Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Cajun Chicken Fettucine

This innocent-looking bowl of chicken and pasta:

... packed a real whallop! I think SP's brow is still beaded with sweat.

My buddy D recently made a recipe for Cajun Chicken Fettucine that sounded tasty. What made the recipe even more appealing was that I could prep all the ingredients ahead of time. I prepped everything on Saturday so that when I got home from work today all I needed to do was throw on my apron and start cooking. I was looking forward to tonight's dinner all day.

Where things went awry was the part in the recipe that called for Cajun seasoning. I have a very large selection of spices, so I looked up Cajun seasoning online so I could make my own at home. I mixed all the different spices together and cooked a test piece of chicken in order to make sure the seasoning was right. The test piece had a kick to it, but I failed to realize that 30-plus pieces of chicken with that seasoning would pack more of a punch than one. The resulting dish was really good but way, way, way too spicy, even for us. Between gulps of water SP asked me to please cut down on the cayenne next time.

It was still a keeper, though. Thanks for sharing, D!

Cajun Chicken Fettucine

1 pound spaghetti
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (my recipe follows)
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 package mushrooms, cut into chunks
5 scallions, sliced
1 green bell pepper cut into strips
6 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 - 1 cup pasta cooking water

Cook fettucine according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with seasoning. In a large skillet, heat the oil and cook the chicken over medium heat until no longer pink. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the mushrooms, scallions, green pepper and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Combine cornstarch and heavy cream until smooth and stir into vegetable mixture. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute, until thickened. Add the chicken back to the pan, then add the fettucine, tossing to combine. Add pasta cooking water to thin out sauce, if necessary.

Cajun Seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Stir to combine the spices together.
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Monday, October 30, 2006


When I was growing up my mom made pastitsio for dinner on a semi-regular basis. The pasta, meat and creamy sauce seasoned with cinnamon and other spices was as comforting as it was different from our usual dinners.

I'd been thinking about pastitsio recently so I decided to make it this weekend. I asked my mom for the recipe but because it serves 8, I halved it. My mom recommended doubling the sauce recipe for a "saucier" pastitsio, so I kept the sauce recipe the same while dividing the rest of the ingredients in half.

I made the pastitsio Saturday night, refrigerated it and baked it last night so I could have it for dinner tonight. I was eagerly anticipating a blast from my past, but the dish was not as I remembered it. Despite the extra sauce, the dish was dry, not to mention underseasoned. I think the pasta absorbed too much of the sauce. I'll have to keep tweaking.
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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Breakfast Tacos

Our supermarket's ethnic food aisle stocks these amazingly soft corn tortillas that were perfect for making breakfast tacos this morning:

... I got the idea from an old issue of Everyday Food. It's a very simple recipe. All you need are corn tortillas, eggs (one per taco), salsa and sour cream. Toast the tortillas in the toaster oven and set aside. Beat the eggs with some salt and pepper until frothy. Heat a skillet over low heat, add some butter and when the butter is melted and starting to bubble, add the eggs. Cook, stirring constantly, until set. Spoon the egg into the tortilla, top with salsa and sour cream and serve.

I also made some hash browns to go with our tacos. I peeled two small potatoes and cut them into a large dice. I also largely diced half a medium onion. In a non-stick skillet, heat some oil over medium-high heat and added the potato and onion. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are browned and soft, stirring occasionaly.
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Friday, October 27, 2006

Pizza Friday

Tonight marks the return of buffalo chicken pizza:

... only this time with extra hot sauce and an extra thick coating of blue cheese dressing. I think this was the best buffalo chicken pizza I've made to date.
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Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Pierogies and Broccoli

This is what happens when you belong to a wholesale club:

...you end up with 5 pounds of pierogies, thus necessitating pierogies with broccoli every few weeks. I'm sure I could vary the way I cook the pierogies, but I truly love this combination and can't imagine enjoying them any other way.
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

SP Takes Over the Kitchen

Tonight the lovely and talented SP whipped up some pork chops with dijon mustard sauce, mashed potatoes and peas:

Anyone else starting to sense a pattern? It seems like whenever SP cooks dinner we have pork chops with dijon sauce. It's not that he can't cook anything else; quite the contrary. On Sunday he made a fantastic vodka penne, but I didn't take any pictures of it because he made it for Monday's dinner (which I eat at work since I have yoga that night).

