Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pan-Roasted Broccoli

Last night we had cheese ravioli with tomato sauce and pan-roasted broccoli.  I cooked some frozen ravioli from Sam's.  According to Jacob, the highlight of the meal was the broccoli.

An article on cooking vegetables in Cook's Illustrated inspired me to try cooking some standard veggies in new ways.  The article recommended sauteing peas in butter instead of boiling them.  Jacob loved this method- although, he never complained about boiled peas. 

To cook broccoli, the article also advocated using the stalks in addition to the florets, and roasting the broccoli in a pan to bring out "broccoli's sweet rather than sulfurous flavors."  We all really enjoyed the broccoli.  Jacob did not care for the stalks, but they were my favorite part.  The stalks were browned and tender and the florets were browned and flavorful.  The method is easy, but a sharp knife is handy for trimming the tough outer layer off the stalks.

2 Tab oil
1 3/4 lb broccoli
3 Tab water
salt, to taste

Trim florets off stalk as closely as possible to their heads.  Square off each stalk with a chef's knife to remove the outer 1/8'' of the stalk.  Cut on a diagonal into 1/4" thick slices. 
Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add stalks and saute for 2 minutes, covered without stirring.  Add florets and cook until they start to brown (1-2 min), then add water.  Cover and cook for 2 minutes.  Remove lid and cook until water evaporates and broccoli is tender, another 2 minutes.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Sunday, I took my first trip to our local Mediterranian Grocery.  The store had a lot of items that I love- olives, sesame tahini, pita.  It also had many items with which I am not familiar but I want to try. 

I made a hummus recipe that I found years ago in Martha Stewart's Living.  It is easy to make and very good.  Sesame tahini is called for in this recipe, but it is not something most people keep in their pantry.  I would encourage you to buy some.  (It is sometimes with the peanut butter at the store.)  You will want to make this hummus a lot, so you will use the tahini.  I use the hummus as a dip for raw veggies and bread.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Angus Beef Hot Dogs and Baked Beans

Today we returned home from our week at the beach.  We played on the beach, took walks, went to the playground, and, as on every trip we take, we ate a ton.  I will miss the beach and the fresh seafood, but I am glad to be home.

On this trip, we felt like we came a lot closer to perfecting our car trip strategy.  Quick stops about every two hours to stretch really helped us all burn some energy.  As Art wrote in his pirate post,  two of our three meals on the road were eaten at the McDonald's in Troy.  Jacob got to play while we ate.  Then, Jacob ate in the car when we got back on the road.  We also stopped at Peach Park in Clanton.  Jacob ran around the park while Art and I enjoyed peach pie and peach ice cream.

Our final stop of the trip was at Walmart and Newk's in Tupelo, MS.  Art and I agreed we would rather not eat another meal at McDonald's.  So, we stopped at Walmart and let Jacob run around.  Then, we went to Newk's and all sat down for lunch.

While at Walmart, we picked up some angus beef hot dogs, baked beans, and s'mores stuff for supper.  I "dressed up" the baked beans a bit while Art roasted our hot dogs over the fire pit.  Art further flavored his beans with chili sauce- he said it was a "win."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pirate Post: Fear and Loathing in Panama City

Pirate post by Art Carden

We've spent the last few days in Panama City, where we eat well (here's a discussion of Panama City Beach from our friend Lance at Local Traveler).  We borrow a trailer from some family friends, and Shannon has been coming here for as long as she can remember.  I've been working on a few projects while Shannon and Jacob enjoy local amenities.  In the last few days, we've had the following meals:

Thursday Night (En Route to Birmingham):  Chick-Fil-A in Tupelo, MS.  This is the Happiest Place on Earth, apparently.  Jacob seemed to think so as they had someone in a cow costume going around the restaurant taking pictures with the kids.  In a few years, I'm going to see if Chick-Fil-A will sponsor Jacob's birthday parties.

Sunday Lunch: McDonald's in Troy, Alabama.  It's McDonald's, so you know what to expect.  They had a nice indoor playground that was separated by glass from the rest of the dining room.  Jacob had a blast, we got to enjoy a (relatively) quiet lunch, and we all left happy.  It was the perfect road trip lunch stop given that Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays.

Sunday Night: Montego Bay.  Decent, but nothing special.  We were going to go to Captain Anderson's or Angelo's, but they were closed.  The spaghetti from the kids' menu that we got for Jacob was enormous, and he's still working on it.  I fed him some for lunch yesterday while Shannon was out and made a mental note to myself not to feed spaghetti to Jacob again unless I have a pressure washer and a Shop Vac handy.

Monday Night: Angelo's.  Angelo's is a regular stop on Shannon's family PCB trips, and we've made it part of our rotation in the times we've been here.  Their ribs are great, the onion rings are fantastic, and their sauce is very distinctive.  In a fit of creative destruction inspired in part by having seen most of "Man vs. Food" the night before, I made an ersatz sandwich out of the buttered toast they serve with the meal, french fries, rib meat, sauce, and a small dollop of the ranch dressing that came with our onion rings.  I like to think Joseph Schumpeter and Gordon Ramsay would be proud.

Tuesday Night: Shrimp City.  Another regular feature of Shannon's family PCB trips is take-out steamed shrimp from Shrimp City.  We got the really big shrimp.  They were great, as always.  Steamed shrimp and Hawaiian rolls make a very nice po'boy.

Wednesday Night: Captain Anderson's.  The advertising and promo material say it's regularly listed as one of the best restaurants in Florida.  We've been a couple of times, and last night did not disappoint: the food was amazing on all margins.  Shannon got Amberjack.  I got the seafood platter.  Jacob got mac & cheese.  We got crab stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer, and they were also fantastic.  It's a great place for a Very Nice Dinner in an atmosphere that isn't stuffy.

Tonight:  Dunno.  It's Family Night at a local Chick-Fil-A, though, so we might go there.

Coffee, Wifi, and a Place to Work Every Day: McDonalds.  The coffee is pretty good, the company is interesting, the service is great, the wifi connection is pretty good, and they don't seem to mind basically renting out a table for most of the morning.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Corned Beef, New Potatoes, and Carrots

For our St Patrick's day supper, I cooked a corned beef in the crock pot.  Corned beef and veggies has always been one of my favorite meals. I was glad I was able to share this with Jacob for the first time.  He devoured a large amount of the meat and the carrots before pushing the rest of his food onto the floor. 

corned beef with seasoning pack (this is sold in a bag of brine in the beef section)
2 yellow onions, quartered
8 new potatoes, halved
2 cups (or so) baby carrots

Place the corned beef, fat side up, and onions in a crock pot.  Sprinkle with contents of seasoning pack and cover beef with water.  Cook on medium low for about 6 hours.  Add new potatoes and carrots.  Turn crock pot up to medium high and cook about 1 hour more, or until vegetables are tender.
Using a slotted spoon, move vegetables to a serving bowl.  Carefully move beef to a serving platter.  Trim off layer of fat.  Cut into thin slices across the grain.  Serve warm with vegetables and mustard. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Calzones and Peanut Butter Cake

Last night we had some friends over to eat supper and watch Lost.  We had a delicious dip made by Sarah (I need to get the recipe!), calzones, and peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting. 

I find the fact that I have never shared my mom's calzone recipe on this blog very surprising.  We love these calzones and make them a lot.  I really like to make the dough when we are having company.  Everyone can make their own calzones.  I just give everyone a floured sheet of foil and some dough and set out fillings (cheeses, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, spinach, etc).   

2 pkg yeast
1 cup very warm water
1/4 tsp sugar

Combine these ingredients in a small bowl.  Let rest until foamy, about 10 minutes.

4 1/2 cups bread flour
4 Tab sugar
2 Tab olive oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup water

Combine ingredients with yeast mixture in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Stir for a few minutes.  (Or, just combine in a bowl and stir.  Then, knead the dough for a few minutes.)
Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover.  Let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Divide dough into four pieces.  Roll out each piece on a floured surface and top with desired toppings.  Close dough over toppings and seal.  Place on a baking sheet.  (You can brush the tops with a little olive oil to make them crisp and brown while baking.)  Bake 15 minutes.  Serve warm with tomato sauce for dipping.

Art loves the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, so he loves this cake.  This turned out really yummy.  But, it was a little more crumbly than I would like- maybe my oven was too hot?

Peanut Butter Cake

2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tab vanilla
1 cup milk
Chocolate Frosting and Peanut Butter Filling (see following recipe)
Chocolate Glaze (see following recipe)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 9" cake pans. 
Stir together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.
Beat butter until creamy.  Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in peanut butter and vanilla.  Beat in flour mixture and milk, alternatively in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  Scrape into prepared pans.  (Batter will be thick.)
Bake for 35-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool cakes in pans for 15 minutes.  Invert cakes onto wire rack and remove from pans to cool completely. 
Place one cake layer on serving plate.  Spread top with Peanut Butter filling.  Place second cake layer on top.  Frost top and sides with Chocolate Frosting.  Pour chocolate glaze over top. 

