Monday, April 30, 2007

Making Chinese Food At Home

Two of my favorite cooking magazines - Cook's Country and Everyday Food - can always be relied on for a few good recipes, like tonight's dinner of Sweet and Sour Chicken (Cook's Country) and pork egg rolls (Everyday Food).

Sweet and Sour Chicken is not my favorite Chinese food dish (and I'm sure it's not even remotely Chinese in origin), but SP likes it and it was easy to make. There was a definite sweet flavor but the sour was less pronounced. It was still really tasty.

I made these egg rolls a few weekends ago and froze them. They were time-consuming to make and I was a little concerned about how they'd taste, but I needn't have worried. They were excellent, gingery with a nice kick from the garlic. I first had these with my lunch last week but I had to bake them. The flavor was fine but the texture was wrong - soggy with no crunch. For tonight's dinner I fried them in vegetable oil and they were much more satisfying.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007


Sundays are perfect for relaxing and my favorite way to relax and mentally prepare myself for the coming week is to cook. We had two leftover bananas and I'd been having a serious craving for banana bread, so I made a loaf:

We also had some ground turkey on hand so SP suggested spaghetti and meatballs. It's almost getting to be too warm for that kind of heavy Sunday meal so we enjoyed it while we still could.

I made the meatballs with the ground turkey, garlic, parsley, bread crumbs, eggs and grated Pecorino. I slow cooked a sauce all day and then I fried the meatballs in a little vegetable oil so they were seared on all sides before adding them to the sauce to finish cooking. The sauce was rich and thick with chunks of onion and garlic. We had half a baguette in the freezer so I made the traditional spaghetti and meatballs partner - garlic bread. I sprinkled some grated cheese on top and it got nice and toasty in the oven.
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Cats and Rabbits

I'll have some new food posts later but for now I'll leave you with some photos of our cat and Fat Rabbit.

Despite the heat I came upstairs yesterday to find the cat under the covers. He must have been extra sleepy (hence the huge yawn) but not too tired to give me that "Why do you keep bothering me with that stupid camera" look.

Fat Rabbit seems to have decided that our yard is his weekend getaway spot because we came home from the supermarket today to find him lounging in the sun. And I do mean lounging - usually he sits all hunched up like a typical rabbit but today he was laying on his side, legs all splayed out, as if he owned the place.

We aren't sure what we want to do about him. We know the woman who lived here before used to feed him and his rabbit buddies, so obviously they keep coming around hoping we'll do the same. Eventually we're going to put wiring under the fence but for now I guess we're stuck with him. He's very cute, but he's using our yard as his personal buffet. If only he ate dandelions and crab grass....
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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Pizza Friday

Pizza Friday returns with a pizza I've been dying to try ever since I first read about it on Messy Jessy's blog - Cheeseburger Pizza:

I couldn't find a decent recipe online so I had to improvise based on the menu description from a variety of pizza parlors and what Jessy was able to tell me about the sauce (mainly that it was a mixture of ketchup and mustard).

I started by cooking some roughly chopped bacon in a pan until it was crispy and then I added some finely chopped onion. Ground turkey went in next and once that was cooked through I seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper. Then came the ketchup and yellow mustard, which added a pleasant zing I wasn't expecting. To assemble the pizza I rolled out the dough and then slathered it with some more ketchup and mustard, followed by the ground turkey mixture. A combination of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses went on next, topped off with chopped scallions and tomatoes.

Honestly, I wasn't sure how I felt about this pizza. I love the way it looks, but I wasn't sure about the taste. I think it was just completely different from anything I'd ever eaten before. SP loved it, despite his initial misgivings. It wasn't bad and I'd definitely make it again, but I think it's something I'll need to get used to. There are two pieces leftover which I'm going to heat up for lunch so we'll see how I feel about it today.
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Breakfast For Dinner

I had planned to make a new recipe for panko-crusted fish sticks for dinner on Thursday, but I forgot to take out the fish filets to defrost. SP said he was in the mood for Breakfast For Dinner anyway, so I whipped up a couple omelets for us:

... along with bacon for me and sausage for him. My inspiration for this omelet came from Rachael Ray's Canadian Bennys, which are very labor intensive. The sauce for the Bennys is made with cream, chopped tomato, scallions and cheddar cheese, so I whipped the eggs with some cream and used tomato, scallions and cheddar for the filling.

We enjoyed the dessert paninis so much I made them again, only with a slight variation:

... peanut butter. The addition of the peanut butter really pushed these over the edge from excellent to downright decadent. I could only eat half of my sandwich before crying uncle. Luckily it reheated beautifully the next night.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Creamy Garlic Shrimp

Since I started reading The Food Pornographer she's posted on several occasions about a dish called Gamberi All’ Aglio, or Creamy Garlic Shrimp. This picture and others like it in her blog gave me a serious craving, so after scouring the Internet for recipes, I decided to just wing it.

My version includes quite a few more shrimp, but this was dinner afterall. And, sadly, I wasn't able to construct one of those rice towers.

When we went food shopping this week I bought bananas and Nutella so I could make these dessert paninis I saw in my latest issue of Everyday Food. The bananas were finally ripe enough to use and SP was clamoring to try them so I made us each a panini:

Oh. My. Goodness. Wow. The heat from the pan melted the Nutella and that, combined with the buttered bread and the bananas was fantastic. I was only going to make one for us to split but I'm glad SP talked me into making two.

Creamy Garlic Shrimp
Inspired by The Food Pornographer

2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 lb large, raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Rice, to serve

Add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the white wine to the pan and allow to reduce, about 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream and chicken broth, along with salt, pepper and dry mustard. Allow to cook together, tasting it every now and then to see if it needs more of anything. Add the shrimp to the sauce and allow them to poach until they were just done, when they turn pink. Off heat add the chopped parsley. Serve with rice or over pasta.
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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Turkey Burgers and Baked Potatoes

What do you get when you have about half a pound of ground turkey and some kaiser rolls in your freezer? Turkey burgers, that's what.

I should have mixed in some grated onion or something because the burgers themselves didn't have much flavor despite the salt, pepper and Worchestershire sauce. This was SP's first time grilling burgers and I think the flame was too hot because by the time the burgers were cooked all the way through (one downside of ground turkey) they were a little dry. That was helped by the lettuce, bacon, cheddar cheese and red onion, as well as the sauce I made using mayo, yellow mustard and ketchup.

I saw a recipe for baked potatoes with broccoli and cheddar cheese in an issue of Everyday Food so I made those to go along with the burgers. They were surprisingly easy, since you microwave the potatoes and the broccoli, and really tasty.
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Monday, April 23, 2007

Two Dinners and a Cat

Dinner last night was kind of a throw-together meal that could have been better. I wanted to make linguine with white clam sauce based on a recipe from the newspaper, but it turned out I was one can of clams short for the recipe. I forged ahead, but the end result wasn't very exciting:

There was hardly any sauce, for starters, and minimal clams to boot. Basically it was pasta with garlic and white wine, which is fine, if a little dry. The garlic bread, however, was stellar:

... with lots of minced garlic, butter and parsley. Instead of making a garlic paste with salt I left the garlic minced and sprinkled salt and pepper onto the cut halves before baking them. Yum! There is nothing like crusty, slightly chewy garlic bread.

Yesterday afternoon I had the slider open and I could hear the birds chirping in the back yard. When I looked over I saw our stalker kitty ready to pounce at a moments notice:

Such a fierce jungle cat, this one is. I bet if a bird came too close he'd hide under the table. Tonight's dinner was a perennial favorite:

... Chile Chicken and Rice. I've upped the jalapeno count to five and I think we have a winner. There was plenty of kick from the peppers and I used a tad more cheese this time which resulted in a creamier dish.
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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola

I cooked dinner tonight, but despite feeling hunger pains I didn't have much of an appetite. I am just so damn tired these days. I like my new job but there is so much work to do and since I'm still learning I'm not as productive as I'd like to be. And the worst part is the work is only going to increase from now until July when, thankfully, there will be a lot of down time. But for now it's going to be late nights and early mornings. Hopefully I'll still have the energy to cook (and eat) once in awhile.

I ate about half of my pork chop alla pizziaola:

... that I served with garlic and Parmesan mashed potatoes. My favorite part is always the potatoes and sauce. Yum!
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

2 For 1

Since I forgot to post last night tonight you get two posts for the price of one. You know you're excited.

