Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dinner at Rick's Chophouse

Yesterday for our anniversary we celebrated by going to Rick's Chophouse in old downtown McKinney. Rick's is in the Grand Hotel which has the Grand Ballroom upstairs which is where Elizabeth and Andrew will have their wedding reception.

It was a wonderful experience for us and we look forward to the reception. We started by sharing an order of Crab Dip which started with jumbo lump crab meat and goat cheese, and topped with Texas Caviar (aka black-eyed peas). It came nice and warm in an au gratin dish with a side of tortilla chips.

We then moved on to the salad course with Gerry choosing the Iceberg Lettuce Wedge with Blue Cheese Dressing and I had the Field Greens Salad with Strawberry Chablis Vinaigrette.

For the entree, Gerry chose the Sea Bass which was on top of a bed of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes which had 4 asparagus spears arranged on it and the entire thing was on a bed of citrus butter sauce. There was not a drop of anything left on his plate which attests to how good it was. I decided to go with the Filet Carpetbagger which was an 8 ounce beef filet stuffed with a fried shrimp covered with a Creole Bernaise Sauce. It came with a loaded baked potato and asparagus. It was absolutely delicious and I did it justice.

Dessert was on the house since we were celebrating our anniversary, so I ordered the Amaretto Creme Brulee and Gerry ordered the recommended Grand Marnier.

The ambiance was wonderful, the wait staff fun, and the food superb. Can't wait to go back.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Orange-Glazed Salmon

A nice meal full of Omega-3. I began our dinner by parboiling a cubed russet potato and draining really well. The parboiled potatoes went in a nonstick skillet with some vegetable oil and left alone for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. They were then stirred occasionally for another 7 minutes to give us perfectly browned and crispy home fries. Once done they were seasoned with some dried thyme and salt and pepper. These home fries are the best ever!

Meanwhile I seasoned two salmon fillets with some Cajun seasoning mixed with a little brown sugar and salt. The fillets went in another nonstick skillet and cooked for a few minutes. I flipped the fish and allowed it to saute for another couple of minutes. I added the orange element which was some orange marmalade combined with a little bit of fresh lime juice. The marmalade mixture was swirled in to the pan and the fillets got a few flips in the marmalade to coat all sides.

A fresh lime wedge squeezed over the fish was all it needed to bring it all together. Gerry and I both love salmon and this is a recipe that we will keep cooking!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Palak Paneer

I decided Palak Paneer sounded perfect for this Meatless Monday. I had planned on making my own paneer, but Val asked me to watch Ethan for the afternoon. I headed to one of my local Indian markets in the morning and found blocks of paneer just waiting to be used and so I went with that option.

I lightly steamed some fresh spinach and ran it through the food processor to chop it all up. I then cut up the paneer into cubes which I sauteed in vegetable oil to give it a little color. The paneer came out and in went the spices, whole coriander seeds, cumin seeds, whole cloves, whole allspice and a cinnamon stick and cooked for a few minutes. Next went in a couple of onions that had been thinly sliced and allowed to soften. I pureed fresh ginger with garlic cloves and a little water to make a paste which was added to the softened onions. This mixture was allowed to cook down until the liquid had evaporated. Peeled, chopped tomatoes went in next and cooked for a few minutes. Finally the pureed spinach was added back in and cooked down until the liquid was almost gone. A little heavy cream went in next and allowed to cook until slightly thickened. The browned paneer was added back in along with some salt and stirred to combine.

This yummy mixture was served over cumin-scented Rice Pilaf. It was not a pretty dish but a very flavorful dish.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Another Birthday Celebration

Saturday afternoon we celebrated Emma's birthday with her party for her friends. It was held at Metroplex Gymnastics where we gathered with some her day care friends to enjoy cupcakes and punch and then the kids got to play on various gymnastics equipment. The highlight of the party for most of the kids was the zip line after which the kids got to let go into a pit full of foam cubes. Even though it was the highlight for most of the kids, it was not Emma's favorite thing to do. Emma had fun even without doing the zip line.

Sunday was all about celebrating Gerry's birthday. He chose Pumpernickel bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon (not lox) for breakfast. A very nice and simple breakfast.

Lunch was Pea Soup, Caesar Salad and Mixed Berry Parfaits. I started with the soup early in the day by sauteeing sliced leeks and diced onions until tender. I then added chicken stock which I let come to the boil before adding a 20 oz. package of frozen peas. The peas were cooked for a few minutes and then off the heat, I added some chopped fresh mint and salt and pepper. The soup was pureed in batches in the blender and then reheated just before serving. Each bowl got a spoonful of creme fraiche, a sprinkling of chopped fresh chives and a handful of homemade garlic croutons. There was a lot of skeptism around the table, but this soup was really good. It was a Barefoot Contessa recipe, so of course it was good.

