Monday, August 15, 2011

Mini Lasagnas: Too Cute To Eat, Too Twee To Live

This week has been productive as fuck. We finally finished painting all of the downstairs walls (just the trim to do, now), Jeffrey a.k.a. My Hero got on a very tall ladder and did the 30 foot walls in the entry AND put together ikea shelves - which are two things I hate doing, so, round of applause for Jeffrey. Finally started hanging art, finally unpacked our books and board games. Ordered a dining room set. It's really feeling like a home, now.

Last night we cleaned ourselves up and took a break to go wish our friend Nestor a happy birthday and drink some whiskey and eat some cake. May I recommend Berkshire Mountain Distiller's bourbon? It is tasty and immensely drinkable. I have tried almost all of their gins, and like them very much. I am pretty sure they have a small distribution area but if you can get it, do.

Before we headed over there, I whipped together some Muffin Tin Lasagnas. I may never make a regular lasagna again! They are so easy and the cook in a fraction of the time. I couldn't get a decent picture of the ones I made, so I suggest clicking the link and oohing and ahhing. I'm into the idea of making a bunch of muffin tin mini casseroles and freezing them for school lunches.

I did manage to take a picture of my pretty Greek Salad.

Not my best post, but I may have had more than one glass of that bourbon last night. I promise something with an actual recipe, later.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chicken Tostadas

You know what I love about Americanized Mexican food? It's all the same ten ingredients in different presentations. Take my Tostadas, for example; basically an open-faced taco.

This is a great meal for a busy weeknight. We needed something quick and filling before we went to the Britney Spears concert (it was awesome, don't judge) and these took about ten minutes to make and five minutes to eat.
Please enjoy the background of IKEA items that clutter my counter.

You can pick up pre-made tostadas like these (I find them in any grocery), or you can just fry your own corn tortillas. Then you pile on the fixings: meat, beans, sautee'd veggies, cheese, taco sauce, salsa, guac, you name it. Apollo Grill (aka my favorite) does one with goat cheese and sweet potato that is super good. Our filling, last night, was ground chicken with peppers and onions.

Ground Chicken for Tostadas and Tacos and Burritos and Stuff

1# Ground Chicken
1 red onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
2T chopped garlic
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
2T seasoning*

Saute' onions, peppers, garlic until soft. Add chicken and seasoning, cook through. Add black beans, toss to heat.

*I am leaving this at the vague "seasoning" because in this case I used a Trader Joe's spice blend and not everyone has access to it. I used the South African Smoke blend, which upon closer inspection appears to be smoked paprika, sea salt, garlic, and basil. I also added about a teaspoon of ground cumin. You could go with a packet of taco seasoning and just make life easy, or just dump in whatever you've got hanging around in the chili department.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Slow Cooker Beef Curry/IKEA trip

That's right, I'm using my slow cooker in summer. What.

We've been through this before, I know. I lapse on my updates and I come back and ask for another chance. Come on baby, you know I love you. I just got a lot going on right now.

BOY do I have a lot going on right now. The last time I updated was March, and now it is August. In the past five months I have bought a house, been to the West Coast and back three times, decided to go back to school, and gotten engaged. It has been a beautiful, crazy year - and it is fixing to get busy. Not in like, the sexy way but like, augh where does the time go. I function better with a schedule, so I am looking forward to September. August is being spent doing projects and planning our Housewarming/Engagement party. I bought a turkey fryer. Shit is going to get real.

Yesterday, I dusted off the slow cooker because the kids had morning dentist appointments and then I had to go to IKEA and then I wanted to go to Crafty-Craft-Times and I knew that I wouldn't want to also cook dinner plus we had just had pizza. IKEA is my favorite, but it is also an hour and a half away - so we really have to make a day of it. We picked up all the staples from the food market (meatballs, almond cookies, caviar) and we like to buy at least one thing that we've never seen before or have never tried. This time, it was crab spread.

I'm a sucker for packaging. It's in a TUBE. Also, look at the crab. Look at him. Adorbs. According to the handy recipe cards that IKEA now supplies, this is eaten on rye flatbread with boiled egg. Sounds good to me! EDIT: It's frigging delicious, if you like that sort of thing.

Back to the slow-cooker. I skipped a month of our meat CSA share, because we were in California, so pickings are getting slim in the ol' deep freezer. I had a few pounds of stew beef, and I was afraid that stew or chili would be too heavy for muggy hot August. The curry came out nice and light and fresh-tasting. We ate it with couscous, which doesn't really require use of the stove because you just boil water and let it soak (and you can boil water in a microwave, if necessary).