Chocolate Frosting and Peanut Butter Filing

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tab milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup Chocolate Glaze

Prepare butter base for filling and frosting:
Beat butter until smooth.  Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar.  Add milk and vanilla; beat at high speed until very light and fluffy. 
Prepare Peanut Butter Filling:
Place 1/2 cup butter mixture in a small bowl.  Stir in peanut butter.
Prepare Chocolate Frosting:
Beat 1/2 cup cooled Chocolate Glaze into remaining butter mixture.

Chocolate Glaze

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup water
2 Tab butter
1 tsp vanilla

Melt all ingredients in a double boiler over hot, not boiling water.  Stir until smooth.  Cool completely. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Baked Chicken with Pesto and Mayo

I took a reader's advice and combined pesto and mayonnaise to create a simple chicken dish.  It was delicious and really easy to prepare. The sauce was flavorful and kept the chicken moist. 
Art could not tell the pesto was combined with mayo.  It tasted more like a cream sauce.  Jacob didn't care what it was, he just ate a ton of it.

8 frozen boneless, skinless chicken tenders
1/4 cup basil pesto
1/4 cup mayo

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine all ingredients in a gallon size freezer bag.  Squish it around to mix the sauce and coat the chicken.
Place in a greased 9" pie plate.  Bake until chicken is done, about 25 minutes. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Indian Dhal with Naan

Last night, I made dhal and naan.  Dhal is a traditionally bland dish, but this had plenty of flavor for us.  This dish was not spicy in comparison with some dishes at Indian restaurants.  Jacob especially loved it. 

This was easy to make and did not have many ingredients.  I served it with home-made naan, but I think toasted pita or brown rice would also be good. 

I based my recipe for dhal on one in The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook

1 1/4 cups lentils
2 Tab butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp garam masala (this is a spice mixture you can buy in the spice section)
2 1/2 cups water

Rinse and sort lentils.  Heat butter in a medium pan.  Fry the onion for about 6 minutes, or until soft.  Add the garlic, ginger, and spices.  Cook, stirring for another minute.
Add the lentils and water, bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.  (Test to see if the lentils are done.  If not, add a small amount more water and simmer a few more minutes.)
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Baked Potatoes

I baked a few Russet potatoes for our supper the other night.  I set up a little potato bar by putting some toppings out on the table.  We had butter, sour cream, chopped green onions, turkey bacon crumbles, salsa, shredded cheddar, sauteed mushrooms, and steamed broccoli.

This was such a satisfying and easy dinner.   The topping possibilities are endless. 

In the past, I have had mixed luck with baking potatoes.  These came out of the oven with soft insides and crisp skin.  Here is what I did:
1.  Wash and dry potatoes
2.  Pierce each potato with a fork about four times on each side
3.  Rub a small amount of canola oil on the outside of each potato and sprinkle with salt. 
4.  Bake directly on the rack of an oven heated to 350 degrees for 1 hour (Place a cookie sheet under potatoes to catch any drips)
5.  Potatoes are done when they give slightly in the middle to a soft squeeze with an oven mit
6.  Remove potatoes and let rest about 5 minutes

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Turkey Chili

The weather this week has been beautiful- sunny with highs in the 70s.  We have spent hours each day playing and eating outside. 

With all this sunshine and warmth, I'm not sure why I decided to make chili for supper last night.  But I did and it was great.  I served it with grilled cheese. 

1/2 lb ground turkey
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, divided
salt and pepper
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chili beans (I buy Private Selection Organic Hot Chili Beans- no weird meat parts or chemicals)
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 can crushed tomatoes
3/4 cup frozen corn

Brown turkey in a skillet with onion, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, and a dash of salt and pepper.  Drain and add to crock pot.  Stir in remaining ingredients except for cayenne pepper and salt and pepper.  Heat in crock pot on low for a few hours until bubbling.  Stir in remaining 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chicken Salad

I was determined to make good use of the rest of the rotisserie chicken we had for supper on Monday.  Last night, I chopped the remaining meat and tossed it into a chicken salad.  I used my mom's recipe.  This has always been my favorite chicken salad.  It combines chicken with sweet pineapple, crunchy celery, and toasted almonds. 

Since the bird was so scrawny, we had a little less than two cups of chicken left.  So, I halved the recipe.  I also left out the almonds so I could safely feed the salad to Jacob.  I made the salad in the morning (Jacob has been sleeping in this week, so I now have time for things like this!) to let the flavors combine. 

This turned out to be a great way to use the rest of the dry chicken.  It transformed the meat into something flavorful and enjoyable. 

4 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup mayo
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted in a skillet with a small amount of butter

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate overnight.   

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Experiment in Quick Meals: Rotisserie Chicken, Frozen Veggies, and Spinach and Mushroom Won Ton Bites

This week, in stark contrast to my laborious (but awesome) stacked crepe supper documented in my previous post, I have decided to try some quick and simple meals.  With a toddler to care for and play with, time is a scarce commodity.  With another baby on the way, time will be priceless.  So, I would like to start finding some reliable recipes that come together quickly, include healthy ingredients, and taste good.

I kicked off the experiment last night.  Our main course was a rotisserie chicken.  I was so pleased that I paid only $2.99 plus tax (after a $1 off coupon) for a whole chicken that just needed to be reheated in the oven for 25 minutes.  This was especially gratifying since I recently made a roasted chicken at home that cost nearly $9 and took over 1 hour to roast. 

But, once I saw the incredibly scrawny bird (maybe 2 pounds compared with the 7 pound bird I roasted a few weeks ago) and tasted the dry meat, I knew the extra time and money were well spent.

Along with the pitiful chicken, we had a blend of potatoes, peas, and red bell peppers.   These vegetables came conveniently packaged and frozen in a Green Giant bag.  According to the directions, I was to empty the bag into a 2 quart sauce pan, add included "sauce pellets" to taste, and cook over medium heat about 20 minutes.  I wasn't sure what "sauce pellets" consisted of, but they sure sounded gross.  I plopped a few of the green pellets in the pan with the veggies and cooked them.

These seasoned vegetables were less than good.  The few sauce pellets I added really overpowered the vegetables.  I think steaming broccoli or roasting green beans is a lot tastier and just as easy as warming this bag of frozen vegetables.  And, I don't have to deal with any mysterious "sauce pellets."   
Part of my goal in making quick and tasty meals is to utilize food I have on-hand.  As I mentioned in my last post, I had a decent amount of crepe fillings left over.  Dawn left a comment suggesting I make little won ton appetizers. 

These were by far the highlight of our meal.  The spinach and cheese and mushroom fillings paired perfectly with the crisp won ton wraps.  They were so easy to put together and looked impressive.  I would proudly serve these to guests.  We look forward to future leftover fillings that can be turned into won ton appetizers. 

24 won ton wrappers
Leftover filling (I used spinach filling and cheese and mushroom filling)
mini muffin tin
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.  Place 1 won ton wrap in each muffin cup.  Fill each won ton with about 1/2 tsp of spinach filling and 1/2 tsp of cheese and mushroom filling.  Close won ton wrap over filling.  Spray lightly with cooking spray.  Bake until filling is warm and won tons are crisp, about 10 minutes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Crepes Stacked with Cheese, Spinach, and Mushrooms

Tonight, I attempted to make crepes for the first time.  I have always enjoyed eating crepes at restaurants  (and on cruises).  Their delicate demeanor and French name intimidated me, so I never tried to make them at home.  But Memphis has a noticeable lack of good crepe restaurants (Crepe Maker is not a good crepe restaurant).  After reading various sources about how easy they are to make, I decided to give crepes a try.  If everybody in France can make a crepe, surely I could. 

The crepe recipe I used was from Martha Stewart's Living.  I was surprised at how easy they were to make.  They were no more difficult than pancakes.  With great success, I used a lightly buttered iron skillet and a plastic spatula.  When I attempted to make a crepe in a non-stick skillet, the crepe batter formed little individual puddles instead of sticking together into one crepe.  Maybe the surface was too slick. 

I used Gaiteau de Crepes a la Florentine from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck for the filling and finished product.   This dish was amazing!  The taste and texture were unbelievable.  But, the dish was very time consuming (I spent about 2 hours making this dish- an eternity to a toddler) and cholesterol/fat laden. 

It can be made in stages and assembled in advance.  Just put it in the oven 30 minutes before you plan to eat. 

The filling consisted of several parts: bechamel cheese sauce, spinach filling, and cheese and mushroom filling.   I had a not insignificant amount leftover of each of these components.  I put them in the refrigerator in case I think of another use for them. 

We also had a few leftover crepes.  Art used these to make some crepe ice cream desserts that were wonderful.  I want to start making crepes more often. 