For the Caesar salad, I used my favorite go to recipe of Ellie Krieger's. It started with Egg Beaters, which is a pasteurized egg product and therefore safer to use than a raw egg. I added, crushed garlic, mashed in a few anchovy fillets, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and fresh lemon juice. Once all of this was nicely combined, I whisked in olive oil until nicely emulsified. Finally the chopped romaine was tossed in with a good amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The salad also got a handful of the homemade garlic croutons.

We rounded out lunch with parfaits which was layers of Greek yogurt, your choice of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and golden raspberries, and homemade Nutty Granola (another Ellie Krieger recipe). Some of us added a drizzle of honey. Overall a delicious and rather healthy lunch.

Dinner started with an old family favorite, stuffed mushrooms. The mushrooms were stuffed with the chopped up cooked stems and cooked sausage meat combined with mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs. A 15 minute visit in a hot oven and they were done.

We moved on to a Rack of Lamb for which I used a Barefoot Contessa Parties recipe. I mixed a good amount of Dijon mustard, a fair amount of kosher salt, some chopped fresh Rosemary, minced garlic and a little Balsamic vinegar. Once the mustard mixture coated the racks, they were allowed to sit for an hour. They then went into a hot oven for 25 minutes, removed promptly and the roast pan was covered with foil to rest for 15 minutes. I sliced them into individual ribs and they were perfectly medium rare. The easiest recipe ever! Our sides were oven roasted red and white potatoes and oven roasted carrots and parsnips.

Gerry wanted a key lime pie for dessert and my grocery store is really hit or miss when it comes to key limes. I have seen them a few times, but never when I need them. I bought a frozen key lime pie and it was perfectly fine. The next time I see key limes though and I am determined to buy them and try my hand at making one from scratch.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pork Chops Florentine

The other white meat was the feature for tonight's dinner. I started by making an herb oil with olive oil, torn, fresh sage leaves, chopped fresh rosemary, chopped fresh oregano and a couple of thinly sliced garlic cloves and set this aside.

I tossed some broccolini with olive oil and salt and pepper. A couple of pork chops were seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled about 5 minutes per side. Once done, they were put the in the herbed olive oil for 3 minutes and then flipped over and allowed to rest in the oil for another 3 minutes. The broccolini were also grilled until nice grill marks appeared.

The other part of dinner was savory tomatoes which was a thick slice of a tomato, dipped in the herb oil on both sides. Next a slice of goat cheese was dipped in the herbed olive oil and then dredged in seasoned panko bread crumbs. The tomatoes also went on the grill for about 5 minutes.

Once everything was grilled and rested, each plate got a pork chop, half of the broccolini, a savory tomato slice and everything got a drizzle of the leftover oil.

This entire meal was delicious!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Shrimp Stuffed Avocados with Citrus Aioli

This was the perfect light meal for tonight. I started with the Aioli by combining mayonnaise with some fresh orange juice, minced garlic, freshly grated orange and lime zest and salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

I had the grill heating up while I was making the Aioli. Once the grill was warmed up, some shucked ears of corn, rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper went on and cooked for about 10 minutes until nicely charred on all sides.

Meanwhile the shrimp were brushed with a mixture of olive oil, chopped fresh parsley, some fresh lime juice, garlic powder and crushed red pepper. Avocados were halved and a thick slice of red onion were brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before going on the grill. These were both grilled for about 5 minutes until softened and grill marks appeared. The avocados were scooped out once cooked leaving 1/3 of the flesh in each avacado and the flesh was diced along with the grilled red onion. The diced avocado and onion were tossed with the shrimp and halved grape tomatoes and the mixture was spooned back into the avocado halves.

The corn was cut off the cob once cool enough to handle and mixed with a pesto made with scallions, fresh cilantro, pistachios, olive oil and salt and pepper.

The pesto corn salad went on the plate and then topped with a shrimp stuffed avocado and drizzled with the citrus aioli.

Yum! Gerry and I considered when we would make this again for the rest of the family which means it was really good.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Turkey Bolognese

Val had mentioned how good this recipe was and so I put it to the test today. This is absolutely superb...very simple ingredients with very little additions and a long slow simmering time all equaled deliciousness.

