Hey, just for kicks I looked at my stats the other day. Welcome, new readers--I'm glad you're here and hope you find something useful! What made me laugh was that my number one search term (and numbers three, four, and five, for reasons I don't understand) are all for beeping key finders. I wish I sold them! But for those of you here for recipes--there, I can help, at least a little. Last week's hits and misses, below.
Not to brag, but a bonus to living where we do: we went for a barely-early Valentine celebration (unusual for us but this was worth the departure) to a restaurant run by Jose Garces, the newest Iron Chef. We had this meal--crazy good. If you watch the video of the Garces meal, that is what was recreated for dinner tonight. It was fantastic--such a great combination of flavors. (And--if you watch the video--tonight had no seeds!) Extra bonus for us: it's in a building connected to the main train station, so we rode the rails in and out. Not that Sunday night traffic is so awful, but you never know, and it was very relaxing to just hang out together and chat rather than worry about parking or crazy drivers.
Alas, I will not be cooking this well this week. I do my best but transcendent is not in my repertoire.
Monday: takeout heart shaped pizzas. Not sublime, but topical. I'll also be baking heart cakes, and a veggie recipe from Around My French Table. (Heart cakes=our favorite chocolate cake, just baked in my heart-shaped bakers that come out exactly once a year.)
Tuesday: Beggar's Linguine for grownups, chicken nuggets in reserve for kids. (I didn't get to this last week because the chicken in packets went two nights for us.) And in case the linguine isn't a hit, there should be enough chicken and salad to tide over en the grownups.
Wednesday: this won't go well with the boys, but I will have leftover chicken for them; for my husband and me, Thai-ish salmon from (of course) Dinner A Love Story. Maybe I'll get crazy and try to make coconut rice to go with it, inspired by the Garces dinner. Or not. We'll see.
Thursday: hot dogs for kids, baked potato soup for grownups. (I wish we were at the Thursday Wednesday Spaghetti, but we have a school meeting, so that can't happen. Alas.)
Friday: I might try the miso fish recipe from last week here instead and go back to meatless Fridays here.
I had my cooking mojo last week...results below...
On Monday, I tried the chicken in packets from Around My French Table (though without the peppers as I can't really eat them). I loved them, my husband enjoyed them, and they were very easy once I figured out how to wrap the packages! I served them with rice on the side, and then made the huge mistake of making the Pioneer Woman Apple Dumplings for dessert (though I made only a half-batch, which is easy to do). I am not a fan of Mountain Dew. I am not a fan of crescent rolls. But somehow, put together with enough butter and sugar, and whoa, Nellie. These are way too easy to eat. The fun part is how nicely the apple cooks. (Really, it is.) It gets all mushy and sweet and YUM. These are clearly hazardous to your health, though, so I do recommend the half batch. And honestly? I might try bigger apple pieces next time. Or a little less...something. But oh-so-good and the house smelled awesome. Special thanks to Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer for drawing my attention to those little buggers.
Continuing with the house-smells-awesome theme, I used my two half-done barbecue sauces from the fridge to make the Crock Pot Honey Barbecue Ribs. These were mostly a success; even though Stephanie from A Year of Crockpotting seems to think that dry meat comes from not being in long enough, these were in on low for 9 hours and were definitely overcooked, not under. They were awesome--falling off the bone, and while it really didn't look at all like enough sauce when I started (not even close to all the pork was covered), it was swimming in it by the end. And it was good, but you really need to have a sauce you love! (We used Sweet Baby Ray's, one regular and a little bit of leftover honey barbecue sauce, and then I cut back just a smidge on the actual honey.) Baked potatoes or mashed are good with this but from our gimpy can't-go-up-and-down-stairs week, I had SO much laundry to do I just wanted to keep dishes to a minimum! So baked it was, and yum. I really need to just remember: my crockpot cooks at too high a temperature, so adjust accordingly.
I couldn't have been any happier that the snow didn't come last week, and twice now, it's been close to 50 degrees! (Sorry, all of you who are still digging out, but we've been there this winter already.) But I already had the pork, so spent Friday braising the pork ragu. (A departure for me, meat on a Friday; these "meatless Mondays" are cracking me up, making the Catholic church look downright progressive for abstaining from meat all those centuries on Fridays! I did too, until very recently, despite Vatican II telling me it was OK not to observe that rule anymore. But I'm overwhelmed by carnivores in my house currently and it got too hard. Maybe I'll go back. But I digress...) The pork ragu was very good. My husband loved it. My kids wouldn't touch it. I have trouble playing nicely with canned tomatoes; even the good ones in the lined cans taste tinny to me. But the pork was yummy and it was a nice Friday night dinner. For a side dish, I tried the Trio Salad from a blog that kind of just showed up in my Reader. It was ok. I liked it fine and it used things I already had, but no one else was enthralled. Welcome to my house. Sigh. Sometimes I think I should just give up and serve hot dogs three nights a week and not deal with the crap.
