Stacked

Tofu-vegetable stack

Through the magic of small plates and camera angles, this doesn't look all that small!

Through the magic of small plates and camera angles, this doesn’t look all that small!

This dish is labeled as a “Meatless Main.”  It also gives its calorie information as 175 calories per serving.  Now, unless you’re going to have a rather substantial side dish or you’re saving ample room for dessert (good move) or you’re using MyFitnessPal and you find yourself with no more calories left….this is a side salad.  That’s how we served it.  We had frozen pizza with this as a side.  I wound up eating less pizza because this was here, so that’s good.  Anyway, I just wanted to point out for you that this is meatless, but it’s probably not much of a main dish as is.

On to the more interesting things.  Can you really grill tofu?!  Yes!  You definitely have to drain it to get it nice and dry.  The recipe says to split the block crosswise in four and the picture looks like big slices of tofu, so I took that to mean that you were supposed to cut it horizontally to make, in essence, wide patties of tofu.  This made sense from a grilling standpoint.  My tofu was wider than your usual block and not quite so tall, so I just cut it once.  If I cut it into four big slices, there’s no way they’d have the structural integrity not to fall through the grates.  Plus, only two people were eating, so why bother?

D is silly

D is silly

The veggies also grilled very nicely, and the dressing was awesome.  I took some liberties with the dressing.  I only had a little bit of parsley, but I have an herb garden in my window that’s producing basil, thyme, and oregano.  I chopped up some basil and oregano and added it to the little bit of parsley I already had.  That was delicious.  It took on more of an Italian flavor.  I really enjoyed the earthiness I got from the oregano.  Fresh oregano is really pretty awesome, but who wants to bother, right?  Right.  So I definitely recommend getting creative with your fresh herbs.  And here’s the real bonus to getting creative with your herbs…and this is kind of a fat kid move…the dressing is very good on frozen pizza.  How do I know?  Are you going to make me say it?  I dipped my pizza in it.  I figure fresh herb, fresh lemon, and olive oil dressing on pizza is the classy version of dipping it in ranch dressing.  Whatever.  It was good.

So please enjoy this side salad or very small main dish or pizza dip.

Well, once you notice the lemon wedge for scale, you really do see how small this is.

Well, once you notice the lemon wedge for scale, you really do see how small this is.

Mexican food can be fussy, you know

Green chile posole with black beans

D wants to know why hominy is always squeaky.  Good question.

D wants to know why hominy is always squeaky. Good question.

French food has a reputation for being very complicated, difficult, and time-consuming to cook.  But I’d like you, dear reader, to compare this recipe linked above to a recipe for Potage Parmentier.  Which one would you pick for a weekday?  This recipe has no fewer than 15 ingredients, not counting the salt and pepper and the cheese on top.  You have to chop a lot of them.  The “active time” of 10 minutes on this recipe is nonsense.  It’s more like 20-30 minutes of prep before it gets cooked for 45 minutes.  Looking back, the most complicated dish I’ve ever made was chicken mole.  So I think that Mexican food deserves a little bit of the fussy reputation that French food gets.  It’s not all beef tacos.

Ah, but how does the soup taste?  Delicious.  The parsley, cilantro, and spinach make for a green and fresh soup. We had this as an appetizer before our New Year’s Eve dinner.  It served as an appetizer/first course/salad.  I also think that the allspice made this one special.  It gave the soup a spicy earthiness.  It’s certainly spicy, but not too hot.  It’s like an excellent salsa verde, but deeper and richer.  If you’ve got the time to make something like this, I recommend it.

Panic carrots

Slow-Cooker Garlic Chicken with Couscous

Here I come to save the day!

Here I come to save the day!

I’ve already said I’m a food safety nut.  I’m also pretty into fire safety.  I don’t want to get into it because it’s sad and this is not the place for it, but there was a fire in my old neighborhood that killed some people in an apartment building and it stuck with me.  No, I don’t have an escape plan, but thank you so so so much for putting that into my head.  Guess what you’re doing tonight instead of watching TV, D?  I digress…  Because of this fear of fire, I’m nervous about leaving my slow cooker on all day.  (I can hear your eyes rolling.)  My slow cooker has a big warning in the manual about making sure the slow cooker is filled at least halfway.  I suppose they are trying to say that you shouldn’t put a single pork chop into the cooker, crank it to high, and leave it for several hours and expect it to work out.  My fear is that a less than half-full slow cooker would cook down, start to smolder, burst into flames that climb up the kitchen cabinets, reach the walls, and engulf the apartment and my kittens in smoke and fire.  All this was running through my head as I rushed to get the dinner into the slow cooker and out the door to go to work.  I didn’t leave myself enough time, so I was frantically carving the super cold bird and chucking pieces into the cooker, all the while gauging the crock for whether it had reached the magic halfway mark.  I finished loading the carrots and chicken and it was only (ominous music here) 1/3 full.  So I did what any sensible person would do, I panicked.  I grabbed a pound of carrots from the fridge, washed them and hacked them into long pieces.  I stuffed the carrots under the chicken pieces to raise the food up to the halfway mark.  Then I turned the cooker on and dashed out the door, 15 minutes late to work.

That moment of panic turned out to be doubly awesome.  First, the house didn’t burn down.  Second, those carrots were completely delicious.  I mean they were the best part of the entire dish.  I’m not just saying that to justify what I did.  The lack of a house fire was justification enough for me.  I mean that the onions, garlic, and rendered chicken fat all turned those carrots into sweet and savory little flavor bombs.  I highly recommend adding carrots to this recipe, even if you’re already at the halfway mark on your crock or if it never occurred to you to worry about such a thing, you foolhardy, devil-may-care, ne’er-do-well, you.