Last night I made Rachael Ray's baked chimichangas, only this time I left the turkey out of mine (SP still got turkey but about half the amount). Instead, I made the corn and black bean salad and then added the cilantro, scallions, tomato sauce, chili powder and hot sauce to make the filling (along with plenty of pepper Jack cheese):

I can never get a good photo of these. That blob of sour cream looks huge and you can't really see the filling. But you get the idea.

Tonight I made a perennial favorite:

... pierogies and broccoli. Just as good as always, only this time I was able to exercise before dinner and still sit down to eat by 7 p.m. Fantastic!
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Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Veritable Smorgasbord

It's been a busy couple of days food-wise so I thought I'd put everything in one post for your viewing pleasure.

After running errands on Saturday we got home well after lunch but too early for dinner. SP had a roast beef sandwich but I was jonesing for a quesadilla:

... stuffed with a mixture of pepper Jack and cheddar cheeses, salsa, scallions and cilantro. A dollop of sour cream for dipping and I had a mighty tasty snack. While we were eating we noticed our friend, Fat Rabbit, had returned. He stayed in our backyard for a couple hours.

Since we had both eaten a large snack we weren't too hungry for dinner, but we had a small brick of mozzarella cheese in the fridge. Last time I made mozzarella sticks I forgot to double-dip them in the egg and bread crumbs and they disintegrated once they hit the oil. This time they turned out perfectly:

I served them with marinara sauce and a dusting of grated Pecorino cheese.

We had planned to make Philly cheesesteaks for dinner last night so we had them for lunch this morning along with some homemade fries:

The fries weren't crispy enough and the Cheese Wiz we bought was a little overpowering, but overall the sandwiches were quite good. I also cooked some onion to go along with the thinly sliced beef. When the weather is dreary out (like it is today with the Nor'easter we're having) I like to bake. I don't know where I got this recipe for Chocolate Chip Coffee Streusel Cake (if you read my blog and it was you, let me know), but I decided to make it this afternoon.

I had a piece for a snack after it came out of the oven and it was really good. I don't have much experience with coffee cake and SP said he wished it had more cinnamon flavor, but I really liked it.

After the heavy lunch we had I didn't feel like making a heavy dinner, which meant my original plan for Smokin' Dave's Cafe's Fiery Cajun Shrimp Alfredo went out the window in favor of good ol' shrimp scampi:

I marinated the shrimp a la The Food Pornographer in about 10 cloves of minced garlic, oil to cover and some red pepper flakes. Then I cooked the lot in a hot skillet until the shrimp just turned pink and then I took them out so they wouldn't overcook. To the oil and garlic I added a 1/2 cup of white wine and the juice of one lemon. That simmered while the pasta cooked and then once the pasta was done I added it to the sauce and let it all cook together. Some chopped parsley was thrown in at the last minute and then the shrimp went back in to reheat quickly before serving. It was spicy, lemony and very, very garlicky. Yum!
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Friday, April 13, 2007

Pizza Friday

The end of the week brought a lot of plans that changed at the last minute, which meant I didn't really have anything in mind for dinner tonight. I resisted the urge to stop at Wendy's for their new 4-Alarm Spicy Chicken Sandwich, or attempt to find a good Chinese restaurant near the new house for some roast pork egg foo yung, in favor of an improvised Pizza Friday.

We're running seriously low on staples and now that I work on Fridays I didn't have time to make a long-cooked sauce. Still, I forged ahead, rooting through the fridge to find half an onion, half a green pepper and some mozzarella and pecorino cheeses. Even though we didn't have any sauce I wanted some tomato on my pizza, so I opened a can of Red Pack and rough chopped about 5 or 6 tomatoes then mixed them with a few shakes of dried oregano, salt and pepper. I sliced the pepper and onion and cooked them in olive oil with some chopped garlic and instead of shredding the mozzarella I cut it into thick slices. The result was much better then I thought it would be. I really liked the thick chunks of tomato. I can't wait for summer when we can get amazing Jersey tomatoes. I'm already envisioning some amazing pizzas (and sandwiches and salads and....)
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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cheesey Chicken and Spinach

I'm not sure where I found this recipe for Cheesey Chicken and Spinach:

... but it was mighty tasty. I figured one chicken breast per person but because I pounded the chicken this one breast turned out to be a huge portion. I only ate half of what's in the photo.

