Fancy Schmancy Post-Valentine’s Day Celebration Dinner

Sometimes, when you live with a bear, that bear has to work late.  One such occurrence happened on Valentine’s Day, so our Valentine’s Day feast was postponed a week.  But then we went all out.  Oh yes we did.

For the first course, I made the Caesar Salad for Two.

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Now, if you are like me, you have probably never made Caesar dressing at home.  Maybe the anchovies scared you off.  Maybe it was the raw egg.  Either way, it’s a daunting proposition.  I decided to give it a try anyhow (because someone had to) and let me just say, you should ignore all of your fears and hesitations regarding this and just make it for heaven’s sake!  It’s so good!!  The bear was so thrilled with it that he literally made me make it three more times in the following week.  It tastes neither fishy, nor eggy.  It tastes like what comes out of a bottle only 100 times more flavorful and delicious.  Do it!  The good thing about this recipe is that it is a small batch too, just enough to make a decent size bowl of salad for two maybe three people.  I’m not sure how well homemade caesar would store in the fridge so this recipe is ideal.

We followed our salad with Steak and Shrimp with Parsley Potatoes.

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Well really, the steak was for the Bear, and the shrimp were for me.  I did try the steak (the first steak I ever cooked) and I thought it was quite tasty.  It wasn’t too beefy just tasted nice and seared and salty.  (I tried to replicate it with a different cut of meat and again it was too beefy).  The shrimp were cooked perfectly.  They were sweet and buttery.  I think scallops would also be good in this recipe.  The potatoes were also quite tasty.  They were buttery and the perfect little side for the decadent shrimp and steak.

And finally… oh yes, the Fresh Orange and Yogurt Tart.

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Navel oranges are for chumps so I used blood oranges.  This was an awesome desert folks.  Just spectacular.  After such a decadent meal this wasn’t so over the top sweet that we would instantly fall into a food coma.  Nope it was light and satisfying.  It was an amazing texture and I will absolutely make some variation of this again.  I think it might be pretty awesome to make the yogurt part and then top it with a curd, maybe like that incredible orange curd I made for the pavlova.

So there you have it, a feast to end all feasts.  A feast to end the Jan/Feb 2010 issue.  Next up, March 2009!!

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Escarole Beats Radicchio Anyday!

Escarole with Onion and Lemon

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I hope you all remember the travesty that was the “Have you tried Radicchio?” adventure.  I know I can’t forget it.  So, when faced with yet another new lettuce-type substance, I was nervous.  As far as I know, I had never tried escarole and I knew I couldn’t trust EF for saying it was delightful.  I’d fallen for that one before.

It looked ok, it smelled ok, but I took my first bite with great trepidation.  But guess what!  EF didn’t lie to me!! Escarole is delightful.  It was green and yummy and something about it vaguely reminded me of artichoke (and let’s face it, that’s never a bad thing!).  The recipe was super simple and took approximately 5 minutes to cook.  I suggest you keep this on the back burner for any night you need a quick and healthy side dish.

Lemon Icebox Cookies

Lemon Icebox Cookies 

All packed up to go to Book Club.

All packed up to go to Book Club.

This recipe is super simple. I just tossed everything into the food processor and I had my dough within seconds.  Literally.  However, this recipe made me realize two things.  Number one, I need to upgrade to a new zester, rasp, whatever you want to call it.  The one I have was sent to me as a gift for renewing my Everyday Food subscription many years ago.  It probably wasn’t great to begin with.  Now, it just needs to go.  Time to upgrade to a microplane.  Second, I need to upgrade my baking sheets.  I’ve had them for close to a decade and used them continually.  It’s time.  It’s also time because for some reason one of the pans I was using made the bottom of these cookies super dark, despite rotating the pans in the oven.

The cookies themselves were delicious.  They were like a lightly lemony shortbread. Yum!  They went over well with my new book club (I took them to the first ever meeting I attended.) and I’m sure they aided my acceptance into the group.  And so, I’ve decided to rename them Lemon IceBreaker Cookies!

 

 

 

 

 

Parchment Aplenty

Issue 69 had a feature on using parchment as a cooking method.  It had full meals, main dishes, sides, and even breakfast in a parchment.  So, here we go.

The first recipe I made was for a dinner party with the lovely neighbor.  I made the Chicken with Mango and Ginger.

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Not being a huge fan of spicy foods, I went easy on the jalapeño on my packet.  Somehow it managed to impart a small amount flavor without much heat so it worked well for me.  The ginger infused the chicken breast and the mango kept it nice and juicy.  (Warning: the mango also made the entire packet pretty juicy so be sure to serve it with something that can absorb a lot of liquid — I went with coconut rice.  It was a good decision.)  This was a delicious recipe and I will most likely make it again in the future, especially when I need a tropical escape!  I also think I might start pairing chicken and mango more often, grilled for example, or in a sandwich.  Yeah, it’s a good match.

