Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Twist on Turkey and Stuffing

Thursday night's dinner was a re-invented Thanksgiving meal minus a lot of the sides.

We grilled a couple of turkey breast tenderloins which were covered in a homemade barbecue sauce made with lots of balsamic vinegar. We also grilled some fresh green beans which were tossed in olive oil with salt and pepper before hitting the grill. The other side dish was tomato dressing (a bread dressing with lots of fresh tomatoes thrown in). It was all delicious.

I started with the dressing by cubing a stale baguette. The bread cubes went in a bowl of chicken broth, a little heavy cream and a couple of eggs and allowed to saturate for 10 minutes. I stirred in lots of halved cherry tomatoes, diced fresh mozzarella, fresh sliced basil leaves and grated Parmesan. It all went into a casserole dish with a sprinkle of more Parmesan on top and into the oven for 1/2 hour. A much lighter twist on a dressing!

Meanwhile the sauce for the tenderloins was made by browning some onions in a little olive oil, then adding lots of balsamic vinegar, some ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. It was allowed to cook down to a thick syrupy mixture before being brushed on the turkey tenderloins. The tenderloins were cooked over charchoal, turning and glazing periodically.

The tartness of the sauce with the lean turkey was just a burst of flavor and went together beautifully with the green beans with the nice grill marks and the lightness of the dressing.

Gerry and I are both looking forward to having this meal again and again.

We agree:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cold, Rainy Days and Crock Pots

Cold, rainy days and crock pots go together like bread and butter or coffee and donuts. The weather has been cold and drizzly including this morning when I woke up. I planned the menu the other day with the weather in mind (when it's in the 30's and 40's, I crave slow-cooked comfort foods). I made a classic pot roast in the crock pot and by this afternoon, it turned out to be about 65 and sunny. The pot roast was delicious and smelled heavenly all day even if it was positively balmy outside.

I seared the pot roast in a skillet on both sides and then put the meat in the crock pot. In the same skillet, I cooked flour for a minute before adding some tomato paste and cooking for another minute. I deglazed the pan with some white wine and cooked until it evaporated. I added some beef broth and Worcestershire sauce and brought the sauce to a boil before adding it to the crock pot to cover the beef. Lots of sliced onions, carrot chunks and celery chunks went in along with some chopped garlic, fresh thyme sprigs and a couple of bay leaves. It was left alone to simmer all day.

I served this with mashed potatoes which had peas added to them and were garnished with fresh chives.

It turned out to be a beautiful dinner of comfort food to enhance what became a beautiful day! Life is good.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shrimp Creole

Tonight's dinner was Shrimp Creole which wasn't the traditional saucy shrimp Creole served on fluffy white rice, but more of a stir-fry using all the same ingredients.

Some converted rice was allowed to cook according to package directions. Meanwhile some large shrimp were tossed in a mixture of salt, paprika, thyme, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper. The seasoned shrimp along with some diced ham were sauteed in a large saute pan until the shrimp turned pink. The shrimp and ham were removed and set aside and in the same skillet a diced green pepper and minced garlic were sauteed until the pepper began to soften. Some halved cherry tomatoes along with the cooked rice were added and allowed to cook for a couple of minutes. The shrimp and ham were added back in and warmed through.

The dish was garnished with sliced scallions and Tabasco to taste.

We had this with a side of Pepper Cheese Bread, which was simply a piece of a sliced baguette topped with some shredded Farmer's cheese and jarred pepper slices and popped under the broiler for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese and just brown the edges of the bread.

Monday Leftovers

Gerry and I both had some of the leftover Butternut Squash Lasagne for dinner and some of the Italian Cream Cake.

A very easy day!

Sunday Movie

Sunday morning, Gerry and I both worked out first thing in the morning trying to shed some of the sluggish feeling from all the excess food. We then went to see True Grit which had the original on television on Thursday night. I happen to really like the original True Grit with John Wayne and so had some reservations about a new version. The new one was quite good with most of it (with a few exceptions) like the old one except for the end. I haven't decided which ending I like better since they are both so different.

Since we went to the 11:30 showing, we decided to stop for lunch and ended up at a neighborhood Mexican restaurant which was really good. I had the sour cream chicken enchiladas which came with rice and refried beans and Gerry had the grilled chile relleno, also with rice and beans. We are both excited to have another restaurant option right in our neighborhood. My lunch was so filling and eaten late enough that I ended up not having dinner. Gerry had a piece of leftover meat lasagne for his dinner.

Christmas Day

The Christmas Day menu varies from year to year. The past two years it has been Tyler's Crown Roast of Pork with an Apple Sage Stuffing with many side dishes. A couple of years ago, I had been encouraged to do all my cooking ahead of time to allow plenty of game time on Christmas day. We are very much a game family and there are usually several new games as part of our gift exchange. I was encouraged to do the same thing this year with pre-made lasagne and decided to go with it.

I did all my shopping Friday morning and spent the rest of the day prepping food with Gerry's help. I started with my dough for Overnight Cinnamon Rolls which was made and took several hours to rise. After several hours of rising, the dough was punched down, rolled out, brushed with melted butter, and sprinkled with a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and salt before being rolled up. The log was sliced into 12 equal pieces and put in a buttered casserole dish, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.

We also prepared two breakfast casseroles with bread cubes, cheddar cheese, butter, eggs, milk, sliced mushrooms in both and added diced ham in one.

We moved on to two different lasagnes: our traditional meat lasagne and a butternut squash lasagne.

When we got up Christmas day, we simply had to bake the Cinnamon Rolls, pop the breakfast casseroles in the oven and cut up some fruit. We had fresh cantaloupe, pineapple and strawberries to accompany breakfast.

We had linner around 2:30 and started with a freshly baked Italian bread (Pillsbury) with bowls of a local olive oil with seasonings for dipping. We then moved on to my Antipasto Salad with the Best Salad Dressing in the World and some sliced Italian bread. The entree was a choice of Meat Lasagne (the usual suspect) or Butternut Squash Lasagne - layers of lasagne noodles, pureed butternut squash, a basil cream sauce, shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan. Both were delicious.

Dessert was Italian Cream Cake which is three layers of a dense white cake, with a filling of a cream cheese frosting with shredded coconut and completely frosted with the same cream cheese frosting.

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a photography kit for my food shots. We set it up and tried it out with the cake for dessert. I can't wait to play with this new toy.

The day was fun and we did play games; however it seems very unnatural to spend very little time in the kitchen on the best of all holidays! We'll see what happens next year.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has been an ever-changing night for us for several years. Once the girls were with their significant others, it has evolved that they spend Christmas Eve with that family and Christmas day with us. Please note that I am in no way complaining about this situation. My good friend Olga often does a Cuban Christmas Eve dinner for many of her dear friends. Gerry and I were both looking forward to a fun evening filled with friends and wonderful food. We had the additional pleasure of having Stephanie and David join us along with David's mom, Karen. It was an added bonus to have family members with us.

Olga's menu rarely changes and must be a traditional Cuban feast - heavily seasoned roast pork, rice with a huge pot of black beans to top it, yucca (a potato-like side dish), and a huge bowl of salad with a simple vinaigrette. Dessert is always flan which is perfect for me, a slice of barely set cream with a caramel like sauce covering the plate - what's not to like?

It was an evening to make you appreciate all that you have to be thankful for.

Dinner Out

Either Wednesday or Thursday night, Gerry and I went out to dinner at the Greek Isles Cafe which is a small restaurant that we enjoy and reminds me of being in Greece. I always get the Souvlaki, this time chicken and shrimp which was one of the specials. Gerry had the Mediterranean Fish special. It came with Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves, which I don't like but Gerry enjoyed), salad - I chose the Caesar and Gerry chose the Greek and dessert. We both chose the Baklava for dessert.

We love the intimacy of this local restaurant.

Tuesday Lamb Chops with Toasted Curry

Tuesday's dinner was made by Gerry and was Lamb Chops with Toasted Curry, Basmati Rice, and steamed carrots.

The curry was made by toasting the following spices in a small skillet: coriander, cumin, black pepper, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and cloves until aromatic, stirring occasionally. The toasted curry was transferred to a bowl and turmeric and salt were added.

The chops were lightly brushed with oil before being seasoned with the curry on both sides. These were grilled over a hot charcoal fire and grilled to perfection.

We were both surprised that the chops were flavorful without being overly spicy; there was just a hint of the curry.

Annual Cookie Day

Every year during the holiday season, the girls and I bake tons of cookies; with each of us choosing a particular favorite. We started this tradition to have platters of homemade goodies to share with family and friends, but it has evolved into something we just enjoy doing together. We now wait for Stephanie to come home from Austin so it is usually too late to be practical for gift giving but none of us (especially me) can imagine a year without the racks of cooling cookies.

