Friday, August 27, 2010

Follow me to a new location

I'm giving up this site and in an attempt to make posting easier, I've moved all my content under a single email address. The posts from here have already been exported to the new site. Same design, same content, slightly different address. Join me at

All future posts will be there, and this blog will shut down at the end of August.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vermont Cheddar Bisque or something like it

Yesterday was CSA pick-up day. We received cantaloupe, 1 pound of tomatoes (I picked some small green striped ones), peaches, peppers (sweet and hot), okra (yuck), green beans, and a loaf of bread. And I did not use a single one of these items for dinner. What I did do was make a potato soup using the last of our potatoes. It seemed like a hands-off kind of meal, and after grilling chicken two nights in a row (once for fajitas and once for a pasta dish with a walnut sauce), that was what I needed. The recipe I started with is below. I'm not sure of its exact origin; my mom sent it to me last year and I meant to cook it a few weeks ago when we were overloaded with potatoes but hadn't gotten to it.

Vermont Cheddar Bisque
1.5 C peeled potatoes, cut into ½-in cubes 2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 C low-sodium chicken broth 1.5 C shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 C unsalted butter 1/4 tsp salt
1 C finely chopped onions Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
3 T all-purpose flour 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1.5 C 2% reduced-fat milk
1. Combine potatoes and broth in a large stockpot. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook stirring, until translucent, 6-to-8 minutes. Add flour and cook stirring 2 minute. Stir into potato mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened.
3. Add milk and cook, stirring, about 8 minutes. Do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in mustard and about half the cheese. Stir until melted. Add remaining cheese. Season with salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.

I already knew there would be at least one substitution. I had a block of horseradish Cheddar cheese, not extra sharp. But, really, that was just the beginning.

First of all, I really hate peeling potatoes, a task that does not fall in the "low maintenance cooking" category. Since I skipped peeling, I decided to skip cutting, too, and just tossed 2 pounds of potatoes (all we had left) into 3 cups of chicken broth (all we had left) and let those babies cook.

Meanwhile, I melted the butter and sliced two small yellow onions and half of a red onion then cooked them in the butter. That's about what the recipe called for. I did not use any flour. I added some garlic near the end.

I'm not sure how long it took to cook the potatoes; I had the burner at about medium and did sit down to read a magazine so I definitely wasn't running around the whole time. I ended up cooking the potatoes for so long to make sure they were soft that even with the lid on the pot most of the chicken broth evaporated or was absorbed by the potatoes. I used a hand masher to mash the potatoes a bit and then added the onions to the potato pot. I then added 1.5 cups of milk, probably 3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to the pot and pulled out the immersion blender.

The potato mixture was very thick, more like mashed potatoes than soup, so I added more milk. Then I mixed in the cheese, which I had grated in the food processor. It was probably around 1.5 cups.

There were little bits of peel still, but the soup was overall thick and creamy. I sprinkled a little extra cheese on top. I wrote a poem before about Frank Lloyd Wright that had a line about the nutrients in a potato skin. Maybe it's a poem about potatoes and not about FLW.

I have no idea what the nutritional value of this meal is, but it feels pretty healthy -- onions, potatoes, spices, 2% milk, and local cheddar cheese. Filling and not bad to make for a late summer day when the temperatures have finally started to get below Unbearably Hot.

[Pictures to follow]

This weekend will definitely involve cantaloupe plus the watermelon we still have. Now what to do with the pears...

Monday, August 23, 2010

How to Gain 5 pounds on your honeymoon (in one week)

Sunday: get married and have a brunch reception. You probably lost weight in the days before due to stress, nerves, poor appetite, and running around, and even the increased consumption of alcohol has kept you at your lowest weight in almost 10 years. For the parties on Friday and Saturday, you were too busy talking to people to eat that much. Then you go to the reception buffet and try a little bit of everything. After all, you worked hard to pick a menu and It's Your Day: fresh fruit, salad, frittata, Hot Brown Casserole (a crowd favorite), and a waffle station with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Eat the fruit, salad, a little bit of the casseroles and two waffles. Don't forget the two mimosas from the bar (peach bellinis and bloody marys also available), a glass of white wine, and the champagne toast. There's the bite of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting after the cutting. Then the 1.5 slices later (yours and part of his, mainly the frosting part).

After the reception, your appetite kicks in again so you order room service: cokes, a hamburger, and pork (his). They mess up the creme brulee order so give you 3 different desserts instead.

Monday: breakfast at the hotel. Coffee with cream and sugar. There's a buffet but you had that yesterday. Order the biscuits & gravy. Breakfast comes on two plates with toast, eggs, and bacon, plus the actual food you ordered.

On the drive to your first honeymoon spot, eat half of a giant cookie leftover from the rehearsal picnic. Stop for lunch at your favorite brewery (Restaurant #1). Order a wheat ale with orange slice. Split a smallish appetizer pizza with goat cheese and duck sausage -- three small slices each. Later, get a huge chocolate cupcake with frosting at a bakery but only eat half of it. More Coke.

Cook the food left for you at the cabin - steak and crescent rolls. Bake the brownie mix. Have a beer (you bought some at the brewery).

Tuesday: Cold cereal for breakfast (Frosted Flakes). Lunch: you end up at an outlet mall and split a huge tuna-salad sandwich and Dr. Pepper.
Dinner: You're at your inn in a scenic lake town. You decide to share dishes so you won't have leftovers and so you have room for dessert. Restaurant #2: Order a vodka martini because martinis are on special but then decide you don't like it so get Chardonnay instead. Let him have his gin martini and some of your vodka one. Split the bacon-wrapped scallops. Split the Saltimbocca ("Braised chicken breast layered with fresh sage and prosciutto, topped with artichoke hearts, lemon beurre blanc sauce, and capers and served on linguine." Order separate desserts: strawberry shortcake and creme brulee.
Drink French Press coffee (with cream and sugar) at the coffee shop while you play cribbage.

