Busy Nights Real Food
Thursday, September 29, 2005
  A pumpkin and a meme
Well my Food TV fave came through again. We tried Rachel Ray's Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage tonight and it was a hit. We made a few changes to lighten it and they were all worked out great. I served it with Pumpernickel and lima beans (one of those hated veggies that I just love, love, love). I have no doubt this will be made again. It was really easy and had a great mellow flavor. I might leave out the cinnamon and nutmeg next time, or just actually measure so I don't over do it. I wanted to try it this first time though. So here it is and I have TONS left so looks like I will get to enjoy it again tomorrow.
Well I was tagged by Joe over at Culinary in the Desert to participate in the 23/5 meme. So here it goes. I am using a sort of selective counting method because my 23rd post was only number 23 because I posted about the hurricanes and that doesn't really count. So I jumped to number 24. The 5th sentence...

This is the 23/5 Meme.
1. Delve into your blog archive.

2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).

3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).

4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog, along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext, or hidden agendas….
Tag others to do the same.

To say the least, I was not left with a huge desire to stuff chicken breasts again.

Well, if you have read my blog long you may have realized that chicken and I are not the closest of friends. I hate how they are kind of slimyy looking when raw. I hate how they still sometimes have feathers when they are whole. I hate that weird tendon thing that is nearly impossible to cut through. I had made stuffed chicken breasts before this post and butchered that poor chicken breast. Sliced him right through. So I am working on my hatred for preparing chicken (because I actually really like to eat it). So there it is, for all to see, I lost my meme virginity. It was not as bad as I thought, and I hope it calls tomorrow.

So I pass it on now. So Jen at Speculative Musings and Sara at I Like to Cook, you all are up. Its time to share.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
  Will it rise to the occasion?
Well I had the day off today and was sure I would spend the whole day in the kitchen since I had yet to do any real cooking all week.

I woke up early and made BBQ Chicken Pizza for a recipe shower at work today. Then the rest of the day was spent trying to figure out what I would make tonight.

Well tacos or burritos were originally on the menu, but since my cousin made us enchiladas last night those didn't sound good. The rainy, cold day we had today put me in the mood for soup or chili. But really is chili really chili if is doesn't cook for like 8 hours? So soup it must be.

I looked through about 48 different soup recipes before deciding to make one I have made several times. French Onion Soup has always been one of my favorites. I even like the soggy piece of bread (though that is just a recent change in tastes). So anyways a few years ago I found a recipe for it and have been fiddling with it ever since. Tonight's was not my all time best performance, but it was still great. And of course my favorite part is the melted cheese on the sides of the soup crocks. Yummy. So what would I serve with this soup? Well I felt it was time to conquer another kitchen fear. And that I did. So did it rise as my title asks? Well...Its kind of funny looking I realize. I used a recipe from Joy of Cooking. As you can see, it doesn't really look like a regular loaf of bread. And to be honest, I have no idea why.
Well despite the funny shape, it sliced nicely and had a nice chewy texture. I think I will try a different recipe next time and see if I can find one that I have better results from. But hey, two fears down and this one I actually want to make again.
  Dream a little dream
I am sort of known for my very active sleep.

When I was little it was pretty common for my parents to wake up and find my bed empty, I was a VERY good sleep walker. I spent the night at a friends house and tried to get out their front door.

When I got to college I couldn't keep quiet. My roommates would have conversations with me while I was asleep. I might be mumbling, but I gave them some sort of response to everything they said. They would say that even though I was quite talkative when awake, I might be even more so in my sleep.

Well since leaving college I have combined the two and added a few idiosyncrasies. I still talk, and on occasion I will walk, but I now incorporate the furniture and decorations in my room. I turn, a flip, I stand in the middle of the bed, I take the big round mirror off the wall. And I remember doing these things the next morning, and know that it was part of my dream, but can't really explain why I actually act out in my sleep.

