Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tuna Melt

For lunch one day this week I decided to make an old favorite, the tuna melt:

I mixed the canned tuna with mayo, finely chopped onion and celery and seasoned it with salt and pepper. I toasted one slice of bread and piled the tuna on top, then topped that with slices of cheddar cheese. The whole thing went into the toaster oven to heat through and then I turned on the broiler for a few seconds to lightly brown the top.
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Birthday Dessert

For dessert my stepdad picked up a cake from a local bakery, a framboisier:

... which is three layers of dark chocolate cake and chocolate truffle topped with fresh fruit:

Here's the cake after we'd tucked into it:

It was very rich, which made the fruit a nice counterpoint.
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Birthday Dinner

My stepgrandmother turned 82 yesterday. Since my Aunt E was in town for Christmas she decided to cook a nice meal to celebrate the occasion. Look at this gorgeous roast pork stuffed with herbs.

But first the nosh. We had an olive tapenade with toasted bread:

The olives were deliciously salty:

We also had some creamy cheese that was similar to brie:

Here's the pork roasts fresh from the oven:

... and the main event, the porcini risotto:

E also cooked some peas:

... and we had a tossed salad:

Here's my plate with a little bit of everything:

... and a closeup of the risotto:

It was creamy and delicious, with large pieces of earthy porcini. I had two helpings of it and could have eaten more. Happy Birthday, B!!
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Christmas Dinner

For Christmas dinner we went to my stepgrandmother's for the same meal we've had every year since my mom and stepdad got married. We had salad:

... roast beef tenderloin:

... a loaf of garlic bread:

... green beans with almonds:

... and Christmas cookies for dessert:

Unfortunately this year things didn't go according to plan and the meal was less than stellar. My stepgrandmother, who is 82, has finally decided to hand the reins over to me and my mother. After years of being an amazing cook she just doesn't have it in her anymore. She was so upset that the meal didn't turn out the way it usually does. The Yorkshire pudding (not pictured) never rose or cooked all the way through. The beef and green beans were overcooked, and she decided not to make mashed potatoes (much to the disappointment of everyone in attendance). At least the cookies were good.
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Christmas Morning Strata

Every Christmas my mom makes Christmas Morning Strata and I always have to have a piece for old times sake.

It was delicious. I love the sausage and cheese and the soft bread with the crispy bits at the top.
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A few months ago my friend Amy in Louisiana sent me a package of local, regional foods, including beignet mix. SP wanted to do something fun on Christmas morning so he whipped up a batch of beignets using the mix.

We made these together after breakfast. SP mixed the dough and then I was in charge of cutting the dough and dropping the pieces into the oil while he manned the oil and my mother-in-law made sure each beignet had copious amounts of powdered sugar on it.

The funny thing is the box of mix says to refrigerate after opening. Hmm. I wonder why. I don't want it to go bad so I have a feeling we'll be making beignets again soon. It was certainly easy and the results were delicious.
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Christmas Morning Breakfast

Every Christmas morning we have my mother-in-law over for breakfast. She always asks for the same thing - scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. I wasn't in the mood for scrambled eggs this year so I made them for her and SP and made myself some fried eggs.

I also cooked up some breakfast potatoes in addition to the bacon and toast. For the potatoes I cubed them into small pieces and cooked them with onions, salt and pepper until the potatoes were tender. They were delicious, especially with some of the egg yolk.
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Baked Stuffed Shrimp and Baked Potatoes

The rest of our Christmas Eve meal included Baked Stuffed Shrimp and baked potatoes:

I had extra-large shrimp in the freezer so that's what I used for the recipe. These little guys look so gorgeous with the stuffing tucked into them:

For the baked potatoes I cleaned and dried them, then gave them a rub with olive oil, salt and pepper before baking them at 400 degrees for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half:

I served mine with a little butter and sour cream. Delicious! The whole meal was actually very easy to make. The asparagus had very little prep and just cooked in the oven. Same for the baked potatoes. The shrimp was the most involved, but it was still easy to put together. We ate ourselves silly and thoroughly enjoyed the meal. Merry Christmas to all!
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Asparagus with Fried Egg and Pecorino

Every Christmas Eve we have seafood for dinner. We loved the meal we had for Valentine's Day so much we decided it would be perfect for Christmas Eve. We started with roasted asparagus topped with a fried egg and grated Pecorino cheese:

The bunch of asparagus SP picked at the store was perfect. Most of the time the stalks are all different sizes, which means when they're roasted some end up burning before the others are cooked through, but not this bunch. They were a uniform size and all small and tender. They spent about 10 minutes in the oven drizzled with salt, pepper and olive oil before they were plated and topped with a fried egg and freshly grated cheese. The broken egg yolk makes a perfect sauce when mixed with the cheese:

A delicious and colorful start to the meal.

Asparagus with Fried Egg and Pecorino
Inspired by Piatto

1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 eggs
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Toss asparagus with salt and pepper and olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the asparagus is tender to your liking.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a small skillet. Add eggs and fry to your liking.

Remove asparagus from the oven and divide into two bunches. Top each bunch with a fried egg. Grate cheese on top and serve immediately.
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Pizza Pockets

After the holiday get together with my friends a few weeks ago SP was dying for me to make the pizza pockets Colleen brought to the party. I realized I had all the ingredients on hand so I made them for a snack on Christmas Eve.

I used a regular ball of pizza dough that I get frozen from a local Italian bakery, so I had some issues rolling it into a rectangle and cutting it into even pieces. So some of the pockets were much larger then the others. It was OK...they still tasted great. Here they are ready to go into the oven:

And fresh out of the oven all golden brown and crispy:

While SP liked them, the look on his face when he first bit into one was total and utter surprise. It turns out he wasn't expecting this filling:

... of spinach and sausage mixed with cream cheese. Apparently the name "pizza pockets" evokes thoughts of pizza flavors (sauce, cheese, maybe pepperoni) stuffed inside the dough and baked. Whoops! I knew what to expect because I'd had them already but SP was a little surprised. He liked them, but he asked me to please make real pizza pockets sometime soon. Stay tuned for that in the coming days...
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Pierogies and Cheddar Broccoli

It's been awhile since I made pierogies. SP got tired of them after eating them basically once a week for a few months. Then one of his work friends told him she was going to a local place that makes homemade pierogies and offered to pick some up for us to try. She got us two dozen potato and cheddar so I cooked them up with some slow-cooked onions for dinner last Tuesday:

The pierogies were lighter and tasted much fresher then the Mrs. T's variety we're used to eating. I served mine with a little dollop of sour cream, but unlike all the previous times I've made pierogies I decided not to use bacon in an effort to keep this meal somewhat healthy.

I also steamed some broccoli in chicken broth and melted cheddar cheese on top before serving:

It was a delicious meal and even tastier because we hadn't had it in awhile. I think we're spoiled now by the fresh pierogies.
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Wendy's Snack

SP got home late on Monday which meant stopping for food on the way home. He was going to Wendy's so he asked if I wanted anything. The broccoli rabe pasta wasn't satisfying so I asked him to pick me up a double cheeseburger. I snagged a few of his fries and had a tasty snack:

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Broccoli Rabe and Salami Pasta

On Monday I made a dish I remember liking a great deal this time last year, Broccoli Rabe and Salami Pasta:

This time I wasn't a huge fan. I don't know what it was...the bitterness of the broccoli rabe, the blandness of the dish as a whole...I'm just not sure. I'm glad I only made a half order because SP wasn't going to have any due to work conflicts. There was still a ton leftover.
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I hope everyone had a good Christmas/holiday season. I'm very behind in my posting and for that I apologize. This breakfast is from last Sunday:

I made two fried eggs for myself (SP had scrambled), bacon and breakfast potatoes. For the potatoes I cut the pieces small so they would cook faster in a little butter with some onion, which I cut larger then the potatoes so they wouldn't burn before the potatoes were done. Salt and pepper were the only seasonings and they were delicious.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Colleen from Cooking This and That tagged me to share seven random/weird facts about myself. Just like Colleen, since this is a food blog I will share food-related oddities rather than spill all my deep dark secrets!

