Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Penne and Meatballs

When you get a craving, you have to go with it. Today I was craving marinara and meatballs, so that's what was for dinner. For the meatballs, add one egg, some Italian breadcrumbs, onion, garlic and oregano and mix thoroughly. Form balls and brown in a deep skillet. I got mine all browned on the outside before I added bottled sauce (so kill me, I didn't have time to start from scratch) and let it all simmer for 45 minutes or so. I'm not a huge fan of meatballs and spaghetti so I used penne rigate instead.  It hit the spot.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

She cut him down to her favourite size/She pads, paws, pads, paws and claws - Ribeye steak and kittens!

Well, the inevitable happened. Though we really didn't discuss it much, it became clear that neither of us could bear the thought of giving up Boomer. And since Starbuck was sent off to another foster home today to await a nice couple who wants he and his brother, we couldn't imagine sending Apollo into the world on her own. So we bit the bullet and officially adopted Boomer and Apollo. Hurrah! It's been so long since we've had kittens that every moment with them is a surprise and a joy. They are the most loving, adorable and playful kittens and they simply make life better.

To celebrate we had ridiculously ginormous ribeye steaks for dinner. I roasted some baby red potatoes (crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside!) and some asparagus to go alongside. In case you were wondering, neither of us could finish our steaks!

Gardening Update: Seedlings still sprouting and growing!

 These dill seedlings seem awfully frail but I suppose they will thicken up.
 I love the way these cucumber sprouts are point towards the sun (actually all the seedlings are).
 Green beans here we come!
 More dill, thyme and basil!
Nasturtiums, the 6 foot and 12 inch varieties. I hope these do well because I love love love nasturtiums. Such beautiful foliage and flowers plus they are edible!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Add some butter and some milk, it goes down as smooth as silk/It's ma-acaroni and cheese - Mac and cheese

It's Meatless Monday and today I was thinking of a creamy macaroni and cheese more than anything else. I also knew I had Swiss cheese so I thought I'd go with that. I made a simple bechamel and added a little nutmeg, salt, pepper and cayenne, tossed in the cheese and finally mixed in the macaroni and edamame (for a little added protein). I toasted some panko bread crumbs in some butter and garlic and topped the pasta before putting it into the oven to brown. In retrospect, I wish I would have remembered to add a little pinch of dry mustard to the bechamel to give it a bit more of a kick.

For a salad I combined baby spinach, baby red romaine, sliced carrots, Granny Smith apple chunks and walnuts with a poppyseed dressing.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

(Too lazy to look up vaguely relevant lyrics) - Warm salad with egg

I thought about making this salad for dinner all day. I would use baby greens, then crisp up leftover potatoes and chunks of pork roast to put over the greens, drizzle with a mustardy dressing and top with a runny egg, French style. I envisioned making a tangy dijon vinaigrette, but when it finally rolled around to dinner time, I was too lazy and used bottled honey mustard dressing instead. I always love a runny egg, and I have grown quite fond of warm salads. It somehow feels more like a meal when it's warm. I don't know why.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

If I should live to be ninety, I will never forget/The little shrimp and the song he sang as he jumped into the net - Shrimp and asparagus pasta

I didn't really feel like cooking tonight, but I did have an idea earlier, when we were at the grocery store, to make a pasta with shrimp and asparagus. So I had to finally tear myself away from the kittens (though the bold Starbuck eventually followed me in there - brave little cat!). This took about 25 minutes to make, total and by the time it was done, I was hungry. 

First I blanched the asparagus in boiling, salted water, then I heated olive oil, added the raw shrimp and three fat cloves of garlic. Once the shrimp was almost done, I added the drained asparagus, salt and pepper and cooked for a few minutes longer. Then I added the cooked fettuccini, a bunch of grated parmesan and it was done. Easy peasy. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

We're so wonderfully wonderfully wonderfully/Wonderfully pretty/Oh you know that I'd do anything for you - braised pork loin and kittens!

The last half of this week got a bit hectic so some meals have gone unrecorded. There wasn't too much of note, really, foodwise, other than this ice cream sundae we had for dessert last night - vanilla ice cream, freshly made salted caramel sauce and crumbled bacon. I had hoped a bit that it wouldn't taste that great because frankly, I don't really need an ice cream craving that is worse, calorically, than just regular ice cream. However, it really, really worked; the creamy sweet ice cream, the very slightly salty (but still very sweet) caramel and the salty, smokey bacon combined into a suprisingly complex flavor. Can't wait to have another one tonight.