So if you have read this far you may be wondering what in the world this has to do with food. Well not much except that I dreamt about food last night and woke up this morning hungry. So since I haven't been able to cook anything fun or new this week I think today may be a cook-a-thon. What do I want to make? God only knows. Where am I going to find the time? Not a clue. But I am hoping to get some stuff frozen, some stuff to satisfy my fiance's sweet tooth, and maybe one of my cooking fears. So hopefully I can get some good stuff made tonight so I can have something more exciting to write about than my weirdo sleep habits.
Friday, September 23, 2005
  WDB #2

This is Gidget. She is 17 years old, blind, deaf, missing half her teeth and about the sweetest little miniature poodle you could ever meet. She had a brother (who was her litter mate) until about a year ago, but she is hangin' in there. This bed was her Christmas present and when she gets excited she will "spaz out" and roll all around in it. Now despite all her ailments, who couldn't love this little fluffy attack dog. She is awfully vicious as I am sure you can tell :).
Thursday, September 22, 2005
  Thing I learned from making brownies
Well, I did it. I made brownies from scratch. I feel I learned a few very important things in the process and I am going to share with you now.

#1: Any one who says that making brownies from scratch is just as easy as making them from the box has obviously never made brownies from a box. The mess alone is unbelievable.

#2: When judging the ease of a recipe, pay close attention to who is saying it is easy. If it is a site for new cooks, it is probably easy. When it is Epicurious, proceed with caution.

#3: Double boilers and the like take much longer to melt than a brownie craving can stand. When the craving hits, the less time you take to brownie the better.

#4: Brownie recipes from scratch do not plan ahead for licking the bowl or spoon. It is cruel really, who can resist a bowl full of melted chocolate (and this is coming from someone who is not a chocoholic)

#5: If you are wanting to make brownies at 10pm, scratch is not your best option. By the time they were mixed, baked and cooled, it was well past 11.


#7: Only a raving maniac could manage to get 16-25 brownies from an 8x8 pan. What good is that small of a brownie?

#8: Scratch brownies are the (real) breakfast of champions.

#9: Scratch brownies don't come out looking quite as uniform as the box kind. Mine were rather bumpy and lopsided.

and finally
#10: Scratch brownies really do taste so much better. Who would have thunk it?

Cocoa brownies have the softest center and chewiest candylike top "crust" of all because all of the fat in the recipe (except for a small amount of cocoa butter in the cocoa) is butter, and all of the sugar is granulated sugar rather than the finely milled sugar used in chocolate. Use the best cocoa you know for these fabulous brownies.

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Chocolate note: Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here. Natural cocoa produces brownies with more flavor complexity and lots of tart, fruity notes. I think it's more exciting. Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.

Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies.
November 2003
Artisan by Alice Medrich
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
  A quick night just to get LOST
Well, tonight we were trying to make dinner pretty quick so we could watch the premier of LOST. So it was chicken Caesar pitas, Feta Mashed Potatoes, hummus and pita chips. It all turned out pretty good. I was wanting the feta to melt a bit more, but the flavor was still great with wonderful little bits of feta mixed in. We went with store bought hummus, but I am working on my own version when I actually have tahini on hand.
So all this was so we could watch one of our must-see programs, LOST. Oh it was a good one. Its a show that is exciting every time I see it. I didn't really get into it until the end of last season, but I am already sucked in this season.

Well I am going now to make some brownies. This is the first time I have made brownies from scratch. I will be back later to let you know how they turn out.
Monday, September 19, 2005
  2 dishes, not an animal in sight
Well, as you may have noticed from my previous posts, it is a rare night when we don't eat some sort of meat. We are meat lovers and cutting all meat out of our diet is just not something that will happen anytime soon. That being said, I have been trying to work at least one night of meat-free meals into our menu. Tonight was the night. We had Beer Cheese Soup and Spaghetti squash.
As you may be able to tell from the picture, the soup is looking a little bit thin. And it sure was. I looked all over for recipes and decided that the fundraising cookbook from 1986 had as good a recipe as any of them. Well if you happen to know any members of the Kansas City chapter of Pilot Club in the mid-80's you might let them know that their beer cheese soup is too thin. We tried letting it cool, nothing. We tried letting it cook down at a rolling boil, nothing. The flavor was great, but I will have to play with the amount of liquid next time.

Oh well. I work 3 nights this week, so dinner will not be made too often, but I plan to throw together some other treats and maybe a few freezable servings of dinners for other late night shifts.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
  Every race needs a starting block
Ok, while I realize that this is not actually true, it fits my dinner tonight so just go with it. I made two new recipes tonight and both are good starting places, but neither was exactly what I was looking for. The first was actually a recipe for my fiance. His favorite bar food is Buffalo Chicken Strips. He orders them everywhere we go, so I found a recipe for them (with a healthy twist of course). Check it out...So the final verdict was that it needed to be a bit spicier (though he did say they were pretty spicy, he just likes them to clear his head). We also want a bit more of a crust to the chicken. I may try an oven "fried" chicken recipe next time. We will also bake the sauce on a bit more next time. But this is a recipe that I will hang onto and work with.