The recipe is actually really easy - coat chicken in egg and seasoned flour (salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder) and then brown it in a pan. Once it's brown you put the chicken in a casserole dish, top it with frozen chopped spinach that you defrosted and dried and a little melted butter (melted with a cracked clove of garlic for added flavor). Make a sauce using white wine, chicken stock and lemon juice in the pan you cooked the chicken in, pour that over the chicken and spinach, top with slices of mozzarella cheese and a little Parmesan and bake for 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven to finish cooking the chicken and to melt the cheeses. I served it with mashed potatoes made with a few cloves of garlic.
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Carbonara Comfort

At the last minute I found myself on my own for dinner last night with nothing planned, so I made my old standby:

Spaghetti carbonara is always tasty, but last night's was exceptionally good (and I'm really proud of the photo, too).
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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chicken with Chile-Cheese Rice

I really liked this recipe for Chicken with Chile-Cheese Rice but the last time I made it there wasn't enough flavor or spiciness.

This time, however, I think it was almost perfect. It still wasn't very spicy, but SP said he didn't think it should have too much of a kick. And besides, jalapenos just aren't that spicy, especialy when you remove all the seeds. I used four of them and there was a slight kick, but nothing earth-shattering. I liked the color and crunch they provided, though. The flavor was also helped by the cilantro, which I wasn't able to use last time because it wasn't available in the supermarket. I love the taste of cilantro and it really added a nice flavor to the dish.
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Monday, April 09, 2007

Buffalo Chicken Chili

I've never been a huge fan of chili but after seeing this recipe online and in Rachael Ray's magazine I thought it sounded promising.

SP said this was, hands down, the best chili he's ever eaten. He especially loved the blue cheese tortilla chips. I thought it was a little too watery (despite my secret cornstarch addition) so next time I'll add a lot less chicken stock. This isn't a long-simmering chili so it didn't have time to thicken on its own. But the flavor was excellent, with just the right amount of heat.
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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday and Dad Comes to Visit

I am still kicking myself. I forgot to bring my camera to Easter dinner at my mom's. (hangs head in shame) And since the rest of my family hasn't advanced into the digital age I couldn't even borrow someone else's camera. The worst part is that all the food was so beautiful (bright green asparagus, pink poached salmon, deviled eggs with their sprinkling of red paprika) that it was probably the most photogenic meal I've eaten lately. Without the photos all I can do is tell you that we had quite the spread - the aforementioned roasted asparagus, poached salmon with dill sauce, deviled eggs, potato salad, rye bread, ham and kielbasa. For dessert my mom made cheesecake with raspberries and raspberry sauce that was quite decadent and delicious. All in all a fabulous meal.

Later this afternoon my father stopped by for a visit. This is the first time he's seen the new house. After an early dinner at my mom's we weren't very hungry, but dad still needed something for dinner.

SP has become quite the grill master so he grilled up some moist and flavorful pork chops. Dad isn't afraid of a little fat so I made him my loaded mashed potatoes (scallions, bacon, cheddar cheese and sour cream mixed into the mashed potatoes) and creamed spinach.
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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Lazy Saturday

After waking up early for my haircut appointment (I did something totally different and I love it!) and running some errands, I spent the better part of the afternoon watching cooking on TV and dosing on the couch with my cat. At some point I looked out into the backyard and saw this guy:

... just hanging out chewing on some grass. I don't know how long he was out there but he didn't move until SP went out to set up the grill. Am I crazy or is this an exceptionally fat rabbit? This is probably a weed:

... but it's the only sign of spring that's managed to survive the recent burst of cold weather we've been having. I was so excited when temperatures were in the 70s earlier this week and now we're back to the 40s and winter coats.

For dinner we decided to grill despite the cold. We marinated chicken breasts in garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and then grilled them.

