Friday, April 29, 2011

We were talking/about the love we all could share/when we find it/To try our best to hold it there/with our love - Tacos and grilled chicken

I don't have a lot to say about these last two meals, really. Earlier this week I had no idea what I wanted to make for dinner and I started thinking about what was in the freezer, in the pantry, and in the refrigerator. I realized I could make tacos, albeit with French lentils rather than any other beans. So, I browned some ground beef with chili powder. When it was cooked, I added about a tablespoon of masa and little bit of water to make a thick sauce around the meat. Because I was feeling lazy, even about assembling the tacos, I mixed the cooked lentils into the beef. We had soft flour tortillas, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream, grated sharp cheddar, and homemade salsa verde. They were pretty satisfying.
On another day, I didn't have an overt cravings, but the Boy was headed to the grocery store so I looked up the Schnucks add online and saw that whole chickens, cut up, were on sale for a very charming 99 cents a pound. As it was finally a nice day, weatherwise, it had to be grilled chicken, and unlike usual, I wanted it slathered in barbecue sauce. The Boy has an aversion to getting his hands messy while eating, but sometimes I just make him deal with it. I also made a quick potato salad (steamed red potatoes, diced onion, celery, mayo, salt and pepper) and grilled some corn on the cob. Really, there's nothing like barbecued chicken. Sticky and delicious.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I know you respect me/You won't reject me/And the arrow of our love is straight and true - grilled steak, peanut sauce roasted potatoes

It was such a fleeting instance that I can't even remember what put me in mind of spicy peanut sauce today, but suddenly I knew that it would make an appearance at dinner, somehow. Since it was, finally, a nice day with warm temperatures plus no rain, I wanted to cook something on the grill. After rooting around in the freezer, I pulled out a piece of sirloin. Mmmmm...beef! I usually want some kind of potatoes with steak so I started thinking about how I could incorporate peanut sauce into a potato dish. A quick Google of "potatoes and peanut sauce" didn't really return any results that were relevant (most of the recipes seemed to be made with sweet potatoes) except for a link to a blog entry about a Thai salad. It involved many more ingredients than I wanted or needed, but it did inspire me a little. First I made a little bed of greens (hydroponic lettuce and rocket/arugula from my own container gardens - woo hoo, I love using stuff I've grown!), then topped the greens with potatoes that I had cubed, tossed with a little canola oil and steak seasoning and then roasted at 425F for a short while. After that I drizzled on peanut sauce that I had made from a couple tablespoons of chunky peanut butter, rice vinegar, sesame oil, siracha, garlic and some hot water (until it got to the desired consistency).
The steak was simple and the corn even more so. I sprinkled the steak with grill seasoning (I love all those litle jars of grill seasoning mixes, but the steak seasoning is really, really good) and threw it on he grill. I like my corn on the cob as simple as possible, so I just husk them and but the naked cobs right on the grill. I like the bit of charring that gets on the corn. It turns sweet corn so delicious with this mixed taste of traditionally cooked corn on the cobb with an almost popcorn taste.
I'm so glad the rain has finally stopped, though I fear it shall be back tomororw. At any rate, it was nice to see some blue sky today. Perhaps there will be more grilling tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

No more will I shop around, baby/I know I've got the best thing in town, baby

I am a victim of my whims and cravings. I know that I should make a menu plan each week, shop for that plan and do my cooking accordingly. Well, lady magazines tell me I should do that, though I'm not quite clear on the reasons. Budgetary? Time maintenance? Whatever. I've tried it and I can't do it. Because I will see a photo, or read about a friend's menu, I see some irresistible ingredient at the grocery store, or a host of other happenstance circumstances and suddenly there is something I must have for dinner/lunch/dessert. My method may result in the occasional evening where I'm completely stumped as to what to make for dinner, but I'm not giving up my capricious ways.

The other day, the Scottish Correspondent was talking about a pub he might be visiting so I looked up their menu. A soup listed as Spanish chorizo tomato caught my fancy, as did a description of what pretty much seemed like cheese fries. As it was a chilly, damp day, soup seemed like a good idea and I was pretty sure I had a package of Spanish chorizo in the refrigerator.