Further bolstering that idea: "my" copy of Around My French Table goes back to the library today, so I tried to get in a few more recipes. Despite cracking all those pistachios, I didn't get to the Beggar's Linguine yet, but I did make the Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux. "Les Paresseux" roughly translates as "the lazy," which sounded good to me. But it was only ok. I liked roasting it in my beloved Dutch oven, and it really wasn't tough to prepare. I loved that the veggies were prepared while the meat was already cooking; it felt much more efficient than having to get everything in the pan before cooking commenced. But I have decided I am not a good enough cook to try to get by with less than ideal ingredients. I think my main issue here was that oven stuffer roasters were on such a huge sale, they were less than 1/3 the price of an organic chicken, so I grabbed one. And at least in this case, I think it really threw things off. The bird cooks on two pieces of baguette that are supposed to come out crispy and delicious, and the pan juices are supposed to be minimal. While the bottoms of my bread were crispy, the tops were swimming in a lot of pan juices, plus it took more than 90 minutes of cooking to get the thighs to 165, the plastic thingee in the breast didn't pop until it was resting, and even then, all the juices didn't run clear. Now, to the recipe's credit--it was a lovely brown, and very juicy, but compared to the other roast chicken recipe--well, this just didn't compare at all.
There were a few other things that I tried the week before last that I forgot to document...mostly because they were merely ok. In a continuing effort to get Little Picky to eat some vegetables, I tried these broccoli cheese bites. They were easy-ish--the ingredients were all in my house, and nothing was complex to prepare. But. I hate forming anything with my hands. I never thought of myself that way, but it really annoys me to get stuff on my hands. I hate making meatballs, I dislike rolling balls for cookies...so, I grew up in to that person. If my child had eaten and enjoyed them--I'd suck it up to get the veggies in him. But, not surprisingly, he ate one and didn't like it, then tried to eat around the broccoli so as to only consume the bread crumbs, cheese, and egg. And for him--egg is a big step so I should be grateful. Instead I'm just glad I don't have to keep rolling these things.
I also tried the sweet potato hash from Real Simple's February 2011 issue. I was happy to have an excuse to use the grater disk of my food processor, but my pieces were shorter, and just plain never cooked in the skillet. Eventually I just popped it in the oven with some butter and called it a day, though I loved the idea. I can't figure out what I did wrong. I thought it sounded great; I loved the nutritional powerhouse of the spinich and sweet potatoes; and it smelled great in the skillet. I'm not sure if I'll try again or not as I do have other ways that I love eating sweet potatoes.
The other thing I made was the game-day dip from Dinner: A Love Story. I had other lunch plans and instantly broke them when I saw this. It reminded me of my own favorite artichoke dip recipe from a friend, but easier (only four ingredients! and I had them all!). It was better than my original in that it was even easier, and very cheesy and stretchy and gooey and yum. But I like my original better, so with thanks to my non-bloggy friend who gave it to me: for you. And do whir the hearts in the food processor so you can scoop more easily. It's key.
1 c mayonnaise
1 8oz block cream cheese
1 jar or can of artichoke hearts (plain or marinated, I've used both & prefer plain but use marinated in a pinch. also: as mentioned, I prefer to whir these through the food processor before mixing for easier scooping and spreading)
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 c parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400. Mix all ingredients. Top with a little more parmesan and cover in foil. Bake 45-50 minutes, uncovered for the last 20 minutes.
Finally, because it was less a recipe and more an act of desperation--we made snow ice cream in the big blizzard! I was very grateful to the friend who posted it on Facebook. It was super-easy--I just took my biggest mixing bowl/measuring cup out in the snow, filled it somewhere between 6-8 cups (I took a big spoon and found an untouched area to dig in), brought it in and added 1 cup milk (whole is best); 1 tsp vanilla; 1/2 cup sugar and mixed until creamy. The boys were crazy about it, and it was really fun. It was a great accompaniment to hot chocolate, that's for sure.
But...no blizzards that we can see this week...in fact, we might lose the last of the big snow, which would be a relief at this point. I hope you have a great week, whatever your weather...for cooking inspiration, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie!