Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mac & Cheese with Salad

I took a mac & cheese out of the freezer for dinner last Thursday. You all know how much I love those easy dinners.

We had some leftover mixed greens and homemade Caesar dressing on the side.
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Breaded Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach

I had some chicken breasts defrosted and a plan to make another dish, but I ended up wanting breaded chicken so I changed things up.

I pounded the chicken to an even thickness then dredged it in egg and breadcrumbs. It got a light fry in olive oil. I also made mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.
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French Onion Soup

I've been making soup on the weekends to have during the week. We loved Ina's recipe for French onion soup the last time I made it and SP is a huge fan, so I made it on Monday when I was off for President's Day.

I reheated the soup for dinner on Tuesday and served it with toasted ciabatta with grated cheese. Unfortunately the soup wasn't quite as I remembered. I ate two spoonfuls and called it quits. I don't know what went wrong but we ended up eating Wendy's for dinner that night.
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Florentine Turkey Meatballs

I've always liked this recipe for Florentine Turkey Meatballs. I've been craving spinach so when I was planning the menu this week I put them on it.

The recipe I used, from 365: Everyday with Rachael Ray, called for 2 packages of ground turkey so I ended up with leftover meatballs and sauce, which I froze for later. I served the meatballs over egg noodles tossed with butter. A delicious, easy meal.

Florentine Turkey Meatballs
Rachael Ray

1 box frozen spinach, defrosted in the microwave
1 1/3 pound (1 package) ground turkey breast
1 medium onion, finely chopped, divided
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large egg
1 ¾ cups milk, divided
¾ cup bread crumbs, 3 handfuls
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, 2 palm fulls
Coarse salt and black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 (10-ounce) sack shredded provolone or blend of Italian cheeses, available on dairy aisle
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, eyeball it
¼ cup parsley leaves, chopped
Egg noodles, cooked and tossed with butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wring defrosted spinach dry in a clean kitchen towel. Place turkey in a bowl and make a well in the middle of it. Add the spinach, all but 3 tablespoons of the onion, all of the garlic, 1 large egg, about 1/4 cup milk, bread crumbs, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper. Mix well. Form into 12 large balls and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Arrange on a nonstick cookie sheet and roast 20 minutes, or until cooked through.

While balls are in the oven, heat a small sauce pot over medium heat. Add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. Melt butter, add remaining finely chopped onion and cook 2 minutes then whisk in flour. Cook flour 1 minute, then whisk in 1 1/2 cups milk and 1 cup stock. Bring liquid up to a boil then stir in shredded provolone or blended Italian cheeses. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg, turn heat to lowest setting.

Place egg noodles on a plate. Top with meatballs and sauce, garnish with parsley.
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Cat Photos

I love seeing the random things our cat does. Last weekend he crawled under the chair in the living room to sit on the newspapers SP keeps there for the fireplace.

And later I happened to look out the window and saw a cat sitting in our backyard.

I didn't recognize him, but he seemed very interested in me. Or he might have seen our cat laying in the sun in front of the slider. He never noticed the intruder in our yard since he was stretched out fast asleep.
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Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day: Tuna Tataki and Cold Sesame Noodles

SP and I always use Valentine's Day as an excuse to make a nice meal at home. This year I asked him what he wanted for dinner and he said seared tuna. I scoured the Food Network website and came across this Wolfgang Puck recipe for Tuna Tataki. The ingredients sounded fantastic and the dish was really easy to put together.

The recipe says to cook the tuna 30 seconds per side and it barely seared the tuna, which was fine by us. If you want a little more crust I'd say 45-60 seconds per side. The dressing was delicious, although the recipe made a ton of it. I used maybe half for the salad, although it was just the two of us and this recipe feeds four. I couldn't think of anything to serve with the tuna then it dawned on me to make cold sesame noodles.

The noodles were rich and peanut-buttery. Absolutely delicious. This was a wonderful meal. I can't wait to make it again for another special occasion.

Tuna Tataki
Wolfgang Puck

1/2 cup minced ginger
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1/2 pound very fresh, sushi-grade ahi tuna
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons peanut oil, for searing
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 medium-size, ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, quartered and sliced
2 cups mixed greens
12 thin slices red onion
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced
Ginger Sauce, recipe follows

On a shallow plate, mix together the ginger, sesame seeds, and cracked black pepper. Season the tuna with salt.

Make 1/2-inch deep slices in the tuna, every 1/4 to 1/2-inch or so to make it easier to slice at the end. Roll the tuna in the ginger mixture, pressing lightly so the mixture sticks to the tuna.

Place a saute pan over high heat. Add the oil and sear the tuna on all sides, about 30 seconds per side. Remove the tuna from the pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with lime juice. Pour the lime juice over the tuna.

In a bowl combine the avocado, greens, red onion, and tomato. Toss with some of the Ginger Sauce. Slice the tuna, following the incisions made earlier. Place some of the dressed greens on 4 plates. Top with sliced tuna and drizzle with some more of the ginger sauce.

Ginger Sauce

1 small shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup lime juice
1/3 cup olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the shallot, ginger, a few grinds pepper, soy sauce, and lime juice. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and set aside. When ready to serve, whisk thoroughly to combine.

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Big Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

The last time I made these Big Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies they came out flat and crispy, which wasn't at all what I was going for. I asked around and it turns out the recipe I was using (which has made the rounds on lots of blogs and my cooking board) leaves out a crucial step. Since it calls for melted butter you need to refrigerate the dough before baking so the butter has a chance to reharden. This batch of cookies:

... looked like bakery-quality, if you ask me. We all know I don't bake that often so I was really impressed with these cookies. My batch of dough made 16 nice, big cookies.

I brought them to SP's brother's house on Sunday for a meet-and-greet with our nephew who was born in December and they were a huge hit. Now that I know the missing step these will be my go-to cookie recipe from now on.

Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
From Allrecipes (with the addition of one step)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Place the dough on a large piece of wax paper, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to one day.

Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, rotating the sheets halfway through the cooking time, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
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On Friday I made calzones so I could use up some ricotta cheese leftover from when we made eggplant rollatini.

I had planned to just do pepperoni and olives in the filling, but when I was looking for the mozzarella in the cheese drawer I found some deli ham that needed to be used up. I diced the ham and mixed it with 2 cups ricotta, grated Pecorino cheese, diced mozzarella, diced pepperoni and sliced black olives. I tasted for seasoning and added salt and pepper and once it tasted right I added one beaten egg.

I stuffed half the filling into each round of dough (I cut one of my frozen doughs in half then rolled both halves out until they were nice and thin), then folded the other half over and crimped the edges. The whole calzone got a brush of oil and more grated cheese, then went into a 550 degree oven for about 15 minutes until the crust was golden brown.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches and Fries

It's been awhile since we had anything with Frank's hot sauce on it so I thought buffalo chicken sandwiches would be good.

I served them with blue cheese dressing, some romaine lettuce and fries.
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Texas BBQ Chicken Quesadillas and Mexican Sour Cream Rice

When I took my first bite of Jenn's Texas BBQ chicken quesadillas at my lunch with friends a few weeks ago I knew SP would love them. I put them on the menu for this week:

...along with Brooke's Mexican sour cream rice:

Just look at that filling, all the gorgeous chicken pieces and sweet caramelized onions:

The spiciness of the rice paired beautifully with the sweetness from the caramelized onions and the tanginess of the BBQ sauce. This meal will definitely be making it to the regular rotation. Thanks Jenn and Brooke!

Mexican Sour Cream Rice
Slightly modified from ...and a cookie for dessert

1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chile peppers
2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring the rice and chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.

In the pot with the cooked rice, mix the sour cream, green chile peppers, 1 cup pepper Jack cheese, corn, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish, and top with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Artichoke Alfredo Sauce

Remember the artichoke alfredo sauce I last made over a year ago? I loved this stuff, which tastes like hot artichoke dip, but SP wasn't a huge fan. I actually bought the canned artichoke hearts for this dish a few weeks ago and they've been sitting on the counter ever since. Every time I put it on the menu SP would find a way to stop me from making it. I finally decided to make it tonight and hope for the best.

And, surprisingly, he liked it. Now granted it isn't his favorite dish and won't be on the regular rotation, but his biggest complaint - the tough, papery leaves on the artichoke hearts I used last time - wasn't an issue this time. I think I bought an off brand that time because all the hearts were soft and tender in this batch. If you like artichokes you'll love this sauce.
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Eggplant Rollatini and Caesar Salad

I know I say it a lot, but I love freezer meals. I love making something on a weekend when I have plenty of time, freezing it and then taking it out on a weeknight. All the casserole dishes in my freezer are like little treasures to me. Freezing meals lets us enjoy something like eggplant rollatini on a Monday.

I was in the mood for red sauce so I took the rollatini I made earlier this month out to defrost on Sunday. When I got home on Monday I simply preheated the oven and cooked it covered for 30 minutes to warm through.

We loved the Caesar salad from Saturday so much that I made another batch of dressing and we had more salad with the rollatini:

I will never buy bottled Caesar again. It's so easy to make at home and I like knowing exactly what's in it.
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Sun Cat

It's been awhile since I posted a photo of our cat. On Sunday it was warm and sunny, so he took up residence near the open slider door:

Doesn't he look comfy?
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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Breakfast Pizza

I've been meaning to make this recipe for breakfast pizza since I saw it in the NY Times magazine back in August 2008. I finally had a chance today and I'm sorry I didn't make it sooner. Amazing is the only word that comes to mind.

I had taken dough out of the freezer on Thursday for dinner on Friday, but it was a long day and we ended up going out instead. SP wanted steak last night so I was at a loss for what to do with the dough. That's when I remembered the breakfast pizza.

Here's the pizza before baking. My only complaint was the egg whites didn't completely cook despite the pizza being nicely golden-brown and the yolks almost over-medium. I might need to spread the whites out a bit more for even cooking.

SP was thrilled with this pizza so I know it'll make a repeat appearance soon. The original recipe calls for making your own dough, but since I buy my dough I'm showing you how I made it in the recipe below.

Breakfast Pizza
NY Times Magazine August 10, 2008

1 ball of pizza dough
6 strips bacon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup grated mozzarella
4 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1/2 shallot, minced

Let dough come to room temperature before rolling. Set a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 550 degrees (or as high as your oven will go).

Cook the bacon until crisp (I use my toaster oven set to 400 degrees). Cool on a paper-towel-lined plate; roughly chop.

On a lightly floured countertop, pat the dough into a disc then roll with a rolling pin into a circle. To make it easier to transfer to the pizza stone if you don't have a pizza peel, place the dough on a sheet of parchment paper before adding the toppings. Sprinkle the dough with the Parmesan, mozzarella and bacon. Crack the eggs into a dish and then pour onto the dough. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the pizza stone from the oven and carefully transfer the pizza to the stone using the parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating after 5 minutes. When the crust is golden, the cheese is melted and the egg yolks are cooked, remove the stone from the oven and transfer the pizza to a cutting board. Sprinkle with the parsley, scallions and shallot. Let cool for 2 minutes, slice and serve immediately.
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Grilled Steak, Mashed Potatoes and Caesar Salad

The weather was downright warm yesterday so SP decided to break out the grill. He picked up a few sirloin steaks that we cooked on a very hot charcoal grill simply seasoned with salt and pepper:

They got a nice char on the outside but were perfectly rare on the inside. I also made mashed potatoes with scallions and grated cheddar cheese. We're growing tired of our usual veggies, so SP suggested Caesar salad:

I had to combine two recipes for the dressing because we were out of Dijon mustard. I tossed the dressing with chopped romaine lettuce and croutons.

Caesar Salad Dressing

1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons anchovy paste (or 2 anchovy filets)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1/2 cup mayo
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Combine lemon juice, anchovy paste, cheese, mayo, garlic, white wine vinegar and Worcestershie sauce in blender. Blend until smooth and then drizzle in oil while blender is on. Season with salt and pepper.
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Pasta with Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

I saw this recipe for pasta with roasted garlic cream sauce on Food alla Puttanesca and knew it would be a hit at our house. I decided to add broccoli and chicken to make it a full meal.

Easy and very tasty, with plenty of roasted garlic flavor. This is definitely a keeper.

Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce
Slightly modified from Elizabeth's Cooking by way of Food alla Puttanesca

1 head garlic, roasted
Olive oil
1 cup cream or half & half
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more at the table
Red pepper flakes, optional
2 broccoli crowns cut into bite-sized pieces
2 chicken breasts
1 lb pasta

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Cut the garlic head in half lengthwise. Place each half on a sheet of tin foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, let sit about 5 minutes, and then open the tin foil to let the garlic cool.

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add butter and once melted, add flour and cook 1 minute. Add cream and milk, whisking to break up any lumps. Add minced garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to just boiling, then reduce heat to low. Add cheese and whisk until smooth.

Once the roasted garlic is cool, squeeze the garlic out of the papery skin. Mash with a fork and add to the cream sauce and whisk together. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

While the sauce is woking, cook the pasta according to package directions. About 4 minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccoli. Once cooked, drain and set aside.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add a little oil to the skillet and cook the chicken through, about 5 minutes per side. Once the chicken is cooked, cut it into bite-size pieces.

Toss the pasta, broccoli and chicken with the sauce. Add more cheese just before serving.
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Cuban Sandwiches

I wanted an easy dinner this week so I put Cuban sandwiches on the menu.