We baked Chocolate Crinkles (a ball of chocolate dough rolled in confectioners sugar and baked until cracks appear). Peanut Butter Blossoms (peanut butter dough rolled in sugar, baked and then topped with a Hershey Kiss which just starts to soften). Tea Time Tassies (a tiny tart made with a cream cheese dough and filled with a mixture like a pecan pie filling and topped with chopped pecans). Iced Molasses Cookies (a moist molasses cookie iced with a vanilla glaze while still warm). Christmas Toffee Bars (a layered bar cookie starting with a vanilla wafer cookie crust, covered with a toffee, and topped with melted chocolate, sprinkled with chopped walnuts over half for those who have a nut aversion). Chocolate truffles rolled in cocoa and Clementine orange segments dipped in melted chocolate with a sprinkle of sea salt. Holiday Peppermint Bark (melted white chocolate topped with crushed peppermint candies).

Stephanie's future mother-in-law, Karen joined us and brought the makings for sugar cookies with special cutters that could be personalized with names or special messages, and all the decorations to make these cookies sparkle and shine. It was the highlight of the day. Kudos to Karen! Karen also brought the makings of candy coated crackers topped with nuts which were also delicious.

After a full day in the kitchen, dinner was Italian take-out from our favorite little corner restaurant, Angelo and Vito's. Salad with their house dressing and a veggie pizza fit the bill perfectly.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tenderloin of Beef with Blue Cheese and Herb Crust

Simple and elegant, this dish is a sure winner; the delicious flavors of Madiera and blue cheese are a perfect choice with the beef tenderloin. We served this with garlic mashed potatoes and a Salad of Toasted Beets and Arugula with Blue Cheese Dressing.

I started tonight's dinner by placing scrubbed, and trimmed baby beets on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzled with olive oil, topped with fresh thyme and seasoned with salt and pepper. I folded the foil securely around the beets and placed the sealed packet on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes until the beets were tender. Once the beets were tender, they were allowed to cool to room temperature before going into a mixing bowl. Arugula, celery leaves and toasted walnuts were added and the salad was set aside until serving time.

The entree part of the meal started with the sauce for the beef. I brought beef broth and Madeira to a boil and added a mixture of equal amounts of butter and flour. The flour-butter mixture was whisked in until completely dissolved. The sauce was simmered for about 20 minutes, until thickened and reduced by half.

While the sauce was simmering, some olive oil was heated in a skillet over high heat and the medallions were browned on each side for 2-3 minutes. The medallions were coated with a paste of breadcrumbs, blue cheese, parsley, chives, and pepper before going into a 350 degree oven for 6 minutes to come out a perfect medium rare.

The medallions were served on a pool of the Madeira sauce, with a side of garlic mashed potatoes.

A fabulous meal!

Jason's Birthday Celebration Day

We celebrated Jason's birthday yesterday with our tradition of his favorite meals picked by him for the day.

He chose Eggs Benedict for breakfast, which were delicious. A toasted English muffin half, topped with a browned slice of Canadian bacon, topped with a poached egg, all smothered in a spoonful of Hollandaise sauce. Yum!!! One of my favorites, too.

He decided he wanted Ethiopian food for lunch, so we went to Queen of Sheba in Addison for lunch. We are never disappointed with the food there and yesterday was no exception.

We finished off the day with Scampi over Couscous, Crescent Rolls, and Chocolate Caramel Truffle Torte.

I made the graham cracker crust for the torte on Friday night and baked it so it had plenty of time to cool before I filled it on Saturday morning. The chocolate filling for this torte is simply made by bringing to a boil 2 cups of heavy cream and then adding 16 ounces of chocolate pieces and stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until the chocolate is completely melted. The melted chocolate mixture gets poured into the cooled crust and refrigerated for at least 2 hours to set before serving.

The process for dinner started with peeling and deveining lots of shrimp. Fortunately this job was shared by 3 of us because it is a very tedious process. We then started the sauce for the couscous by sauteeing some chopped onion, carrot and garlic in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Some canned tomatoes, clam juice and white wine were added, brought to a boil and then simmered for 10 minutes. This tomato mixture was pureed in a food processor in batches until nice and smooth.

The tomato broth went back into the pot and some water and olive oil were added and brought back to a boil. The heat was reduced and the couscous stirred in before being covered and removed from the heat. The couscous was allowed to set for 10 minutes before being fluffed with a fork and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile the shrimp were sauteed in a skillet by heating olive oil with minced garlic until hot before the shrimp were added and allowed to cook until just pink. The pan was removed from the heat and got a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a sprinkle of crushed red pepper and a garnish of chopped fresh parsley.

This is a Giada recipe that comes up time and time again as a birthday menu pick from many members of our family. We are really glad that Kathy served this for Stephanie one time when she was in Connecticut, since it has become a family favorite.

While the couscous was getting its rest time and before I started on the shrimp, I popped the Pillsbury Crescent rolls in the oven. I know where to take some help and sometimes Pillsbury perfectly fits the bill.

Dessert was completed by whipping some heavy cream which was slightly sweetened with powdered sugar. The torte was sliced, drizzled with caramel, and served with a dollop of the sweetened whipped cream.

Jason's day was filled with delicious food and fun games. He picked a lot of word games throughout the day and then played Tiger Wood's Wii golf while dinner was being prepared. Even though I tried to scale down on birthday celebrations by making it one meal, I'm glad the tradition has carried on with making it a whole day celebration! For once, I'm glad no one really listened to me (did I really say that?)

No Recipe Friday

Friday night, Gerry decided he was craving beef. He picked up some strip steaks which were cooked over charcoal and seasoned with Montreal steak seasoning. A couple of potatoes were baked in the oven. He also grilled some mushrooms in foil packets on the grill along with the steak.

A salad with romaine, cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumbers with a bottled Dijon mustard dressing rounded out the meal.

Definitely, a no recipe night.

Pork Chop Thursday

Gremolata Pork Chops with Sauteed Spinach and Tomatoes was the menu for Thursday night.

Some breadcrumbs were combined with chopped fresh parsley, grated lemon zest, minced garlic and salt. Both sides of boneless center-cut pork chops were brushed with Dijon mustard before being dredged in the breadcrumb mixture and the breaded chops were refrigerated for 30 minutes.

After the chilling time, the chop went into a skillet in olive oil and sauteed for about 4 minutes before being flipped. The second side only got a couple of minutes of saute time before the whole pan was transferred to a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes to finish cooking all the way through. The chops were then removed to a plate and allowed to rest for 5 minute before serving.

The side dish was a simple saute of fresh spinach and halved cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil and seasoned simply with salt.

A simple, but very good dinner!

Wednesday Night Chicken

Dinner on Wednesday was Sauteed Chicken with a Tarragon-Cream Sauce, Brown Butter Beans, and toasted bread slices.

I started by seasoning some boneless, skinless chicken breasts with salt and pepper before dredging them in flour. The chicken breasts were sauteed until lightly browned on both sides, and removed from the pan. I covered them with foil to keep them warm.

Into the same skillet, I added mushrooms, cut in half and slivers of prosciutto and cooked until the mushrooms softened and began to brown. I added equal amounts of chicken broth and heavy cream and the browned chicken pieces went back in. This was allowed to simmer for about 10 minute until the sauce slightly thickened. I added some minced fresh tarragon and a splash of cider vinegar and allowed it to cook for a minute.

Meanwhile, I blanched some haricots verts for the side dish. I then melted some unsalted butter in a saute pan and waited for it to turn golden brown before adding some minced garlic and cooking for about 30 seconds. I added some fresh lemon juice and finally the blanched green beans were tossed in. The final touch was seasoning with salt and pepper.

The last component was a slice of toasted bread which I did in the oven until golden brown.

A simply delicious meal!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brio Tuscan Grill

Tonight, I got together with some very good friends to have a little holiday cheer. We went to Brio at Watters Creek. We had a great table in the bar and enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine with some of the items from their bar menu. You can't go wrong with the bar menu, where all items are $2.95 from 3:00-7:00 p.m. We got there at 4:00, so the happy hour pricing was perfect.

We shared an order of Sliced Steak Brushcetta which was my favorite and the item that I ordered. It started with a nice toasted slice of a baguette, topped with sliced steak, a Gorgonzola sauce, arugula, charred tomatoes, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Tuscan Italian dressing. We also shared the Brio Burger, which was a quartet of Bistecca burgers with Provolone cheese with a side of Housemade chips. The last item we shared was the Shrimptini, which was chilled shrimp served in a martini glass with roasted tomato cocktail sauce.