Wednesday: Breakfast at the inn: orange juice, fresh fruit, quiche, and a cranberry scone.
Lunch: Restaurant #3: Split the Spinach-artichoke dip and fish tacos. Nap and eat some of the leftover brownies you brought with you.
Dinner: Restaurant #4: Decide it's more cost-efficient to share a bottle of wine -- order the Oregon Pinot Gris. Split the Foie Gras, the Mahi Nicoise salad, and the Walleye Buerre Rouge. Order separate desserts -- creme brulee and something with chocolate. Share a pot of French Press coffee (with cream and sugar).

Thursday: Breakfast at the inn: fresh fruit, Eggs Benedict, and a carrot coffee cake. Coffee with cream and sugar.
Lunch: Restaurant #5, unnamed because it wasn't worth it even though it normally would have been fine: crinkly sweet potato fries, a burger with blue cheese and onion, and a vegetable wrap (his) that did not come with the guacamole. Only eat half of your meal but take it back to your room for someone (him) to finish later.
Snack: Wander the shops again which are having a street sale. Get gelato/sorbet (sour cherry and chocolate for him; hazelnut and coffee for you).
Dinner: he's full from eating the leftover lunch, but you're hungry and dessert first wasn't enough. Go to the Italian place (Restaurant #6) and order the calamari and the half-order of angel hair pasta. Drink water. He eats some of the calamari. Tip extra because you feel bad for taking up a table.
Dinner two: After playing cribbage by the water and skunking your husband thoroughly, you decide you want dessert, which works well because now he's ready for dinner. Return to Restaurant #2 and sit at the bar. In a role reversal, he gets a fancy cocktail and you get a beer (Blue moon). He orders the bacon-wrapped scallops and the key lime pie. You get the spinach artichoke dip (which strangely comes with tortilla chips and salsa) and a root beer float. You have one scallop and he has some dip and chips, plus the salsa.

Friday: Breakfast at the inn: fresh fruit, another coffee cake, and a different type of quiche. Coffee with cream and sugar.
On the road. Coke. Lunch: (Restaurant #7) at Thai place downtown. Coke and noodles with vegetables. Snack: coke and half of a giant oatmeal raisin cookie.
Dinner: Back in the town where you had lunch on Monday. Dinner reservations at Restaurant #8: Order a Manhattan with a cherry. You loved them at this place before and it's half-price martinis (which this drink qualifies as). Split the Trio of Artisan Cheese, the Indiana Tomato Salad, the filet mignon which comes with fancy mac-n-cheese and an herb salad. Sop up the extra salad dressing using the freshly-baked bread. Order a second Manhattan, this time with two cherries. Split the Strawberry Jubliee for dessert. Make reservations for the same restaurant the following night.

Breakfast at the b-and-b: fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon, and mini cinnamon rolls. Coffee. Talk with the couple getting married later in the day. mid-morning A&W root beer. Lunch at one of two Tibetan restaurants in town - Restaurant #9: Split the samosas. He gets mo-mo; you get cho-cho. Share the plates. Decide you're too full for crepes at the place you were looking for in the first place.
Snack: buy some tacky college-town t-shirts and two dark chocolate truffles. Open two beers back in your room but only drink 1.5 of them between the two of you.
Dinner: Same restaurant (#7), different floor, different server from before. Order a Manhattan and a Femme Fatale for the table. Order separate Indiana Summer Salads this time. Split the pork tenderloin for dinner. Order one more cocktail each. Order the Chocolate pate and the Black-and-Tan for dessert.

Sunday: Breakfast at Restaurant #10. Coffee (with cream and sugar), Order the french toast plate, which comes with 2 plates: one with four slices of french toast and maple syrup, one with scrambled eggs, bacon, and four slices of wheat toast.
On the road: A coke and half of a king-sized Snickers bar because you feel like it.
Home: Snack on Greek yogurt with raisins. Weigh yourself later and cringe.
Dinner: Wait too long to cook at home because you've been unpacking and napping so you get burritos at Qdoba. Go for the queso burrito with chicken instead of the usual vegge burrito. Add sour cream, cheese, and fajita vegetables. Drink with water at home while catching up on Mad Men. Save half of the burrito for lunch on Monday.
After dinner: go to your neighbors' place for football. Drink a Pepsi, eat two slices of cheese and eat one chocolate-chip cookie.

Monday morning:
Weigh yourself. Down 1/2 pound from Sunday afternoon but up 4.5 pounds from your lowest weight the week before. Recognize that walking an average of 10,000 steps a day doesn't count for as much when you're essentially walking from restaurant to restaurant. Enjoy every bite of it all.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Weddings, Kitchen Tools, Canning, and Corn

Followed by an actual dinner report.

Planning a wedding takes a little more time and mental energy than I originally anticipated with my "Let's just get these details out of the way and don't worry about things we don't like" plan. But there are lists to make and things to cross off and people to talk to and more lists to make and dreams about too many people coming to the wedding that wake you up at 4 in the morning. Plus, it is really, really hot here. This time last year we were flooded (just parts); today it's supposed to be 100 degrees and not a cloud in sight. I'm not worried about the wedding going through or not; I know that whatever the temperature, we'll still be married at the end of the day. I'm worried about heat stroke and just walking from a car to the building.

We have been cooking at home and making use of fun new kitchen toys: the mixer, grill, and immersion blender have been joined by an awesome Vitamix, Which I have not actually used yet but I did watch the DVD. I do plan to make smoothies today after a hot walk home from the bus. Rich started us off with Carrot Top smoothies last week. The first batch tasted a little too much like dirt and carrots. I think this was because he used the stems and greens. Other ingredients included aloe vera, flax seed oil, protein powder, milk, and frozen fruit. The second batch was an electric green color and tasted better. But you still know there are carrot tops in there.

Yesterday we received a trifle bowl -- over winter break, I made two trifles but used regular pans because I didn't have a trifle bowl. This is one of those desserts where I think you really need the right dishes. A lot of the trifle is about the layers, although it does taste delicious, too. I'm looking forward to making one soon (maybe September) in the new bowl.