Once the chicken came off the grill I topped each piece with some bacon and two slices of provolone cheese and ran them under the broiler. I also made a garlic and lemon mayo for the sandwiches. In an effort to be healthy, I made some of that garlic broccoli we had the other day with the pork chops. Spicy and garlicky and still slightly crisp, it was the perfect side dish.
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Friday, April 06, 2007

My First Tag

Kate over at A Byootaful Life tagged me for 5 Reasons Why I Blog. Seeing as this is my first ever tag, I'm feeling pretty honored. Thanks, Kate!

1) I love looking at pictures of food. When I buy a new cookbook the first thing I do is look at all the pictures. When I discovered food blogs I would sit in front of the computer and literally drool over the photos. So, it seemed only fitting for me to take pictures of my own food. I just wish I had started doing it sooner.

2) I like having a record of all the food I've made. I have tons of cookbooks and piles and piles of recipes I've printed off the Internet, but nothing is better then an online compilation of all the recipes I've made. I can refer back to it whenever I need inspiration and sometimes it's just fun to look back at all the good food I've made in the past.

3) All the people I've "met" since I started blogging. I never knew there was such a large group of people out there as obsessed with food as I am. It has been so great to get new readers and then check out their blogs to see what they're cooking. I've been inspired by some of the dishes I've seen on other blogs and I've formed online friendships with a few other bloggers. It's nice to know there are people other then my family and friends who like to read about what I'm doing in the kitchen.

4) I'm hoping to someday parlay this blog into a business. My friends and family are always telling me I should be a caterer and while that is not a dream that will be realized anytime soon, this blog is a good way to show potential clients the kind of food I can make. I've already had a few offers to cater (albeit from friends) based on what they've seen in my blog.

5) Because it's fun! I love taking pictures of the food I make, I love writing about it, I love looking back at all the old posts, I love the people I've met doing this and I love hearing from fellow food bloggers that I would never have met if I hadn't started blogging. It is just a fun hobby.

I know I'm supposed to tag other people now, but I have no idea who to tag who hasn't already been tagged. If you read this and you have a blog and feel like doing this, let me know!
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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pantry Cooking

Sometimes the best meals can come from pantry cooking. After eating out a lot the past few days we craved a homecooked meal, but we didn't want to make a trip to the grocery store. I raided the fridge and found some mushrooms, half a red onion, some Italian bread and ricotta cheese. We always have canned tomatoes and dried pasta on hand so I made a simple tomato sauce using the mushrooms, red onion and garlic and served it over angel hair with grated cheese and a dollop of ricotta.

I also made garlic bread using parsley (that stuff keeps for ages in the fridge if wrapped in a dry paper towel and stored in a plastic bag), garlic and butter:

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I was home for lunch today and since we've been away we were running low on food. Even so I managed to whip up a tasty lunch.

I topped the tortilla chips with scallions, red onion and pickled jalapenos, along with a mix of cheddar and jack cheeses and a little salsa.
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Polish Chicken

When I was growing up my grandmother had a few recipes that she made over and over again for the family. One of those was Polish chicken. I'm not sure what makes it Polish, but that's what we called it. On this trip I made sure to watch her make this so I could replicate it at home.

The chicken is coated with flour, garlic and onion powder and then fried in a little canola oil until golden brown. Then chicken bouillion is added, along with some water and minced onion, to make a thick gravy as the chicken finishes cooking.

We always had Polish chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans. For the potatoes I used red bliss and kept the skins on for more color and flavor.

The green beans I steamed and then tossed with some butter, salt and pepper. Everything got a liberal coating of gravy because, as we all know, I am a sauce fiend.

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Breakfast at Grandma's

I had a little time off so the hubby and I took the opportunity to head down to West Virginia to visit my grandmother. No visit to her house would be complete without a hearty breakfast:

She makes the potatoes using diced red bliss potatoes cooked with minced vidalia onion over slow heat until the onions are caramelized and the potatoes are soft.

I'm always in charge of scrambling the eggs:

And what breakfast would be complete without nice, fat sausages:

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New Posts Coming Soon!

We've been out of town visiting family for the past few days. I was all set to post some new photos today but when I went to upload them to the computer I noticed all the cables were missing. Turns out my darling husband took the cables to work so no new photos until later tonight. But they are on their way, I promise.
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