Of course, I have no idea of the actual ingredients of this pub's soup, but I used the idea as a starting point. I heated a tablespoon or so of olive oil and sauteed half of a sweet onion, three stalks of celery, three carrots, a green pepper and a zucchini (because I had one). After the vegetables softened, I added two small chorizo sausages, halved lengthwise and sliced. For the tomato portion I used one big can of crushed tomatoes and about three cups of tomato juice. To season the soup I used salt and pepper, a touch of oregano, a teaspoon or so of chili powder, and about a tablespoon of paprika. I let is simmer for a couple hours and it turned out quite nice. I got lazy regarding the potato portion of the meal. I had some frozen french fries which I baked and topped with melted Velveeta and chopped fresh tomatoes. It worked.

For Easter, circumstances prevented us from attending an anticipated brunch, so I was compelled to make an Easter lunch when I could. I knew I would be time-challenged, so I tried to think of things that would be quick to make. I gave Steve the choice of deviled eggs or quiche and he (surprising me) picked quiche. I can roll with it so quiche it would be. I must confess that the accompanying au gratin potatoes were made from a box. They were cheap, easy and, honestly, they tasted really good. My homemade au gratins are always lacking something and they either are a bit too done or not done enough. So I compromised. In addition, I prepared asparagus amandine by steaming the spears, browning some crushed almonds in a pan before adding some butter, the steamed asparagus, a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper. After tasting I thought it needed something else so a sprinkle of parmesan did the trick. Finally, with the help of Jiffy baking mix, I whipped up a batch of cheddar-chive biscuits (2 cups of mix, 2/3 cups milk, a handful of garlic chives and 1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar). Oh, and the quiche was made with ham, green onion, sundried tomatoes, spinach, Swiss and jack cheeses.

And then there was the cake. I got a sudden craving for coconut cake yesterday, harkening back to my many childhood Easters when my mom would always make a beautiful lamb-shaped cake covered in coconut, lying on a bed of dyed green coconut "grass." Sort of like this, though Mom's always looked way better. I used a "golden vanilla" cake mix (whatever that is) and made an icing recipe I found on - two cups of sour cream, two cups of sugar, one and a half cups of coconut. Stir together then fold in 8 oz. of Cool Whip). I was a little dubious about the frosting, but it actually ended up tasting quite nice with the cake (that turned out nearly as white as an actual white cake mix and has a texture leaning towards angel food cake).  I bought some purple Peep chicks and jelly beans to decorate and here's what I ended up with. It looks like a child decorated it, but it tastes good. (This is a rather moody photo of a silly cake, I know.)

A few days ago I had a hankering for chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles. Which, in retrospect was a bit of a crazy excursion considering the kittens can be very interested in what I'm doing at the kitchen table. And noodle making was no exception. They watched and occasionally tried to participate. I get impatient when I make noodles, though, and I tend to pile them all up for the drying up portion of the recipe. Soooooo, when it came time to put them into the soup, they were kind of stuck together in places, so the noodles weren't exactly uniform when I added them to the soup. I used stock that I had made from the last beer[soda] can chicken, and a couple of leg quarters for the meat. Chicken noodle is a pretty simple soup - onion, carrots, celery, garlic, chicken, noodles, lots of pepper. It really turned out, with the amount of noodles, more of a chicken and noodle dish than an actual chicken soup, but it was still tasty and quite hearty.
While I was poking around in the freezer looking for chicken parts, I found the tail end of a pork butt from a package of pork steaks so I popped that chunk of meat into the slow cooker after rubbing it with a spice mix. Hours later I shredded the meat and added some barbecue sauce and let it cook a little bit longer.
OK, I think I'm all caught up. Now I have to think about what's for dinner...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ca plane pour moi moi moi moi moi - Croque monsieur

Because I am highly suggestible, I could think of nothing except croque monsieur sandwiches since Steph posted a photo of one she had in Paris. Yesterday circumstances (being dead tired) prevented me from making them, but today nothing could stop me. Technically this is probably a croque madame provencal, which means it has an egg on top and tomatoes inside.

First thing to make was a bechamel sauce: melt butter, cook some flour, add milk. Once the sauce was thickened, I added Dijon mustard, a little worcestershire sauce, some grated cheddar and salt and pepper. To assemble the sandwiches themselves: spread one slice of bread with mustard, then add some ham, Swiss (or emantthaler or gruyere), tomato slices (but only if they are very ripe) and top with a couple of spoons of the sauce. top with the second slice of bread and butter both sides lightly. I then toasted mine in the toaster oven, turning the sandwiches over once. Once the bread is nice and toasty, spread more bechamel on top of each sandwich in a fairly thick layer and put under the broiler. In the meantime, fry up a sunny side up egg for each sandwich you are making. Once the bechamel is bubbling and browning, remove the sandwiches from heat. Top it with an egg and you are done!