This recipe was from Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook that I mentioned yesterday, "My Father's Daughter. It started with Italian turkey sausages that were browned in olive oil. Once done, they were removed and some ground turkey was browned in the same skillet. The ground turkey was removed and in went some chopped onions and minced garlic in a little more olive oil and cooked until golden and tender. A couple of cans of whole tomatoes went in with a little water. The ground turkey meat was stirred back in and the browned sausages were nestled in the sauce. The entire pot was seasoned with salt and pepper and left to simmer for 4 hours. Some tomato paste was stirred in after the 4 hours and allowed to simmer for another hour.

While the sauce simmered for the last hour, I cooked some rigatoni until just done.

The wonderful bolognese sauce went over the cooked rigatoni and all got covered with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Our side dish was a couple of slices of a fresh baguette.

We will definitely make this one again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tuna and Ginger Burgers

Summer is the perfect time for burgers and so I decided Tuna and Ginger Burgers were the perfect fit. This recipe was from Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook, My Father's Daughter.

The recipe started with wasabi powder, Dijon mustard and a little water all combined and scraped into the food processor. I added salt, pepper, minced fresh ginger, garlic and peanut oil and pulsed until everything was combined to a paste. I added some fresh tuna, that were in 1" pieces and pulsed again just to combine. I left some texture to the tuna to make the burgers. I made these early in the morning and left the burger patties, covered in the refrigerator all day to let the flavors meld together.

At dinner time, the patties went on the grill for a couple of minutes on each side until perfectly cooked. They went on toasted hamburger buns which were topped with a soy and sesame mayo, topped with baby arugula and shallots that had been sauteed in a little olive oil.

Our side dish for these burgers, was oven "fried" sweet potatoes.

We are both looking forward to having this one again!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Grilled Vegetable & Chicken Salad

For dinner tonight, we had a grilled but not green salad. I sliced some red potatoes and tossed them with olive oil and salt and pepper before having Gerry grill them. I also sliced a fennel bulb and gave it the same olive oil, salt and pepper treatment before grilling them. I trimmed and peeled some asparagus and did the same olive oil, salt and pepper before grilling. The veggies were grilled perfectly and topped with a grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast half simply seasoned with salt and pepper.

The perfect twist to make this a salad was a Hollandaise dressing which was simply a hollandaise sauce made in a blender with the addition of half of an avocado for added flavor and creaminess.

Gerry and I agree:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday's Macaroni and Cheese

Since we are watching Ethan for part of the time while Val and Jason are taking Emma to Sea World, I decided that my classic baked Macaroni and cheese would be the perfect Meatless Monday entree and I think Ethan agreed.

I have been making this for over 35 years and the only person so far who doesn't like it is Emma (she is too obsessed with Amy's frozen Mac and Cheese). It starts with elbow macaroni that are just barely cooked. While the pasta cooked, the sauce was started by melting butter in a saucepan, stirring in an equal amount of flour, with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. The flour-butter mixture was cooked until smooth and bubbling, before having hot milk stirred in and cooked until simmering and thickened. Freshly shredded Cheddar cheese went into the sauce next along with the just cooked elbows. Everything was stirred until combined and poured into a casserole dish, topped with more shredded Cheddar and baked in a 375 oven for 15 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.

Our side dish was some frozen peas that I cooked.

Ethan loved both parts of our dinner and Gerry and I also enjoyed our meatless entree.

Weekend Celebrations

On Saturday we celebrated Andrew's birthday (oh to be 24 again...I can barely remember). His food choices for the day were wonderful; French Toast with Turkey Bacon (his choice) and regular bacon (my choice). Lunch was Shrimp Po' Boys with an assortment of chips. Dinner started with a Scallop appetizer, followed by a salad, steamed mussels, oven baked fries, and nice crusty bread slices. Dessert was simply Peanut Butter Blossoms.

The French Toast were the classic eggs beaten with milk, a little sugar, a pinch of salt and a little vanilla. I bought both a white bread and a wheat bread from the bakery department of my grocery store and lightly dipped and fried the bread slices. Served with real maple syrup, these were fabulous!

The Shrimp Po' Boys started with a 6" piece of a baguette, sliced, buttered and toasted in the oven. The toasted bread slices were smeared with a sauce made from mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and a little Tabasco sauce. The fresh shrimp were treated to the usual breading process; a dip in flour, then beaten egg and finally in bread crumbs which were seasoned with salt, pepper and a little cayenne pepper before being fried until golden brown. The final touch was some shredded lettuce and a couple of fresh tomato slices. Yummy!