It was a wonderful evening spent with great friends, great food, and good wine. Our evening out to exchange holiday gifts is becoming a tradition to look forward to.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Vegetable Curry with Raita Rice

Another flavor filled dinner from Cuisine Tonight on Meatless Monday. Gerry sauteed some minced fresh ginger, minced garlic, diced jalapeno, a cinnamon stick and 2 whole cloves in a little vegetable oil for a minute. Next he added some chopped onion, a peeled, grated Braeburn apple, some golden raisins, a fair amount of curry powder, a bay leaf, and a little red pepper flakes and cooked until the onion softened.

Some fresh chopped tomatoes and vegetable broth were stirred in and simmered for a few minutes. Finally lots of peeled, cubed sweet potatoes went in and simmered, covered for about 15 minutes. Lastly, some fresh spinach was stirred in and seasoned with salt. The curry was garnished with cashews.

This curry was served a Raita rice which was brown rice cooked according to package directions and then the raita was folded into it. The raita was equal amounts of diced cucumber, diced tomatoes, less of minced scallions and plain yogurt and seasoned with salt to taste. The Raita rice was served warm with the curry over it.

This was delicious and the wonderful spice scent of the curry, cinnamon, and cloves filled the house.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shrimp and Scallop Lasagna

I decided to do a test of a seafood lasagna I was thinking of doing for Christmas and Gerry and I both loved it. I think it will make it to the dinner table along with a traditional meat lasagna. I found this recipe on the Food Network website and since it serves 8 people, I cut it in half for a test run.

I cooked 6 lasagna noodles in boiling water as usual. Meanwhile I melted some butter in a skillet and cooked 1/2 of a small onion, chopped, until soft over low heat. I added 1 minced clove of garlic and cooked for a minute. Some flour was whisked in and then some half and half was added gradually, allowing the sauce to thicken slightly before adding more half and half. When all of the half and half was added, the sauce was allowed to cook until it was the consistency of heavy cream. Once thickened, some grated Pecorino Romano cheese was stirred in along with salt and pepper to taste. Some halved sea scallops were added to the sauce for 3 minutes, and then some shrimp joined the party for another 2 minutes, until they turned pink.

A little sauce from the skillet went on the bottom of the casserole pan and topped with a layer of lasagna noodles. A third of the sauce topped the noodles along with half of the scallops and shrimp. This process was repeated one more time and finally the casserole got the last layer of lasagna noodles and the rest of the sauce. A nice sprinkling of Parmesan cheese topped all before going into a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. The baked lasagna was allowed to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into serving size pieces.

I served this with a green salad consisting of romaine lettuce, scallions, and cucumber. This was all topped with our Best Salad Dressing in the World.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Shopping and a Simple Dinner

We spent the day shopping today, and so a lot of our time was spent fighting traffic, trying to find a parking spot, finding exactly what we wanted for some people and realizing that some gifts were not so easy to find. All in all, we got a lot done, but not everything. We grabbed lunch out in the middle of shopping (a little late; around 2:00) and each of us enjoyed a salad.

We ended our shopping extravaganza at our favorite grocery store (Market Street) and browsed the fish and meat counter trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. This is totally not the way I usually plan for dinner.

We decided on some Salmon brochettes from the fish counter. Gerry lit the charcoal grill and we brushed them with a little olive oil and seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Once done, we served the brochettes on a bed of rice with a side of steamed green beans. A very simple, yet delicious dinner and even though we ate at 7:00, I still couldn't finish all of my food.

I am looking forward to planning my menu now for next week. I'll be back at Market Street tomorrow to buy our food for the week (except for any fresh fish).

Friday Night Dinner Out

On Friday, I came home after work to clean the house (downstairs at least). In the middle of cleaning, I got a frantic phone call from Gerry at 5:10 saying we had a showing for the house sometime between 5:30 and 6:30. I quickly put all my cleaning supplies away, straightened up what I had moved during cleaning and was ready to leave at 5:25, when the doorbell rang. Rather than try to run out the back door, I decided to answer the front door to find a realtor that was doing a preview for her clients. After her walkthrough, I finished cleaning and decided we were going out for dinner.

We went to Ziziki's Pita Grill, which is a Mediterranean restaurant with a heavy Greek infuence. I loved the ambiance and the location of this restaurant. The food was wonderful as well.

I started with the Mediterranean Salad, which consisted of fresh cucumber, fresh tomatoes, red onions, lots of roasted cloves of garlic, olives, chunks of feta cheese, all topped with fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Yum!! Gerry had the Greek Salad which was green lettuce, topped with cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions, topped with feta cheese and Kalamata olives and dressed with a Basil Vinaigrette. There was not one drop of the dressing left when Gerry was done!

For our entrees: I had Chicken Souvlaki, which is marinated, grilled chicken skewers, served on a fresh grilled pita bread, covered in ziziki sauce and served with Roasted Potato Wedges and a fresh tomato salad. I love to order Souvlaki when I go to a Greek restaurant because it brings back fond memories of food enjoyed in Greece.

Gerry feasted on a Rack of Lamb covered in a Mushroom sauce and served with Mashed Potatoes. Gerry rounded out his dinner with Tiramisu which he thought was fabulous.

I was already content with what I had eaten and decided to pass on dessert.

I am looking forward to trying this restaurant again!

Three Bean and Beef Chili

Sometimes a good, hearty chili is just the ticket. Tonight's recipe was a healthy Ellie Krieger recipe.

In a little olive oil some diced onion, diced red bell pepper, and diced carrots were cooked until soft. Some ground cumin went in and was stirred for 1 minute. A pound of lean ground beef was added to the pot and cooked, breaking up the meat until browned. A large can of crushed tomatoes, some water, a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, dried oregano, and salt and freshly ground black pepper were stirred in and allowed to simmer for 30 minutes.

Cans of drained, rinsed black beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans were added and allowed to simmer for another 20 minutes. We garnished with grated cheddar and diced fresh onions.

We had this with some fresh cornbread.

This is a great, hearty beef chili for 295 calories per serving.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Family Comfort Meal

Tonight not only were Zeb and Melissa here, but Val came by also with Emma and Ethan. I made my homemade Baked Macaroni and Cheese with a side of peas.

I brought a big pot of water to a boil for the elbow macaroni. While waiting for the water, I melted butter in a pot and added an equal amount of flour along with salt and pepper. I stirred until dissolved and kept stirring until the flour was bubbling and continued cooking for 1 minute. Some milk was stirred in and stirred continuously until boiling; and simmered for another minute. Lots of freshly grated cheddar cheese was added and stirred until melted.

The cooked pasta was added and stirred until well combined. The entire mixture went into a shallow casserole, topped with more shredded cheddar, and popped in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes until hot and golden brown on top.

I always serve this with a side of frozen green beans, cooked until just tender.

This is a meal that the girls grew up with and was requested at birthday times year after year. We still can't get Emma to try it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Grouper Tuesday

Tonight we had Crispy Grouper Fillets with a Creamy Lemon Grass Slaw and everything was delicious.

For the fish, I started with an egg white beaten with a tablespoon of soy sauce. This was done with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks formed. The fish fillets were seasoned with salt and pepper and then dredged in flour. The extra flour was shaken off before being dipped in the beaten egg whites and coated with hand crushed Rice Krispies cereal. The coated grouper fillets went into a non-stick skillet in some hot oil and sauteed on each side for 2-3 minutes. The entire skillet went into a 450 degree oven to finish cooking through for another 8 minutes.

Meanwhile I started the Lemon-Grass Dressing for the slaw. In the bowl of my food processor, went 1/3 cup of minced fresh lemon grass, 3 tablespoons of light mayonnaise, 4 teaspons of rice vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of chili garlic sauce, 8 sprigs of cilantro, half of a shallot, and the juice of 1/2 of a lime. This mixture was processed until smooth. This was transferred to a bowl; covered and set aside.

Then I worked on the vegetables which consisted of 1 cup of snow peas, sliced in thin strips, 3/4 cup of bean sprouts, 1/2 cup of thinly sliced red bell pepper, 1/2 cup of thinly sliced red onion and 1/2 cup of carrot strips. The vegetables were tossed with the dressing.

The fish went onto the plate along with the slaw and a garnish of lime wedge and a cilantro sprig. The fish was fork tender and moist and this slaw was unlike any other with the mix of vegetables, the tartness of the lemon grass and the heat of the chili garlic sauce.

We will look forward to having this meal many times in the future.

Gerry and I agree:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Half Shells

I picked Gerry up at the airport at 6:00 and we decided it just made sense to have dinner out. We stopped at Half Shells at the Shops of Legacy and it was great.

I had one of their month of December specials which was a seafood chile rellenos. I love chile rellenos, typically oozing with cheese once you cut into them. This one was stuffed with a combination of shrimp, crawfish, and crab and it was covered in the typical cornmeal mixture before being dropped in to the deep fryer. It came with a side of rice and a side of red beans and was delicious.

