Saturday, July 31, 2010


I think when people think burgers, they are thinking hamburgers. We had Spiced Lamb Burgers with Herbed Yogurt. I started the mixture by chopping in a food processor, an onion, fresh ginger, garlic, cilantro, and jalapenos. I added this chopped mixture to a pound of ground lamb and added cumin, garam masala, salt, an egg, and breadcrumbs. After mixing well, I shaped the burgers while Gerry lit the charcoal on the grill. Meanwhile, I made a sauce of Greek yogurt, cilantro, mint, more jalapenos and of course salt and pepper. Once grilled, the burgers went on the buns with the sauce, lettuce, and sliced tomatoes. These burgers were full of flavor with some spice, but not too much. I served these with a chopped salad of English cucumber, yellow tomatoes, red tomatoes, and chopped onions which had been soaked in white wine vinegar. I drizzled the vegetables with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, and salad seasoning.

Surf and Turf

For dinner last night, my husband decided to make surf and turf. The surf part of the meal was shrimp which were sauteed in a mixture of butter and oil with garlic and a minced serrano pepper; very flavorful without a lot of heat. The turf part of the meal was a Bison steak which was grilled over charcoal with Montreal Steak seasoning. We have been wanting to try bison and it was delicious. It tastes a lot like beef, but is very lean. He roasted some oca potatoes, aka New Zealand Yams which were fabulous. They look like fingerling potatoes in size and come in a variety of colors which you can't tell once they're cooked. The vegetable side was whole roasted carrots with stems left in tact which made for a very nice presentation. We started our dinner with a spinach salad with radishes and sliced yellow tomatoes, dressed with our favorite Best Salad Dressing in the World, which is really how we found the dressing recipe. A delicious feast!!! I'm really glad my husband enjoys being in the kitchen when he whips together a meal like this.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thai Red Curry

I love the flavors of Thai food and in particular, Thai red curry. There is a restaurant called Zenna in Plano which is where I first tried this curry and loved it. I get cravings for this dish often enough that I figured out how to make it at home. I had printed off several recipes and somehow the one I saved is not the one I originally made (I think). This one was quite good but it was finished off with a cornstarch/water mixture which made it glossy rather than smooth. I will play around with other recipes until I get it perfect. Tonight's curry started with onions sauted in canola oil, once softened you add Thai red curry paste and garlic. Add coconut milk , chicken stock and seasonings and bring to a boil. Add sliced zucchini and red pepper strips and cook for a while. I then added cubed tofu and cooked again briefly. This curry then gets the cornstarch paste added along with lemon juice and basil. Serve this over a bed of Jasmine rice. It was very good, but I think it could be better. I will keep experimenting until I get it just the way I like it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Joe T. Garcia's

I spent the day with three of my friends from work in Fort Worth. We visited the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. We really learned a lot about the fascinating mind of Da Vinci through the many stages of his inventions and improvements to former inventions. We toured more of the museum and had lunch at the cafe. We enjoyed the presentation at the Planetarium with the Texas Night Sky show. We moved from the Planetarium to the IMAX to watch a film made about the life of Van Gogh. Did you know that Van Gogh only painted for 10 years and in that span of time painted over 900 paintings? It was a very informative film but left us all feeling sad since he committed suicide at 37 years old, having sold only one painting during his lifetime. We rounded out our museum day at the Cowgirl Museum which had an exhibit on Georgia O'Keefe. It was a really great, informative day.

After all the enlightening information we decided to visit a Fort Worth institution, Joe T. Garcia's restaurant. At first appearance, this restaurant is not impressive, but we sat outside and their patio area is unbelievably beautiful. It is a Mexican restaurant that opened in 1935 and still operates the same way (no credit cards - cash only). They do not have a menu, since the menu never changes and is very short. The choices are fajitas or the family style dinner. They serve beef or chicken fajitas or you can get a combination, which comes with rice, beans, guacamole, flour tortillas, pico-de-gallo, chips and salsa. The family-style dinner comes with 2 cheese nachos as appetizers, 2 cheese enchiladas, rice, beans, 2 beef tacos, guacamole, 2 corn tortillas, chis and hot sauce. We ordered one of each of the entrees for the four of us, and left with two to-go containers. The food was delicious and the patio was beautiful. It was a fabulous day!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fish and Rice

Tonight we opted for a fish and rice dinner. We had tilapia fillets, which were lightly sauteed in a little vegetable oil and just seasoned with salt and pepper. The fillets were served over a bed of Jasmine rice. So far, it sounds really simple. The sauce is what made the dish; a Red-Curry Carrot Sauce. You simmer some sliced carrots in chicken broth with some crushed garlic. Once they are done, run everything through the blender until smooth and pour it back in the pot. Add some milk, Asian fish sauce, red Thai curry paste, brown sugar and salt. Reheat and serve over the rice and fish fillets. Garnish with chopped cilantro. A nice and flavorful Thai dish without a lot of heat.

While I was at the market this afternoon, I found some fresh rhubarb which I couldn't resist picking up. I also bought a quart of strawberries since I know they pair together so well. I made Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, which I remember seeing Anne Burrell make on Secrets of a Restaurant Chef recently. The filling consisted of strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch, orange juice and balsamic vinegar. The topping is whole-wheat flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract, salt and a little water. After baking for 30 minutes, this crisp came out perfect. A small scoop of vanilla ice cream made it heavenly.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pasta Ponza

Earlier today, my daughter recommended a pasta recipe she had prepared on Sunday for dinner. I took her up on it and made it for dinner tonight and it was fabulous. It is a Giada De Laurentiis recipe. You take a container of red grape tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes, slice them in half and put them in a buttered 8x8 casserole dish. Add 1/4 cup of rinsed capers, toss everything with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of Italian breadcrumbs over the tomatoes, drizzle with a little more olive oil and bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Meanwhile cook a pound of ziti. Put the pasta in a large bowl, add the tomato mixture and 1 1/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese, toss well, season with more salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving. This was really a fabulous pasta dish. Val, thanks for the recommendation.


After everyone left yesterday, Gerry and I just had leftovers for dinner. The Chicken Tikka Masala is just as delicious reheated as it is the first time you have it. We had the chicken and a piece of brown sugar pie. Just perfect!

Family Birthday Celebrations

A birthday is a day to celebrate in our house. Our tradition is that the birthday person gets to pick the meals for the day and the activities for the day. The day is all about that person. On Saturday, we celebrated my daughter's birthday. We still had our Canadian friends visiting, so they were included in the mix of people. When this tradition started, we were a family of five; on Saturday there were 12 of us here. (I included our newest grandson in this number of people, but since he is only 3 weeks old, the only space he needs is someone's arms and there were plenty of arms to go around). What a blessing family is.

The day started with your choice of Greek Yogurt or Vanilla yogurt with your choice of fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, papaya, bananas) and either raspberry crunch granola, or vanilla almond granola. All of this then got a drizzle of honey. My daughter and I discovered this yummy breakfast idea while traveling in Greece, minus the granola. There was also a selection of toast and jams.

My daughter's choice for lunch was Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches and Chicken Parmesan sandwiches for those preferring meat. I breaded the eggplant and baked the slices in the oven rather than fry them, which makes them a lot lighter. Once they were lightly golden brown, I topped them with jarred spaghetti sauce (didn't have time to make my own), gave them a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese and popped them back in the oven for the cheese to melt. I did pan fry the breaded chicken cutlets, then popped them in the oven with the sauce and cheese. I seem to have started another tradition over the last year or so with baking a batch of cookies for the birthday person, trying to pick their favorite cookie. Everyone is now suggesting their favorite cookie when they give me their menu for the day. The cookie of the day was White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies. What a great lunch!

The choice for dinner was Indian in flavor. We started with Potato and Pea Samosas which were really good. I made chutney for the first time, the green chutney was really good. Tamarind chutney is my favorite and this one didn't work out so well. I overcooked the chutney (it went to almost the soft candy stage which I would have realized if I were using a candy thermometer). Hopefully it will come out better next time. We had Chicken Tikka Masala served over cumin scented Rice Pilaf. It was absolutely perfect. This was served with store-bought Naan bread.

Dessert was a Canadian classic - Brown Sugar Pie. The closest way to describe this is to imagine a pecan pie filling made with lots of brown sugar without the the pecans. This filling goes into a double crust pie. I grew up with this pie as a traditional dessert and all of my girls love it. It is always a family favorite but requires a very sweet tooth to enjoy it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Simple Mexican

With our Canadian friends, we took a tour of Central Market which was a truly unique experience for them. We decided on the menu for the evening during our tour of the store. We decided on a Mexican theme for the evening. We started with Papaya and Black Bean Salsa and homemade Guacamole with tortilla chips during the cocktail hour. The papaya and black bean salsa is an old favorite that we all just love. You start with some rinsed canned black beans; add some diced fresh papaya, red onion, red pepper, and minced fresh jalapeno. Toss with some fresh lime juice, olive oil, salt and cilantro and you have a colorful, fresh salsa. We have discovered Ina's Guacamole recipe recently and we really enjoy it. Ina uses lemon juice instead of fresh lime juice so it has a mellower taste to it.

We then had Grilled Fish Tacos and refried beans for the entree. We grilled some fresh halibut simply with some olive oil and salt and pepper. We had picked up freshly made tortillas at Central Market which were perfect for holding the fish. We added some shredded Napa Cabbage, a little bit of fresh corn and topped it off with a Chipotle Cream sauce. The Chipotle cream sauce has no cream at all in it - it's made with some Greek Yogurt and diced chipotles in adobo sauce with some extra adobo sauce thrown in to make a perfectly pink sauce. Yummy!

I like making my own refried beans since I can control what goes in them. I do start with canned beans usually, unless I have really planned things out to have the dried beans soak overnight. I saute some onions with garlic and chili powder, add the canned, rinsed pinto beans and chicken broth. When the beans are warmed through about 5 minutes later, I simply mash them to the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

I love the combination of the fish tacos with the refried beans.

Dinner with Friends Texas-Style

We had friends over for dinner on Thursday night which I really enjoy doing! I wanted to do a Texas-style meal since these friends are from Quebec. The men started with martinis while I whipped up a batch of Pink Grapefruit Margaritas. It was a great way to kick off an evening of fun. We snacked on Jalapeno Poppers with our drinks. We moved on to the salad course which was the III Forks salad which is always a hit. The entree was New York Strip Steaks grilled over charcoal which were very good; just not quite as spectacular as the prime ones we recently did. Our entree was rounded out with baked potatoes and sauteed mushrooms. Dessert was Ina Garten's Fruit Salad with Limoncello which has been a favorite of mine this summer. Start with some strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, sprinkled with some sugar and Limoncello to macerate. The berries are then covered with a sauce made with lemon curd, greek yogurt, honey and vanilla. It's a cool, creamy, refreshing summer dessert with a little tartness from the Limoncello and lemon curd. It was a great evening of listening and speaking in French. French is such a beautiful language!!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

5 Courses of Indian Food

Tonight we tried a new restaurant in Austin specializing in South Indian dishes, which happens to be vegetarian. The four of us enjoyed a 5 course dinner; starting with a lentil soup, served with a side of Papad (roasted, crispy lentil tortillas). We then each got a Samosa served with the traditional Green Chutney or Tamarind Chutney. This was followed with a potato and pea stuffed Dosa served with two different sauces. Finally the main part of the meal arrived - two bowls of basmati rice and two different curried dishes; Avial (Vegetables simmered in coconut sauce, Yogurt and Spices), and Palak Paneer (Home-made Cottage cheese cubes cooked with spinach and spices) and a house special of Cauliflower lightly covered in a red coating and fried. These dishes were served with a basket of freshly baked Naan bread. Everyone's favorite was the Cauliflower, with the Palak Paneer running a close second. The feast was rounded out with Ras Malai (Home-made cottage cheese marinated in condensed milk, flavored with rose water and garnished with Pistachio). Even though this sounds like an enourmous amount of food, we gave it our best shot and still came home with leftovers. A very enjoyable feast which we will look forward to again in the future.

Doing the Hula in Austin

We made a quick trip to Austin and so last night we went to our favorite restaurant, Hula Hut. We manage to squeeze a meal in at Hula Hut every time we visit our daughter in Austin. Hula Hut is located on the water with a huge deck overlooking several boat slips for customers to visit, which makes having drinks during the long wait not only bearable, but quite fun. The food is Mexican/Hawaiian fusion which puts a unique twist on typical Mexican dishes. I was ready to try one of their new entrees (Chile Rellenos), but they were out of it. I quickly slipped back to my standard favorite Grilled Fish Tacos with a Jalapeno Lime Sauce, which is what I get almost every time. They are always fresh, perfectly cooked and not too filling. My husband ordered the Chile-Rubbed Salmon Tacos, which he thoroughly enjoyed. My daughter had the Stuffed Avocado, which was stuffed with chicken, cheese and sauce, then rolled in a batter and fried. Absolutely decadent! Our future son-in-law had the Macadamia Crusted Mahi-Mahi which came with a salad including mangoes and pistachios dressed with a vinaigrette. Everyone was very pleased with the choices made. We will definitely continue our tradition of visiting every time we go to Austin.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Indian Food Made Easy

The title of this post is another one of my favorite shows on the Cooking Channel. I love all the layers of flavors in Indian Food. Last night we had Lamb with Green Chiles, Bengali-Style Aubergine Cooked in Yogurt, and Naan Bread. The lamb was marinated overnight and consisted of tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, poppy seeds, turmeric, fennel seeds, garam masala, and salt. When you're ready to cook your curry, you always start with a little oil in a pan and saute your spices; in this case Nigella Seeds (black cumin seeds) and Cumin Seeds for about 30 seconds to release their flavor. Then you add the lamb with the marinade and let it cook for about 15 minutes. You add a cup of water, bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer for 35-40 minutes. When the curry is almost done, quickly saute a bunch of jalapenos (in this case 8), which were halved lengthwise in a little bit of oil. Add to the curry for the last 5 minutes or so of cooking. I know 8 jalapenos sounds like a lot, but it actually was pretty mild.

Bengali-Style Aubergine Cooked in Yogurt was the absolute hit of the meal. I started with a Chinese style eggplant cut into rounds. The rounds got a sprinkling of a mixture of turmeric, salt, and ground red chile powder (I bought some red chile powder from the Indian market instead of using our American version; definitely hotter). The seasoned eggplant slices got a quick saute to soften slightly. These are finished in a sauce of gently heated yogurt seasoned with sugar, toasted, ground cumin seeds and salt. The heat from the spices on the eggplant, cooled by the yogurt sauce was extraordinary.

Naan Bread was more of an experiment and not quite successful. It was edible, but not really good. Take some flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, milk, and vegetable oil. Make a dough, knead for about 10 minutes, and set aside, covered, to rise to double its volume for 1 hour. How does a dough without yeast rise? Mine didn't, so I rolled it out and baked it anyway. Like I said, edible, but not very good. Today I'll do my research on Naan.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Charcoal Grilling

For Father's day this year, the girls got my husband a Weber charcoal grill. We used is for the first time last night and it was wonderful. We grilled New York Strip steaks simply seasoned with Montreal Steak Seasoning. I don't know if it was the charcoal flavor or the fact that my husband bought Prime steaks from Central Market, but it was like having a steak-house perfectly cooked piece of meat. We rounded out the meal with baked potatoes, sauteed baby bella mushrooms, and home-made White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies. Another spectacular meal!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

French Cooking

I have been enjoying watching the new Cooking Channel and in the process, I have found some new chefs that I'm looking forward to experimenting with. Last night's menu came from Laura Calder's French Food at Home show. We started with Hot Mussels, steam mussels for about 3 minutes, until the shells open. Remove the top shell and place the mussels in shells on a baking sheet. Top them with an herb butter and sprinkle with fresh breadcrumbs. Pop them under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden. A nice switch from simple steamed mussels.

We followed this with a poached trout stuffed with mascarpone cheese. The trout is poached in a wine flavored bouillon, and cooled. The mascarpone cheese is seasoned with chives, lemon zest and juice, and salt & pepper. The cheese goes into the middle of the cold fish. A little more cheese is spread on the outside of the fish and very thinly sliced cucumber rounds are added to look somewhat like fish scales. This was a very cool, refreshing dish; perfect for a hot Texas day. This was served with a Pea and Fava Salad which was perfect.

The only disappointment in the menu was the Angel Cake for dessert. It is very much like an angle food cake, except it does include the egg yolks, making it a denser cake. The instructions were to bake this cake at 400 for 1 hour and it came out rather crisp. I will try this recipe again, but either turn down the oven or cut way back on the baking time.

The whole meal turned out to be a nice change of pace!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Family Favorite

Since last night was Friday, my husband cooked again. We had a family favorite meal: Salmon with Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze, Oven Roasted Potatoes and Oven Roasted Asparagus. My girls consider this comfort food since they have grown up with this. The salmon recipe is from our Weber's Art of the Grill cookbook. The glaze starts with brown sugar, honey and butter melted in a saucepan. Take it off the heat and add Dijon, soy sauce, olive oil and freshly grated ginger. Place salmon in aluminum foil folded to just hold the salmon, pour the glaze over and grill it for 18-20 minutes. Absolutely melts in your mouth.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


There was no time for cooking tonight since my middle daughter had engagement pictures taken at 6:00 pm today. I went along as the extra set of eyes to make sure hair/dress, etc. were perfect for all the shots. Photos were taken at two different locations and therefore took about an hour and a half. After being outside in the Texas heat for that long, I was hungry and craving a salad. I decided the Super Salad from Taco Delite sounded perfect and it was. Tortilla chips, taco meat, cheese, chopped tomatoes, a drizzle of sour cream, guacamole and of course, extra hot sauce makes the perfect salad. I'll be back in the kitchen tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pasta is the Perfect Food for a Crowd

Instead of cooking for just me and my husband, there were six of us around the dinner table tonight. My daughter was here with her fiance, as well as my youngest daughter. Included in our group was our four year grand-daughter. I made one of our favorite pasta dishes - Fusilli with Three Cheeses and Red Peppers. You cook some fusilli pasta, mix it with a combination of butter and 3 cheeses: fontina, mozzarella, and Parmesan. You add some cooked red pepper slices; stir it all together, put it in a casserole, top it with extra cheese, and pop it all under the broiler until golden and bubbly. Very cheesy!!! Along with the pasta was a simple salad of romaine, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes dressed with a home-made dressing called the "Best Salad Dressing in the World". A very simple, but truly fabulous meal!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Indian Delight

We love Indian food, so I have experimented with making some of my favorites at home. I first mastered Chicken Tikka Masala, aka Butter Chicken, since it is my go to order in Indian restaurants. Speaking of restaurants, my favorite local Indian restaurant recently shut down (major bummer). It is one of the many reasons I am glad to be experimenting with cooking Indian food at home.

Continuing, I tried making Samosa's for the first time; one recipe using fillo dough, and the other with a homemade pastry dough. The homemade pastry dough wins hands-down. The filling for these is a simple mixture of potato and peas with plenty of spices and is absolutely spectacular.

Chicken Tikka Masala is an interesting process. My youngest daughter helped me with the process and she was also surprised by it. You start by combining garlic, ginger, onions, cayenne pepper, yogurt, and cilantro stems in a food processor. This mixture is used to marinate the chicken. The next step is to start the sauce, by again using the processor to puree onion, garlic, and fresh ginger. You saute this in a large skillet for about 20 minutes, and then add the "magic bullet" of spices. You continue the sauce with pureed tomatoes, and then finish it with a little heavy cream. While the sauce is simmering, you roast the chicken in the oven. Once the chicken is done, you combine it with the sauce, stir it up, and serve it hot.

The Chicken Tikka was served with Cumin Scented Rice Pilaf. Who needs take out when you can have this flavorful meal right at home? Can't wait to experiment with homemade Chutney's next...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Red Meat Night

Tonight's entree had an Italian flavor to it. We had Giada's Flat Iron Steak with Red Wine Sauce. Flat iron steak has become a favorite in our house since trying it about a year ago. The steak is simply grilled, but the red wine sauce is what brings it to the next level. Saute some onions in butter, add garlic and oregano, tomato paste and finally some red wine. Allow the wine to reduce and finish the sauce with butter to emulsify. Fabulous! We enjoyed the steak with garlic mashed potatoes and round 2 of the III Forks salad. We have enough dressing left for 2 more servings of this yummy salad. I think I'll enjoy it for lunch tomorrow.

Change of Pace

After two nights of fish for dinner, last night's feature was chicken. I made Cumin-Dusted Chicken Breasts with Guacamole Sauce. The chicken gets a quick rub of brown sugar, ground cumin, and of course, salt and pepper. They got a quick saute on the first side and once flipped over finished in the oven. The sweet and smoky flavor of the rub pairs beautifully with the cool creamy texture of the guacamole sauce. We had a side of rice, simply cooked in chicken broth with a little saffron, and steamed green beans. It was delicious and is a dish I crave periodically.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Win some, lose some

Tonight's menu was a light choice since we had lunch out (burgers and fries) while running errands. We started with a recreation of my favorite salad ever from III Forks. There is a recipe that is pretty darn close on Recipezaar so it was delicious. The salad was baby greens, topped with thin apple slices, Danish blue cheese, and toasted pecans. The dressing is what makes the salad; you make the vinaigrette and then warm it slowly while assembling the salad. The warm vinaigrette just slightly wilts the lettuce and warms the blue cheese. Absolutely delish!!! Our entree was a Pecan-crusted flounder, which was okay, but I won't be saving that recipe. The topping was way too salty and didn't do much to enhance the fish. We also had oven roasted asparagus, sprinkled with fresh lemon juice once it came out of the oven.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Treat

Friday's are free days for me, since I let my husband plan and cook dinner. Today, his choice is a Barefoot Contessa recipe - Indonesian Grilled Swordfish. The swordfish was marinated in a combination of soy sauce, canola oil, lemon zest and juice, ginger root, garlic and Dijon mustard. The sides were oven roasted potatoes, and oven roasted sugar snap peas with shallots.