There are three reasons for the hectic (in the best way) days and they are named (for now, anyway) Boomer, Apollo and Starbuck. We are fostering three six-week old kittens for Tenth Life Cat Rescue run by my friend Elizabeth Frick and her husband Adam. It's a wonderful operations, run on a shoestring, but taking in some very, very special cases in addition to kittens and cats who simply need [new] homes. I had been resisting doing foster work because I was afraid I'd get too attached and because Olive, our senior cat, generally hates other cats. Still, when presented with three adorable kittens earlier this week, I finally had to say yes. No regrets yet. These are three of the snuggliest, sweetest little things I've ever seen. Every single thing they do is cute, even pooping. For proof, here's Boomer:
And Apollo:
And Starbuck:
And yes, I was a complete nerd and named them after Battlestar Galactica characters.

Today I had to lure them into their crate with canned food and a fleece shirt of mine as bedding material so I could get some things done without them being underfoot. As it was, I was made immobile for quite some time, with kittens piled and snoozing on me. At any rate, I managed to get a pork loin, braised with red wine and potatoes and onions, into the oven. It baked at 250F for about 2.5 hours, ending up juicy and tender.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Well, she took me to the river/Where she cast a spell/And in that Southern moonlight/She sang this song so well - Soda can chicken

As usual, the sales at the grocery store today made my dinner decisions for me. Whole chickens on sale for 69 cents a pound, and nice weather could only mean beer can chicken. As far as vegetables go, my produce department 'clearance' rack obsession hit pay dirt today. I got two bunches of rapini (I LOVE rapini), two bags of a fresh green bean medley, a large package of zucchini and yellow squash, and two packages of oyster mushrooms. Gosh I love that rack! It was all plenty fresh and super cheap.

When I meandered over to the beer aisle to find a cheap six-pack for the chicken, I was surprised to find no 12 oz. six-packs. There were plenty of 12-packs and a few six-packs of tall boys. Weird. I didn't want to buy a 12-pack of beer that I wouldn't drink and the Boy wouldn't like, so I spotted the section of flavored sodas and settled on a pineapple orange one. I've never really noticed the taste of the beer in a beer can chicken so I figured it would work.

Since I was using pineapple orange soda, I thought teriyaki flavors would work. To prepare the chicken for those flavors, I rubbed it with salt, pepper and garlic and sprinkled the cavity with salt. I poured out half of the soda and then added garlic powder, onion powder and a lot of black pepper before propping the chicken up on the can. Midway through cooking, I glazed it with a teriyaki glaze mixed with a bit of orange juice and some lime juice.

Here's the little darling, about two-thirds of the way towards done. Yeah, I gave her a smiling face and a hat.

And here is the end result, with brown rice and sauteed squash.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lil' Thrift

I had a thrifting feeling today and experienced thrifters know that when you have the feeling you must answer the call. My feeling specifically was about St. Vincent dePaul and I did all right. I think what karma wanted me to find was  the bright pinkish red vintage Scottish mohair throw that the lady in front of me bought for $3. Damn damn damn. I don't think she even really knew what she had. I missed it by a matter of minutes. At any rate, here's what I got today.

Since this is flameproof, I think it will be perfect for heating up syrup.

The Boy loves nothing more than catering to my very specific requests about eating utensils. When I get a new (well, vintage) fork/spoon/knife I insist on only using it/them and he can never remember which one I want. Well, with five new forks, it should be a little easier on him.

I actually took a little time to look at books today and found some interesting ones. I wonder if that "Waiting for the End" one is famous/notorious?

And because Mr. Porter has been a topic of conversation lately and this sheet music book was so pretty, I had to have it.

After St. Vincent's I ran over to Big Lots and found a padded laptop case for only $10. Score!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Just dragonflies/Flying to the side/No one gets hurt/You're doing nothing wrong - Bacon-wrapped cod and peanut noodles

It was a splendidly gorgeous day today in St. Louis. The sun was shining, a gentle breeze blew and it was just north of 80F. Pretty much perfect as far as weather goes.

Discussion came up, on Facebook, of peanut noodles*. As I've been having peanut butter cravings lately, they seemed like an excellent idea. Alongside some bacon-wrapped cod cooked on the grill in the waning minutes of daylight, we had dinner. Sadly, the cod looks better than it tasted. I spread the filets with sweet chili sauce, rolled them around asparagus, then wrapped it up in bacon. You would have thought there'd be more flavor, but it was a little bland; not terrible, but not great. Lesson learned!

*Peanut butter, seasoned rice vinegar, chili sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, hot water. Mix, pour over cooked, rinsed noodles along with sliced green onions.

Thrift store and more on a gorgeous Sunday, the first day of Spring...

We haven't been to the Fenton Value Village for weeks and weeks and since it was a perfect day for a nice drive, that's where our thrifting nose took us today. And we were not disappointed. Steve got a pile of books I didn't bother photographing and I got some great stuff. We even spent $40 which is outrageous in the Pick world of thrifting. But nothing was really a splurge; there was just a lot of good stuff.

This hat, for example:
 And this clear Lucite ice bucket - so mod!
Someone went to the Virgin Islands and all someone else got was these [lousy? no way!] trays:
Spice rack, bought mainly for the jars and because it cost less than $2!
I cannot resist a vintage gold purse, so I didn't. And a new silver makeup case and a Chanel-ish belt to wear around the hips.
I don't know how they function, but the form of these salad tongs is pretty amazing. Hopefully you can see that they are gold glitter Lucite!
My friend Elizabeth requested that I find her something ridiculously catty. This planter appeared early in the trip.
Three little bowls to match the pattern I've painted on the refrigerator!
Someone had stuffed this muumuu (or what my Grandma Brockmire would have called a housedress) into the middle of the winter coats, but the fabric was so incredible that it caught my eye and I snatched it up. The muumuu itself isn't in particularly good shape, but the fabric is fine, in more ways than one.
For the penultimate find, a full-sized gorgeously coral-y pink chenille bedspread. I cannot turn down vintage linens, reasonably priced.
And last but certainly not least, an oh so alluring (to me, anyway - I couldn't look away!) GE Versatron Bake-Broil-Toast oven. It's so beautiful in its utilitarian way with the turquoise, coral and light orange labels. And I love the metal, wood-grained top. And it was less than $4! And it works!

What more can you ask for on the first day of Spring?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

But you tease, and you flirt/And you shine all the buttons on your green shirt/You can please yourself but somebody's gonna get it - Tikil gomen

We're not big corned beef and cabbage fans here at Pick headquarters. In fact, the Boy does not like it one bit. And while I did not wear a whit of green today to celebrate the famous snake hater, I thought it might be a good day for this recipe, which I came across earlier in the week.

I have had some delicious Ethiopian food (though I hate injera, that awful sour spongey bread), including the best collard greens ever, but I haven't had any in a long while. Tikil gomen is basically cabbage, carrots, onion and potatoes with cumin, turmeric and lots of black pepper and a good deal of olive oil. The sweetness of the carrots and cabbage mixed with the savory spices makes and the olive oil makes for a very unctuous and delicious bite. Even the Boy declared it a work of genius, despite the fact that he was dismayed when he heard he was having cabbage for dinner.

This is the recipe I used, except that I doubled the spices (and about 1.5 times the salt).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I feel good in a special way/I'm in love and it's a sunny day - Teriyaki chicken

I spent the vast majority of my day today outside; first at work, then at home doing some seed planting, and finally raking up the layer of dead leaves (why didn't they decompose this year???) and the embarrassingly large amount of dog poop in the yard (to my neighbors, I apologize). Around 4p, when I realized it was 4p rather than 1:30p (where did the day go?), I grabbed some chicken legs out of the freezer with absolutely no idea what I was going to do with them.

Around 6:30 the yard work was done and we were sitting outside in the waning sun, drinks in hand, feeling the chill of the evening creeping in. It seemed crazy not to fire up the grill so I threw some teriyaki marinade on the chicken and popped them on the grill. I remembered we had leftover asparagas salad and I steamed some buttery red potatoes. I chopped them up and drizzled them with olive oil (which is a really nice, really fragrant and flowery one) and sprinkled with this silly pink salt from Australia. Nice.


Seeds! Seedlings! Plants!

I tend to be very enthusiastic about gardening in the early parts of the spring and then, when it gets hot and I'm working outside for eight hours every day anyway, I become a trifle less enthusiastic. But since it's very early spring and today's excellently warm weather inspired me (not to mention the cache of seeds I got at the Drop.Swap.Grow event a couple weeks ago), I bought myself a little greenhouse seed thingie and also made up a bunch of newspaper pots (very easy - go here to learn how) and nestled them in a pot tray I got from work.