Gerry settled on the salmon salad which was a nice bed of lettuce with a grilled fillet of salmon sitting on top. There were fried rice noodles, fresh tomatoes, and a pepperoncini. The salad was dressed with an Asian style vinaigrette.

We were both very satisfied and pleased with our choices.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Antipasto Salad

I dropped Gerry off at the airport at 11:00 this morning, ran an errand, came home to decorate the Christmas tree, and planned my menu. I plan my menu for the week and then make my grocery list for what I need for the week. The only thing I don't by in advance is my fish since I like to buy it the day I plan on cooking it. I did the grocery shopping for the week and decided to keep dinner simple.

Since I so enjoyed the salad the salad I made the other night, I decided to make another for myself using the leftover supplies I had on hand. I chopped up romaine lettuce, diced some hard salami, sliced some pepperoni, cubed some provolone cheese, added some sliced roasted red peppers, halved some cherry tomatoes, and tossed in some olives. I tossed all of this with some of my leftover Best Salad Dressing in the World. I also toasted a couple of slices of a baguette, drizzled with some olive oil and once golden, rubbed them with a sliced garlic clove. I thoroughly enjoyed my very simple dinner!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

December and Soup

Somehow soups seems to fit the bill in the month of December, even though it was in the 70's early this afternoon, the winds picked up and the temp dropped to 54 by 5:00. It seemed like the perfect day for a nice hearty soup. We had an Italian Sausage and Squash Soup with Olive and Tomato Bruschetta.

I started with the soup by sauteing 1 pound of hot bulk Italian sausage meat in a skillet until cooked through. The cooked sausage was removed to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. In a large pot, I sweated some diced onions with minced garlic. I added some cubed butternut squash pieces along with some crushed red pepper and sauteed for 5 minutes. I stirred in some chicken broth and water, and seasoned with salt and pepper. This was brought to a boil and simmered for about 15-20 minutes until the squash pieces were tender. I used my immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. It went back on the heat and I added some diced red bell pepper, a little heavy cream, ground sage and a teaspoon of sugar and simmered for about 5 minutes. Some fresh spinach went in along with the browned sausage meat and allowed to simmer for another couple of minutes to wilt the spinach and warm the sausage back up.

While the soup was simmering, I worked on the Bruschetta. I diced and seeded some fresh tomatoes and added some diced kalamata olives and minced fresh parsley and seasoned with salt and pepper. Thin slices of a baguette were drizzled with olive oil and popped under the broiler until golden brown. The bread slices were flipped over, topped with some shredded aged provolone cheese and put under the broiler again until the cheese melted and starting to brown. The tomato/olive mixture went on top - yum!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Party

Tis the season for parties and so my work Christmas party was tonight. It is always held at someone's house and this year it was right in the neighborhood. The main part of the meal is catered and everyone signs up to bring in an appetizer, a salad, or dessert.

This year the entree was lasagna from Maggiano's Italian Restaurant. There was a meat lasagna and a vegetable lasagna. I had a small piece of each one and they were both delicious!

There were 4-5 different appetizers; a bread bowl stuffed with a cheese dip, a cream cheese block topped with raspberry chipotle sauce, another cream cheese block topped a cranberry salsa. Those are the ones I remember.

There were 4-5 different salads; Caesar, spinach with mandarin oranges and red onions, a green bean salad with fresh tomatoes, a cauliflower salad and an antipasto salad. I made the antipasto salad which was a bowl of fresh chopped romaine lettuce, halved cherry tomatoes, slices of pepperoni, cubes of hard salami, cubes of provolone cheese, sliced roasted red peppers, olives, and pepperoncini all dressed with the Best Salad Dressing in the World (basically an enriched balsamic vinaigrette).

Dessert options were fresh baked brownies, pumpkin gooey bars, chocolate pecan pie, cookies, and peppermint bark.

I started with a little of the cream cheese with raspberry chipotle sauce on a cracker, a little of the cream cheese with cranberry salsa and a little of the cheese dip in the bread bowl. All were fabulous. For my entree, I decided on a small piece of both the lasagnas, some caesar salad, some antipasto salad, and green bean salad.

I sampled some of the pumpkin bars, a sliver of the chocolate pecan pie, a small brownie and a small piece of peppermint bark. Everything was very good, but I did go back for another pumpkin bar.

We always finish off our party with a snowman gift exchange. It's been a very fun evening for several years now.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pizza Wraps and Salad

I try to keep Thursday night dinners rather simple or something that can be made ahead since we pick up our 4 year old grand-daughter and keep her overnight. Tonight's dinner fit the bill perfectly.

I started by browning some hot Italian sausage meat and then adding some sliced fresh mushrooms and let them brown as well. The sausage-mushroom mixture was removed from the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, some crushed canned tomatoes, red wine vinegar, olive oil, fresh garlic, dried Italian herbs and a pinch of sugar and red pepper flakes were combined and heated in the microwave.

The same skillet from earlier was wiped out and put back over rather low heat. Once heated, a burrito-size flour tortilla went in and was topped with a little of the tomato sauce, some shredded mozzarella cheese, some of the sausage-mushroom mixture, some sliced pepperoni, some fresh baby spinach and lastly a little fresh shredded Parmesan. Once the mozzarella was melted the tortilla was removed to a cutting and rolled. The wrap was left alone for a minute to allow all the fillings to heat through.

The perfect side to this was a Caesar Salad. I started with the dressing by whisking some fresh lemon juice, fresh shredded Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, anchovy paste, Dijon pepper and salt and pepper. Once combined, some olive oil was whisked in until thoroughly combined. The dressing was tossed with fresh chopped romaine and garnished with toasted whole wheat bread cubes.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chicken Tikka Masala

With Elizabeth and Melissa here, we decided to cook Indian with one of our favorite recipes, but it came out a little spicier tonight than usual. We don't mind spice too much, but it's one thing Melissa doesn't do. We ended up bringing bread and butter to the table to help cool down the spice a little.

This recipe is one we have done several times in the past, by marinating the chicken breast pieces overnight in a marinade made from an onion, garlic, fresh ginger, cayenne pepper, garam masala, plain yogurt and fresh cilantro stems all processed in a food processor.

Tonight, a red onion, fresh garlic, and fresh ginger went into the food processor to be pureed. Next, some canola oil went into a large skillet along with a cinnamon stick and cooked for a minute until the cinnamon stick unfurled. The pureed onion mixture was added along with some salt and cooked until golden brown, about 20 minutes. The spices came next with some ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper added to the pan and cooked briefly. A can of crushed tomatoes was added and the sauce was simmered for about 10 minutes. A little heavy cream was stirred in and just brought to the simmer.

Meanwhile the chicken came out of the marinade, put on a rack on a baking sheet, covered with foil and popped in a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes. The cooked chicken joined the sauce and allowed to mingle for 5 minutes.

This mixture went over Cumin-scent rice pilaf.

Our vegetable tonight was stir-fried green beans with cumin. The green beans were blanched, rinsed and set aside. A stir fry pan was heated up and when hot in went some canola oil and cumin seeds for a minute. Some grated ginger was added and stirred for another minute. Finally the blanched green beans went back in and were coated with the oil and spices, before having the heat turned down, and allowing to cook, covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Delicious but quite spicy!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Grilled Lamb Chops and Couscous

Tonight we feasted on Grilled Lamb Chops with Fresh Tomato Salad and Mint-Basil Couscous. All of this was served with a side of Feta Dip.

Dinner prep started with the tomato salad by cutting a tomato into wedges, and tossing in sliced cucumbers, sliced red onion, minced parsley, olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. The salad was covered and refrigerated.

The feta dip came next, by combining crumbled feta cheese, plain yogurt, mayonnaise, minced chives and fresh lemon juice. The dip was also covered and chilled.

The lamb came next: 4 small lamb loin chops were rubbed with a mixture of olive oil, rosemary, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes. The rubbed lamb chops went on the charcoal grill for 5-6 minutes per side. The meat came off the grill and rested for 5 minutes before serving.

While the lamb was grilling, the couscous was started. In a saucepan, 2/3 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of olive oil were brought to a boil. 1/2 cup each of fresh mint and basil were added and cooked for 20 seconds. The herb mixture went in to a food processor and was pureed until smooth, but still hot, about 10 seconds. This hot puree was poured over the couscous in a bowl and covered with plastic wrap. The couscous was allowed to stand for about 5 minutes. The couscous was fluffed with a fork before serving.

Gerry was very happy to be outside using the Weber charcoal grill after what seems like a long time (maybe 3 weeks) and I must admit I love a piece of char-grilled meat.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mushroom Ragu with Creamy Polenta

There are plenty of reasons to do Meatless Mondays, but I like the challenge of finding flavorful, hearty meals that leave you feeling satisfied and this Mushroom Ragu fits the bill.

The process started by sauteing shallots in olive oil until soft. The recipe calls for 1 pound of mushrooms (1/2 lb. cremini, 1/2 lb. button, all quartered). Half of the quartered mushrooms were added with the heat brought up to high and sauteed until browned. The cooked mushrooms were removed from the pan and the other half of the mushrooms were added to the same skillets with a little more olive oil and browned. Once cooked, both batches of mushrooms were combined in the pan. A diced fresh tomato joined the pan, along with some vegetable broth, sherry, balsamic vinegar and tomato paste. This mixture was allowed to simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, before being sprinkled with parsley, thyme, and salt and pepper to flavor.

While the mushroom ragu was simmering, the polenta was cooked. A cup of vegetable broth and a cup of skim milk were brought to a boil and 1/2 cup of yellow cornmeal was whisked in. The heat was reduced to low and allowed to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Once thickened, 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese and a tablespoon of heavy cream were stirred in and seasoned with salt.

The polenta went on to the plate and topped with the ragu. This was a hearty and filling dish.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey Pot Pie

I used the last of the leftover turkey tonight in Turkey Pot Pie. This is just my chicken pot pie recipe, but made with turkey broth instead of chicken broth and turkey instead of chicken. This is the ultimate comfort food. I really enjoyed the pot pie, but I'm glad to be done with the turkey.

Hot Turkey Sandwiches

Saturday night was just Hot Turkey Sandwiches, whole wheat toast, with warm sliced turkey, smothered in homemade Turkey Gravy.

Friday Repeat

Dinner was just a repeat of our Thursday feast. Just as good the second time around.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Feast

I love Thanksgiving since it's all about the food. We have some pretty standard dishes that we do every year.

This year, a friend brought a fall appetizer to share which was yummy. It was a cranberry relish served with blue corn tortilla chips. The relish had a nice little bite to it with the jalapenos and the cilantro.

We then moved on to the main part of the meal with the turkey taking center stage. The turkey got a massage of herbed butter just under the skin and in the cavity. Also in the cavity, went a bunch of fresh sage, rosemary, thyme and a thickly sliced lemon. The remaining herbed butter was rubbed all over the outisde of the turkey. The bird was then placed on a bed of chopped onions, celery and carrots in a roast pan along with a quart of chicken stock. After an hour of roasting, the turkey got a basting of its pan juices every 20 minutes for another 2 hours.

For the past few years, we have been hooked on a caramelized onion and cornbread stuffing. A couple of chopped onions were cooked in butter until soft and caramelized and some fresh chopped sage was added. The onion and sage mixture went into a bowl and cubed cornbread was added along with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, we whisked together an egg, a little heavy cream, and chicken stock which was poured over the cornbread mixture. The stuffing was spooned into a buttered baking dish and baked until hot and crusty on top (about 30 minutes).

We always have Sweet Potato Casserole, which starts with boiling 5 sweet potatoes until tender. They are then mashed with butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt. This is spooned in a casserole dish and popped in the oven for 25 minutes before being topped with miniature marshmallows and baked for another 5 minutes. A definite family favorite!!

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without mashed potatoes. I used white rose potatoes this year and mashed them with butter, buttermilk, and salt and pepper.

We also had String Beans with Shallots. French green beans (haricots verts) were blanched and shocked to stop cooking. Some butter and olive oil went in to a skillet with some chopped shallots which were cooked for about 10 minutes to start caramelizing. The blanched green beans went in and cooked to warm through. Salt and pepper finished the seasoning for the dish.

The gravy came out great this year which has been a struggle for me in the past. The gravy started by caramelizing some chopped onions in butter in a saute pan. Some flour was whisked in with some salt and pepper and cooked for 2-3 minutes. The strained broth from the bottom of the roasting pan holding the turkey was used to make the gravy along with a tablespoon of Cognac.

We always have the jellied cranberry sauce, but this year I added a Cranberry Sauce made with fresh cranberries. A package of fresh cranberries went into a pot with 2 cups of granulated sugar and 1/3 cup of water. Once the cranberries came to the boil, the heat was reduced to a simmer and in went a cinnamon stick and allspice and cooked for several minutes. The zest and juice of 1 orange was stirred in after taking the pot off the heat. These were delicious and I'm looking forward to serving these again.

Dessert was a pumpkin pie and a bourbon pecan pie served with freshly whipped cream.

I made my pie crust dough on Wednesday and lined 2 pie plates. For the pecan pie, I whisked 3 eggs until well combined; then I beat in dark corn syrup, sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract and a tablespoons of bourbon. The filling was poured carefully over pecans that were already arranged in the pie shell.

The pumpkin pie started by combining 3 eggs with sugar, salt and spices. Gradually some cooled, scalded milk was stirred in along with some heavy cream. Next went in pumpkin puree and this entire mixture went in to the other pie shell to bake.

This year's menu was a cornucopia of different food network chef's recipes: the turkey was Sandra Lee (Semi-Homemade), the stuffing was Tyler Florence (Tyler's Ultimate), the green beans and gravy were Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), the cranberry sauce was Alex Guarnaschelli (Alex's Day Off). I didn't take a picture since there is always so much food, the plate is just a mess.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sugar-rubbed Steak

Tuesday night's dinner was sugar-rubbed New York strip steak with blue cheese and tomato salad.

Dinner started by popping some russet potatoes in the oven to bake. About 30 minutes later, the rub was started next by combining a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, pepper and salt. The sugar mixture was rubbed onto both sides of a nice thick strip steak. Then the meat was seared on the first side for 5 minutes, flipped and seared for another 2 minutes on the other side. The skillet was popped into a hot oven (450 degrees) for another 8 minutes to finish cooking to medium-rare. The steak was removed from the pan, tented with foil, and allowed to rest for 5 minutes.

The salad consisted of romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes and crumbled blue cheese. While the steak was finishing its cooking time in the oven, the dressing for the salad was made by sauteing a strip of bacon in a skillet until crisp. Diced shallots went in for a couple of minutes and then the skillet was deglazed with red wine vinegar. Some sugar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper were whisked in. A little olive oil was stirred in and the vinaigrette was kept warm until the steak was ready.

The plate held half of the sugar-rubbed strip steak, the salad topped with the warm vinaigrette topped with some of the crumbled bacon, and a baked potato.

The steak was wonderful with the sugar-rub that caramelized as the meat was seared and cutting the steak in half made it a decent serving size. We sprinkled a little more blue cheese on the steaks which we love. The salad and potato were the perfect side dishes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Fiesta of Flavors for Meatless Mondays

Tonight's dinner was Black Bean Cakes with Cilantro-Scallion Slaw and Mexican Rice.

I started dinner by making the slaw which started with sour cream, scallions, cilantro, jalapeno, and fresh lime juice all pureed together in the food processor until smooth. The dressing was poured over some shredded cabbage along with salt to taste. The slaw was covered and refrigerated until serving time.

The Black Bean cakes started with 1/2 cup of canned black beans mashed together with an egg white in a bowl. I added the rest of the black beans, 1/4 cup ground corn-tortilla chips, 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper, a couple of tablespoons of grated onion, some ground coriander, chili powder and salt to taste. This mixture was set aside in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile the Mexican rice was started by sauteing diced onion, carrot, celery, garlic, tomato paste, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper in a little oil for a couple of minutes. Some rice was then added along with some vegetable broth, brought to a boil, covered and simmered for 20 minutes. The rice was allowed to rest for another 5 minutes after the 20 minutes of cooking time.

After the 10 minute chilling time for the black bean cakes, they went into a skillet in some olive oil, and were sauteed about 4 minutes per side.

Dinner was plated by spooning the rice into a round ring mold, topped with a black bean cake and finally the slaw. The garnish was a lime wedge and some cilantro sprigs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Masala-Poached Mahi Mahi

The mahi mahi was so good last night, that I decided we needed more of it tonight. The masala-poached mahi mahi was served with a coconut rice and gingered mango-cucumber raita.

I started dinner with the rice by combining coconut milk, basmati rice, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan, bringing it to a boil and cooked for 18 minutes until tender. The rice was kept covered and warm until serving time.

Meanwhile the sauce was started for the fish by scenting some vegetable oil with a cinnamon stick and some whole cloves, Some diced onion went in to the scented oil and allowed to cook until the onion browned. The cinnamon stick and whole cloves were removed and in went some hot curry power, fresh garlic, minced garlic, minced ginger, minced serrano pepper and a bay leaf and cooked for a minute. Some chopped fresh tomatoes were added with a little brown sugar and allowed to cook down for 10 minutes.

The mahi mahi fillets were poached in this sauce, covered, for 8 minutes until cooked through. The fish was transferred to dinner plates while the sauce was finished off by swirling in a little bit of butter, some garam masala, lime juice, salt and chopped fresh cilantro. The finished sauce was spooned over the fish and served with the rice.

The final component on the dish was the gingered mango-cucumber raita. This came together by stirring together equal amounts of diced cucumber, mango, minced fresh ginger, sugar, ground cumin, salt, pepper, plain yogurt and fresh lime juice.

I'm so glad to be back in the kitchen and serving a meal like this. The heat in the sauce on the fish was fabulous, slow building and lingering, absolutely superb! The rice was sweet and a nice contrast to the fish. The raita did a fabulous job of cooling everything down.

Fishmonger's Saturday

Gerry and I have been eating out a little more than usual lately, but putting our house on the market has pushed us to get some things done. With the chores and errands we've been running, it has just been easier to grab a bite out rather than our usual cooking. I think we are basically done with the running errands to either buy things to repair something, or just trying to find the right thing so spruce up an area, we are looking forward to getting back into our routine of cooking at home.

We stopped at Fishmonger's, a seafood restaurant in Plano, serving fresh fish, family style. Gerry had the mahi mahi fish tacos, which started with a cup of shrimp tortilla soup which was delicious and loaded with shrimp. I had the crawfish etouffe and rice and started with a salad dressed with the house dressing which was a spicy Russian.

A very nice dinner, but I'm really looking forward to some home-cooked food!

Thai Food Friday

We ended up going to Zenna's on Friday night and, of course I had my usual Thai red curry with Tofu which I just love! Gerry had the Green curry with chicken which he really enjoyed. I had mine made with medium spice and Gerry went with hot spice and we were both pleased with our choices.

We can't go wrong with the curry at this restaurant.

Simple Salmon Cakes

On Thursday night we had simple salmon cakes with creamed asparagus. Dinner started with processing panko breadcrumbs, diced celery, chopped fresh cilantro, diced onion, an egg white, Sriracha (chili garlic sauce), fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper in a food processor until everything was minced.

This minced mixture was combined with 1/2 lb. of fresh diced salmon. The salmon mixture was divided into four parts and shaped into cakes, 1 inch thick. The cakes went on a parchment-lined baking sheet, covered and refrigerated for 30 minutes.

While the salmon cakes were chilling, the asparagus was trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces and blanched. Then butter was melted in a saucepan before, flour went in and whisked for a minute. Some milk and chicken broth were added, brought to a boil and whisked constantly until thickened. Off heat, some dill, lemon juice and zest were added along with salt and pepper to taste. The asparagus went in to the sauce to warm through just before serving.

The salmon cakes went into a skillet to brown on each side for a couple of minutes and then went in to a 400 degree oven to finish cooking through.

A very satisfying supper!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Quick Chicken Marengo

On Wednesday nights, Zeb and her friend Melissa come over for dinner and then we spend the night grading papers. It's a great way for us to catch up with the girls and they get a home cooked meal at least one night a week.

This week, dinner started with the Chicken Marengo, by combining flour, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes in a paper bag, which the boneless, skinless, cubed chicken pieces were shaken in and set aside.

Some prosciutto was sauteed in olive oil until crisp, before being removed. The flour-coated chicken pieces went in to the same saute pan and browned on both sides before being removed. Some sliced onions went in to the same pan next and cooked until softened before some garlic and thyme were added to cook briefly. The pan was deglazed with some white wine and allowed to cook down completely. A can of diced tomatoes went in along with some chicken broth and chopped kalamata olives. The chicken rejoined the pan with the prosciutto and was allowed to simmer for another 5 minutes. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice was then added.

This was served with a lemon-pepper polenta which was made by combining 2 cups of milk with 1 cup of water and brought to a boil. Once boiling, 1/2 cup of yellow cornmeal was whisked in along with 2 teaspoons of lemon zest, and salt and pepper and then reduced to a simmer. Once cooked and thickened, 3 ounces of cubed cream cheese was added and stirred until melted.

The chicken mixture was served over the polenta with a garnish of lemon zest and chopped fresh parsley.

Italian Sausage Ragu

Tuesday night's entree was pasta and salad. While the penne pasta was cooking, a ragu was started by browning some Italian sausage meat for a few minutes before adding some diced yellow bell pepper and diced onion. All was allowed to book for another 5 minutes before some tomato paste and garlic joined the pan. The pan was deglazed with white wine and allowed to cook down. Diced canned tomatoes went in along with some crushed red pepper flakes. The ragu was allowed to simmer for another 5 minutes or so until thickened. The thickened ragu was served over the penne pasta and garnished with Parmesan cheese.

The side dish was a salad with a tomato vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was made by whisking together diced fresh tomato, red wine vinegar, olive oil, minced shallots, minced parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. This was served over some baby romaine salad greens.

Meatless Monday Thai Red Curry

On Monday night after a late afternoon meeting, Gerry and I went out to dinner at Zenna's Thai and Japanese restaurant. This is my favorite place to order Thai red curry with tofu. It comes with a nice bowl of rice and I usually order my curry medium hot which is the perfect spice for me. I actually ate enough of my meal that there was not enough left to save for lunch the next day. This is one of my favorite places to go when I'm craving some spice.

Buffalo Wild Wings

On Sunday, while Gerry was playing in a charity golf tournament, I met a friend at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Cowboys play with Jason Garrett as the coach. Go Cowboys! They played great after their dry spell of 1 and 7. It was a great game, and I enjoyed a couple of beers and my favorite Mango Habenero Wings. I love the combination of sweet and hot on the glaze of these wings. I rounded out the wings with an order of fries. A very unusual meal plan for me, but delicious none the less.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Southwestern Cream of Chicken Soup

Nothing beats chicken soup on a cool day and cool days in Texas are really appreciated. This soup started by sweating some diced red bell pepper, diced poblano chile pepper, onion, garlic, hot chili powder, ground cumin, and ground coriander until the peppers began to soften.

Some flour was whisked in and cooked for another couple of minutes. Three cups of whole milk, 1 cup of beer, and 1 cup of chicken broth were added and brought to a simmer. Some rice went in and was allowed to simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, 2 cups of shredded Pepper Jack cheese was tossed with 3 tablespoons of flour. After 15 minutes with the rice simmering in the soup, small handfuls of the flour-coated cheese were added and stirred until melted before adding more until all of the cheese was added. Then 2 cups of shredded, cooked chicken along with some chopped fresh cilantro were stirred in and allowed to warm for a couple of minutes.

The soup was ladled out and garnished with some fresh lime.

We both loved the texture, flavor and slight heat of the soup! This would absolutely work with leftover turkey which we are looking forward to trying after Thanksgiving.

Gerry's Choice Friday Night Dinner

Gerry decided that Grilled Veal Chops with Red Pepper Sauce sounded like the perfect fit for dinner tonight. The sides were garlic mashed potatoes, and Portabello Mushrooms stuffed with Spinach and Dried Tomatoes. The meal was absolutely fabulous.

The process started with the mushrooms by wilting the spinach in a saucepan, and transferring it to a strainer to drain until cooled. The drained, and then squeezed dry spinach was then chopped. In the same saucepan, some onions, garlic, chopped oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes, chopped Kalamata olives, salt and pepper went in to cook for a couple of minutes. The saucepan came off the heat.

The portabello mushroom caps had the gills scraped cleaned, before being grilled smooth side up about 5 minutes. The mushrooms were then brought in and filled with the stuffing and topped with some bread crumbs that were tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper. The mushrooms were finished off on the grill for another 5-10 minutes until they were tender.

The Red Pepper Sauce was started by grilling a red bell pepper on the grill until the skin was blackened. The blackened pepper went in to a bowl, covered with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. This makes the charred skin easy to remove and then the roasted pepper was roughly chopped. The chopped, roasted pepper went into the food processor with some sour cream, mayonnaise, chopped fresh basil, minced garlic, balsamic vinegar and salt and processed until smooth. The processed sauce went in to the refrigerator until serving time.

The veal chops sat out at room temperature for 20 minutes before being rubbed with olive oil and getting a rub made from chile powder, minced garlic, salt, paprika, thyme, dry mustard, and freshly ground black pepper. The chops then went on the charcoal grill for 12 minutes or so until done.

The chops were served with the roasted red pepper sauce. This was all served with garlic mashed potatoes. The entire meal came together beautifully.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Orange Chicken Piccata

Dinner tonight started with 2 chicken breast halves, cut in half lengthwise and pounded to 1/4 inch thick. The pounded cutlets were seasoned with salt and pepper, dredgred in flour, and sauteed in olive oil until golden brown. The cutlets were removed and set aside while the sauce was made.

The saute pan was deglazed with some fresh orange juice, white wine, and Dijon mustard. This mixture was reduced by half before having some butter whisked in. Some orange slices went in to the reduced sauce along with the browned chicken and allowed to heat through. The chicken and sauce were garnished with slivered almonds and parsley.