The other recipe I tried will not be made again. I made Deli-style Macaroni Salad. I had seen good reviews of it so I was rather excited. However once I tasted it I knew it wasn't going to be the recipe I was looking for. There is white wine vinegar in it (2 Tablespoons to be exact), and that is all I could taste. So the search continues for a really good macaroni salad continues. No more cooking this week (well except for the grilled cheese and tomato soup I plan for Saturday).
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
  When the moon hits your eye...
Well tonight was all about the comfort of pizza. But we decided to mix it up a bit with BBQ Chicken Pizza. I have made it before and my secret to making this good is the smoked Gouda. If you have never tried this variety of cheese, give it a whirl, its wonderful.

I bought individual pizza crusts (to save time and because I have still not become brave enough to make my own dough) and so we each got our own little treat. This is such a great treat, and so easy I don't even miss not being at a pizza joint.

Tomorrow is bar food fun, so we'll see how that turns out. Till then...
Ode to Rachel Ray

I turn on your show when I have a chance
I like that your recipes aren't too fanc-y.

I bought the big bottle of EVOO
How much fat is in that dressing, I don't want to know.

Your witty remarks and excited tone
Make me think I could make this at home.

As I cook more I use you much less
But don't worry RR, I still think you are the best.

Well, I will admit there are a few Rachel Ray recipes that I have kept in my bag of tricks and I made this one last night. Her French Dip Sandwich is great, and flat easy to make. I tried to half the recipe last night, and I don't think I will try that again. The meat was aplenty, but there was not enough au jus. If you like French dip, this one is a great one to try. The au jus is really the star (though the good roast beef doesn't hurt). Anyways, I made this last night for my fiance and I had a turkey and Brie sandwich with roasted red pepper and spinach. I got it all melty and good and probably could have eaten about 3 more of them (no, not really).

My best friend and I have started our own health initiative. We are buddying up to eat healthier and lose those few pesky pounds. So far this week I have done well, even made it to the gym, so stay tuned for my attempts to make healthy stuff that my fiance and roommate will eat. Making some easy old recipes this week, but lets see what I can do to the sides to add some excitement. Till then...
Saturday, September 10, 2005
  A culinary tribute to New Orleans
Well after working all day I was not sure I was really in the mood to cook tonight. So imagine my excitement when my fiance came by after golfing and suggested we go out to dinner. I wanted sushi (which as I am sure you can imagine is less than spectacular here in my landlocked state). We started searching all the lists of area restaurants and decided on a restaurant in midtown. This place has been around for years and is always busy. So we headed to Jazz

Jazz has mismatched chairs, writing on all the walls and some damn fine cajun food. We started with Beans and Rice with Andouille. This had just the right amount of heat. The portions at Jazz are huge and this "appetizer" would have easily filled me up as a dinner. Oh and how could I forget, the best hushpuppies I have had since my grandma's came with it. They had a course texture and this subtle sweetness.

I ordered the Crawfish Etouffee with dirty rice. The spice in this was wonderful. Granted I had to take a few breathers to cool off my tongue, but it was oh so good. And the Wonder type bread they served was the perfect match. This dish was easily enough for 2 meals in my opinion. It was loaded with crawfish.

My fiance ordered the Shrimp Etouffee with jambalaya. His was also fiery hot and just perfect. And the jambalaya had the greatest depth of flavor.

We of course had to get some more of those divine hushpuppies and I tried a side of their coleslaw. The slaw was creamy and typical of southern slaw, but nothing to write home about.

This place will definitely go in our rotation of places we can turn to. And of course, the budding cook in me is now determined to learn how to make some of the cajun classics. Oh, but where to begin...

Friday, September 09, 2005
  "This tastes like something I would get in a restaurant"
That was the comment from my roommate about our dinner tonight. We had Strawberry Jalapeno BBQ Pork Chops (we usually make this with boneless pork ribs, but decided to get crazy with the chops). We served it with Cheddar Grits, roasted carrots and corn bread. My fiance took control of the grill and made the chops. It is a pretty spicy recipe so the strawberry really gives it a nice balance. This is one of our summer staples and is great if you have access to a smoker. Yummy. Now off to our local winebar for a few cocktails.

