Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Artichoke Alfredo Sauce

After our rousing success with the Barbecue Shredded Beef sandwiches we decided to look through back issues of Cook's Country for meal ideas for the rest of the week. Tonight's dinner, Artichoke Alfredo Sauce:

... came from a recipe contest the magazine had back in the October/November 2005 issue. This was one of the runner's-up and was based on the flavors of artichoke dip. If we hadn't been discussing what to do with a can of artichoke hearts SP found in the back of the pantry I'm not sure I would have ever thought to make this dish but I'm really glad I did. It was outstanding. Then again, I am a huge fan of artichoke dip. And for my money you can't go wrong with a recipe that involves sour cream, heavy cream, onions and garlic. Obviously this is not something to eat all the time, but it was a nice sinful indulgence. SP isn't a huge fan of artichokes so we'll see what he thinks of this dish. If it was up to me this would join my repertoire. It was incredibly easy to make and dinner was on the table in less than 30 minutes. Rachael Ray would be proud.
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Chicken in a Light Lemon-Herb Sauce

Thinking about, planning and making Sunday's indoor BBQ feast took up so much of our concentration that we completely forgot to plan the menu for the rest of the week. After thumbing through Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen, SP found a recipe using ingredients we already had on hand - Breast of Chicken in a Light Lemon-Herb Sauce:

... which he served over perfectly cooked green beans, as per Lidia's instructions. The sauce was indeed light, with plenty of soft, whole garlic cloves and a nice kick from red pepper flakes and lemon juice. Our only quibble was that the chicken rolls felt like they needed some kind of stuffing, preferably of the cheesy variety. They were a tad dry and bland. But as you can see:

... the rolls were beautifully done. A little color and flavor would have made them even better.
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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rainy Day BBQ

I know I've said it before but I feel like I need to say it again - I love Cook's Country magazine. When I saw a recipe in the latest issue for Slow Cooker Barbecue Shredded Beef I knew it would be amazing even though I was slightly skeptical about making it in my slow cooker. I've never had much luck with my slow cooker, but this turned out great. We invited my mom and stepdad over for a little impromptu indoor BBQ.

I served the sandwiches on soft, pillowy rolls that had just enough substance not to disintegrate but were light enough not to compete with the meat.

I've been meaning to try Ina's Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread from her new cookbook:

... and it did not disappoint. Slightly spicy from the jalapenos and scallions, rich and moist from the cheddar and milk, this was a real winner. But as you can see from the tower of cornbread, it's enough to feed an army. SP prefers a sweeter cornbread, so I might experiment by adding more sugar next time to see if I can get a whole sweet-savory thing going on.

Mom brought coleslaw made with fresh veggies from their vegetable co-op box:

... and because we didn't have enough food, SP made wings as an appetizer while we waited for the meat to finish cooking:

We bought a huge pack of chicken wings at the wholesale club not realizing until it was time to put them in the oven that we had gotten whole chicken wings, not the pre-butchered wingettes. Luckily I'd recently seen a TV chef break up chicken wings so I had some idea what I was doing. A sharp knife and a little time and I got those wings separated with no problem.

And for dessert, pumpkin gems from the local farmer's market:

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Dinner at C & T's

Last night we went to CC & TC's house for dinner. The food was incredibly yummy and we had a great time. The other T at the party brought his famous tomato bruschetta:

... that was so amazingly good I ate at least 5 pieces. The thing I liked the most was that the tomatoes were pureed instead of in chunks. I hate biting into a piece of bruschetta and having all the tomatoes fall off the bread. In keeping with the Hawaiian luau theme, H brought a mango, avocado salsa:

... that was sweet and flavorful. We couldn't stop eating it and decided it would be great served on grilled fish or chicken.

T had leftover mozzarella from the bruschetta so he threw together a quick mozzarella, tomato and basil salad drizzled with 18-year-old balsamic vinegar and a splash of olive oil:

While we noshed on the appetizers we helped TC finish skewering the meat and vegetables:

She had chicken, shrimp and flank steak that we skewered with pineapple, red onion, mushrooms, green and red peppers and yellow and green squash. Then she drizzled everything with an island marinade that was sweet and spicy and oh-so-good.

