Saturday, June 30, 2007

Alfresco Breakfast

While I was away for work last week the last piece of our patio set finally arrived. Since then we haven't eaten a single meal outside because it's either been raining or hotter than Hades. This morning we opened all the windows in the house since SP decided to paint the foyer and in doing so realized that it was a gorgeous morning. I whipped up a quick breakfast and we sat out back, eating and reading the paper in the cool morning breeze.

I raided the fridge for leftovers that I could scramble together with some eggs. I cooked garlic, red onion and scallions before realizing that the leftover tomatoes I was going to add had started to grow mold. That's when I found leftover baby spinach so I added that to the pan before adding the eggs. Some leftover shredded mozzarella cheese finished out the dish. It was OK, but the tomatoes would have been really good.

Since I haven't posted any cat pictures in awhile, here's our cat sleeping peacefully in the sun:

... and here he is giving me that look that says, "Why do you insist on bothering me with your incessant picture-taking? Can't you see I'm trying to relax here?"

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Pizza Friday

I can't even remember the last time we did Pizza Friday, but it was probably well before the weather broke. Turning the oven up to 550 degrees could be considered a stupid idea when the average temperature has hovered around 90 degrees all week, but we had the a/c on and it wasn't too hot outside, so we went for it.

SP made the pizza sauce using a Lidia recipe that called for squeezing all the liquid out of the tomatoes and then mixing them with spices (oregano, salt, hot pepper flakes) and calling it a day. We were both a little skeptical about an uncooked sauce, but it was really, really good. A little too salty for our tastes, but we can just add less next time. We topped the pizza with pepperoni (hidden under the cheese) and some sliced garlic. Yum!
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Thursday, June 28, 2007

It's a, it's a burrito...

Today was not a good day. In addition to the oppressive heat (my office is like an oven despite the a/c) I was alone all day. Without. Internet. Access. I almost had an aneurysm when I realized that I had minimal work to do and since the Internet wasn't working I couldn't check email, read blogs or even listen to music. It was not pretty.

Luckily I got home and SP had made a yummy dinner. We were going to have tacos but neither of us felt like dealing with the hot oil necessary to fry corn tortillas, so we just bought some taco-size flour tortillas.

They are never very photogenic, but what you see here is some ground beef seasoned with cumin, chili powder, cayenne, salt, pepper and a little tomato paste topped with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, tomatoes and lettuce.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Park City Cashew Chicken

I was thumbing through Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats cookbook the other day when I came across a recipe I'd seen over at One Year Project and in RR's magazine for Park City Cashew Chicken. The version in 365: No Repeats doesn't include water chestnuts or peas, but the rest of the recipe is the same.

When I first read the list of ingredients I was skeptical (chipotle mixed with honey and maple syrup?) but the end result was really tasty. It had a definite Chinese stir-fry flavor and the heat from the chipotle worked well with the sweetness from the honey and syrup. We added broccoli for color and as an additional vegetable as well as scallions for crunch. I would add the water chestnuts next time, but peas don't seem to go with this dish. Overall we both thought this was a real winner and we'd definitely make it again.

SP made this recipe and like all RR recipes he had a few issues with the instructions. I swear no one tested this cookbook before it was printed. Heating a pan so it's "screaming hot" and then adding oil is never a good idea, nor is heating the oil to smoking and then adding something to the pan. I think the key to making RR recipes is to read them in advance and then anything that doesn't makes logical sense should be reworked.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fish Cakes

I didn't eat a lot of fish growing up. Occasionally my mom would make bluefish, but she didn't really start cooking fish on a regular basis until I went to college. The idea of fish cakes wouldn't have appealed to me a few years ago, but the other day I caught the last 2 minutes of 30-Minute Meals when Rachael Ray was making Cod Croquettes, Sweet Red Pepper Gravy, and Mashed Potatoes with Spinach and it looked so tasty I immediately looked up the recipe and made a mental note to try it.