The chicken was served alongside Rice and Peas which was made by boiling water, butter, and salt in a saucepan to which the rice was added and cooked. Some thawed, frozen green peas were added right before serving.

Fish Tacos Weber Style

I love fish tacos and this recipe was fabulous. We started with a South American Slaw, which consisted of 8 ounces of peeled and shredded jicama, 1 shredded carrot, a red bell pepper, thinly sliced, and 1/2 of a small red onion sliced. This was all combined in a medium bowl and dressed with a combination of olive oil, fresh lime juice, sugar, ground cumin, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. All was tossed together and set aside to wait for the rest of dinner.

Next the guacamole was made by mashing 2 Haas avocados and then adding chopped fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice, minced garlic, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. All the ingredients were stirred with a fork until thoroughly blended. The surface of the guacamole was covered with plastic wrap touching the surface to prevent browning.

Some cod fillets were rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with chile powder, salt and pepper. The seasoned fish fillets went on the charcoal grill until done and then broken into 1 inch pieces.

The tortillas were warmed over the grill and wrapped in a kitchen towel to keep warm. The tacos were assembled by filling them with some of the grilled fish, some of the guacamole, and some of the slaw.

These fish tacos were delicious and a recipe I plan on going to often!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Peppercorn Pork with Apple & Grain Salad

I started tonight's dinner by cooking some whole grains (which is a whole grain blend with Kamut) in boiling water until tender for an hour.

While the grains were cooking, I sliced a pork tenderloin into 2-inch thick slices and dredged one side of the pork in coarsely crushed peppercorns. The peppered side of the pork medallions were seared in olive oil, and then flipped to finish cooking. The medallions were removed and tented with foil to rest.

In the same skillet, I sauteed shallots and tomato paste in a little more oil, and then deglazed the pan with white wine. Apple juice and cider vinegar were added and cooked down for about 5 minutes until reduced by two-thirds. The sauce was finished with some Dijon mustard and salt.

White the sauce was simmering, I finished the grain salad by sauteeting a diced Braeburn apple in a little butter and then adding some jalapeno jelly, fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh parsley, sugar and salt to taste.

The pork medallions were served with a spoonful of sauce and the Apple Grain Salad.

The combination of flavors was wonderful!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meatless Monday Breakfast for Dinner

With Gerry still out of town, I decided to have breakfast for dinner, meatless style. I made a tofu scramble with a whole wheat toast. I sauteed some crumbled tofu and chopped onion until the onion was tender. I then added some garlic powder, onion powder, soy sauce and a little turmeric for both color and flavor. A very quick simple supper.

Sunday Relaxing

After a busy weekend, and with Gerry out of town, I couldn't decide what to have for dinner Sunday night, so I snacked on some cheese and nuts. A very unusual dinner plan, but it was quick and simple.

Saturday Night Cocktail Party

I went to another friend's house for a cocktail party Saturday night. I enjoyed a glass of white sangria (can't wait to get that recipe) and had some wonderful snack foods. It was another great evening of laughter and friendship.

Friday Night Dinner

We went to dinner at a friend's house on Friday night. We had Arroz con Pollo, Chicken and Rice, flavored with saffron, tossed salad, fried plaintains and pie for dessert. It was a wonderful evening of delicious food and great friends.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Marinara

Tonight's dinner started with roasting a spaghetti squash in a 400 degree oven for about 1 hour, until tender.

Meanwhile, some Italian turkey sausage meat was browned in a skillet, removed and set aside. After wiping out the skillet, some onions were sauteed for a few minutes before some sliced garlic was added for a few seconds. A pound of cherry tomatoes went in in with some salt and red pepper flakes and cooked until the tomatoes were softened about 5 minutes. The tomatoes were crushed with a potato masher to break them apart and then some fresh basil was added.

The cooked, scooped out squash was combined with some Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil and seasoned with salt and red pepper flakes. The seasoned squash was topped with the cooked sausage meat and marinara and the entire dish was further garnished with Parmesan and fresh basil.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Teriyaki Strip Steak

We took a Japanese twist with our menu tonight. We took strip steaks, patted dry with paper towels, before being seasoned with salt and pepper. The steaks were sauteed in a little peanut oil about 3 minutes on each side before the teriyaki sauce joined the pan. The teriyaki sauce was made with low-sodium soy sauce, honey, fresh ginger and red pepper flakes and was simmered with the steaks until reduced to a syrupy consistency. The steaks and sauce were removed to rest and the pan was wiped out to start the vegetables.

The vegetables consisted of mushrooms, red bell peppers, baby bok choy, bean sprouts and water chestnuts which were stir-fried until crisp-tender.

The steak was served over a bed of rice with the sauce and the stir-fried vegetables over the top.

Another Cuisine Tonight winner!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chicken Paillard

Sometimes the simple things are the best and tonight's dinner helps to reaffirm that belief. A boneless, skinless organic chicken breast half got pounded to 1/4" thick, sprinkled with salt and pepper, before being dipped in buttermilk, dredged in flour, and sauteed in olive oil until cooked through and golden on each side.

The buttermilk component was followed through with the Honey-Buttermilk Salad Dressing. The following ingredients were combined in a jar and shaken vigorously to blend: 1/4 cup buttermilk, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, and salt and pepper to taste.

Some of the buttermilk dressing went over mixed baby salad greens, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped fresh basil and parsley and tossed to thoroughly combine.

The buttermilk dressed salad was served over the chicken paillard and made a delicious combination.

Gerry and I agree:

Fettucine & Mushrooms

Monday night's dinner was Mushroom and Fettucine with Red Pepper Flakes for our meatless Monday. With loads of mushroom flavor and a hit of heat from the red pepper flakes, this was a quick, yet full-flavored dinner.

While the pasta cooked according to package directions, some butter and oil went in to a saute pan and used to cook minced garlic and red pepper flakes for a minute. A combination of cremini and white button mushrooms were added and cooked until they released their liquid. The pan was deglazed with some white wine and cooked down until nearly evaporated.

The cooked fettucine was added to the pan along with a little pasta water to warm through and thoroughly coat the pasta. Some Parmesan cheese and salt was stirred in.

Once plated, the fettucine was garnished with chopped parsley.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Steak Goulash Stew

On Halloween night, I made this stew which was served over Sour Cream and Horseradish Noodles and I also made Pumpkin Caramel Bars.

For the stew, I started by mixing together flour, sweet Hungarian paprika, salt and pepper in a paper bag. I added some sirloin steak, cut into strips and shaken to cover with the flour mixture.

Meanwhile some diced bacon was crisped in a saute pan and then removed and set aside. The flour coated steak strips went into the bacon drippings with a little olive oil added to the drippings, and seared for a minute per side. The steak was removed and set aside.

Some sliced onions and minced garlic went in next to saute for a couple of minutes before I added some tomato paste, more paprika, caraway seeds and remaining flour from the bag that I shook the steak in. This mixture was allowed to cook for a couple of minutes.

The pan was deglazed with beef broth and once thickened the steak went back in with some sliced roasted red peppers and some red wine vinegar and allowed to simmer for a few minutes to all come together.

This stew was served over cooked egg noodles mixed with a combination of sour cream, chopped fresh dill, and horseradish.

A very flavorful dinner and one I will look forward to again soon.

The Pumpkin Caramel Bars were interesting. I was intrigued by the recipe because it called for 8 oz. bacon. The bacon was diced and sauteed until crisp before being removed and set aside. Into the usual mixture of flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, pumpkin puree, sugar, brown sugar, egg, butter, and vanilla; 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings went into the batter. This was baked for 20 minutes and allowed to completely cool.

The frosting started with brown sugar and water with a pinch of salt in a saucepan over high heat for about 5 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally to melt the sugar without scorching. Some heavy cream was added long with some butter and whisked for another 2 minutes.

The caramel mixture went into the bowl of my stand mixer and whipped on high speed until the sides of the bowl were cool to the touch. Four ounces of cubed cream cheese was added, 1 cube at a time until the frosting was smooth. The frosting went over the cooled bars and sprinkled with the reserved cooked bacon, which was finely chopped.

The bars turned out great, but the frosting didn't quite work out for me. I realized I didn't whip the caramel mixture on high speed in the mixer, so that was probably part of the problem. My cream cheese was also at room temperature rather than chilled. I think these two factors made a wonderfully rich caramel sauce, but not the right consistency of a frosting.

I really couldn't taste the bacon drippings in the bars, but I actually liked the crispy, saltiness of the bacon bits over the top. I think I will give these bars the benefit of the doubt and not try to make then again.

Indian Saturday

We spent the day Saturday, carving pumpkins with our children and grand-daughter. After leaving their house about 4:30, we decided we would go out again for dinner and this time, we chose Indian food. We went to the Curry Pot in Plano and feasted again. We started with Potato and Pea Somosas (Gerry loves the green chutney, I love the tamarind). My entree never varies with Chicken Tikka Masala, made medium spicy with basmati rice. Gerry ordered the Lamb Madras made spicy with Naan Bread. The spice levels of both dishes were perfect.

I love Indian food so this was a very nice treat!

Sushi Friday

Friday night, Gerry and I went out for sushi. Our favorite local restaurant is Sushi Awaji which is about 15 minutes away from our house. This has been our favorite for about 10 years and we are never disappointed. We had salmon and tuna sashimi and usually I prefer the tuna, but the salmon was absolutely superb (the tuna was fabulous, too). We had shrimp sushi and then moved on to spicy tuna rolls. The Mama San rolls came next, followed by Louisiana Rolls. Absolutely a perfect meal for me. Gerry finished off the evening with a fresh oyster which was huge. I have never seen an oyster like this.

An absolutely wonderful fish feast!!

Dinner Club

Thursday night I hosted dinner club for some work friends. We try to get together once a month at someone's house and everyone brings a dish. The host or hostess gets to choose the theme and everyone tries to bring something to complement the theme. I chose Fall Favorite dishes. I made a Turkey Chili Verde which is a favorite Weight Watchers recipe that starts with chopped onion, green pepper, and garlic sauteed in canola oil until softened. Some ground turkey breast went in the pan with chili powder and ground cumin.

While the turkey was browning, some tomatillos went into the food processor with a can of chopped green chilies and cilantro. This mixture went into the pan along with some chicken broth, cannelini beans and a teaspoon of sugar. This was allowed to simmer for about 45 minutes for the flavors to blend and the chili to reach the right consistency.

I love this chili and it comes in at 334 calories per serving.

I also made another fall favorite - Homemade Apple Pie. I timed the pie to come out of the oven just after everyone came, so I got to serve it warm with vanilla ice cream. I don't even want to think about the calorie count for this one.

Some of the side dishes were homemade corn muffins (some with bacon and some with jalapenos), Corn and Black Bean Salsa with Tortilla Chips, Southwestern Lettuce Wraps (some italian turkey sausage meat, mixed with veggies and lots of spice, served in lettuce leaves) and a spaghetti squash casserole, mixed with zucchini, onions, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and topped with feta cheese.

A wonderful evening with great friends.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Favorite Pasta

Tonight we had Rachel Ray's You Won't Be Single for Long, Vodka Cream Pasta. This is a pasta recipe that I crave periodically. The recipe was started by sauteing minced shallots and garlic in a combination of olive oil and butter until softened. A generous amount of vodka went in to the pan and was reduced by half. Some chicken stock was then added along with a can of crushed tomatoes and brought to a boil, and then simmered.

While the sauce simmered, the penne rigate went into a pot of boiling, salted water for the requisite time.

While the pasta cooked, a nice salad of romaine, fresh plum tomatoes and sliced cucumber was pulled together.

Once the pasta was cooked al dente, some heavy cream was added to the simmering sauce and allowed to come back to the simmer before the cooked pasta was added and allowed to warm through with the sauce. The pasta got a nice sprinkle of fresh basil and was topped with cheese on the plate. We grilled some shrimp to add some protein to the pasta dish.

The salad was dressed with our Best Salad Dressing in the World.

Gerry and I agree:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Asian Influence Dinner

Tonight's menu was Vietnamese Caramel Chicken with Fresh Herbs over Jasmine rice, with a side of Cucumber-Peanut Salad and it was fabulous.

While the rice was cooking, the caramel sauce was started by melting sugar over medium-high heat in a skillet until the sugar turned the color of iced tea. Once browned, a mixture of chick broth and fish sauce was added to the skillet and whisked until smooth; then removed from heat.

The chicken breasts were seared in a skillet on both sides; before being removed. In the same skillet went in ginger, shallots, garlic and jalapeno to saute briefly before the chicken and caramel sauce were added back in and cooked for a few minutes for the chicken to finish cooking and the caramel sauce to thicken.

The chicken was served over the rice, drizzled with the sauce and garnished with chopped scallions, cilantro and and basil.

The Cucumber-Peanut Salad consisted of thinly sliced cucumber and red onion dressed with a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes and salt and was allowed to marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature.

A very good dinner!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Meatless Monday with a Kick

To keep the meatless Monday tradition, today we celebrated with poblano chile peppers. For lunch, we had leftover Spicy Poblano and Corn Soup which I made from my Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast Cookbook yesterday for lunch. It's a thick soup, very much like a chowder with a good kick of spice from the poblano chile peppers.

We carried over the Poblano Chile Peppers to dinner with Refried Bean Poblanos with Cheese which were spicy and wonderful. We took 4 poblano chiles, and halved them lengthwise. They went into the microwave for a few minutes to soften. While the chiles were cooking, we mixed some vegetarian refried beans, cooked rice, and picante sauce. This bean mixture went into the pepper halves and cooked to warm through. A sprinkle of reduced-fat 4 cheese Mexican blend went over the top and back in the oven to melt.

We had a side of an Iceberg Lettuce wedge of salad topped with a Creamy Chipotle Salad Dressing which was a lot spicier than the Poblano peppers. The dressing for the wedge was some light ranch dressing processed with a chipotle chile pepper and a scallion to a smooth consistency.

It was a very flavorful day!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Red Snapper with Herbed Butter

We dined on fish and fresh veggies tonight. I roasted 6 oz. snapper fillets on two slices of fresh lemon which did a nice job of delicately flavoring the fish. I sprinkled a mixture of salt, paprika and black pepper over the fillets before popping them in a 425 degree oven for 13 minutes.

While the fish was in the oven I sauteed a chopped zucchini, a mixture of red, yellow, and green bell peppers, and a minced clove of garlic in a little olive oil.

Once the fish came out of the oven it was topped with an herb butter; 1 tablespoon butter, fresh chopped basil and parsley with lemon zest.

This dinner was very good and we felt that we were eating extremely healthy!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Break's over - Tomato Soup with Pasta

It's really easy to get out of the habit of blogging, but I'm back starting today. I made a very light dinner tonight since I wasn't sure if Gerry would be eating anything after his flight back in town.

I made Tomato Soup with Pasta from Cuisine for Two, it was quick, easy and delicious! It started with onion, celery and garlic sauteed in olive oil for a few minutes. A can of diced tomatoes, chicken broth and orzo pasta went in and simmered until the pasta was done. The bowl of soup was garnished with a little lemon zest, fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mussels, Barefoot Style

Tonight's dinner was a bowlful of yummy Mussels in White Wine. The process started by cooking some shallots in a combination of olive oil and butter. Once they were starting to soften some garlic went in for a few more minutes. Some tomatoes, saffron, parsley, thyme, wine, salt and pepper were added to the pot and brought to a boil.

Finally the mussels were added, the pot covered and cooked over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes until all the mussels were open. The whole mixture went into a bowl and we dug in. A few slices of a whole wheat baguette to soak up the broth was delish!

We had a simple green salad with a Creamy Vinaigrette.

Both of these recipes were from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa show.

Mona and Gerry agree:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Slow Cooker Squash Stew

This stew was started by cooking onion and garlic in a skillet until soft and golden brown. Some tomato paste and red pepper flakes were added and cooked for another minute. The pan was deglazed with some water and then everything went in to the crock pot along with some chickpeas, butternut squash, swiss chard stems, a piece of Parmesan cheese rind, salt and lots more water. This mixture was covered and cooked on low for 8 hours.

Just before serving, the chopped swiss chard leaves were added and cooked for 10 more minutes. The bowls of this stew were sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

This was from the October issue of the Food Network magazine and we will look forward to making it again.

Fall Days

I love it when the weather starts to cool and I start thinking about cooking things that are cooked long and slow. I made Julia's Potage Parmentier (Leek and Potato Soup) for lunch. It is such a simple soup of potatoes, leeks, water and salt, cooked until everything is very tender. I took the immersion blender to the pot to puree the mixture. I then added a little bit of heavy cream to smooth it out, and garnished with minced parsley. Simplicity itself!

Dinner was Osso Bucco over Polenta from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen Cookbook. Some veal shanks get a coating of seasoned flour before being browned in olive oil. The shanks were removed and in went onion, celery, carrots, some strips of lemon peel, garlic, bay leaves and parsley to get nice and brown. Once browned and tender, the shanks went back in along with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon which was allowed to cook down until reduced by half. Some beef broth and a can of tomatoes were added and the pot was covered and put into a 375 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. The cover was removed and allowed to cook for another 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile the polenta was started by warming some chicken stock with salt. Once boiling, the cornmeal was whisked in slowly and simmered while whisking for about 20 minutes. Some milk and butter went in and stirred through to warm. Off heat, I folded in some Parmigiano cheese and black pepper. This was the perfect bed for the Osso Bucco.