TC rounded out the rest of the meal with a salad:

... made with lettuce, strawberries, blue cheese and toasted almonds. The sweetness of the strawberries mixed with the crunch of the almonds and the tang of the blue cheese was excellent.

She also made a tasty pasta salad with avocado, tomato, fennel, roasted corn and pine nuts:

... as well as some jasmine rice to sop up all the good juices from the skewers:

Some of the skewers hot off the grill:

My plate with two shrimp and one chicken skewer, rice, pasta salad and regular salad:

And for dessert:

... grilled peaches and pineapple over toasted angel food cake with a drizzle of red wine sauce. Decadent and tasty, the perfect ending to the meal. Thanks TC and CC for a wonderful night of good food, good friends and good music!
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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pizza Friday

SP loves mushrooms. When I say he loves them I mean he really, really loves them. We haven't had mushroom pizza for Pizza Friday in I don't know how long, so that's what was on the menu for this week. On the drive home I was thinking about how I wanted to cook the mushrooms before they went on the pizza and once I got home we spent at least 15 minutes discussing the pros and cons of onions and garlic before I finally went into the kitchen to start cooking. After searching the fridge for 5 minutes I could not find the mushrooms. Turns out SP and I had a miscommunication when he washed the mushrooms earlier this week for the Creamy, Bacony Mushrooms so said mushrooms were all used in that dish with none put aside for the pizza.

So last night's pizza was another Pizza Margherita.

I added more basil this time, which was good, but there was still too much cheese. Next time we do this pizza I'm going to cut the cheese into slabs instead of grating it so there's pockets of cheese instead of a huge blanket on top.
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thai Chicken Curry

I don't know why I don't cook from Dave Lieberman's Young and Hungry cookbook more often. The recipes I've tried have all been really tasty. Tonight I made Thai Chicken Curry:

I like this dish because the flavors marry well together and it's easy to make. Unfortunately my supermarket didn't have snow peas so I had to leave those out, but it's still a good dish without them.

Thai Chicken Curry
Dave Lieberman

2 cups white rice (basmati or jasmine is best)
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts (around 2) cut into pieces
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Vegetable Oil
1 small onion, diced
I red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon sugar
Thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Handful of snow peas
Handful of basil, optional
Juice and zest of 1 lime Zest of 1 lime
Salt and Black Pepper

Cook the rice and set aside.

Toss the chicken strips in a bowl with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons of oil. Heat a skillet over high heat and cook the chicken until they start to brown. Once there is no pink, scoop the chicken onto a plate.

Lower the pan heat to medium-high and add a bit more oil. Slide in the onions and cook, stirring until they turn translucent (4-5 minutes). Add the red bell pepper and garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add the curry powder, sugar and ginger and cook 1 more min. Add the broth and coconut milk and turn the heat up to high. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring often until the sauce reduces, 7-8 minutes. Slide the chicken back in and add the snow peas. Cook for a minute or two, add the basil and lime juice and zest and season with the salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Steak Fajitas and Grilled Corn

SP was in charge of dinner tonight and after he found skirt steak on sale at the wholesale club he decided to make steak fajitas.

We had the usual fixin's - sour cream, guacamole, diced tomato, shredded cheddar cheese and sauteed onions and peppers. SP is really into Rick Bayless these days after watching a few episodes of Mexico: One Plate at a Time, so he used a marinade he found on Rick's site. It was sensational and really added great flavor to the steak.

We thought we should have a side dish to go with our fajitas:

... so SP grilled some corn and once it was done I rolled it around in cilantro butter. The piece I ate was a little mushy, but I can't complain too much since corn isn't in season yet. It still tasted mighty good.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Chicken Rolls in Tomato Sauce

Over the weekend I saw Giada make this recipe for Chicken Scallopine with Sage and Fontina. The dish looked tasty, but I didn't feel like spending the money to buy fresh sage and a specialty cheese, so I modified the recipe, substituting spinach and mozzarella for the sage and fontina. The result:

... was moderately successful. I had a tough time with the chicken - once I pounded it thin it was falling apart, which made it hard to roll into nice, neat packages. And since I was using breast meat it was dried out by the time the dish was finished. But the sauce, oh the sauce. It was spectacular. SP said if we use this sauce recipe for pasta from now on he'd be a happy camper. The only change I made from the original sauce recipe was to add some minced garlic to the tomatoes when I processed them. The flavor of the white wine mixed with the tomatoes, garlic and red pepper was phenomenal.
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Monday, July 23, 2007

Creamy, Bacony Mushrooms

After seeing this recipe on The Food Pornographer's site for mushrooms cooked with bacon, onions and cream I knew we had to try it. SP is a huge fungus fan and what's not to like about bacon, onions and cream?

This not for the faint of heart. The cream seemed to get even richer the longer it cooked, but the flavors of the bacon, wine, onions and garlic were excellent. I served it over rice in order to sop up all the yummy sauce.
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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hodge-Podge Sauce

My mom gave us some zucchini and a green pepper (among other things) from their vegetable box so I decided to use them, along with about half a pound of ground beef from the freezer, onion, garlic and basil, to make a meat and vegetable sauce for dinner tonight:

We also wanted garlic bread:

... that SP picked up pre-made at the store as an experiment. For less than $2 we got a loaf of bread that we just had to heat in the oven, but the bread to garlic butter ratio was way off, not to mention that we couldn't taste any garlic at all. I definitely prefer to make my own, especially because a plain baguette is less than $1.

From earlier this afternoon, the sauce bubbling away on the stove:

... and a pot full of cabbage cooking in butter with bay leaves, salt and pepper:

SP loves cabbage cooked this way and my mom had a huge head of cabbage from the co-op that was way more than she and my stepdad could be expected to eat by themselves.
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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Breakfast and Lunch

In between doing housework (OK, let's be honest, SP was doing all the work while I "supervised" from the couch) I made us some breakfast and lunch. For breakfast I made French toast with bananas:

I sliced the bananas and cooked them in a pan with some butter, sugar and cinnamon until they were tender and starting to brown. My eyes were bigger than my stomach and I could only eat two pieces of this incredibly rich breakfast.

When lunchtime rolled around SP was in the middle of painting the trim in our foyer so we needed to do something quick at home. We didn't have much on hand so I made tuna melts and homemade potato chips:

... using my buddy D's old Fry Baby that she sent us months and months ago. SP ended up taking over the potato chip making while I finished the sandwiches and he said he loves the fryer, although it is on the small side and necessitated multiple batches to fry all the chips.

For the tuna melts I made the tuna using a little herbes de provence and SP was a huge fan. A very satisfying lunch indeed!
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Pizza Friday

Last night we went simple with a basic pizza margherita (tomato, basil and mozzarella):

I put on a tad too much cheese and the tomatoes needed a bit more seasoning, but this was a nice, light pizza for a cool summer evening.
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chile Chicken and Cheese Rice

I brought the camera downstairs, turned on the chandelier and opened the dining room curtains for light and I still managed to forget to take a photo until I was halfway finished with my dinner.

This morning SP wanted to know what I wanted for dinner so he could go grocery shopping. I looked through my recipes and found an old favorite - Chile Chicken and Cheese Rice. It was good, but not spicy enough (despite the 5 jalapenos) and a tad too salty. I still ate a good amount, though.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mrs. Home Cook Goes to Washington

I'm sorry for my brief disappearance; I had to go on a last minute business trip to our nation's capitol. It was a long couple of days but the highlights were the two dinners I had earlier this week. The first was a perfectly cooked hamburger topped with cheddar, bacon, jalapenos and tomato with a nice slathering of mayo. The fries were crispy on the outside just the way I like them. Yum! The second was an amazing Monte Cristo sandwich. I've never ordered this diner favorite of turkey, ham and Swiss cheese on white bread coated and cooked like French toast and served with maple syrup because I'm not that into sweets. But this version (served at an Irish pub no less) was served with Hollandaise sauce instead of the maple syrup, transforming it into something savory. It was out of this world, but what wouldn't be when the sandwich is cooked in butter and served with a butter-based sauce. And the cottage fries that came with it...heavenly. Perfectly crisp and fresh, they were even better dipped in some of the Hollandaise.