Part of the problem is that I haven't let him in the kitchen lately. That and the fact that up until last week when he dropped his grad school class we only ate dinner together two weeknights. And one of those nights, Friday, was always homemade pizza night. With yoga for me on Mondays, his band practice on Tuesday and his grad school class on Thursday he didn't have much of a chance to cook. I'm trying to lessen my control over the kitchen and let him back in because, it must be said, he's an excellent cook. There's nothing better then coming home and seeing the table set and food cooking on the stove. All I had to do was sit down and eat.
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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Throw Together Dinner

Dinner tonight was basically a way for me to use up some tomatoes Mom gave us last week. When we took possession of them they were rock solid and unripe. After sitting on our windowsill for over a week they still weren't all that ripe, but they were starting to develop rotten spots so they needed to be used.

Here's what I came up with:

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. Here's what I did: I cooked one medium onion, thinly sliced, in some oil along with a few cloves of minced garlic, salt and pepper. I blanched the tomatoes in the water I boiled to cook the pasta so I could take the skin off. Once the tomatoes were peeled and coarsely chopped, those went in to the pan as well. I added some white wine and chicken stock to make a sauce, added the thin spaghetti, tossed it all together with some grated cheese and called it dinner. It was surprisingly good for something that only took 15 minutes to throw together.
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Vegetables Galore!

My stepfather is away this week so my mom shared the contents of her vegetable box with us. We got two green peppers, some scallions, a head of cauliflower, a small head of broccoli, arugula, lettuce, cilantro and beets. I also had some mushrooms from last week on hand, as well as four red potatoes, a package of chicken thighs and a quarter of a red onion.

I went on to the Food Network Web site and typed in "chicken thighs" and the first recipe that came up was for Rachael Ray's Grilled Chicken Thighs Cacciatore with Super Smashed Garlic Potatoes. As luck would have it, the cacciatore recipe used all the ingredients I had on hand. I always love mashed potatoes, so I was happy to see she recommended serving them with the cacciatore.

Of course I modified her recipe a tad since I was using small button mushrooms instead of portabellos, I don't own a grill pan anymore and I had green peppers instead of cubanelles, but the basic recipe was the same and boy was it tasty! I was surprised at how good it was for a meal I kind of threw together after not cooking for 3 days in a row.

I made my own garlic smashed potatoes by boiling the red potatoes (skin on!) with three cloves of garlic and then mashing everything together with butter, milk, salt and pepper. I chopped some scallions and threw those in for some onion-y flavor.

For our vegetable I decided to roast the broccoli and cauliflower. I love roasting broccoli. The flavor is unlike any other method for cooking the vegetable; it makes it nice and nutty. Since I had cauliflower as well I decided to roast both together. I cut both heads into floret, coated them with oil, salt and pepper and roasted them in a 400-degree oven for about 20-30 minutes, checking them every so often to make sure they weren't burning. Once the florets were nice and tender, I gave them a spritz of lemon, which really brightened them up.

Here's what I did for the cacciatore:

2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
button mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 pounds, 6 pieces or 1 package, boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Coarse black pepper
2 green peppers), seeded and thinly sliced
quarter of a red onion, thinly sliced
1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes, pureed

In a large bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire and crushed red pepper flakes. Add chicken thighs to marinade and coat evenly. Add some oil to a skillet over medium-high heat and then add the chicken. Cook 3 to 4 minutes before adding the garlic, mushrooms, peppers and onions to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing frequently, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and heat through, allowing the sauce to thicken some.
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Saturday, October 14, 2006


I've had a serious craving all week for a frittata, so I decided to make one this morning using various leftover ingredients from this week's meals.

My frittata:

... had mushrooms, broccoli, potatoes, onion, garlic and cheddar cheese dotting the baked egg mixture. This version was better than the last one I made because of the garlic as well as the fact that I made sure to salt and pepper every ingredient to maximize flavor.

I love how the cheddar cheese created little craters in certain spots (look at the lower righthand corner of the photo).
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Friday, October 13, 2006

Pizza Friday

This week's pizza is a sort of hodge-podge of different toppings:

... including pepperoni, sliced jalapenos, mushrooms, onions cooked with some oregano and sliced garlic. I used the last of the fire roasted tomato sauce I had frozen a few weeks ago and some excellent, milky mozzarella cheese.
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Trying Broccoli Rabe Again

SP was a huge fan of the sausage with broccoli rabe I made last week, despite its bitterness. Since I had bought a ton of broccoli rabe at the store, I decided to use the rest to make the dish again this week.

Looks pretty much the same as last time:

... but this version was a lot less bitter. In fact, it wasn't bitter at all unless you happened to bite down on a huge chunk of the rabe.