A croque monsieur is a seriously satisfying sandwich. Yum.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Meatless Monday - Vegetables and yellow rice

I will admit it, the kittens and a regular work schedule have put a crimp in my blogging. When faced with two frolicking or adorably sleeping kittens, they will always win.

But it's Meatless Monday and it must be documented, right? At Roger's produce stand in Webster, I bought my first batch of fresh okra with intentions to roast it with some chopped, fresh tomato, so tonight was that night. I cut the okra into thirds, cut the tomato into bite-sized chunks and tossed it all with olive oil, salt and pepper. After roasting for about 30 minutes (at 400F), the okra came out soft and chewy and the tomatoes were concentrated and sweet.

I hadn't made yellow rice in a while so that went on the menu too. I heated some olive oil in a large saucepan and added about a half teaspoon of annatto to saute. Then I added regular white rice and let it cook in the oil for a few minutes before adding water and some vegetable broth concentrate. Oh, and I admit I was lazy and added a bit of dried, chopped onion. To go along with the rice I sauteed half of a large sweet onion and two green peppers until soft. And I couldn't help myself and added about a teaspoon of that natural raw sugar, which took the bitterness away from the green peppers and sweetened the onion further. Heaped on top of the savory rice, they were delicious. For a nice salty jolt we each had a spoonful of alcaparrado.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

And for a minute there/I lost myself/I lost myself- Hamburgers

On Sunday, my gas grill wouldn't light and even though I replaced the propane tank (and damn, it kills me to know I returned it at least half full - grrrrrrr, hate wasting money!), it still wouldn't light. I did a little bit of research online and it sounded like I might have a busted regulator. My brother, who is light years smarter than me at anything mechanical (he will fearlessly tackle anything!), assured me that regulators seldom fail and that I just needed to unhook the tank and hook it back up again. Since I had just hooked up this new tank, I didn't think that would work, so I didn't try it again. So today I bought the replacement part and decided to give it a go.

When I got it home, I thought I'd give my brother's trick another shot before I attempted any mechanics. Et voila! it worked. No repair needed. To celebrate: burgers! For an accompaniment I thought I would skip the usual potatoes and make some egg noodles, topped with ricotta cheese and lemon zest, and a salad. I was seriously craving honey mustard dressing, but didn't have any. Who knew it was as easy as mayo, lemon juice, honey and mustard? But it is!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Best pizza I've ever made? Possibly - Meatless Monday white pizza

During the last of too many trips to/from the auto shop today {After dropping off my car we got less than two blocks from home before I realized I had left my laptop in the back seat, so all the way back. Happy ending is that my car was repaired for free - I highly recommend Schaefer Auto Care for honesty and excellent work.} I thought it would be a good idea to make some lemon pepper pappardelle and a ricotta cheese sauce for Meatless Monday's dinner. By the time I got to the grocery store, a white pizza sounded even better.

I made my crust out of that pizza yeast, a little sugar, water, salt and some flour. I never measure a thing when I make crust, thus my crusts always turn out a little different with each pizza. I'm okay with that. Consistency isn't crucial, just good taste, as far as I'm concerned.

Once I got the crust all stretched out, I spread some extra virgin olive oil to the edges, then spooned out the ricotta, trying to get it evenly spread. The other day I slow roasted some roma tomato slices for some BLTs I took to a party. (And damn, even a lousy out of season tomato tastes amazing this way - preheat oven to 350F, slice tomatoes, lay slices on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and salt. After turning the temp down to 300F, roast the tomatoes for about an hour, until the edges begin browning.) Luckily I remembered I had some of those tomatoes leftover and added them on top of the ricotta. Then a layer of mozzarella and a grating of some fresh parmesan before baking in a 400F oven for about 25 minutes.

I had also bought a bunch of rocket/arugula for the BLTs and had a bunch leftover. Somewhere on the rocket container, it mentioned tossing the raw greens on top of a freshly baked pizza. Within just a minute, they had started wilting a bit and releasing their pungent aroma.

I've made a lot of pizzas and I've enjoyed most of them, but I think this was absolutely the best pizza I've ever made. It just all came together so nicely. And look how pretty it was!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What's for tea mum?/What's for tea darling?/Darling, I said what's for tea? - Oven barbecued chicken, baked beans, slaw

I woke up today craving baked beans. And then realizing that I had never made baked beans from scratch. Thus, a goal for the day was set. Since it was also ridiculously warm, I figured it would be prudent to grill outside. Chicken thighs seemed just the thing. Since I also found cabbage on sale this morning, I wanted to make another batch of cole slaw (mayo, sugar, rice vinegar, pepper, cabbage, carrots) to go alongside.