Actually, it was triply awesome.  Baby J loved those carrots.

Panic carrots: one. Fire: zero.

cheddar bay biscuits and gravy

Cheddar Bay Biscuits and Gravy: G goes rogue again

B made fun of how this looks.  She's just jealous she couldn't eat it.  :P

B made fun of how this looks. She’s just jealous she couldn’t eat it. 😛

The November 2007 Everyday Food recipe is focused on Thanksgiving, so it should come as no surprise that it has waaay more sides than main dishes.  This is great for your average home cook.  Your average home cook isn’t trying to make everything in the issue in a month.  B and I had to get creative to use up all of those side dish recipes.  So my biscuits became a breakfast.  I was walking around downtown thinking to myself about what to do with cheddar biscuits.  I kept thinking “cheddar biscuits, cheddar biscuits”…  Then a wonderful voice in my head added one simple word and said, softly, “cheddar bay biscuits.”  We all have our chain food vices, right?  For D and I, it’s Red Lobster.  I love the fried shrimp and those cheddar bay biscuits.  So I decided to work in some “bay” in the cheddar biscuit recipe by borrowing from some copycat recipes on the internet.  Before I move on to the “and gravy” part…Kyle Kinane’s bit about cheddar bay biscuits and Michael Jackson is genius.  Enjoy.

I had my cheddar bay idea, but I was still stuck on what to serve it with.  Then another genius voice in my head said “biscuits and gravy.”  Like a before and after puzzle on Wheel of Fortune, my head put it together: cheddar bay biscuits and gravy.  Boom.

Ok, this is a combination of three different recipes, so bear with me.  I started with the original Everyday Food Buttermilk Biscuits recipe (Cheddar Variation), but make some cheddar bay changes.  (Here’s a pretty good Cheddar Bay Biscuits copycat recipe that I used as inspiration.)  Follow the Everyday Food recipe with these variations:

1)When you mix all the dry ingredients together, add a teaspoon of garlic powder.  I messed up and forgot it at that step so I had to add it with the cheddar when I kneaded it all together.  That worked out, but I was definitely afraid of over-working the dough.  I should have added it with the dry ingredients.

2)  As for the cheddar part of cheddar bay, the cheddar variation is only in the magazine.  At the part where you knead the dough to combine it, you add 2 cups of grated cheddar.  The recipe also says to add more to the top, but holy moley, that’s already a ton of cheese.  I love cheese more than the next gal, and I left it off of the top.

3)  To finish up the cruise to cheddar bay, I brushed the tops with parsley and melted butter.  Some of the copycat recipes had you mix dried parsley in with the dough, but I don’t have dried parsley and I didn’t think buttermilk biscuits with cheddar cheese and garlic really needed much more!

I had to step back the heat on my oven to about 425 instead of 450 because my biscuits were bigger than the ones in the magazine.  I cut them out with the top of a rocks glass.

Look what washed up on the shores of Cheddar Bay!

Look what washed up on the shores of Cheddar Bay!

Ok, that’s your cheddar bay biscuits.  I must admit that they do not taste exactly like the ones from Red Lobster.  The ones from Red Lobster are far more buttery, but have far less cheese and garlic flavor.  I think you could double the amount of butter and halve the amount of cheese and garlic to approximate the restaurant experience, but I hope you’ll try it my way.

On to the “n’ gravy”.  I got the sausage gravy recipe from the internet only after none of the packages of Jimmy Dean sausage at the grocery store had a recipe for sausage gravy on the side.  C’mon, Dean!  I took this recipe, halved it (huge mistake, we wound up wanting more gravy), but bumped the sausage back up to a 1/3 lb.  I did use whole milk because I have a toddler in the house and one of the perks is that you have whole milk around for cooking and baking.

So how was it?  Do you even have to ask?  It was cheddar bay biscuits with sausage gravy on top.  It was super good.  I just wish I would have made more.  Luckily, I have four more biscuits in the freezer ready to bake.

 

creamy veggie spread

Creamy veggie spread

on mini bagels...not that you can tell from this picture

on mini bagels…not that you can tell from this picture

I’ve mentioned my index card before.  That’s where I kept the information for my favorite Everyday Food recipes back before this blog.  Well, this is another one that’s on the card and has been since 2007.  It’s a very satisfying recipe even though it’s just low-fat cream cheese/Neufchatel, chopped veggies, salt and pepper.  I’ve never messed with the ingredients or the proportions.  It’s just too good.  Normally, I mess with everything.  Not this.  Make it exactly as you’re told.  One downside is that it gets weird if you hang on to it too long.  It really is only good for a couple days.  The veggies start to break down and release water into the spread and that, in turn, makes the parsley kinda limp.  Oh, and a tip for when you definitely make this: take the cream cheese out and put it into the bowl as your very first step, then do all the rest of the prep into the bowl to give the cheese a little time to soften.  A metal spoon and your arms will be enough fire power.  Otherwise, you’re in for quite a workout trying to mix cold cream cheese and veggies together.

Creamy veggie spread

*adapted from Everyday Food Issue #47 November 2007 p. 52

  • 1 8 oz packaged Neufchatel cheese
  • 1 carrot, peeled then grated with a box grater
  • 1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), finely chopped
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced.  Keep the white part, the light green, and just a bit of the green green
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley

Set the cheese in a medium bowl.  Prep the rest of the ingredients into that bowl, giving the cheese time to soften.  Season with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper.  Stir it together with a metal spoon.  Spread on bagels or crackers.  Use it within 3 days.  Everyday Food says 5.  I’ve never been lucky enough to get it to last that long.