The CSA is still coming in every Thursday. Starting next week we'll get a rotating loaf of bread, too.

Much of the cooking at home has been canning as wedding favors. At least three weekends were spent canning three different items: green tomato chutney, apple-tomato relish, and hot pepper jam. Two of those weekends, we had help from two friends. Some of the produce came from the CSA but we also got some from farmers markets, ordered directly from a farmer, and at the local grocery store's weekly produce sale.

Last night's dinner made use of 4 ears of corn from the CSA and of the Oxo Corn Stripper my mom sent me last summer. As soon as I received it, I stopped getting corn in the CSA, so last night was my first opportunity to use it. It was a lot easier to use than a knife to scrape the corn off. However, I did still manage to cut myself -- right on the top of my left thumb. This affects my texting skills more than anything else. The idea had been to make this Pan-Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad from the New York Times. I think we've made it before. Except we did not have cilantro or red onion or Thai chilies or avocado. Rich worked late and neither of us wanted to drive to the store in the heat. The market near his office did not have any of these ingredients. Plus, we had fresh produce at home, just not that specifically. So this is what it became: bacon, 1 small yellow onion, corn, green and red tomatoes, salt and pepper, basil, and goat cheese. Yum, so delicious! I immediately put some in a container to take to work before we ate it all last night. To go with it we finished up the gazpacho Rich made this weekend using the Awesome Vitamix.

[Pictures to follow]

Tonight I'm considering something with brussel sprouts and pasta. Because tomorrow we pick up more produce.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Grilled Flounder, Cream of Garlic Soup, and more

It feels like there hasn't been a lot of at-home cooking this past week. I think we made a few big meals and have been living off those. Last Thursday we picked up the CSA and had cabbage, two types of green beans, blueberries, kohlrabi, onions, cilantro, and cooking apples. Later that night my friend L. came over for dinner and I gifted her with a head of cabbage (we had 3 heads total at that point, and I don't care how great your cole slaw recipe is, a person can only eat so much cabbage. I much prefer the dark leafy greens). The menu for Thursday was Red Snapper with Fava Bean Puree, roasted beets and beet greens with bacon. Maybe using so many Food Network recipes isn't trendy, but there are some good options there, and Giada's dishes are pretty simple but satisfying.

Changes we made: we didn't go to the grocery store until Wednesday night and there was no red snapper, so we bought wild flounder. We put the flounder steaks in aluminum foil with some olive oil and green garlic and cooked it on the grill. I was not about to deal with shelling 3 pounds of fava beans, so we bought the frozen lima beans. The chicken stock was made with water and bouillon cubes because I had forgotten the grocery list and rewrote it from memory but did not remember chicken stock as an item. I think dinner turned out well although Rich wasn't happy with the beet greens. The roasted beets were good with a little salt sprinkled on top.

For dessert we had the option of blueberry buckle (still there from Tuesday) or peaches cooked with balsamic vinegar -- both with vanilla ice cream. We all went with the buckle.

This weekend Rich cooked a delicious cream of green garlic soup and an orzo salad with dill and fennel tops. Recipe links to follow later. I made a peach crisp from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (sometimes, you just need the basic plaid-covered recipe). I have not had it with ice cream but have added it to my oatmeal and yogurt.

Those cooking apples may become a Brown Betty; otherwise, basic applesauce.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Roasted Turnips, Cream of Potato Soup, Blueberry Buckle

Last night, not only did I cook dinner by myself (Rich got home just as I was finishing up), but I cooked three dishes: Roasted Turnips, Cream of Potato Soup, and a Blueberry Buckle.

The turnips and potatoes seem more winter than summer, but we have a lot of turnips (from the CSA) and potatoes (to go with the turnips but not from the CSA). Earlier, Rich was going to make "neeps and tatties" but a weekend trip with a delayed return screwed up our schedules, leading him to work late last night. Dinner responsibility fell to me. I do like to cook, but I'm a one-dish girl. I also didn't have the highest energy level last night and probably would have been happy with cereal or something similarly basic. In fact, when Rich called and asked what I was making, he said "it's not something with an egg on top, is it?" (Another of my favorites!). by the way, never comment negatively when someone else is doing all the cooking.

I made the blueberry buckle first. The idea had been to cook it Tuesday night and serve it Thursday night when a friend came for dinner, but it was too good looking to resist (sorry!) Maybe we'll get more blueberries this Thursday. This batch of blueberries came last Thursday and since we ate out Thursday night and left town Friday, we didn't have a chance to eat them, so I froze them (spread out on a cookie sheet). I needed a recipe that only called for one pint of berries and not a lot of eggs (I had been planning on using them at dinner but not on top of something!) since we only had 4 left. This one fit the bill. Changes I made were only to the topping because I ran out of sugar. I mixed some cinnamon with brown sugar to sprinkle on top. We ate it with peach ice cream.*

Roasted turnips: I have never used this recipe before and have never used a Mario Batali recipe before. He's, um, a little short on details. Do I peel the turnips? (I didn't.) How hot should the burner be? (I covered the full range and even popped the pan in the oven for a little bit.) I do think my turnips were a lot bigger than his -- I cut them in 8ths more than quarters -- but this took much longer than 8-9 minutes to saute to a light golden brown. Fortunately, the soup was still cooking. But the cake was also in the oven, and that's a lot to deal with. They did end up being tender enough and the paprika helped with the color.

Potato soup: I almost went with potato pancakes, which would have required using at least one egg. But soup seemed a little more hands-off and less messy. This recipe won because I had all the ingredients except cream. I just realized I skipped the cayenne step -- oh well. I substituted milk (2%) for the cream. The problem with this recipe is it gives you no sense of how long it should take. I had to cook the potatoes (cut in at least quarters) for at least 20 minutes on high to soften them enough. Fortunately for me, I guess, I started dinner and dessert 2 hours before Rich was supposed to get home from work.