I had two pots of boiling water on the stove - one to cook the broccoli rabe and the other for the pasta. And the water that I used to sauce the dish came from the pasta cooking water, not the rabe. It made a huge difference.
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Anniversary Dinner

Today is our third wedding anniversary. Since we celebrated with the fancy-schmancy dinner out on Saturday we decided to keep things low-key today with one of our favorite dinners:

... Shrimp with Ginger, Garlic and Scallions courtesy of Rachael Ray.

Our supermarket had shrimp on sale this week, but they were the small ones (I think 51-60 count). I didn't think that would matter, but there was something slightly off about the dish. All the flavors were there, but it lacked punch. SP thought it was because the small shrimp didn't get that nice crust the larger ones usually do. I think he was also more than a little put off by having to shell more than 100 tiny shrimp. When we buy the larger ones they usually come cleaned and shelled. Even if the shell is left on there's a slit down the back from the cleaning process so it's easy to remove. By the time I got home my poor husband said he'd been cleaning shrimp for almost an hour and a half. Yikes!

But I lit a candle, turned the light down low and we enjoyed dinner just the same. Happy Anniversary, honey!
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff a la Rachael Ray:

... never fails to amaze me in its simplicity. I picked up a copy of her 30 Minute Comfort Meals book from 2000 a few months ago and so far this is the only recipe I've made. It's easy to pull together, I almost always have all the ingredients on hand and it tastes really good.

This time I modified the recipe a bit to use ground beef instead of sirloin cubes because that's what was in the freezer. The result was creamy and tasty and the egg noodles are perfect for sopping up all the good sauce. Below is my modified recipe. If anyone is interested in the original recipe, let me know.

Beef Stroganoff

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon paprika
salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 package egg noodles
chopped parsley for garnish

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper (you have to season every layer). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink.

Meanwhile bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it and then add the egg noodles. Cook according to package directions, drain and mix with butter. Set aside.

Add the flour and paprika to the beef and onions and cook for 2 minutes then add the sherry and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. The sauce will thicken quickly because of the flour, so once it's thick add the beef broth. Cook until the sauce gets thick again and then turn off the heat and add the sour cream.

Serve the sauce over the buttered noodles garnished with some parsley.
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Monday, October 09, 2006

Home Again

After an incredibly relaxing weekend spent at the bed and breakfast where we got married three years ago, we weren't quite ready to come back to reality today. After enjoying restaurant food (including one of the most exquisite meals I've had in a very long time), I couldn't stand the idea of cooking dinner tonight. I've had a hankering for Chinese food lately so we went to our favorite place for some MSG-laden goodness.

Roast Pork Egg Foo Yung:

... was just as wonderful as always. Huge chunks of roast pork and long strands of sweet, soft onion meld together with the egg to create a savory omelet that's made even better by the salty, rich brown gravy.

Sesame Chicken:

... is your standard breaded and fried chicken creation doused with a syrupy sauce. It's not my favorite so I let SP tackle this dish on his own.

Chicken with Mixed Vegetables:

... combined chicken pieces with snow peas, carrots, water chestnuts, broccoli and bok choy in a white sauce. Bits of scallion added an onion-y overtone to the sauce that's excellent when sopped up with white rice.

We each also had an egg roll dipped in duck sauce and spicy mustard. My plate:

... with its huge slab of egg foo yung, chicken with vegetables and an egg roll. It was a ton of food, but every bite was the perfect way to ease back into the daily grind.
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Friday, October 06, 2006

Chicken Fingers and Oven Fries

You know dinner was a success when your husband is sitting on the couch at 10:30 at night eating leftover cold chicken fingers.

Reading about my buddy D's adventures in making chicken fingers with a honey mustard dipping sauce left me with an intense craving. I also saw Tyler Florence make oven fries last week, so I decided to try them as well. Because what goes better with chicken fingers than fries?

For the chicken fingers I used the same batter that I use for Rachael Ray's Spicy O'Nuts and it worked perfectly. It's just 2 cups of pancake mix, about 3/4 of a bottle of beer and 1 teaspoon each of chili powder, paprika and hot sauce mixed together. The batter got nice and crispy and kept the chicken juicy and tender.

The dipping sauce is just 3 tablespoons mayo, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon yellow mustard, 1 teaspoon cream-style horseradish (I didn't have any so I left this out) and 1 teaspoon honey. Mix well and refrigerate before serving.

For the oven fries you preheat the oven to 450 degrees (I used the toaster oven since I was only making enough fries for me) and then preheat the baking sheet as well. Cut a cleaned and scrubbed potato into wedges and toss with salt and olive oil. Once the baking sheet it hot, add the fries and cook for 15 minutes. Turn them over and cook another 15-20 minutes until they're golden brown and crispy.
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Meat and Potatoes Reborn

This was my attempt at recreating the Royal Red Robin at home:

It was not a rousing success. For starters, I overcooked the burger. And the onion slices were too thick. I honestly don't know how Red Robin can make such an amazing burger the exact same way every single time. It's not like they use sub-par ingredients either. The lettuce is always crisp and bright green, the tomatoes are never anemic, the egg is freshly fried, the bun is soft, the bacon crisp and the burger is juicy and perfectly cooked. I guess I'll just have to keep giving it the old college try.

SP wanted baked potatoes with his burger but he had to work late so I decided to jazz mine up a bit. I had some leftover cheese from when I made the garlic bread earlier in the week so after I cooked my potato I took out the meat and mixed it with some salt, pepper, a tablespoon of butter, the leftover cheese and a tablespoon of sour cream. I then put the meat back in the skins and broiled them until the top started to get nice and golden brown and crispy.
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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

I've never understood broccoli rabe. I've only had it a handful of times and I remember two distinct experiences. At one place it was cooked perfectly, with just the teensiest hint of bitterness offset by all the other ingredients in the dish. The other restaurant served it as a side dish and it was so bitter I couldn't eat it. I want to like it, though, so when it was on sale at the supermarket this week I thought I'd give it a try at home.

Giada's recipes tend to be hit or miss for me, but I forged ahead with her recipe for pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe. In the episode of Everyday Italian where I saw her make this dish she says that the key to cooking broccoli rabe is to blanch it to get rid of the bitterness. Apparently the bitterness leeches out into the water, leaving you with tender, not-bitter rabe. The recipe said to blanch it for a minute but I erred on the side of caution and left it in the water for a good two or three minutes. But, as is often the case with Giada, I was soon scratching my head in confusion when she called for cooking the pasta in the same water I'd just made bitter. Then, to make matters worse, she wanted me to reserve some of the cooking water (a.k.a the bitter water) to sauce the pasta.

I should have known better then to blindly follow her since I'd been burned before, but I was in a hurry because Gilmore Girls was on at 8 and I don't get home until 7:30. The resulting dish had a lot of potential but was definitely bitter, no doubt from the cooking water. Sometimes I wonder if anyone ever tested her recipes before committing them to print. Luckily I had the foresight to only make a half order so I'm not stuck eating it for lunch tomorrow. If SP likes it I'll try it again, but I'm throwing away the water I use to blanch the broccoli rabe even if it means dirtying an extra pot.
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Monday, October 02, 2006

Ravioli, Garlic Bread with Cheese and Salad

Tonight I made another Giada-inspired recipe.

On Friday I saw her make ravioli that she dressed with tomato sauce mixed with ricotta cheese. I had some ricotta leftover from the lasagna I made last weekend, so I made a quick marinara yesterday and then I when I got home tonight I reheated it and stirred in the ricotta while the ravioli cooked. I also toasted up some yummy three cheese garlic bread and chopped Romaine hearts for a simple salad. We had a wonderful Italian feast in less than 30 minutes.
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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mini Meatloaf Muffins

Meatloaf is one of my favorite comfort foods, so when I saw Rachael Ray make Mini Meatloaf Muffins on 30 Minute Meals on Friday, I knew I had to try it.

I used my meatloaf recipe with her cooking method. I combined one package of meatloaf mix, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup ketchup, about 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, one onion finely chopped and 2 minced cloves of garlic. I seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper and then rolled it into balls like I was making hamburgers, but instead I put them in muffin tins I'd greased with a little oil. I put some ketchup on the tops and baked them at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the tops and sides were nicely browned. A quick tip - use a spoon to get them out of the tins. They keep their shape better that way.

To go alongside this comforting meal I made garlic mashed potatoes the same way I did the other night - boiled diced potatoes with 3 cloves of crushed garlic until the potatoes were tender and then mashed them with butter, milk, salt and pepper. I also cooked green beans with bacon. I diced some bacon and cooked that over medium heat in a skillet until the edges started to brown. Then I added trimmed green beans, salt and pepper and covered the skillet and let the beans steam, tossing them with the bacon every few minutes until the beans were crisp-tender.

After making two separate side dishes involving bacon, SP and I have come to the conclusion that bacon doesn't work well with either peas or green beans. For some reason the flavors just don't meld well together. The beans were still good, just not something I'd make again.
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