Since we had tilapia filets in the freezer I used those instead of cod. SP and I had a very late lunch after an excruciating 3 1/2 hours at the DMV (we finally got our PA licenses!) so we shared this portion. It was amazing. I loved the crunchy exterior of the cakes and the flavors were great - the lemon, thyme and Old Bay married together perfectly and the tilapia was fishy without being overwhelming. I also liked the potatoes mixed with the baby spinach. All in all a definite keeper, despite the meal taking more than an hour to put together (and resulting in some burns on my arm from when the hot oil splashed me). I will definitely be making this one again or maybe even the variation with turkey and cranberry sauce.
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Monday, June 25, 2007

Home Sweet Home

It is so good to be home.

Three months of hard work culminated in 5 of the longest, hardest days of my life. I have never worked so hard, but it was actually a really rewarding experience. I got back last night and all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep, but SP convinced me to grab a quick shower and then we went out for a nice relaxing dinner. I slept in this morning and am actually starting to feel human again.

SP wanted a quick snack this afternoon before we ran some errands so we made a batch of wings:

... with Frank's hot sauce, a side of blue cheese dressing and some celery sticks. They were finger-licking good. For dinner I wanted shrimp and I tried to replicate this creamy garlic shrimp dish I made back in April, but I added too much paprika. It was still tasty and the rice was perfect for sopping up all the sauce:

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Buffalo Shrimp

One week from today I'll be heading home from my conference. I can't wait. I worked another 9-hour day today. I'm exhausted putting in 12-hour days during the week and 9-hour days on the weekends. Tonight was the last dinner SP and I will eat together until I get home since I'll be working late Monday and Tuesday and then I leave Wednesday. We wanted the meal to be special so SP decided to make shrimp. The last time we went to our favorite hot sauce store we got a spicy buffalo wing sauce that the owner told us was amazing with grilled shrimp.

They were spicy and smoky and bursting with flavor. Quite yummy. SP has never been a fan of regular rice but we both heard brown rice was really good for you so we gave it a shot. I thought it was bland, but SP loved it. As long as there's a sauce for me to sop up with the rice I'm fine so I think brown rice will be our rice of choice from here on out.

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Balsamic Chicken

I had to work yesterday since we're getting down to crunch time. I got home around 6:30 to find the entire house straightened, vacuumed and mopped, the laundry done, all the errands run and dinner started. I am one lucky woman!

The other day SP and I saw Giada making a balsamic BBQ sauce for chicken that looked really tasty, so that's what he was making for dinner. We realized that when it comes to cooking I like sticking with comfort food classics while he prefers experimenting with new tastes and combinations. He slathered the sauce on the chicken pieces and then grilled them, basting them with more sauce as they cooked.

He also cut up some grape tomatoes and cubes of mozzarella for a light salad. He tossed them with chopped basil, white balsamic vinegar and oil.

My plate with some chicken, balsamic BBQ sauce for dipping, mozzarella and tomato salad and some potatoes tossed with butter and parsley:

We decided to make the potatoes at the last second as the chicken was grilling, so SP just threw two red bliss and three Yukon golds into the microwave to cook. I cubed mine and tossed them with some butter and parsley:

The chicken was slightly smoky from the grill but really sweet and tangy from the BBQ sauce. A little goes a long way with the sauce, but it was a really nice, different take on traditional BBQ sauce.

The grape tomatoes in the salad were bursting with summer flavor. I liked that SP echoed the taste of the BBQ sauce in the salad by using white balsamic instead of the traditional since it was lighter and fresher tasting:

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

SP Does Meat and Potatoes

Tonight SP fired up the grill and cooked a big ol' piece of sirloin and some corn. We also had Yukon gold mashed potatoes. For the corn I made a cilantro mayo, which tasted really fresh and vibrant:

I'm way too tired these days to plate my food well, but here's a shot of the perfectly grilled meat - pink on the inside and charred on the outside:

And the fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes:

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

SP Takes On Tilapia

My husband is an excellent cook. He worked in restaurants as a teenager and spent a lot of time perfecting his cooking skills. Unfortunately for him he married someone who loves to cook and has a hard time sharing, so for the last few years he's rarely been given the chance to really show off his talents in the kitchen. When I handed over the cooking duties this week he was thrilled, but then the week got off to a bad start. Tonight, however, he totally redeemed himself.