I mostly followed this recipe for the beans, except I added some chopped green pepper and a little hot sauce. Oh, and I skipped the bacon and instead cooked a couple of ham hocks with the beans and then chopped up a little of the ham for the baking portion of the recipe; plus I added about 1/4 cup of ketchup. They turned out quite tasty, though I might have baked them for slightly too long.

When it came time for the grilling, it turned out the grill was malfunctioning (which also means I returned a half full tank today thinking that it was empty - boo) so I had to resort to oven cooking for the chicken thighs. I sprinkled them with burger seasoning (hey, that's what it's called) and baked them at 350F for about 40 minutes, turning them a couple of times. At the end, I added a little sauce to bake on a bit. Not quite as good as actually being grilled, but it was pretty tasty.

Next challenging task is to buy a replacement part and attempt to repair my grill...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Meatless Monday - Portobello burgers, sweet potato fries and mushroom tortellini salad

In a rare turn of events, the Boy actually made a specific request for Meatless Monday. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but he very seldom has anything one would remotely call a craving, so I am always happy to indulge it when it happens. He wanted portobello burgers, so that's what he got today. As usual, I marinated the mushrooms in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and grill spices for an hour or so before cooking on the indoor grill. I served them on whole wheat thin buns with mayo, Swiss cheese and fresh spinach.
For the sides, I made baked sweet potato fries - peel, slice, toss with oil, salt and pepper, bake at 450F for about 25-30 minutes. That's it! Today I found some Italian dried mushroom tortellini and visions of pasta salad danced in my head. I thawed some frozen peas, cut us grape tomatoes, and made a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic and fresh parsley. Before chilling for a bit, I tossed everything with a palmful of grated parmesan.

If only I could get the Boy to be more aware of his cravings.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A knife a fork and memories/a light to see it all/you didn't leave me anything/that I can understand

The advent of work and kittens has given me less unencumbered time, so I'm a little behind in chronicling the Tiny Montgomery eats. A little weekend wrap up is in order.

On Friday, our friend Deb was coming over to meet the kittens and visit. I wanted to make something fairly simple for dinner, mainly because I was worried the kittens would be attempting to climb into our food (as they are wont to do). After I got done with work I ran to the grocery store and it was obvious at that point that the day was getting colder and gloomier so soup was on my mind. I had made chicken stock a few days earlier and chicken noodle came to mind. However, when gliding past the meat case, I saw a lovely meaty piece of beef soup bone and I was suddenly thinking of nice, comforting lentils. When I got home, I roasted the beef with some thyme to impart more flavor. After sauteeing some onions, mushrooms, and celery, I added the beef, water to cover, salt and pepper and a few sliced carrots. I used regular lentil and I like them to get rather mushy, so I left the pot to cook for a couple hours (at a very low heat). Then I removed the bones, shredded the now-tender meat and returned it to the pot.

I didn't feel like making a salad, but I did have half a cabbage and thought cole slaw sounded good. At first I was leaning towards an oil and vinegar dressing but my natural instincts took hold and I went with a traditional mayo/sugar/vinegar dressing and added a shredded carrot for some color.  To go alongside I baked some easy cheddar/chive biscuits (baking mix, milk, sour cream, shredded cheddar and chopped chives). They didn't raise as much as I would have liked, but they tasted good.
On Saturday night I was literally trapped  beneath two very needy kittens for, well, hours; when Steve got home at 9:30 I still hadn't even started dinner. Of course, I already had a plan of action: leftover lentil soup and a salad made with the leftovers from the earlier steakapalooza. It took about 15 minutes to get ready so all was well. Honestly, the ribeyes were better cold, on a salad, than they had been a few nights before.

It was such a beautiful day today I wanted to grill outside and a package of boneless pork country ribs was calling to me. Unfortunately, after trying to start the grill, it turned out we were out of propane. Quick change of cooking plans and the ribs were placed under the broiler of the fantastic new/old toaster oven. Have I mentioned how much I love that vintage toaster oven? It makes the absolute best toast, among other things. Anyway, I seasoned the ribs with a grill seasoning mix before broiling and then topping with some barbecue sauce. They were juicy and tender and really tasty. As our sides, I sauteed a red pepper and some broccoli with a little soy sauce until tender. And I halved new red potatoes and fried them face down till they were brown and crunchy on the outside and creamy inside. A little sprinkle of fancy ass pink salt and they were simple and perfect.