1. I love the combination of popcorn and milk. No, not eaten like cereal, I mean a big bowl of popcorn eaten while drinking a tall glass of cold milk.

2. The only food I really and truly dislike are hot dogs. I want to like them, but every time I try a bite of someone's it makes me gag. How un-American of me!

3. I'm not that into sweets, but I love all things cake. Cupcakes, regular cake, whatever. I also prefer boxed cake mix and canned frosting to homemade. I also don't like most bakery cakes or cupcakes (too sugary or grainy).

4. I have never made my own bread. I'm afraid of yeast.

5. I have yet to make a successful roast beef. I don't know why I have so much trouble with this particular preparation.

6. I hate eating the same thing more then twice in a row (I'll eat dinner leftovers for lunch the next day but that's it). I will, however, eat the same thing for breakfast for months on end without tiring of it.

7. And finally, the real reason I don't bake is not because I don't think I'd be good at it, it's because I don't want the byproducts in the house because we will eat all of it ourselves. And I can't bring the stuff to work or send it in with SP because none of our coworkers will eat it because it's fattening.

And now to tag 7 people...

(I'm going to have to get back to you on this one since Colleen took most of the people I would have tagged. Thanks, hon!)
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Macaroni & Cheese

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming...

During my cooking frenzy on Sunday I made a macaroni & cheese. I froze half of it for one of those nights when I don't feel like cooking. The other half I served on Wednesday:

... along with a spring mix salad. I'm very into salad these days, which is a good thing! I dressed it simply with lemon juice and oil, salt and pepper. I'm not sure what happened with the mac & cheese, but it wasn't as creamy as it usually is. I'm wondering if the pasta soaked up all the sauce since I didn't bake it until Wednesday and made it on Sunday. It still looked gorgeous fresh out of the oven:

... but the creaminess is why I love this recipe. I wonder how the other half in the freezer will turn out.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We interrupt your regular program to bring you...

... a photo of our Christmas tree.

Normally this wouldn't be anything monumental, but this year SP and I decided not to get a tree. Or bake Christmas cookies. Or send Christmas cards. Our families had already decided we were just buying for the kids, so that took the pressure off buying tons of gifts. We're going through some emotionally trying times right now, stuff I won't get into on this cooking blog, and we decided it was best for our mental health to just keep things low-key this year.

Apparently SP shared this with his coworkers today. They insisted we at least get a tree, saying we would always regret it if we didn't. He smiled and nodded, but didn't think anything more about it, until he was walking out to his car to head home. He always calls me when he leaves work so I was on the phone with him when he burst out laughing. I asked what was going on and he said, "Someone put a tree on my car." I thought I misheard him. Then he noticed one of his boss's business cards tucked into the door and he realized what had happened.

After he called both his bosses he found out the whole story. M & D heard what he said about not getting a tree and decided they needed to act. They went out at lunch and bought a tree, asked around the office to figure out which car was ours and then stuck the tree on the hood after telling the security guard to keep a close watch over it until SP came out to go home.

To say we're touched is the understatement of the century. I've already cried twice, very happy tears. The generosity of these two men is overwhelming. They didn't have to go to all this trouble for us, but they did. They went out of their way to make sure we smiled this Christmas season. My faith in humanity, in the enduring nature of the Christmas spirit, has been restored. I cannot believe how lucky we are to have people in our lives who care about us this much. My cup runneth over...
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Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions and Bacon

I saw this recipe for Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Bacon on Cate's blog recently and knew I had to make it. Unfortunately I didn't read the directions very closely, so when I was prepping food for the week on Sunday I decided to modify the recipe (see below). Then when I was getting ready to cook last night I realized I didn't have any red wine, one of the key ingredients. So when all is said and done, this recipe bears little resemblance to the original.