I saw the huge 2-lb bag of frozen tilapia fillets in the freezer, but I had no idea what he was planning to make with them. I came home today to Moroccan-Style Tilapia with Cumin, Mango and Cilantro served atop buttered egg noodles. I was a bit skeptical at first, but the fish was great and I really liked the pairing of the mango and cilantro. Yum!
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cheesy Orzo and Tomatoes

Sometimes I need to listen to my gut (literally!) With SP at band practice tonight and me having to work late I was going to stop off and get some takeout for dinner. But then a horrific storm passed through our area, knocking out our work server, and I ended up leaving work early with plenty of time to make dinner. We had been planning to have cheesy orzo sometime soon so I figured I'd make that.

While the dish itself was fine, it wasn't at all what I wanted for dinner and just generally seemed doomed from the start. First off, we were almost completely out of chicken stock so I had to make this using half chicken stock and half water, resulting in bland orzo. Then I went to chop the basil I was planning to mix in and all of it had gone bad. Water had somehow gotten into the sealed plastic bag and the basil was mush. And when I got out the mozzarella I discovered that the pound and a half we had in our fridge (one brick wasn't even open) expired almost 2 weeks ago.

In addition to the orzo I shallow-fried the pork chops SP was going to cook last night. I breaded them in egg and bread crumbs and then fried them in some vegetable oil. Since the chops were on the thick side they took awhile to cook through. I had half a chop with my dinner and it was dried out. I know SP will eat them, but by this point I just gave up on the hope of having a satisfying dinner.

I think the lesson here is that I shouldn't have cooked tonight. While I usually enjoy cooking when I'm stressed, inevitably the end result isn't very good. Sometimes you just need someone else manning the stove.
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Monday, June 11, 2007

SP Takes Over the Kitchen

Today began SP's return to the kitchen, although it wasn't a perfectly smooth transition. When I got home I found him standing by the fridge looking forlorn. I asked him what was the matter and he thrust a package of still-frozen pork chops towards me. They were supposed to have been our dinner tonight, but ever resourceful SP went to the pantry, found some jars of tomatoes my mother and I canned last year and a box of angel hair and went to work while I sat on the couch watching Rachael Ray.

We also had a half-eaten container of ricotta cheese in the fridge that I hated to see go to waste so I spooned some of that onto my pasta. It's funny, during the day today I was thinking about how good a plate of pasta with meatballs sounded and then we ended up having pasta and sauce for dinner. I have to say, as much as I love cooking (even when I'm stressed out) it was nice to sit on the couch while someone else cooked. SP even did the dishes, too.
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Chinese Food

SP and I spent yesterday down the shore visiting two of my aunts and my grandmother who are staying there for the week. We had a very filling breakfast with my mom and stepdad, so we weren't ready for food again until we got home around 4:30. We were both exhausted so we decided to keep things simple and get takeout Chinese.

SP loves fried wontons:

... which seem to be filled with a small amount of ground meat. I've never been a huge fan of their chewy texture but he loves dipping them into the fluorescent pink sauce.

We were happy to see that this place has the kind of crunchy noodles that we like:

SP also got some shrimp fried rice:

I stuck with a safe bet and got the roast pork egg foo yung:

I love the rich, brown gravy, especially with the rice:

I also ordered an egg roll. Their egg rolls are some of the best I've ever had.

We really like this place and are anxious to try some other dishes, but SP was a little put off when we went to pick up the food and discovered they'd raised their prices. What was once on the moderate-expensive side of greasy Chinese food crossed the line over to downright expensive. I'm still willing to experiment with other items on the menu, especially after seeing The Food Pornographer's recent post about Chinese takeout.
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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Burgers and Corn

Tonight we experimented with grilled corn on the cob, which turned out quite well for being something we decided to do at the last second.

We put the corn on the grill de-husked in order to get those nice caramelized bits (which were a bit too much for me but SP loved them). Once the ears came off the grill I slathered them with a basil mayo.

We also did burgers, which weren't quite as good as last time's but were still tasty. I just think the beef at the gourmet supermarket tastes better. I also cooked us each a fried egg to go on top, but I couldn't taste mine with all the other toppings.

