Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Four Cheese Macaroni

Another easy dinner, this time the macaroni and cheese I made on Sunday:

... and another salad. This four cheese macaroni was different from my usual mac & cheese, but it was still tasty. I didn't have any elbows, so I used penne. I also had some leftover mozzarella from the lasagna rolls that I added to the cheese sauce, as well as some grated Pecorino.
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Monday, November 27, 2006

Lasagna Rolls

Tonight's dinner involved nothing more than reheating the lasagna rolls I made on Sunday:

... and chopping Romaine for salads. As much as I like cooking, sometimes it's nice to come home and have dinner on the table in the time it takes to reheat food in the microwave and set the table.

The rolls were good (I could really taste the spinach and ricotta), but I had been looking forward to the interplay between the bechamel sauce and the marinara, but I couldn't taste the bechamel at all. SP, who had a roll for a snack the day I made them, said he could really taste both sauces when they were fresh out of the oven. Next time I make this dish I'll have to serve it the same day.
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Chicken, Potatoes and Broccoli

Last night's dinner was the last meal I cooked in my apartment kitchen. This didn't occur to me until after I'd made the menu, so the meal was less than exciting:

... just chicken dredged in flour and cooked in butter and olive oil, scalloped potatoes and roasted broccoli. The chicken didn't have much flavor (it needed some kind of sauce), but the scalloped potatoes and broccoli were utterly amazing, so amazing that I brought just potatoes and broccoli to work for lunch today. The potatoes were the recipe I used last time from the Williams-Sonoma Potato cookbook and they were even better the next day as leftovers. The roasted broccoli is the chili powder and garlic recipe from Rachael Ray that I always use, but I think this was the best batch I've ever made.
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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Getting Ready to Move

We are moving into our new house in 4 days, so today was my last day cooking in my apartment kitchen. Since we are going to be incredibly busy, and because we need to pack up the kitchen, I made two casseroles for the beginning of the week.

I played around a bit with my traditional macaroni and cheese recipe, leaving out the minced onion and using Swiss, cheddar, mozzarella and a little Parmesan in the sauce.

I also made Giada De Laurentiis' Lasagna Rolls, only without the prosciutto:

Cooking this afternoon was bittersweet. I truly love my apartment kitchen and will miss cooking here. We have been incredibly spoiled by our apartment - it's literally the size of a ranch house. We have a huge living room, dining room, eat-in kitchen and a full basement, most of which is finished and the part that isn't is a huge storage area. When we move into our new house we'll be downsizing slightly.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very, very excited to move, but the thing I'll miss the most about this apartment is the kitchen. Since we have a dining room we used the extra space in the eat-in kitchen to maximize the prep area. We bought a large butcher block table from IKEA and set up the kitchen like a galley, with my pot rack hanging on one side and the fridge, butcher block and counter with stovetop on the other. It's very easy to maneuver around and there is plenty of room. I also have a wall oven, which is great because it's eye level. My new kitchen is smaller and while all the appliances are new, I'm nervous about cooking there. Hopefully I can make dinner next Sunday and all will go smoothly.
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Friday, November 24, 2006

The Leftover Sandwich

My favorite sandwich for the day after Thanksgiving:

... is made with leftover turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce on toasted rye bread slathered with mayo. The cranberry sauce and the mayo have to be next to each other so the mayo can absorb some of the cranberry flavor. I made a special trip to the Italian bakery today for rye bread specifically for this sandwich.
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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Turkey Day

Thanksgiving Day, also known as my favorite holiday. I love everything about today - the food, the company, the way we give thanks for all the joy in our lives. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.

And now, on to the food!