Bechamel Cheese Sauce
5 Tab flour
4 Tab butter
2 3/4 cups boiling milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Big pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup grated Swiss cheese

Cook the flour and butter over medium low heat for two minutes, whisking to combine.  Off heat, beat in the milk and seasonings.  Boil, stirring 1 minute.  Reduce to a simmer and stir in cream by tablespoons.  Sauce should be thick enough to coat the spoon.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese.  Pour a small amount of milk over the sauce to prevent a skin from forming.

Spinach Filling
1 Tab minced green onions
2 Tab butter
1 1/2 cups blanched, chopped spinach (Boil about 1 1/2 lb of fresh spinach in salted water for 2 minutes.  Immediately drain and rinse with cold water.  Squeeze out as much excess water as you can.)
1/4 tsp salt

Cook the onion in butter for a moment in a saucepan.  Add spinach and salt, stir over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes to evaporate moisture.  Stir in 1/2 to 2/3 cup of bechamel sauce.  Cover and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Cheese and Mushroom Filling
8 oz reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
salt and pepper
1 egg
1/4 lb minced mushrooms
1 Tab minced green onion
1 Tab butter
1/2 Tab oil

Mash the cheese in a mixing bowl with salt and pepper.  Beat in 1/2 to 2/3 cup bechamel sauce and the egg. 
Saute the mushrooms and onion in butter and oil for 5-6 minutes in a skillet.  Stir them into the cream cheese mixture.

Forming the Stack of Crepes and Baking (You will need another 3 Tab of grated Swiss for the top.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a pie plate and center a crepe on the bottom.  Spread it with a layer of the cheese and mushroom filling.  Press a crepe on top and spread with a layer of the spinach filling.  Repeat until the dish is full and finish with a crepe.  Pour the remaining cheese sauce over the top and sides of the stack.  Sprinkle with 3 Tab cheese. 
Bake in oven until heated through and slightly brown on top, about 25-30 minutes.  To serve, cut into pie shaped wedges. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

TED Talk by Jamie Oliver

A friend sent me a link to a really interesting TED talk about food.  Jamie Oliver has come to the United States to educate us about good nutrition.  I am aware that a large percentage of Americans are overweight.  I am also aware that most of us have limited knowledge about healthy eating, or have very distorted ideas about the subject.  Yet, I still found several points in his lecture surprising.  He shares enlightening interviews/encounters he has with Americans about food.  If you have an extra 20 minutes, I would recommend watching this talk.  (I recently learned that Mr. Oliver has a tv show that premiers March 26 on ABC.)

I have no exciting personal food news to share. We had leftover pasta for supper last night.  I am, however, very excited about tonight's French inspired supper.  Check back for tomorrow's post. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Pappardelle" with Bean Bolognese Sauce

Years ago, a recipe in Bon Appetit for pappardelle with bean bolognese sauce caught my eye.  The meatless bolognese sauce was very intriguing.  But, mainly, I was drawn to the picture of the thick pappardelle noodles.  I had never before seen such generously wide pasta served like spaghetti.   I noted the recipe and resolved to make it soon.

At that point I learned the reason I was not familiar with pappardelle was the mundane grocers I traditionally frequent do not carry it.  So, I filed away the recipe and forgot about it.

This week, I found the recipe and decided to make the dish with or without pappardelle.   I had half a box of lasagne noodles in the pantry.  Wouldn't those work?  I cooked and sliced each noodle into three long strips.  An Italian (or, any self-respecting pasta lover) would be horrified, I'm sure.  But, this seemed like a pretty good substitute. 

I also substituted chicken stock for the white wine and vegetable broth.

This dish contains no meat, but the combination of thick noodles, beans, and butternut squash make it a satisfying meal.  The small amount of tomato paste and whipping cream in the sauce contribute to its robust flavor.  I loved the filling sauce paired with the wide noodles.  Jacob and Art seemed to like it, too.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Turkey Parmesan Burgers

I found a recipe in Bon Appetit for chicken Parmesan burgers that I wanted to try.  I made a few modifications to the recipe.  Because my grocery store did not have ground chicken (and, I didn't feel like making my own), I used ground turkey.  Also, I substituted multi-grain sandwich thins for the French bread.    I love this bread, so I loved it with the burgers.  Art liked it because the burger to bread ratio was perfect.  The last small change I made was omitting the radicchio.  I hate that stuff. 
These burgers were really tasty and easy to make.  We all enjoyed eating these for supper last night.