The highlight of the potato soup recipe was I got to use the immersion blender! I ended up using the hand masher to start and then used the blender. I sliced up some scallions and cooked some bacon for toppings. We even put a little goat cheese on the soup.

The cake was already cooling when Rich got home and everything else was ready 10 minutes later.

* One of the downsides of downtown living is no grocery store. We walked about 3/4 mile in 90+ degree weather to the fancy market/restaurant. Except the market part was closed. Even though the sign on the door says it's open to 9. And this is the 2nd time we've been there that they closed early. The guy let us and 2 other people who had just shown up buy something since we were not paying with cash. And then they didn't even have vanilla ice cream. In retrospect, we should have just gone to the crummy CVS.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What happened to the squash recipes?

Our summer squash and zucchini have gotten lost in the piles of greens (kale, lettuce, collard greens, etc, etc). This will need to be corrected. The pasta this week should focus on the squash and not the broccoli (Hmm, maybe broccoli pizza crust later). Or is there such thing as a summer squash soup? Then we can break out the new immersion blender again (post to follow on the the new blender and its first use for kale soup).

Ooh, this one looks good. By the way, I'm also not sure about sneaking vegetables into meals for kids, but since I don't have kids, I guess it doesn't really matter. I did think about the concept when making the cauliflower pizza -- you could totally hide that from children or adult picky eaters.

Or this one. Especially since it's so hot outside. If the weather continues like this through the summer, there will definitely not be an outdoor wedding in August. We will wed in the AC like civilized, non-sweaty people. A third option, although we don't have buttermilk (I think we have the ingredients for everything else, even tahini.) Finally, this one would also use the pasta but would not require use of the immersion blender.

Soup options: Sunny Summer Squash Soup, Cold Zucchini & Summer Squash Soup, Buttermilk, Summer Squash Soup, or Summer Squash Soup with Pasta & Parmesan. Which one would you pick?

The CSA deluge continues

For the pick-up two Thursdays ago, we were actually able to get through all the food. It helped that we had friends over for dinner Wednesday night and finished up the turnips and salad. Dinner was lamb burgers with the cucumber-yogurt sauce from the turkey burger recipe, red onions cooked in balsamic vinegar, roasted turnips (which I forgot to put out), and the remainder of the salad (mixed greens with avocado, grapefruit, orange, and goat cheese, and a french dressing).

Other highlights of the week included a pizza made with a cauliflower crust -- something different to do with the cauliflower and pretty easy. There are a number of links about it online but it's basically 1 cup of "riced" cauliflower (I boiled it and then put it through the food processor to rice it), 1 egg, and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. I doubled the recipe and used fontina cheese since we didn't have any mozzarella. Mix it together, add some spice if you want, then back at 350? for 10-15 minutes. The crust did not taste like pizza crust we had had before but it didn't taste like cauliflower either. It was pretty good. For toppings, we finished off a can of San Marzano tomatoes, some eggplant sauce we ended up with for a recipe we never made, and sauteed zucchini and squash. Plus the rest of the fontina. It was even good as breakfast the next day.

This past Thursday we picked up collard greens, red cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, squash/zucchini, and garlic. Maybe something else. So far we've had the collard greens and cabbage. Last night we cooked bacon and onion and then added the collard greens. In a separate pot, we cooked bacon and added the red cabbage, brown sugar, and raisins. Tonight is a salad night. Tuesday will probably be pasta with broccoli, zucchini/squash, tomatoes (canned), sundried tomatoes (jarred), and roasted red pepper (jarred). With goat cheese, I'm sure. Wednesday, leftovers. Thursday, we pick up again, but then we're out of town Friday-Monday. There may be blueberries Thursday, so we would definitely eat those that night.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer CSA, or this blog should now be called Salad Daze

Last week our summer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share started. We knew we wanted to do one but had to talk through the different options. 1) Use the CSA he used last year. One of the pluses was this pick-up is right next to our building. One of the negatives was there was not a lot of variety. 2) Use the CSA I used last year. Pluses: we used this one for the winter share and it had add-ons (meat, eggs, etc). Negatives: there is a downtown pick-up but not as close. 3) Some combination.

We went with Door #2 -- the next decision was the full share (family of 4 with 2 of those supposedly being young, picky eaters) or a half share (which is not half the price of the full share). We decided to go big or go home and picked the full share, feeling that the two of us could get through it. Last summer with each of us getting 1/2 share, we would end up with a full share anyway. In addition to getting the produce box, we also selected the unfortunately named "Mixed Meat" package -- 13 weeks (every other week) of assorted local meat, plus catfish and prawns. We can get local goat cheese and local eggs at the local store. And we decided we really don't need that much whole milk.

I am already feeling like the full share is too much. This is what we got last Thursday:
Green Onions
Mesculine (apparently, this should be mesclun as mesculine redirects me to mescaline, which We Did Not Get.
Mustard Greens
Head Lettuce (two heads of this)
Easter Egg Radishes
Bok Choy

The meat was frozen ground beef patties and mild (pork) sausage links.

This is what we've had so far:
Thursday - sauteed arugula and mustard greens with bacon. A spinach salad with green onions and strawberries.

This left us with
Green Onions (didn't finish them)
Head Lettuce (2 heads)
Easter Egg Radishes
Bok Choy

Easy, right? Friday night was leftovers. Saturday we had dinner at the baseball game. Sunday was an all-day canoeing trip. We didn't get home until 7 pm and were dirty and exhausted. Monday, R. boiled a chicken and made a Cobb salad. He even hard boiled some eggs and he doesn't even like eggs. So I had the eggs and he had the avocado. The Cobb salad used up green onions and more lettuce, leaving us with
Head Lettuce (1 head)
Easter Egg Radishes
Bok Choy

Tuesday, R. cooked more bacon and mixed it up with pralines to form this great crunchy praline-bacon brittle. Mixed with lettuce, chicken, and goat cheese. Wednesday we ate out because we had evening plans and didn't go home after work.