My mom has always cooked the holiday meal, with a little help from me. By the time we got to her house this afternoon the turkey was already done. Here he is waiting to be carved:

I don't know how she does it, but she always manages to get the skin this dark mahogany color. Simply gorgeous. Finally the carving begins:

My mom always makes homemade gravy from the pan drippings. She starts by heating the roasting pan and all the aromatics (onions, carrot, celery, the neck bone, the heart and the giblets) over high heat:

... then she adds in the pan drippings and some chicken stock and thickens it with some flour:

The platter of turkey expertly carved by my stepfather:

My mom actually puts the stuffing inside the turkey while it cooks so all the juices run into the bread, celery and onion mixture:

I'm always in charge of the mashed potatoes. We use Yukon Gold for their buttery taste and fluffy texture:

Toasty Parker House rolls are another must on the table:

Fresh green beans are simply steamed and then tossed with butter:

And here's the homemade gravy waiting in the gravy boat:

Mom roasts sweet potatoes in the oven so they get nice and caramelized on the outside:

I've never been a fan of whole cranberries so we always have the jellied kind from a can as well as the whole berry:

Mom's dining room table set with her fine china and all the food. Everyone was very patient while I photographed all the dishes individually and then insisted on a table shot as well:

My plate with a little bit of everything:

And, of course, pumpkin pie for dessert:

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chinese Take-Out

We had planned to have burgers for dinner tonight, but I forgot to take the ground beef out of the freezer. Since it's the day before Thanksgiving we decided to treat ourselves to Chinese take-out and the quintessential Thanksgiving movie, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."

SP asked for extra noodles:

... and they gave us three bags, plus extra duck sauce for dipping. We also got two egg rolls:

... which were nice and crispy, filled with cabbage and ground pork. I wanted hot and sour soup:

... with the huge pieces of mushroom and tofu. SP isn't a fan, so he got wonton soup:

... which was full of large, meaty wontons. We also got our old standby, roast pork egg foo yung:

... The greasy omelet smothered in rich, brown gravy really hit the spot. We didn't want any leftovers since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so we ordered light. It was just enough food to satisfy our craving.
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Tuesday, November 21, 2006


For dinner tonight I had planned to make Tuscan Cacciatore Risotto from the most recent issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray, but for some reason my supermarket didn't have any boneless, skinless chicken thighs. In fact, I couldn't find any dark meat at all. Very strange.

So, I improvised:

... and made risotto using most of the ingredients in the Tuscan Cacciatore - bacon, mushrooms, onions, garlic, red chili flakes, a little bit of tomato paste, salt, pepper and beef broth. The dish was quite spicy from the chili, but pretty tasty nonetheless.
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Monday, November 20, 2006

Meat Goulash and Savoy Cabbage

This meal was so popular at my house that it made a repeat appearance tonight:

There's just something about the way the buttery cabbage mixes with the sauce from the goulash. And the best part is that the both recipes make more than enough for lunch the next day.
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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lemon-Chicken Schnitzel with Roasted Potatoes

My copy of the latest issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray came on Friday and I've already earmarked a few recipes I want to try.

Tonight's dinner of Lemon-Chicken Schnitzel with Roasted Potatoes was from the weekly menu planner section.

I also made green beans sauteed in oil with shallots, salt and pepper. The whole meal was great. The chicken was lightly coated with flour and cooked in butter and oil, which made the outside crispy and golden brown while keeping the chicken moist. Once the chicken was cooked I made a sauce using butter, lemon juice and zest and any flour remaining in the pan. It added a nice zing to the chicken. The roasted potatoes flavored with rosemary and scallions were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. And green beans with shallots are always a favorite.
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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Spaghetti Carbonara

After another day spent packing we wanted something comforting for dinner:

... so I whipped up an order of spaghetti carbonara. One of the things I love about this dish is that I always have the ingredients on hand so no preparation is needed when a craving strikes.
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Friday, November 17, 2006

Cheesesteak Hoagie

Because my MIL is a fantastic woman she brought me a cheesesteak hoagie for lunch:

... the soft, chewy bread slathered with mayo and piled high with minced steak, melted cheese, sliced onion, tomato and lettuce really hit the spot before we started making the enchiladas.
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Making Enchiladas - A Photo Essay

Every year at Christmastime my mother-in-law makes enchiladas using an old family recipe and a cast-iron skillet her grandfather carried over the border from Mexico. This year she asked if I would like to help her make them and I jumped at the chance.

