously, but since it's not anywhere near cold here, I don't much like preheating the kitchen to 400.

This is one of my dogs. His name is Love Boat. We call him Dinky. He was helping. (Actually, he was watching a bug.) Not the most intelligent look, is it? He kind of looks like a stoner here.

Once I got the squash going on the grill, I turned my attention to what I was going to actually do with it. I started with brown rice, then decided that would be good mixed with some dried cranberries, apple, thyme, a little parmesan cheese, and some toasted pecans.

Here's where your pictures end. As you can see, I was running out of light. I've just got to get something going in there for more light - either a light box or an external remote flash or make Phillip shine a mag light on the food.

I swapped out the squash with some chicken thighs that I had salted and peppered and dusted with some seasoned bread crumbs. I grilled those, then served dinner. Phillip loved the soup, then dug in to the squash. He said (surprised) "Wow! This is really good! I was expecting it to be boring." Thanks for the vote of confidence, Pootie Pie.

For starting out not having a clue what I was going to cook, it wound up being a pretty good dinner. And we have leftovers. That squash will be great stuffed with the leftover rice mixture and we can add chopped chicken to that for a one-dish meal.

Grilled Lamb Loin Chops with Figs

Lamb is one of those dishes that can go either way for me. I like it, but I don't like it all tarted-up like a 15-year-old on her first date without parental supervision. A lot of lamb I've had has been way overpowered with a confusion of spices and herbs. I like it simple. Yes, it's a strong-tasting meat, but it's still a GOOD-tasting meat, so I don't like to cover all that up and confuse my taste buds.

I got my mitts on some very pretty lamb loin chops and some gorgeous figs, so I figured some kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, fresh rosemary and a little olive oil, and we'd be in business.

They're on my ubiquitous foil-lined pan that I use on the gas grill. (For those of you tuning in, I don't like cleaning that thing.)

To go with the lamb, I used my new favorite green bean prep, adapted from Fine Cooking. They're dressed with a meyer lemon vinaigrette and topped with parmesan bread crumbs. Yum! Phillip was lukewarm about them, but he doesn't much care for green beans. His attitude was "for green beans, they're pretty good". Then he dropped hints about how much he loves English peas. (sigh) I hate peas.

Of course, for me, mashed potatoes are a must-go with the lamb. (Or most other red meat, for that matter. I love me some mashed potatoes. Since we're living the healthy P90X lifestyle, though, as Tony would say "No butter! No sour cream!" These were put through the ricer and mixed with a little parmesan, some olive oil, a little skim milk and salt and pepper. Are they as good as mashed potatoes with tons of butter and cream? Ahahahahahahahaha! You crack me up! But at least they're healthier. And they are good. Just not as good as the fat kind.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cookbook making

Well, it looks as though I'm going to be taking my "Poser-dom" to another level. My husband's sister, who does not cook, and I mean does NOT cook, has decided that she wants to dip her toe in to dinners. They're trying to eat healthier, but they're busy, and have a busy 14-year old. She teaches kindergarten, her husband works full time, and our nephew is involved in stuff, has homework - you know the drill. She's looking for dinners to cook that are quick and very simple that they can have on the table within an hour of getting home at 5:00ish, so she's not just starving.

So I'm taking my lunches for the kids a step further and expanding it to accomodate some simple dinners as well. My sister-in-law is about at the same cooking level as the kids - beginner. Not because she can't, mind you, just because she never has. Her husband has done almost all the cooking for them.

My new project will be a collection of recipes that are easy, healthy, quick to get on the table, and can be recycled in some way for lunches. Are there cookbooks out there right now that already fit this bill? Probably hundreds. But it will still be fun for me to do.

My brother is pushing me to get a DSLR camera so I have some more control over the pictures and can possibly improve the food photos. I'm going to see what I can find that's reasonably priced (no sense buying a Ferrari for a beginning driver) and maybe this collection can look halfway decent, too. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Ahh, that felt good. I love Brown Food. I still need to blog about Brown Food.

Tonight I made steak and twice-baked potatoes. But in deference to our P90X lifestyle, the potatoes were stuffed with broccoli. And olive oil. The end. They were actually pretty good! I didn't take pictures, of course, because a.) I suck and b.) I suck. So here's a picture of broccoli. Sort of.

I love Elmo. And I don't even have any kids. Isn't he cute? He looks like an orange Carmen Miranda!

Here's what I did with the potatoes.

2 Idaho Potatoes
4 Tbs. good quality Olive Oil
2 cups Broccoli crowns, cooked in salted water
1 tsp. salt (I use Kosher)
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Milk, as needed
4 slices Comte' (or other good quality cheese for topping)
1 Tbs. Olive Oil (not extra virgin)

Bake the potatoes at 450F until done, about 50 minutes. Cut an oval in the top and save the skin. Scoop out the innards and put them in a bowl. Add the olive oil, cooked broccoli crowns, salt, and pepper, and mash with a stand mixer, a hand-held mixer, or a potato masher. (See? We have options here! It's beautiful!). Meanwhile, take the skins from the top, slice them thinly, and crisp them in a small skillet with the 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Crisp 'em. Crisp! Medium-low heat, takes about 4 minutes. Give them a good sprinkling of salt.

Fill the emptied potato hulls (skins? hulls? casings?) with the potato, broccoli mixture, and top with the crisped potato skins and the Comte (or other) cheese. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. Or not, if you're out of P90X dairy allotment for the day, like my Pootie was.

It was satisfying, without being loaded with fat.