Next, I made the Eggs with Mushroom and Spinach.

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I’m not going to lie to you.  I didn’t think this one was worth the effort of cutting the parchment (let alone any of the actual packaging of the ingredients into said parchment.  To be fair, I did make this recipe on a day when I had chills and aches set in by mid afternoon (yep, the flu) so I may not have been a totally unbiased opinion on that day.  I definitely didn’t feel any desire to finish eating my packet.  I maybe made it through half.  It was really plain and more or less boring.  And when considering the effort put into fixing it, it just wasn’t worth it.  I think I’d skip the parchment next time and just make a scramble.  So much easier and the separate parts would work a bit better together that way.

Needless to say, after coming down with the flu, I didn’t do much cooking for a while.  I ate soup.  Soup from a can.  Because I didn’t have the energy to eat anything else.  And after the flop that was the eggs with mushrooms and spinach I wasn’t particularly tempted to make another parchment recipe.  But I did.  I made the Potatoes, Leeks and Carrots in Parchment

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It may not look that thrilling, but it tasted pretty decent.  This was another instance where I would normally have just roasted these vegetables together, because vegetables are more delicious when roasted.  But! This is the light issue (hence all the parchment) and by using steam trapped in the parchment to cook these veggies, they stayed pretty flavorful and required much less fat than when roasted.  In fact, the fat was optional in this method of cooking, so it has its perks.

Finally, I made the Broccoli, Asparagus, and Snap Peas in Parchment.  And as a bonus, I also made the Herbed Orzo.

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This is probably the one parchment recipe that I think really benefits from this cooking method.  Each of these vegetables is still super flavorful when steamed and don’t necessarily require anything added to make them awesome.  We liked it so much that we made it two days in a row.  Try it.  Trust me.  

The Herbed Orzo was slightly less exciting, but still an alternative to rice or potatoes so it might be a good thing to add to the mix.  The main issue with this recipe is that I found out after I made it that the bear doesn’t like dill.  And of course, I had decided that the main herb flavor would be dill… I ate a lot of orzo that week.

And now, G will fill you in on the final parchment recipe! Go G!!!

Thanks, B!  I’m winding this one up with the Salmon with Green Beans and Lemon Zest

There's fish under there somewhere...

There’s fish under there somewhere…

This was definitely good and certainly easy enough.  I like cooking things en papillote (that’s French for “No, G, not papillon.  You’re thinking of the dog…or the Steve McQueen movie.”), but I will admit it makes me slightly nervous.  I don’t think I’d be able to make B’s chicken dish without ruining it by busting open the packet and checking it.  But I grew to love the method by making a very similar dish from a Rachael Ray recipe.  She inelegantly calls it Spanish Fish in a Sack.  You’ll see that recipe is much more involved than the one in EF here.  I think this recipe is a good, simple option.  The wide pieces of peel are a nice touch.  But…if I’m bothering to make parchment packets, I’m probably going to go with the Rachael Ray fish sack.  It’s just too good. 

Where do these editors shop?!

Alright folks, boneless skinless turkey thighs don’t exist.  I looked.  G looked.  The bear looked.  You can’t find them.  So unless you want to cut the legs off a full sized turkey, then bone and skin the thighs, skip the turkey and go for chicken.  I am of course alluding to the Turkey Kebabs with Cabbage Slaw recipe.

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I really enjoyed the flavors in this recipe.  I don’t know if it is necessary to make them into kebabs (especially when one doesn’t have the option of grilling them).  I think it would have actually been better in my case to cube up the thighs and marinate them, then toss them in a pan and fry them up.  There would have been a lot of caramelized/seared goodness on that chicken.  The marinade is a keeper.  Malt vinegar is definitely a good thing.  And the slaw tasted fresh and healthy.  

This recipe came with a bonus next day suggestion.

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It basically consisted of throwing the leftovers into a whole wheat wrap.  I do not know what this tastes like.  I made the kebabs the night before I came down with the flu and thus I was in full “soup only” mode when it came time to eat the wraps.  The bear said they tasted good, but a touch dry.  I believe he added mayo, however the fever may have addled my memory.

Stir-Fried Honey-Ginger Chicken with Peppers

Stir-Fried Honey-Ginger Chicken with Peppers

Honey and ginger, two of my favorite things.

Honey and ginger, two of my favorite things.

Everyday Food certainly loves their stir fries.  I have to admit it is kind of nice.  Up to this point, with very few exceptions, I pretty much sliced up chicken or pork, tossed in a bag of stir fry style frozen veggies and added some Soy Vey Teriyaki Sauce (if you’ve never tried it, it’s truly delicious).  So, here is yet another example of how this blog has taken me out of my comfort zone.  Yay!