I served the chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed green beans. It was delicious, but very time-consuming. I didn't start cooking until 7pm and we ended up eating around 8:30pm. Luckily we'd had a snack otherwise things would have gotten ugly.

Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions and Bacon
Heavily modified from Fresh From Cate's Kitchen

8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed and chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large onion, roughly chopped
6 slices bacon, diced
1 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth, or more if pan gets dry

Coat each chicken breast with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Reserve. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and add oil to hot pan. Add chicken breasts to pan and brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate. Add more oil to the pan, if necessary, then add the mushrooms, shallot, garlic, onion and thyme, and saute for about 3 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the wine, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 or 15 minutes.

Add the chicken back to the pan, add reserved bacon and chicken broth if the sauce is getting too thick. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes until the thickest part of the breast is cooked all the way through. Remove the chicken pieces to a serving dish, pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.
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Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Loaded baked potato soup:

I made this on Sunday to eat during the week. It made a lot of soup but this was so delicious we ate almost all of it between dinner and lunches the next day. It was a little time-consuming (mainly because the potatoes took forever to cook) but the results were so good it was worth it. I shredded some extra cheese, cooked some bacon and chopped some scallions for garnish:

I don't think you can eat soup without something to dunk in it, so we had some sliced ciabatta bread:

Crispy yet soft, this is one of my favorite breads. I don't make soup often (I think this is only the second or third time I've made soup. I'm just not a hot beverage/soup person), but I was really impressed with this recipe. I had a big bowlful for lunch yesterday when I was home sick and it really hit the spot.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
Culinary Infatuation

5 medium yukon gold potatoes
1 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
1 medium yellow onion diced (about 1 cup)
3 cloves of garlic minced
6 cups 2 % or whole milk
2 cups half and half
3 Tbs. fresh basil or chives
1 tsp. fresh nutmeg grated
8 strips bacon chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated black pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Wash potatoes and poke holes all over with a fork. Bake potatoes at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes until cooked completely through. Let cool.When potatoes are cooled, dice and put to the side(I leave the skin on).

Melt butter in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute a minute longer. Add the flour and whisk until combined and smooth (about a minute).

Pour in milk, 2 cups at a time combining the roux until fully incorporated. Whisk in the half and half and nutmeg. Turn heat up to medium high and bring to a simmer. Let simmer gently for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While you are bringing the soup up to a simmer add bacon to a medium size skillet and cook until crispy (about 10 minutes).

Remove from heat or turn to low heat and add potatoes and basil. Use a masher and mash potatoes until soup becomes thick. (You can do this before hand in a processor, or mash in a separate bowl.)

When soup is the desired consistency; whisk in sour cream and cheese. Remove bacon from skillet with a slotted spoon and add to soup and serve.
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Baked Shrimp and Scallops

Two of my friends, Colleen and Brooke, recently made baked seafood recipes and the photos on their blogs were giving me serious seafood envy. Then I saw Ina Garten make a scallop gratin and I knew I had to put this meal on the menu ASAP. I had some shrimp and scallops in the fridge so I loosely followed Ina's recipe.

The main modification I made was I didn't blend all the seasonings with butter (I didn't use any butter at all in my recipe). Everything went into the casserole dish and was tossed together before cooking. I served the seafood over rice made with chicken stock for more flavor:

I've been craving salad so I asked SP to pick up some spring mix at the store. I dressed mine with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper:

SP called me from the store all excited about a loaf of garlic bread he'd found in the bakery. It was pillowy and soft, with a great garlic flavor:

I wish there had been more sauce for dipping, but this was still an excellent meal. Next time I'll pre-cook the shallots and garlic. The 15 minutes they spent in the oven did nothing to soften the flavors and raw garlic breath is not pleasant. It was still delicious, though.
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