And Elmo is cute as hell.

Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette and White Bean Soup

I was totally Godzilla of the salad last night! I OWNED it! Unfortunately, the white bean soup was Tokyo. Salty like the sea, from whence Godzilla came. (sigh) Yes. I know. Taste as you go. Also, I was working under a time constraint (someone saying "Is dinner ready yet?"), so the beans weren't as soft as I like them. I expect it will be better today, actually, so I'm going to try it again for lunch. I might add more beans to balance out the salt. There are few things I love more than white bean soup. Sometimes, it's even better than Chee-tohs. (I know, right?!)

The salad was just crisp greens with apple and some quick-candied pecans with an apple-cider vinaigrette. For the pecans, I just put them in a small skillet with a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup and a pinch of salt, then stirred them around over medium heat until the maple syrup was bubbly. I dumped them out on a piece of waxed paper and let them cool, then tossed them in with the salad. I got inspired for a salad with a vinaigrette when I watched a little broadcast of Laurie Buckle (Fine Cooking editor) demonstrating the ratios of a vinaigrette yesterday. Oh, I do love that magazine. The salad was perfect and I ate all of it. This is huge, by the way. If you'll recall, me vs. vegetables usually results in a loss for me. So I almost didn't mind the white bean soup fail. I've nailed that plenty of times.

Now, if you're keeping up, you'll recall that yesterday I posted a short blog and link to the food blogs that have been nominated for awards this year on foodbuzz. I was whining about it to my little brother John, who, by the way, is an absolutely awesome photographer. Disgusting. I'd be proud if I wasn't so damned jealous. Anyway, I was bitching and moaning about the fact that my photos will never look as good as the ones in these other blogs. (NEV-ER) He informed me that I will not be able to take good pictures of food without better equipment. I've had this backed up by another friend of mine (Tony Nelson) who is a professional photographer. I guess I need to look into a light box and a camera I can manually focus.

Now before you say "Whoa, there, Wild Woman! Simmer down! There are only five of us who read your blog, and three of those are related to you!", fear not. I have no illusions of fame and fortune. I do this blog mostly for my own amusement. But I would like it to be prettier, and so I'll be working on that. Meanwhile, you can be content with ripped off pictures from the internet, some mediocre photos from my digital point and shoot, and a guarantee that you will find more swear words in my food blog than in any of the nominees for this year. Booyah!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Food Blog Awards

Someday, when I grow up, I hope to have a food blog as lovely as some of these. Alas, I am probably doomed to mediocrity, but oh well. Take a look at some of these, folks. Now THESE are some food blogs!.

No, I haven't forgotten you

The past two nights we've been to birthday parties, so I haven't cooked. Saturday night, Phillip insisted on cheeseburgers. I didn't especially think that was blog-worthy. So that's why there's been silence on the airwaves here.

Here's my stream-of-consciousness right now.

I'm feelin' kind of white bean soup-ish tonight. Not sure if I'll get away with it, though. I think we have a flounder I have to cook, or it won't be any good anymore.

My new laptop is still being put together, so I'm limping on this old one, and haven't bothered loading MasterCook on it. I miss it.

We've set the date for our annual Holiday party, (Dec. 19) so I'm starting to think in terms of what I'm cooking for that. I'll be throwing some notes about it out here. I will definitely be making beef stroganoff again, because it doesn't require a knife, it can be made well ahead of time, and it reheats and keeps well in the steamer tray.

I have been asked to judge a clam chowder contest in a couple of weeks. That should be interesting. I'll blog about that when the time comes.

That's all I got, today. I'm thinking lunch is due.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Stewed Vegetables and Halibut

No, no pictures. I'm still sulking from my last failure. Which is cumulative, of course.

Hush your complaining. Here's a Halibut.
I hope you've learned something. Please note that the Caudal fin is slightly indented.

Can I just lay it all out here for you? Yes, I can. I know you won't tell anyone. I was really not all that excited about this dinner. I tried to elevate my interest in it by adding a side of white beans, but even that didn't tap dance for me. Here was the menu.

Grilled Halibut

Stewed Farmer's Market Vegetables (Note: The "farmer's market" designation is to make them sound fancier!)

White Beans (tappity, tappity, tappity)

See, now I know some of you are going, "Well, geez, no wonder! That dinner sounds awful!" It wasn't awful, it just wasn't ... mmmmmAwesomMMmmmme!" It was...(yawn).

Now, Phillip loved it. He raved over the Halibut, which was flaky (in the good way, not in the "I'll-meet-you-then-not-show-oh-something-came-up" way), and everything a fish should be, apparently. In deference to his preferences, and my deeply ingrained Indifference to Fish, I just salted and peppered it and put it on the grill with a little olive oil. He gobbled like a turkey. I had my obligatory four bites and declared it "fine". I mean, it's fish. What more can you say?

The vegetables were a stewed mixture of tomatoes, okra, roasted red pepper, and grilled white eggplant (added at the last minute). He loved that also. Has been eating the leftovers cold for lunch. I thought they were fine. I mean, it's stewed vegetables. What more can you say?

The white beans were, well, white beans. Simmered with a chopped onion. I could rave about these all day, though. I love me some legumes. Really! Hey, cut me some slack. I'm a confessed Brown Food person. I need to write a blog about what that means.

Aaannnyway. Dinner was fine. Just fine. Not noteworthy. Not photograph worthy. (Not that it matters.)

Now, THAT was a boring post. Here's a picture of a monster truck to wake you back up.