The appetizer for dinner was a sea scallop wrapped in prosciutto around the side. The prosciutto wrapped scallop got a brush of olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper before going on the grill for a couple of minutes per side until done. The scallops and the plate were finally drizzled with a balsamic glaze which was simply a cup of balsamic vinegar cooked down to about 1/4 cup until thickened and almost syrupy.

The mussels had been scrubbed, soaked and de-bearded before being steamed in white wine with the usual blend of chopped onion, carrot and celery. The oven fries started with russet potatoes that were sliced lengthwise into thick slices and drizzled with olive oil in a bowl before going in a single layer on a baking sheet and getting a sprinkling of salt and a little pepper. They were baked in a 450 oven for 10 minutes and then flipped over to cook for another 10 minutes.

Andrew is really not a dessert person, but he did choose Peanut Butter Blossoms which are peanut butter cookies that are rolled in sugar before being baked and then topped with a Hershey Kiss as soon as they come out of the oven. I'm not sure how this one cookie recipe slides under the not too sweet radar, but the rest of us were glad there was something sweet to end the day with.

For Father's Day, Gerry chose blueberry pancakes with a side of sausage. I made my classic buttermilk pancakes and added fresh blueberries to each pancake as I poured them on the griddle. He requested his favorite sausage (Pederson's brand which we discovered at Kerbey Lane in Austin). I have found the Pederson's brand of breakfast sausage before at our Central Market in Plano, but I had to settle for a popular brand after being unable to find his request at two separate stores.

Jason's request for lunch was to go out for Ethiopian which most of us really love. We loaded up the cars and headed to the Queen of Sheba in Addison which is always delicious. Once again the food was superb and I know we will be craving it again in a couple of months.

Gerry's choice for dinner was a light Caesar Salad with grilled chicken and Jason's choice for dessert was a Peanut Butter Pie. I made Elie's healthy Caesar dressing which I love because it starts with a pastuerized egg product to which I added anchovy paste, fresh lemon juice, fresh minced garlic, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and a slow drizzle of olive oil until thoroughly combined and thickened. I made my dressing in my salad bowl so I just tossed in the Romaine lettuce when I was ready. Once the salad was plated, I added the grilled chicken slices, some shredded Parmesan cheese and homemade croutons.

The peanut butter pie has become a family favorite with good reason. A chocolate crumb crust holds the filling of cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, a little butter, vanilla and freshly whipped cream; all combined until smooth. The pie got a shaving of a chocolate bar as a garnish. This pie is better made ahead, so I made it on Saturday night after everyone left.

A family-filled weekend of celebrating the oldest and soon to be youngest man (not counting our grandson) in our family. Of course it all revolves around food!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tilapia and Couscous with a Flair

Tonight's dinner had a Mediterranean feel to it. We had tilapia that was simply pan sauteed for 3 minutes on each side and topped with a Warm Olive Salsa. The salsa was made with some chopped Roma tomatoes that got a quick saute in the skillet before the fish went in. The sauteed tomatoes went in to a bowl that had chopped pimento-stuffed olives, fresh chopped parsley and oregano. It was covered and kept warm until the fish was cooked. The fish was seasoned with salt and pepper with a little freshly chopped oregano and went in to a non-stick pan sprayed with cooking spray. Once done the fish was drizzled with a little olive oil and had a squeeze of fresh lemon juice before being topped with the Warm Olive Salsa. This was a great combination. The fish was perfectly cooked and still moist - just perfect.

The couscous went in to a pot of boiling water along with some grated lemon zest and had the usual standing time of 5 minutes. Once fluffed with a fork, some toasted pine nuts were added along with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

The menu came from my Cooking Light cookbook and the entire meal came in at under 400 calories. It certainly tasted like a lot more calories.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bean and Hominy Potpie

The June issue of Eating Well had a section on Vegetarian meals which was perfect for meatlesss Monday. I decided on the Bean and Hominy Potpie which sounded both flavorful and filling which it was.

A large onion, sliced was sauteed in olive oil until softened. Then minced garlic and minced jalapenos went in and sauteed for 1 more minute. Next the spices went in: paprika, ground cumin, dried oregano, ground cinnamon and ground cloves and stirred for a minute. A peeled, seeded and diced butternut squash was added along with crushed tomatoes and vegetable broth and brought to a simmer. Once simmering, the pan was covered and allowed to simmer for 12 minutes. After the butternut squash was simmered until just tender, a can of drained and rinsed pinto beans and a can of drained and rinsed yellow hominy were added and stirred to combine along with salt and pepper. The mixture was poured into a shallow casserole dish.

While the squash was simmering, 8 corn tortillas were brushed with olive oil that had been combined with a little salt on both sides. The tortillas were cut into strips and the strips were cut in half and sprinkled over the casserole and the casserole went into a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. The casserole got a sprinkling of grated Cheddar cheese and spent another 1 to 1 1/2 minutes in the oven to melt the cheese.

This was a very flavorful Meatless Monday option. I'm looking forward to making it again.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bricked Cornish Hen with Garden Succotash

Since I have had a Cornish Hen staring at me from the freezer every time I open it, I decided tonight was perfect for a bricked Cornish Hen.

I started by cutting the backbone out of the hen and then cutting it in half through the breast bone. Each hen half was seasoned with salt and pepper and went in to an oiled saute pan, skin side up. They were topped with a smaller pan and finally a brick (aluminum foil wrapped) went in the smaller pan. After 9 minutes, the brick and smaller pan were removed. The hens were flipped and the brick (minus the pan) went once again over the hen halves and allowed to cook again for 9 more minutes. Cooking it this way made it taste like it's been slow roasted.

Our side dish was garden succotash which was garlic, yellow squash, zucchini, fresh green beans, and corn sauteed for a few minutes to soften. A little heavy cream was stirred in and allowed to cook down a little and finally off heat, red bell pepper, basil and thyme were stirred in.

A lovely Sunday night dinner!

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Tonight I was craving the ultimate simple pasta meal - Fusilli with 3 Cheeses and Red Bell Pepper. This pasta dish is the ultimate in simplicity.

While the pasta water was being brought to a boil, I sauteed two sliced red bell peppers in a tablespoon of butter until soft for about 10 minutes. Once the pasta was cooked and drained, it was returned to the hot pot and more butter was added along with the sauteed red peppers, a combination of grated Fontina, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. The mixture was stirred to combine and I poured it all back in to the cast iron skillet that I sauteed the red peppers in. The entire pan was popped under the broiler for 4 minutes until the top just started to brown.

I also broiled some leftover hoagie rolls that were drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with more Parmesan cheese once they were golden brown.

This is a very simple, but yet decadent pasta dish that I crave periodically.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Spicy Indian at Home

Since I was still craving spice, I decided to go Indian tonight. I had recently watched a taped episode of Aarti's Party which is what I decided sounded good tonight. The menu was Beef Vindaloo, Whole Wheat Chapatis, and Cucumber Raita.

I started with the dough for the chapatis by combining whole wheat flour, sea salt, and water until a ball formed. I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes and let it rest for 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile I toasted some cumin seeds, a cinnamon stick, whole cloves and whole black peppercorns for a minute or so and then ran the toasted spices through a coffee grinder until ground to a powder. These went into the blender with ground turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper, ginger, garlic and apple cider vinegar to make a wet masala.

The wet masala was added to a skillet in which a red onion had been sauteed with a serrano pepper which had been slit in half and were nicely caramelized. The wet masala was allowed to cook down for a couple of minutes before sirloin beef cubes were stirred in and coated with the masala mixture. Some hot tap water went in to the blender to catch the rest of the wet masala mixture and poured in the skillet with the beef. Once the mixture came up to a boil, the heat was reduced, the pan covered and allowed to simmer for 30 minutes.

While the beef was simmering, it was time to turn back to the chapati dough. The dough was divided in to 12 portions. Each was rolled out, brushed with a little olive oil, folded over twice, sealed and rolled again in to a triangular shape. They each went in a hot cast iron skillet and lightly brushed with a little more olive oil before being flipped and cooked until golden brown.

The salad was a cucumber raita which started with 2% Greek yogurt, an equal amount of shredded cucumber, a clove of garlic, some fresh minced mint, salt, golden raisins and freshly ground black pepper.

This was a wonderful combination since the heat from the vindaloo was cooled by the raita and chapatis.

I'm looking forward to trying this with another protein source the next time.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Craving Spice

Since I was craving spice for dinner tonight we had Shrimp Creole with Rice. I used the same recipe that I made back in December which is from my Cuisine for Two cookbook and isn't the traditional saucy Shrimp Creole but more of a stir-fried creole dish. It was just as good this time around and once again we had the Jalapeno-Cheese Bread as a side.

I'm sure we'll go back to this recipe again.