Now it's Thursday, CSA pick-up day, and we still have the radishes and bok choy left. And we're going out of town this weekend. We picked the last 2 heads of lettuce in the box, and when the people realized they were out, I offered to leave one, and they said, "No, we messed up; we'll just substitute something else." Next time, I will leave the extra head of lettuce.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Grilled Snapper with Orzo (without the orzo)

Or, Emily grills!

This is a dinner from last week. We had the feta-stuffed burgers Sunday or Monday night. Tuesday night was leftovers. Wednesday night, our friend Y. came over with tools to help Rich (I've been told I can use his first name) install a piece of art (a large metal star we picked up at an architectural salvage store over the weekend). Rich had seen two large rusty stars out on the sidewalk in front of the store when I was still out of town. He emailed me a photo and had the store hold them until Saturday. I was nervous about the star motif. Too Texas? Too trendy? I see a lot of star things on HGTV and not just the next Design Star show.

We went by Saturday to look at the stars in person. There were 2 of them, but we decided the other one was too big. The one we got is still close to 4 feet across but small enough to fit in the back seat of a Honda Civic sedan. The star came with a little hole on three of the tips, perfect for hanging, except we were going to hang it on the brick fireplace and don't have fancy tools for drilling into brick and/or mortar. But our friend Y. does because he does home repair/construction stuff for a living. This is the same friend who fixed the door on Steak Chimichurri night. He came over around 5:30 with the proper equipment, and while he and Rich hung the star about 8 feet in the air on the fireplace, I cooked dinner.

The star on the fireplace.

I had not planned on cooking dinner. I had planned on going to the Y after work and letting Rich cook dinner while Y. hung the star (moon to follow?). But it turns out this hanging thing was a two-person job, so it worked out that I decided to be nice and come home straight from work. I was glad we had already cooked the burgers because the fish seemed easier for me to make. The recipe we had picked was a new one to us: Pan-Grilled Snapper with Orzo Pasta Salad from MyRecipes (specifically, Cooking Light online). It did involve using the grill (we don't need no stinkin' pan) but I had thought I would do the prep and the pasta and Rich would grill. I like to eat from the grill but rarely cook from it. Something about the heat and fire, although the gas stove doesn't bother me. I had really only used a charcoal grill before and even then it was a rare occurrence. I think I mainly grilled vegetables on it because I was afraid of killing myself with undercooked meat. My cooking confidence was not high at that point.

This time I was confident but tentative. Once I figured out how to get the grill going (turn the knob, push the button), I was on my way!

Substitutions to this recipe: Tuesday night we decided to make this for Wednesday but realized we did not have enough orzo and did not want to buy some at the Fancy Overpriced Downtown Market or make a special trip with the car to one of the many grocery stores beyond walking distance from downtown. We considered lentils of which we have plenty. Instead, I decided to cook linguine.

In the middle of cooking on Wednesday, I discovered I did not have enough shallots and added a little garlic but not enough to equal the full amount of shallots in the recipe. Rich suggested red onion but I had already made the garlic sub at that point. Over the weekend we bought frozen red snapper at the grocery store which was having a Buy One Get One Free deal--it turned out to be Buy One for Half Price but since there were only 3 pieces of snapper in each of the two bags, I was glad we had two bags.

Raw snapper on a plate.

The sauce.

Linguine with the sauce in the new bowl

Better view of the bowl

When I tasted the sauce, I thought it might be too tangy (I did double the recipe as recommended), but I liked it on the pasta and fish. The snapper looked beautiful on the grill -- perfect little grill marks. I served the pasta in a bowl we had just received that day as a present and put the snapper on a plate so we could each serve ourselves. The three of us ate 4 pieces of fish, and then Rich and I had the other 2 pieces over the next couple days for leftovers. I don't think I ever had snapper before. It was a good, fatty fish, which was perfect for the grill because it didn't fall apart when I flipped it. And it cooked fast.

Look at those grill marks!

The timing of everything worked out great. Rich and Y.w ere just cleaning up their mess and putting the ladder away when I put the food on the table. Their work site, by the way, was about 3 feet in front of the table, while I was working on the other side of the table in the same room.

Dessert: vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce with Creme de Menthe, and frozen Girl Scout Thin Mints.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Feta-Stuffed Turkey Burgers

Feta-Stuffed Turkey Burgers - May 19

Last night we used our fabulous new grill and made Feta-Stuffed Turkey Burgers from Cooking Light. From start to sit-down, this took about 45 minutes. Yes, the recipe says 30 minutes, but we started off slow and used a real grill, not a pan. This required moving the plants off the balcony, sliding the grill over, and pulling off the cover. Then we had to sidestep the plants we had moved inside. Urban grilling is difficult, people.

Weber grill - so cute!

What we did differently: We had 1.5 pounds of ground turkey so used some extra red onion and feta cheese. I used Greek yogurt instead of plain yogurt (it just seemed appropriate) and grated a little lemon rind into the cucumber-yogurt combo. We did not add any lettuce to the burgers. We used onion rolls instead of Kaiser or hamburger buns.

Verdict: Delicious. The prep work was pretty straightforward. R. sliced the onion while I sliced the feta (we bought a block instead of the crumbles). He assembled the burgers, after mixing the ingredients in the mixer--not part of the recipe but why not? I made the yogurt mixture.

We ended up with 6 burgers, but we each only had one. I have one with me for lunch today as a deconstructed burger--there's a bun, but it's not assembled. We didn't have any side dishes except for a few pickles from the fridge. Next time I would make a side salad using the lettuce and tomato. And feta. And olives (for R. not me).

Dessert: Leftover strawberry-rhubarb crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Some of the ingredients- red onion, cucumber, Greek yogurt, feta cheese

Turkey and onion with spices in the mixer

Cucumber and yogurt sauce/spread

Patties being assembled with cheese in the center

On the grill

Look at those grill marks!