This stir fry was both incredibly beautiful and incredibly tasty.  I took the suggestion in the magazine and went with red, orange and yellow bell peppers.  It’s not often you have such a colorful meal in the middle of winter.  Additionally, the honey and the ginger made the chicken and peppers so flavorful!  As usual, I served it with brown rice.

This was a delicious and healthy dinner at the peak of comfort food season.  Give it a try!

Sometimes I forget a main ingredient (and to take a picture)…

Spicy Sausage, Bean and Cheese Nachos

[Insert photo here… please.  Maybe you could make this dish properly and email me a photo. Thanks!]

Where to begin.  First of all, I had been driving all day.  Like all day.  I got in the car around 9:30am and aside from a couple of brief stops, I drove until arriving home at 8pm.  I had looked at the recipe before I left for a weekend away and had bought all the necessary ingredients.  I thought it would be something I could throw together quickly when I got home if it was late.  Well, I was right about that part.  Although, it was obviously quicker since I forgot the entire bean component.

Yeah, I threw it together without looking at the recipe again.  So I had sausage, cheese, green chiles in place of jalapeños, and black olives.  Super easy!  Super tasty!  I bet it would be great with the beans as well…  And like a recipe that might actually belong in a magazine and not like something a bunch of college kids tossed together when they got home from the bar on a Friday night.

And yes, I also forgot the picture.  Moral of the story.  Don’t trust yourself to cook for a blog after a day of driving.  In fact, don’t trust yourself to cook at all.  Maybe just pick up some take out.

I think you should try this recipe.  And then tell me how it actually tastes.

Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon

Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon

Also known as avgolemono, this soup has been a longtime favorite of mine.  I’ve made several version of this Greek soup and this recipe stands up with the best of them.

It's delicious, though it doesn't make for a thrilling photo...

It’s delicious, though it doesn’t make for a thrilling photo…

No matter what recipe I’ve used, this soup is remarkably simple, only 5 ingredients plus salt and pepper (I refuse to count a garnish as a legit ingredient, so the dill from this recipe is not included in my calculation).  And it always tastes delicious.  It is both super comforting and incredibly light at the same time.  The lemon is refreshing and makes you think of the springtime.  I particularly enjoy this soup in the deepest, darkest part of the winter (the short hours of sunlight in January, ugh).

This recipe includes chicken breast which helps fill out the soup.  I personally enjoy it even without the additional meat, but the Bear needs something heartier so this recipe actually works better for us than the other versions I’ve made in the past.

I know I often tell you try give a recipe a try.  But seriously, give this recipe a try.  Try it during the next snowstorm, when you don’t feel like the spring will ever come and you are overwhelmed by the grey and gloom.  It will make your heart happy.  Seriously.

Thank Goodness for the January/February Issue!

You may have noticed, we fell a little behind on the writing again.  Ugh.  Who knew so much writing would be required for a blog? Anyway, as usual, we have been cooking in a timely manner, just not updating you on all of our adventures.

So, let me introduce the Jan/Feb 2010 issue!  The Light Issue.  Lots of lean meats and veggies in this one.

I started the year off making the Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Arugula.

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As is often the case with the EF pastas, it seemed a little dry.  I don’t think this would have been an issue if I had doubled the roasted vegetable recipe.  The vegetables were pretty delicious. Roasted garlic, shallot and tomato make a nice, savory combination.

I say, go ahead and make this, just double the veg!

Has Anyone Been Successful with a Martha Stewart French Toast Recipe?

Apple-Butter French Toast Sandwiches

Look! Adequate lighting!!

Look! Adequate lighting!!

I’m sorry, but I have to start this post with a rant.  Has anyone ever been successful with a Martha Stewart french toast recipe?!  I have made two different recipes in the past few months, and both of them just left me with soaking wet pieces of warm bread… (Ok, this time I managed to adjust things so it wasn’t quite as bad.)  Number one, I think they call for an absurd amount of milk – 1 cup milk to 2 eggs, plus 2 egg whites seems excessive.  Secondly, it says to put the bread slices into the mixture and to let it soak a minute per side – that’s two minutes!  I tried it for about 30 seconds total and my bread nearly fell apart before I could get it to the pan!! Seriously, if anyone has the answer to my dilemma with these french toast recipes, please tell me.  I don’t think stale bread would compensate enough for the amount of liquid/soaking time.

Now, about the flavor.  I skipped the apple butter and went for pumpkin butter instead, because I had it.  By using the butter instead of maple syrup it is a much less sweet breakfast, so I agree with the Healthy Start category.  I thought it tasted decent, but I’ll be honest with all the struggles of actually making the french toast with this recipe, I probably won’t be doing it again.