Now it's back to home life and since we hadn't gone grocery shopping due to the trip we had to scrounge up something for dinner. Spaghetti carbonara is always easy to make and tasty to eat:

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Pizza Friday

I have to say, this was one of the best pizzas we've ever made. SP was in charge of the "sauce" which isn't as much sauce as it is tomatoes with all the liquid removed and then seasoned with salt, red pepper flakes, oregano and a splash of olive oil. Toppings included pepperoni, black olives, torn basil and just a smattering of mozzarella cheese:

I'm not sure why this pizza was so exceptional, but we both took one bite and were bowled over by all the flavors.
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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ginger, Garlic, Scallion Shrimp

Our original plan for tonight was to marinate shrimp in the remainder of the buffalo sauce we used a few weeks ago and then grill them, but for various reasons that plan fell through. We went with Plan B, an old standby - Ginger, Garlic, Scallion Shrimp:

... which was just as good as always. No wonder it's a family favorite.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Chicken Paprikash

Every once in awhile we remember how much we love this recipe for Chicken Paprikash:

It's simple to make and has everything I like about a dish: onions, garlic and a creamy sauce.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Steak and Salad

With the heat index in the mid-90s today we decided to keep dinner light and simple. SP wanted to marinate a London broil for the grill and he managed to find a really amazing marinade on the Food Network Web site.

We had a bounty of vegetables from my parent's co-op box so I thought a salad would be a great side for the steak. I cut up some scallions, broccoli, red cabbage, grape tomatoes and avocado and tossed it with a variety of lettuces. I dressed my salad with more of that chipotle ranch dressing. I wanted to make my own dressing but SP wanted to use blue cheese and I didn't want to make dressing just for myself.
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Monday, July 09, 2007

The Grace Brothers Canteen

Every Saturday from 8pm to midnight a few of our local PBS stations broadcast British Comedies (Britcoms). If we're home we like to watch our favorites, including Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By, Vicar of Dibley, Fawlty Towers, Black Adder, Thin Blue Line, Waiting For God, Last of the Summer Wine, 'Allo, 'Allo, and Are You Being Served? This past Saturday we caught an episode of Are You Being Served? where Mrs. Slocombe and Miss Brahms are eating plates of sausages, mashed potatoes and a green vegetable in the canteen. We had a few pieces of Italian sausage in the freezer, a crisper full of organic broccoli from my parent's vegetable box and plenty of potatoes, so I thought I'd cook us a meal reminiscent of the food at Grace Brothers.

We don't have easy access to HP sauce here in the states so I tried making a gravy from the sausage drippings (that tan blob next to the broccoli). It was very salty from the sausage fat, but a nice complement to the sausages and potatoes. For the broccoli I just cooked it in a pan with some garlic and red pepper flakes until it was tender.
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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Spaghetti with Shrimp

Tonight was the rarest of occasions - SP and I cooked dinner together and we both lived to tell the tale. With a heat wave sweeping through our area neither of us felt like venturing outside today to go grocery shopping so we needed to cook dinner with food we had on hand. We decided to make spaghetti with tomato sauce and shrimp, for a little something different.

The sauce was made with tomatoes my mother and I canned last summer. We're getting close to canning season and SP likes to use up last year's batch before we can this year's. With my parents on vacation we picked up their co-op vegetables on Saturday and used the baby onions and some basil from the box in the sauce. We also got a ton of lettuces so I made a salad with some lettuce, a few scallions (also from the box) and some red cabbage. The dressing is a Chipotle Ranch that we got on sale awhile back.