Assembled and ready to eat

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Special Lunch Post: Turkey Club Wrap

I'm heading out of town straight from work today so did not bring my lunch with me (just snacks) because I didn't want to leave a dirty container at work for a week or travel with one. Or clean it in the work bathroom and leave it at work, an option I just now considered. However, I also had leftover chicken paprikash for dinner last night, which made 4 meals, and today's lunch would have been 5, which is really just too much, so I wanted something different anyway.

Although there are other options on campus for lunch (one day I will get egg salad on a bagel), I went for the one I always go to --the closest one. There's a "cafe" (coffee shop) on the ground floor of my building. It sells coffee and tea from a local coffee shop but the food is provided by the campus provider. They have packaged salads and sandwiches which generally include an assortment of wraps. I tend to go for Turkey Club, Chicken Caesar, or Buffalo Chicken. Today I went with Turkey Club because it was the only one available--there were two non-wrap sandwich options, but they cost more. The 3 I pick are also the 3 cheapest ones, $4.79 plus tax. If you buy it with a bottle of soda, the total is $6.66--the devil's lunch!

I know that the semester is officially over (graduation this weekend), summer classes haven't started, and the cafe has reduced hours, but, hello, people still work here. I have a 12-month contract; I don't get summer off and neither does my lunch. Well, fine, I get the turkey a lot anyway. But the hot press seems to have also taken the summer off. If you get it hot, the cheese melts, and the lettuce gets that nice warm, wilty feeling, and it's generally a little gooier all around. The cafe person put my sandwich in the press, and when she gave me my unnecessarily large plastic container with the wrap, the container was warm, but when I got back upstairs, the cheese was not melted, and the lettuce was not wilty. I actually broke my plastic knife in half trying to cut through it. Cutting the wrap is an issue even when it's hot but the lettuce was particularly trying today; I seemed to have only tough lettuce parts in my wrap.

Lesson: Don't buy lunch on campus during the summer.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chicken Paprikash

There has been a lot of travel happening, with more to come, so that means not much cooking. Monday night, after we had spent a long weekend out of town, R. cooked Chicken Paprikash. We actually bought the ingredients the week before but didn't have a chance to make it. The chicken was in the freezer, but I moved it to the refrigerator Sunday night when we got home. That's me, always thinking ahead.

I haven't had Chicken Paprikash before, and, in fact, R. is the only person I've ever heard say "paprikash." I would have just called it Chicken Paprika. But it's his father's recipe, not mine, and he has some Hungarian heritage and I don't, so what do I know.

No recipe for this meal because it was all in R.'s head and only required one phone call. Well, two calls because his parents weren't home so he called his sister. I can tell you this meal involved bacon, chicken drumsticks (he had been looking for thighs but couldn't find the right kind), onion, paprika (I want to say he used a combination of sweet and smoked), sour cream, and cute little home-made dumplings. I have links to 4 recipes I found online, none of which match what I remember from his. I don't think he used any tomato paste, but since I wasn't home for the start of the cooking, I can't say for sure. I can say I did not see any tomato paste cans on the counter. He cooked some rice to go with it since it's a soupy dish. I would have thought noodles, but again, it's not my recipe.

It was a very good dinner but perhaps a bit large for two people. We are still eating it. I had it Monday night and Tuesday for lunch and will have it again today (although with noodles this time because we did run out of rice). He had it Monday and yesterday. We will probably eat it tonight, which will exceed my quota for number of times I'll eat the same meal in a week (3). We need to finish it before leaving town Thursday night as I don't think it will keep that well over the weekend.

Four examples of chicken paprikash recipes, none of which were actually used:
one, two, three, four.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spinach, spinach, & more spinach

Last night a friend came over to design a necklace and bracelet for me. I'm very excited! R. offered to make dinner. Then it turned out he had a board meeting after work, which would have cut into cooking time. Saturday I started looking for make-ahead recipes we could use. Since we hadn't picked a meal yet or gone shopping, we were pretty flexible. I was leaning towards a vegetable lasagna for a few reasons. One, we have a bunch of no-bake lasagna noodles still from when I bought too much for the squash/pumpkin lasagna this past winter. Two, it's spring, and to me spring equals vegetables. Through the power of the open web, I found a spinach lasagna recipe at the Mayo Clinic, of all places. At least we know it's healthy: Spinach lasagna with sun-dried tomato sauce.

While R. was napping (still) on Sunday, I started the mushrooms and spinach, skipping the sauce for later. R. did that part when he got up and then took over and assembled it. Our changes:
- we used 2% milk because the soy milk we had was vanilla flavored
- we used sund-dried tomatoes in a jar (oil) instead of dry-packed
- we had a greater variety of mushrooms and ended up with 12 ounces instead of 10
- we used regular instead of fat-free ricotta

Prep was pretty easy, just a little time-consuming because of the steps. Clean-up wasn't that bad. R. covered the baking pan in foil and stuck it in the fridge. Monday evening, I pre-heated the oven when my friend showed up and baked the lasagna while we talked design.

We had extra spinach, having bought twice as much as we needed, and I thought a salad would be a good thing to have. However, I didn't want to go to the store for anything extra, so I did a Google search for "spinach apple salad" and quickly settled on this one. We had Granny Smith apples and cheddar (shredded) but no walnuts. Close enough. The dressing was good, but I would almost use a little less oil. I put the shredded cheddar in a separate dish and also put some goat cheese in a dish so we could choose which type we wanted. R. got some hazelnuts out, as well. I think we all ended up having it with goat cheese. Is there anything goat cheese doesn't improve?