We had them with Terra chips. I love these sandwiches because they're so easy and delicious.
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Mushroom Soup

Last Sunday I made a big pot of soup for dinner later in the week. I saw this recipe for Mushroom Soup on Katie's blog and knew it would be a winner since SP is a huge mushroom lover. Here's the pot after I added the mixed mushrooms, thyme (which I subbed for the sage), onions, shallots and garlic:

The end product isn't as pretty as I wanted it to be, but it still tasted great.

I always serve soup with crusty bread for dipping.
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Sausage, Peppers and Onions

We went next door for the Super Bowl to hang out with our neighbors. SP wanted to make something fun so he made a huge pot of his delectable sauce for sausage, peppers and onions.

After the sauce cooked for awhile he added cut sausage and sliced green and red peppers and sweet onions to cook. It was absolutely fantastic on soft, pillowy rolls.
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Potato Slabs

I saw this recipe for Potato Slabs on Amber's blog recently and thought it would be perfect to bring next door for Super Bowl Sunday.

They were a big hit and really easy to make. I'm sure this will be a party staple from now on.

Potato Slabs
Amber's Delectable Delights

2 russet potatoes
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Paprika, to taste
1/3 cup colby-jack cheese
5 slices of bacon, cooked and diced
Green onions for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375.

Clean and scrub potatoes well. Slice the potatoes into 1/4" thick slices. Place potatoes on lightly buttered baking sheet and season each side with salt, black pepper, and paprika. Cook for 30 minutes. Flip potatoes over and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and place a pinch of cheese and bacon on top of each potato slab. Return the pan to the oven and cook until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Serve with green onions and sour cream.

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Friday, February 06, 2009


Last Saturday we went to see our friend's son in a play. We met up with C & T and H & T and H's son C for dinner at Aikou, an Asian restaurant near where they all live. T had a spicy tuna avocado salad to start:

I snagged a bite of the tuna and avocado and it was spicy, creamy and delicious. I started with a Godzilla roll (spicy crunchy tuna topped with avocado and red tobiko):

One of my new favorite dishes is crispy jumbo shrimp with honey, walnuts and lemon cream sauce. We got two orders to share between me, SP, T & C since we all love it so much.

SP got two sushi rolls, eel and avocado (on the right) and spicy tuna (on the left):

C loves their Thai basil fried rice with shrimp so we all split an order of that as well:

So much good food, so little stomach space. I wish this place was closer to us, but it's probably a good thing that it isn't or we'd be there once a week (and very poor because of it).
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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Lunch with Friends

Back in December I got together with four of my friends for a holiday lunch. We had such a fantastic time we decided to do it again in January, this time with a Mexican theme. Jenn was the host this time and she made delicious Texas chicken quesadillas to eat as an appetizer:

... along with chips, salsa and Colleen's garlicky guacamole:

I'm a sucker for guacamole and this was outstanding.

Colleen also made a delicious baked Santa Fe cheesy dip:

We inhaled most of the appetizers before we remembered we had more food waiting in the kitchen. I brought my friend Melissa's Spanish rice:

Lauren was in charge of the main course and she brought a fantastic taco bake with lots of cheesy goodness:

After we were stuffed silly we still had more eating to do. Brooke brought Mexican chocolate crunch brownies for dessert:

We all had a great time with lots of delicious food, good conversation and lots of laughs. Thanks again to Jenn for hosting. I can't wait for the next get-together!
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Pan Pizzas

I'm sorry for the lousy photos (still figuring out the new camera) but you get the basic idea. On Friday I made pan pizzas:

... one with pepperoni:

... and one with bacon and sliced garlic:

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Sweet and Sour Chicken Redux

The last time I made sweet & sour chicken the sauce was so thick I couldn't toss it with the chicken. But since the flavors were good, SP asked that I try again. I think I'm about three-quarters of the way to perfecting this dish.

This time the sauce was a little too thin and the chicken wasn't as crispy as last time. I should have thickened the sauce more but I was a little gun-shy. Instead of broccoli I decided to saute some peppers and onions and mix that with pineapple chunks, in keeping with how they serve this dish in restaurants.
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Ginger, Scallion and Garlic Shrimp

Since we had some shrimp in the freezer SP asked for one of our favorites, Ginger, Scallion and Garlic Shrimp.

I love this dish because not only are the flavors fantastic, it's really easy to make. As always, I used way more scallions then the recipe calls for and probably twice as much garlic and ginger. I couldn't resist taking a photo of the pan full of juicy shrimp:

Quick tip - Be sure to drain the eggwhite and cornstarch marinade before you add the shrimp to the pan, otherwise there will be too much liquid and the shrimp won't get a nice crust.
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