The enchiladas start with homemade flour tortillas:

... that my MIL makes using, among other things, flour and bacon fat. This is where the old cast iron skillet comes in - she uses it to blister and cook the tortillas.

Next up is finely diced yellow onion:

... that goes inside the enchiladas raw so it retains its crunch. It was my job to cut the onions while my MIL cooked the ground beef:

... until it was no longer pink. Then we drained off the fat and she added:

... a sprinkling of chili powder, 1 cup of enchilada sauce and 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese for each pound of ground beef.

The resulting mixture:

... is then allowed to cool a bit before we set up the assembly line.

... with the disposable baking pans coated lightly with oil, the beef mixture, the bowl of minced onion and a pie plate with more enchilada sauce for dipping the tortillas

To assemble the enchiladas my MIL starts by coating a tortilla with enchilada sauce:

... then she cups the tortilla in her hand and fills it with the beef mixture:

... then she adds a sprinkling of minced onion:

... and folds it over and places it seam side down in the oiled baking pan:

Six enchiladas fit in one pan:

... and once all six are rolled, the enchiladas are coated with some more sauce and mozzarella cheese and then baked in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes so the cheese can melt:

My MIL then freezes the trays of enchiladas and distributes them at Christmastime to her kids and their families.
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Cajun Chicken Fettucine Redux

This time my bowl of chicken and pasta:

... was absolved of all its sins.

If you remember back to my previous experience making this dish you'll see that it caused a four-alarm fire in our mouths. This time I toned down the heat and it was just right. Creamy, with a slight kick from the cayenne and a nice crunch from the green peppers.

I think we have a winner!
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fettuccine Alfredo

SP was in charge of dinner tonight and he opted for an old standby - Fettuccine Alfredo. We always use Lidia's recipe, but we never use fresh pasta. The resulting dish isn't very creamy, which is starting to disappoint me. Next time we're going to splurge on the fresh pasta and try using more heavy cream.
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Monday, November 13, 2006

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

My newest issue of Cook's Country had a recipe for Loaded Baked Potato Soup that sounded tasty. The resulting dish:

... was very rich, almost too rich. This is not a soup you'd eat by the bowlful, but it was certainly creamy and flavorful. I'm not sure yet whether it's worth making again. Since it was a new recipe, and because I didn't want to be eating soup for the rest of the week, I cut the recipe in half.
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday Dinner

It's been a long time since I cooked a traditional Sunday dinner. Since we put the bid in on our new house we've cut out Sunday dinners for the family and we've just been too busy for a leisurely sit-down meal.

But after watching Tyler Florence make his Ultimate Meatloaf on Friday I decided to resurrect Sunday dinner this week, even if it was just for the two of us. SP asked me to make a potato gratin and since broccoli was on sale, roasted broccoli rounded out the menu.

The meatloaf is Tyler Florence's Ultimate Meatloaf:

... that he claims is incredibly moist due to the addition of milk-soaked bread. I have to agree with him; this is probably my family's new meatloaf recipe. It's very moist and has tons of flavor. And everything is better when it's topped with bacon.

SP loved the red pepper relish:

... that goes both inside and on top of the meatloaf mixture, as well as alongside for dipping. It's tangy from the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and sweet from the peppers and onions.

The last time I made a potato gratin the potatoes didn't cook all the way through. I used a different recipe this time:

... and the result was rich and creamy. The potatoes held their shape, but were also cooked perfectly. I added some grated Pecorino cheese to the top before I baked it and the cheese made the top layer nice and crispy.

The recipe couldn't have been easier: peel and thinly slice 2 1/2 pounds of russet potatoes (I used my mandolin) and put them in a pot with 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 3/4 cups milk, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, 2 tablespoons butter and 1 clove of minced garlic. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side all over a 2-qt baking dish, then butter the dish. Add the potato and milk mixture to the dish, spreading out the potato slices. Grate some Pecorino cheese over the top, cover with tin foil and bake 40 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Rachael Ray's Chili-Garlic Roasted Broccoli:

... is a dish I've made a dozen times before because it's a family favorite. The broccoli tastes nutty from the roasting and the chili powder provides a nice kick.
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