For dessert, R. had made a raspberry chambord sauce the other night and we still had some left.(By the way, Chambord liquer has the cutest bottle ever. I'll even say it's cuter than the Frangelico monk.) We also had vanilla ice cream and butter pecan ice cream. And Ghiradelli 60A% bittersweet chocolate chips for melting. We decided on vanilla and topped with the raspberry sauce and some chocolate sauce. Delicious!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Steak Chimichurri, Yucca Fries, and Fried Plantains

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri, Yucca Fries, and Fried Plantains - April 12

This meal came about because we had leftover mint chimichurri from the lamb we cooked last week. I've been low on B12 and needed a meat dish, so steak it was. We went to the local grocery store that was more likely to have yucca but less likely to have skirt steak. We ended up getting a different cut (the name of which I'll have to check on) that was already cut very thin.

We also picked up 2-3 yucca and then 1 plantain as an impulse buy (my impulse). The Cuban restaurant I love here has delicious fried plantains. Spoiler alert: Next time I'll just go there.

The recipe was an Emeril one from the Food Network. The plantain recipe was from Alton Brown.

This ended up being a great meal for Monday night since we ended up having a friend over for dinner as a thank-you for fixing the door that wouldn't lock. Sunday afternoon R. picked up some Mexican beer and some salad fixings to round things out.

We used a lot of oil last night and did some peeling. And almost broke the new Kitchenaid slicer. Yucca are tough. Despite some oil temperature mishaps (first too hot then not hot enough), the yucca fries turned out almost perfect. They didn't look golden, but they were the perfect crispness. The plantains were tolerable. I admit I totally messed up on the recipe--I couldn't visualize the one-inch slices and then didn't have slices that could stand vertical only to be smashed down. The flavor and texture weren't what I wanted.

The steak was pan fried (our new grill arrived yesterday but we didn't have time to set it up--some assembly required--and didn't have gas for it anyway) and was delicious. R. made some more of the chimichurri to be used as a salad dressing (greens, grape tomatoes, shredded carrot, feta cheese, and optional olives) and with the meat.

For dessert, Blue Bell Pistachio Almond ice cream or Breyer's Butter Pecan Ice Cream with chocolate sauce made with Ghiradelli 60% dark chocolate chips.

There's a little bit of everything left. I'm tempted to cut the rest of the steak up and add it to the salad.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Catch-up of meals with photos

Not a very appetizing photo, but a good meal, if not a little spicy-I blame the jalapeno. It's a Squash and Black Bean Stew. It was thicker than a stew. We used sour cream to cut the spice.

Pumpkin souffle -- straight from the oven and up and then down to deflated.

This pumpkin-turkey goulash came from Epicurious. Goulash is a Hungarian stew (short answer). My mom used to make a version of it I didn't care for growing up; this was okay, but too much.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dusting off the pumpkin (again)

It's been more than 2 months since my last post. We have had pumpkin. Most recently we made pumpkin pancakes (from Epicurious) with dried cranberries (our own addition) using pumpkin from the freezer (and we still have leftover pumpkin). We have been eating great meals, with or without squash, but I have been bad about photographing the cooking or even the finished product. I then decide I can't post unless I have pictures. However, I do have pictures (still on my camera) of some meals and still didn't post.

Then today I read this article in the New York Times about food bloggers who photograph their food, and it was actually helpful. I do not photograph my food at work or at restaurants or at other people's houses. I just snap pictures in my kitchen. If I can't handle that, then I should delete this site now. The other issue has been that I don't do as much of the cooking--less involved leads to less motivation to document. But here is my new, new resolution -- post about dinners (whether they have squash or not), made at home (whether by me or not), with or without photographs. At least once a week.

Tonight is leftovers, but I'll still try.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Winter squash on the way...

Today's CSA newsletter promises winter squash, possibly something called the long neck pumpkin, which looks like a deformed butternut squash.

Squash-related posting to resume soon. Meanwhile, here's a bulleted summary of eating from the past week or so. Most of this covers a trip to Boston and Cape Cod.

  • baked scrod with spinach and brussel-sprouts with bacon (lunch at Legal's Test Kitchen)
  • Gobbler sandwich (turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce - just like Thanksgiving leftovers) from All Star Sandwich Bar
  • raw oysters, fancy cheese, salmon, and a Greek bean-based dish (food at R's sister's house)
  • cheese blintzes from S&S
  • spinach-and-artichoke dip, mussels, and calamari salad from Boston Beer Garden
  • raw oysters from Chatham (at R's parents' house - caught by his dad). As an aside, do you catch oysters or harvest them? Or something else?
  • Scallops alfredo from Napi's in Provincetown
  • Chicken fingers at Chicago's Midway airport
  • Cabbage soup (made by me, at home)
  • Chicken picata with onions and orzo -- this deserves its own post soon (made by me, at home)
  • Couscous with dates, craisins, almonds, and goat cheese (made by R., at home)
No squash but some delicious seafood

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The lasagna I didn't make, leftovers, and the 2nd trifle

Just to state the obvious, but it's hard writing a blog post every day. I'm barely doing every week! Things have been slow here in 2010 so far at the Great Pumpkin and Squash Recipe headquarters. We may finally be awaking from our chocolate-covered cherry coma.

I'm not even sure what I had for dinner last week since the soup posts. The closest we've come to a new recipe is the Giada butternut squash lasagna that I did not make last night. We had talked about it over the weekend, but then R. made a HUGE pot of red beans and rice, and I was worried about having too many leftovers. Especially since I'm heading out of town Thursday and he's following Saturday and the lasagna is not something would look good in the refrigerator after a week.

I did get as far as taking out some pumpkin (2 cups) and squash (1 cup) from the freezer Monday morning. Monday evening, though, they still weren't thawed, and I realized that one of the most time-consuming parts of the recipe the first time was thawing the frozen pumpkin on the stove. So I refroze it (hopefully, that will be fine). I wouldn't have had it for dinner anyway just because of the cooking time and because I didn't even attempt to start it until 7.