As of today I have seeds planted for basil, dill, thyme, sweet banana peppers, Tabasco peppers, bush green beans, lavender, cucumbers, hyacinth beans and sugar snap peas. Who knows what happens next?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's Time to Make the Donuts

I went to this afternoon to look for a recipe for...something. I saw a photo of a donut on the front page and things spiraled from there and I have no idea if I managed to look up what I originally went for. For a brief moment I considered making yeast/raised donuts until I remembered I didn't have any appropriate yeast, so I kept exploring until I found a cake donut recipe that sounded right and easy enough. I love cake donuts; some more than others. There used to be a place on Manchester, near Kingshighway, that had the best cinnamon cake donuts; the cake was full of nutmeg and the outside was almost crispy with just the right amount of  cinnamon sugar coating it. I added extra nutmeg to this recipe (probably about a 1/4 teaspoon, freshly grated) and these came really close. Easy peasy recipe too, taking probably only 30 minutes start to finish.

Monday, March 14, 2011

3.14 Pi Day - Meatless Monday!

Today is 3.14.11, nowadays known as Pi Day in honor of that mathematical sum or theorem or something. Wait, let me check the intarnets and see what it says. OK here we are: Pi is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any Euclidean plane circle's circumference to its diameter; this is the same value as the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius. So...whatever. I hate math. But I like pie, and that brings us to this.

Here is today's almond rocky road pie in its infancy. I made a cheater crust with pie crust mix, then pushed it into a greased pan rather than rolling the dough out. I then pre-baked the shell since this was going to be a chilled pie. After it was browned, but while still hot, I threw in a handful of vanilla marshmallows, crushed almonds and some semi-sweet chocolate chips. In the meantime, I had also made a batch of chocolate pudding (so easy to make from scratch, but I had a box mix). While it was still hot, I stirred in a few milk chocolate chips, just to up the choco content.
Working somewhat quickly, I poured the hot chocolate pudding on top of the marshmallows, nuts and chocolate. Surely the stuff melted from the heat of the hot pie shell and the hot pudding. Once it all cooled, I spread some whipped cream on top and then sprinkled with nuts and grated chocolate.
For the Meatless Monday dinner portion of Pi Day, it seemed imperative to have a pizza. I didn't have to go out today, and since this stupid snow did not make it attractive to be out in it, I needed to forage for ingredients. I only had a dab of leftover pizza sauce; I knew I had to make more. Luckily I had about half of a big can of tomato juice in the refrigerator. I added oregano, garlic, fresh basil, salt, pepper, a little raw sugar, and cayenne and simmered for a couple hours until it was reduced by more than half. I tasted it in comparison to the jarred stuff I had leftover - mine is better. Damn, now it looks like I need to make my own sauce from now on. Mushrooms, onions, kalamata olives and little blobs of pesto are the toppings.

While rummaging in the refrigerator, I came across the asparagus I bought the other day. I needed a salad idea, so I blanched the aspargus and cooled it off. Then I sauteed sliced onion in olive oil with balsamic vinegar. Once the onions were soft, I turned off the heat, dumped the asparagus back in, and added some walnuts. Oh, and a little pile of grated parmesan. Then stuck it in the fridge to chill. I love asparagus season

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Did they sing a million blessings as they watched us slowly part?/Do they keep those final kisses in their tiny racing hearts? - Vegetable soup

Today was bone chilling cold. Moreso because today was also my first day back and work and a certain portion of it was spent outside. It may have been nearly 40F, but it was really windy and there wasn't a lick of sunshine. I could feel the cold in my legs for about three hours after I got home. So, the only solution for that kind of cold is soup.

I poked around for what I had on hand and came up with hamburger for making vegetable beef soup. Add onions, carrots, celery, corn, green beans, and potatoes, plus some beef soup stock and tomato juice - you have soup. It did the trick.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cuban Sandwiches!

Roast pork leftovers means Cuban sandwiches! Roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles. Except that we don't like pickles on sandwiches so I put a little smear of tartar sauce on one side of the bread to give that pickle-y feeling. It worked! The bread I had was a softer, not too crusty, Italian sesame loaf, and I needed to find a way to make it crunchy in the end product. So, I brushed each outside with olive oil and put the sandwiches on a griddle pan, weighted by a cast iron skillet. It worked perfectly! In fact, the roof of my mouth is a little sore from the crispy, crunchy bread.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lippy kids on the corner begin settling like crows - Roast pork

The last time I bought a big package of pork steaks, the tail end of the pork butt was left unsliced. I thought it would make a good roast and today was the day to try it out. I kept it simple, just seasoning the roast on all sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. It roasted in a 375F oven for about an hour and came out juicy on the inside and just the right amount of crispy outside. I served it alongside some potatoes sauteed with green pepper and scallions and a steamed vegetable mix.

My dad loved roast pork so the smell and the flavor always remind me of him.