Thursday, September 08, 2005
  Comfort with a wtist
When making the menu this week my fiance requested both mac and cheese and BLT's. I think he probably intended to have them 2 separate nights, but I said, why not make night of comfort food. Well, the BLT's almost seemed like a no-go because there was not a decent tomato to be found in these parts. I finally broke down and went to WIld Oats and spent extra, but it was well worth it.
Though I would have been perfectly happy with my blue box of mac and cheese, I decided to pull out the apron and make real mac and cheese. So I turned to the internet and found this smoked gouda mac and cheese from Cooking Light. It had a really creamy texture and was easy to put together. It could have used a little kick (or even just a bit more salt), but it was still quite yummy last night. And I am looking forward to the leftovers today.

So I got my comfort food in, but dressed it up just a bit. I am working late tonight so nothing new to cook till tomorrow. Check back to see if we go the way of the grill or the mexican.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
  We got fancy
Well last night we had one of our fancier meals of late. Between meals of Chipotle, grilled cheese and hamburgers, we decided (well actually I decided) that we needed to get some nicer meals in our repertoire this week.

I have made stuffed chicken one time before and it was not a great experience. The filling that time was gross and I cut all the way through the chicken so had to pound it out and roll the stuffing into it. To say the least, I was not left with a huge desire to stuff chicken breasts again. That is until yesterday. The urge finally came and we whipped up Brie and caramelized Onion Stuffed Chicken Breasts (CL). The filling was fantastic (but really can anything with Brie not be fantastic). It did not take anywhere close to 30 minutes for the onions to brown, but I did use my v-slicer so maybe they were too thin. If I hadn't been trying to keep this a low fat recipe I would have caramelized the onions in butter rather than the oil, but it still was fantastic tasting. Of course I cut all the way through the chicken breast again, but I made it work. The wine and chicken broth sauce was great on the chicken, just adding a bit of sauce makes everything better.

We served it with Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges (CL) and some sauteed spinach. I swear one of these days I am going to figure out how much fresh spinach I need for that. The 1st time I made it and had only about 2 bites, total. This time I tried to make a lot more and still ended up with about 2 bites for each of us (if I hadn't shared it, I would have a decent sized serving).

Well today we are hoping for some fresh tomatoes so we can put them to good use. The ones at our store are the gross ones that have absolutely no flavor. My fiance's coworker might still have some on her plants. So it could be an interesting dinner.

And off the subject of food, thought I would share a few movie reviews from my most recent rentals.
Sahara- good action film that actually has some what of a plot. I really enjoyed this one.
Kinsey- WOW. I can see why this movie received such attention at the awards this year. Liam Neeson was amazing and the movie was great. If you are a bit more conservative, you may not like this movie as much, it can be quite explicit at times (being that it is all about his sex studies). I am so glad we rented this one.
And I bought Muppets Take Manhattan because it is one of my all time favorites.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
  A brand new week, some brand new recipes.
Well, any of you who check back here regularly may have noticed that I have not been around as much. Well, frankly wedding planning has interrupted my kitchen time. But I am hoping to get back into it this week, though it has been so long that I think I need to go back to some of the basics. So this week look forward to turkey taco bake, peanuty noodles with pork, perhaps a stuffed chicken breast or steak and probably another new recipe for Mac and Cheese.

So far this week I have only made one thing, Chic Greek Salad (Rachel Ray). I made it for a great dinner party on Sunday night. We had Greek Stuffed steaks, feta mashed potatoes, asparagus (yummy as always Nancy) and a light Ice Cream Cake (so good Brooke). Oh yeah, and a whole lot of wine. So it was a great night and I may have to try to duplicate this menu sometime soon.

Chic Greek Salad

So hopefully this weeks menu will go smoothly and I can report back something wonderful.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
  How can we help?
I know that many bloggers are offering ways to help the relief effort in New Orleans, Mississippi and other areas affected by Katrina. I would like to offer up one more.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is a non-profit organization that sends food, supplies, and funds. All administrative fees are paid by other sources, so your donation all goes to the relief effort.

Whether or not you donate through this organization, please keep those affected in your thoughts.


Just a mom, sharing our life on this little blog.

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