What I did have was leftovers -- ribeye, turnips, and mashed sweet potatoes. We were supposed to have friends over for dinner Friday and that would have been the menu (plus ice cream with chocolate sauce), but I wasn't feeling well or at least up to entertaining, and we rescheduled. But what to do with the thick cut of meat with some coffee rub thing on it? (Don't ask me about the meat; I didn't pick it out.) R. cooked it all up. He had high praise for the turnips from the CSA. I've never been a fan of turnips. Or should I say I'd never even met turnips before that I can recall? I can't give all the details on cooking, but he sliced them thin, cooked them, and added some salt and pepper. They were sort of mashed but not completely. The mashed potatoes have become a favorite here -- sweet potatoes, lavender, lemon juice, and milk (whole milk from the CSA; potatoes also from the CSA).

I also cooked a hot dog in the microwave, mainly because I saw the apple-and-tomato relish in the fridge and remembered R. had the relish on a hot dog the night before (the hot dogs came from the depths of the freezer). I only had one bite of the hot dog but ate a couple spoonfuls of relish (homemade by R.)

* I will get the recipes for the turnips and potatoes and post those later. *

Tonight's leftovers for dinner following a trek to and from the YMCA were the rest of the turnips and potatoes and one-half of a goat cheese and hot pepper jelly (homemade by us) sandwich. The jelly has a kick to it that the goat cheese cuts nicely. Cream cheese works well, too. That version is the fancy version of my childhood cream cheese and grape jelly sandwiches.

Tonight's dinner - I'm not proud, but I am satisfied.

Trifle 2.0

We made the whisky trifle from Christmas (from the Eat Feed Autumn Winter cookbook) for New Year's Eve. We went to a small party hosted by a couple originally from Russia. Lots of delicious fish-based foods -- salmon, caviar, and something called herring under a fur coat(?), which is not the most appetizing name but was a good dish. The "coat" was made of beets. Then there were these little potato dumplings that seemed a little like pierogi but smaller and Russian. After all that food, I wasn't sure anyone would want dessert, but there was still the trifle! This time we put it in a 13 * 9 glass baking dish, lining the ladyfingers on the bottom and then around the perimeter. We made some extra whipped cream to cover the top completely and sprinkled some granola on top. Having learned from last time, we made the custard the night before. Fortunately, the party didn't start until 10 so we had some time during the day for the rest of it.

The small group ate about half of it, and we left the rest with the hosts who were more than willing to finish it off (I think they had it for breakfast). The baking dish worked well and showed off the layers, but I still want a trifle bowl.

Ladyfingers on the bottom of the baking dish

Ladyfingers lining the baking dish with liquor in the background

Custard spread over the ladyfingers with a cookbook spread in the background

We have determined that the delicious turnips were actually delicious watermelon radishes. Still no complete recipe for that or the potatoes.

Tonight's dinner was a fried egg and half of a goat cheese-and-hot pepper jelly sandwich.

Stay tuned for updates from the on the road. If not winter squash, then at least some seafood. Just to keep things interesting.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

CSA pick-up - where did all the squash go?

This week was another squash-free CSA pick-up. We received the following:
  • daikon radishes (made a good relish using these at Thanksgiving)
  • cabbage (ugh)
  • sweet potatoes
  • lettuce (not sure what kind it is, but it's very delicate)
  • mushrooms (the special item this week)
  • milk (every week)
  • eggs (every week)
This means there will either be more Squash-Free recipes, or I will start posting any interesting meal we make whether it has pumpkin/squash or not.

Monday night I made the Gingered Butternut Squash Soup with a few substitutions - only one apple, no carrots, and 3 small instead of 2 medium potatoes. I thought this meal would last the week. I was wrong. It was gone by Wednesday and I only had one serving. Next time may call for a double recipe, although an immersion blender would make things easier. Even with the regular recipe, I can't fit all of the soup in the blender at once.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Asian Butternut Squash

No squash-and-goat cheese quesadillas yet. We went for an Asian theme instead: Asian Butternut Squash (from SavvyFoodie, based on Jamie Oliver).

I did not do any of the cooking, so I can't say how easy it was to make, but I can say it was easy enough that it only took one person. I felt only slightly guilty for not helping since I was on vacation and R. worked that day. But I know he likes to cook and he usually goes from day job to night job with no time for cooking so this was actually a treat for him. And for me.

He followed the recipe pretty closely, but we were missing a couple ingredients. Even though I went to the specialty store for Chinese Five Spice, I ended up not getting cilantro or pistachios. I think we had some slivered almonds on it. I just forgot about the cilantro because I did end up at the grocery store after the specialty store. The 5 spice store was not an Asian specialty store; it's actually Italian and where we bought the ladyfingers for the trifle and where we get bread and pasta sometimes. I was asked to either get the individual spices and locate a spice mill (or coffee grinder) or get the mix. Despite a wide selection of spices, the store only offered 1 of the 3 spices needed, and a five-spice blend was not to be found in the spice section. However, I did locate it on the Asian shelf. This particular blend included cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger, cloves, white pepper, and licorice root (which is 6, but who's counting).

To accompany the squash, R. made the stir-fried bok choy from SimplyCooking. We had an overflow of cabbage * and considered doing a cabbage-and-apple salad like this one from Vegan Epicurean but did not have miso (a day or two later, we tried to buy some at the nearby gourmet market but got a miso soup mix that substituted fine enough and later in the week we got miso at the Italian market to have on hand for next time).

The Asian squash was delicious and the bok choy was a nice accompaniment. This was a good new squash recipe to add to the rotation. To me, it was almost borderline Indian-tasting, and there's an Indian spice I don't care for but can't yet identify, but this managed to stay on the non-Indian spice side of food. And I really loved it with the raisins. Some rice or even naan (I like that part of Indian food) would have been a good addition. Maybe next time.

* We have so much cabbage I should have called this the Great Cabbage Recipe Blog. The problem is I'm not a big fan of cabbage. The salad was good with the apples and extra dressing. Tonight, we're going squash free with a miso & cabbage soup (also with carrots and green onions). It's very cold here -- not as cold as other places and no snow -- but nearly 20 degrees colder than normal. Cold = soup weather. Tomorrow I will most likely use the remaining butternut squash to make one of the soups again.