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!