Because of my hectic work schedule in the coming weeks I've finally ceded control of the kitchen to SP. I had absolutely no hand in planning this week's menu, which means I don't know what he's making or when he's making it. In a way it's very freeing but it also makes me sad because I'm so stressed out and busy that I'm not even interested in cooking.

Someone wake me when it's July.
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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Chicken BLATs

We realized too late in the day that we didn't have any rolls for tonight's chicken sandwiches so we settled for white bread with our chicken BLATs:

... made with grilled chicken, bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato. I don't know if it's the bacon or my tastebuds, but the last two times I've made it it's been way too smoky. I ended up deconstructing my sandwich and just eating the chicken, lettuce, tomato and avocado.

For the next 3 weeks or so (basically until the end of June) I'm going to be insanely busy at work. I might not post regularly because I'm not sure how much cooking I'll be doing. There might be a large influx of takeout in this blog, but rest assured we'll return to our regularly scheduled programming come July.
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Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I was all set to make grilled chicken sandwiches for dinner, but unfortunately my chicken had other plans as it remained frozen in my fridge. Oh well...there's always tomorrow.

SP suggested pizza from our favorite spot, so we got half plain, half sausage:

... which was perfect. The last time we had pizza from this place we got way too many toppings and the pizza just tasted bland. Plain or one topping is definitely the way to go because it lets their fabulous red sauce shine through.
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Monday, June 04, 2007

Burgers on the Grill

I have been waiting weeks for a really good burger on the grill. Tonight the weather actually cooperated and SP picked up ground beef at the fancy supermarket over the weekend, so we were set.

I made the burgers into three large patties that SP cooked perfectly on the grill. Slightly charred on the outside but still nice and pink in the middle, topped with the last of that fabulous Wisconsin cheddar:

I built my burger with thinly sliced red onion, tomato, lettuce, yellow mustard, mayo and a smidge of ketchup:

My favorite recipe for potato salad comes from Cook's Country. Their version of All-American Potato Salad is the best I've ever had:

An innards shot of my burger. It was insanely good, literally one of the best burgers I've ever eaten. Cooked perfectly, dressed perfectly, just all around perfect.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Best Laid Plans

We have been having the strangest weather recently. During the day it's warm and sunny but by nightfall it's raining cats and dogs. We've even had some serious thunder and lightening storms. Nevertheless, we bought another sirloin steak and some asparagus with the full intention of grilling them for dinner tonight. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans and I had to resort to roasting the asparagus and searing the steak on the stovetop before finishing it in the oven.

The asparagus were cooked in balsamic vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and garlic. The balsamic flavor was quite powerful and I really missed the smoky flavor of the grill, but the spears were still good.

SP loves couscous and tonight's was flavored with garlic and lime juice. I also stirred in some chopped parsley at the end for color. Despite using the juice of two limes there wasn't much discernible lime flavor.

The steak was, by far, the best thing on the plate despite not being cooked on the grill. I got a good sear on the meat before it went into the oven and I was careful to take it out before it got overcooked. You can see the nice pink color of the meat, which was juicy and flavorful with only some salt and pepper for seasoning.

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Last night SP had another gig, but after a stressful week at work all I felt like doing was watching a movie and getting takeout for dinner. We've found an excellent sushi restaurant in town so that's where I went for my food.

I ordered three rolls - spicy tuna, tuna and avocado and the spicy rock roll, which is one of their special rolls :

The tuna and avocado roll was stellar, with large chunks of creamy, buttery avocado and smooth-as-silk tuna:

One of the things we love about this restaurant is that their spicy tuna roll is not just packed with large chunks of tuna in a spicy sauce, but they top the cut-up roll with a huge mound of even more spicy tuna:

The spicy rock roll is a sinful indulgence, mainly because it's more than twice the price of the regular rolls, but also because it is a combination of everything we love about sushi - spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, salmon and roe:

An innards shot of the spicy rock roll:

The first time we got this roll we were stumped by the outer wrapping, which almost melted in our mouths. We asked the waitress and she said it was a soy wrapper. The other times we've had this roll the wrapper has been pink but this time it was bright green:

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