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Sunday Breakfast

Breakfast this morning was less than inspired but turned out to be quite tasty. I toasted an English muffin and topped each half with a slice of tomato and a fried egg with some melted cheddar cheese on top:

In other news, I am VERY pleased to present our new addition:

Ever since we moved into our house we have hated our refrigerator. The first time we opened the door to find the shelves covered in a pool of water, we thought maybe it was because the fridge had just been turned on. By the fifth or sixth time we realized there was a problem with the fridge itself. One time we actually saw the torrent of water pouring out of a hole near the top back shelf. We put off getting a new fridge for months because we weren't sure exactly what we wanted, but we soon grew weary of cleaning up pools of water three or four times a day.

Recently Home Depot was having an appliance sale so we drove over to check it out and found exactly what we wanted - a bottom-freezer model that wasn't too wide to fit into the space we had, French doors for the fridge and a pull-out freezer drawer with a sturdy upper basket. We measured and remeasured the space and were about 90% certain the fridge wouldn't fit (can you see that lip from the window seat? We were concerned about the pull-out door clearing that), but my stepfather assured me that an 1/8th of an inch is still an 1/8th of an inch and as you can see, it fit! It was delivered yesterday and we are in love.
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Pizza Friday

SP announced last week (as he finished off the last of the Ricotta Pasta with Spinach) that he was done with heavy, creamy pasta dishes for the foreseeable future. While that's a fine idea given that summer is in full swing, it went against my plan for dinner on Friday: Broccoli and Garlic Calzones. It occurred to me as I was falling asleep that I could probably make half a pizza for him with whatever toppings he wanted and still make a calzone for myself. The result was that he ate a pizza topped with leftover BBQ chicken, BBQ sauce and mozzarella cheese:

... while I had my calzone full of gooey ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and sauteed broccoli and garlic. I served my calzone with a thick, spicy tomato sauce.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Potato Cake

I've seen both Michael Chiarello and Giada De Laurentiis make potato cakes using leftover mashed potatoes so when I had some leftover from the Super Mashers with Shrimp and Chorizo I decided to try making them for breakfast with a fried egg on top.

This is actually my second attempt. The first ended with a pile of reheated mashed potatoes with a few crusty bits. It tasted great, but wasn't very photogenic. This time I left the potato cake alone in the pan for at least 5 minutes per side so it could develop a proper crust. I also used a mixture of butter and oil (last time I used only oil) to promote browning. The juxtaposition of the crispy outside and creamy inside of the cake is phenomenal and the flavor is great because the potatoes were made with garlic and scallions. The fried egg on top just gilded the lily with its perfectly runny yolk.
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fish Tacos

I was watching Everyday Food recently and saw one of the chefs make Fish Tacos. The recipe seemed simple enough and SP was game so I gave it a shot.

It was a very easy, very quick meal to put together. I was bringing the food to the table and SP said, "We're eating already!?" The flavors were OK, but we weren't wowed. The recipe I used the last time I made fish tacos was much better.
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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fourth of July

Happy 4th! SP and I invited my mother-in-law and her sister over for a BBQ and to help us break in our new patio set.

We decided to make BBQ Chicken using Ina's recipe, except SP couldn't find bone-in chicken so we had to settle for breasts:

They got a little burnt on the grill, but they were still moist and flavorful. The sauce was the real winner. It was outstanding. We will definitely be making this again.

I made my All-American potato salad, which was a huge hit:

Aunt D brought coleslaw:

And some grilled vegetables:

My mother-in-law was in charge of the antipasto, which she gets from a local pizzeria. It is phenomenal:

My plate, from the top - a piece of the chicken with a pool of BBQ sauce, potato salad, grilled vegetables and a big pile of the antipasto:

For dessert I made a sheet cake using a Pillsbury Funfetti cake mix and frosting we got especially for the 4th. Notice the stars and stripes sprinkles and the red, white and blue theme. Very patriotic:

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