Slow Cooker: Summer Beef Curry

2# stew beef
2 cans light coconut milk
2 tsp red curry paste
heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 head of garlic, chopped
1 large red onion, diced
1/2# carrots, sliced
salt to taste

1 c chopped scallions
1 c chopped thai basil
chopped roasted peanuts

Brown stew beef and garlic in a hot skillet, then transfer to slow cooker. Add carrots, onion, and brown sugar. Stir curry paste into coconut milk before pouring over other ingredients. Cook on low for ten hours or high for six hours. Before serving, stir in basil and scallions. Serve over couscous or rice, with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts.

This comes out a little 'soupy' - easily thickened by adding a can of rinsed and drained garbanzo beans, or two diced potatoes at the beginning.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Muffin And A Crumble Walked Into A Party

I was invited to a party, I was told there would be chili, I volunteered corn bread, I also made dessert.

Elka and Eric threw their second annual pre-PAX shindig last night, and though I am skipping PAX this year I am always up for a party. They provided chili and rice and baked pasta and salad and strawberries and cocktails, so the least I could do was bring a thing or two.

I think I've mentioned that I don't really bake from scratch so much, but I am a big fan of "hacking" mixes (my favorite being pretzels and caramel on top of brownies. Good stuff.). I took Bob's Red Mill cornbread mix and added a generous cup of shredded smoked cheddar and a small can of roasted green chilis and it was really tasty, I mean really. The mix was almost five bucks at the grocery store, but it makes 20 good sized muffins so I feel that it's worth it. Plus, it's all natural and Bob's is employee-owned, so you can feel good about supporting a stand up company.

I also made McIntosh Maple Crumble With Candied Bacon. I did it a little differently - I chopped up the candied bacon and mixed it in with the apples. If you like bacon, I highly recommend trying it candied sometime. I will also warn you that I used maple syrup and the result is really sweet, so if you're looking to tone that down I would use maple liqueur instead. We ate the crumble with Burnt Sugar & Butter ice cream. Incredible.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eggs For Dinner

The other night, in the midst of my funk, I asked my Twitter friends/followers what they have been cooking lately. The number one answer was curry, followed by various stews, and one frittata. Yesterday morning when I woke up, all I wanted was frittata. Our fridge was barren save for the door full of condiments and some moldy ricotta cheese (I was gone for a week, don't judge) so I hit the store and then made frittata for dinner.

Frittata is like a crustless quiche. It cooks faster, is less delicate, and is a great way to use up leftover bits of veggies and meat you may have kicking around. I pulled the prosciutto and artichokes out of my freezer, and added things that I thought would taste good with those. Big hit with the family - the kids didn't realize they were eating artichoke hearts and Jeffrey said, "This frittata is frincredible." A high compliment.

I served with fresh multigrain bread, and mixed greens tossed in olive oil, lemon vinegar, sea salt, and cracked pepper.

Weeknight Frittata

6 eggs
1/3 c half and half or heavy cream
2 c chopped cooked vegetables and meat (or not meat, whatever) - I used swiss chard, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, and grape tomatoes
1 tsp thyme (or any herb that will go with your ingredients)
1/2 small onion, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 c shredded or crumbled cheese
1 T butter
olive oil (about 2T)

Preheat the oven to 400°. You'll want to use a skillet, such as cast iron, that can transfer from stove top to oven. Beat the eggs and cream together. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat the skillet to medium high, and saute' the onions and garlic in the olive oil. Add the rest of your veggies and lower the heat to medium, the same temperature you would normally use to cook eggs.

"...but I always burn my eggs!" you say. Here is what I learned about eggs; you need your pan to be the right temperature, and you need to cook them in butter. You know how eggs always stick to the pan? Right. Your pan is either too high or too low, and you're probably using oil or pan spray. (Obviously the exception is non-stick pans, but I don't use those because I'm a snob.) If you are using a gas range, you want the flame to be just touching the bottom of your pan. If you are using an electric range, it's going to take a little trial and error since they wildly vary. On mine, the setting is "6". Start there and tweak as necessary. Anyway, back to the recipe.

Add the butter to the filling and toss to melt. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the filling. Sprinkle with cheese. Now you're going to let it set. That means don't touch it for a couple minutes, but watch for bubbles in the center and for it to start firming up the sides of the pan. Transfer to oven, let bake for 10 - 15 minutes. The center will feel firm to the touch, when done. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I have been so uninspired in the kitchen. As happy as I am that comfort food is no longer a secret shame, I am actually getting tired of macaroni & cheese and short ribs. Every restaurant I go to, every magazine I pick up, every website I visit is prominently featuring heavy, rich, meaty and cheesy dishes. Not that there's anything wrong with it - but that's in my wheelhouse already. There's no challenge in it for me.

This is also an icky time of year, food-wise. It's impossible to get decent vegetables, since they're all shipped from California and taste like cardboard. (Except winter squash, but one can only eat so much of that.) I'm yearning for all this snow to melt, to see the grass turn green, for the farmer's markets to open. I'm actually looking forward to the April mud.

It took me hours to plan our next week of meals, but I think I managed to incorporate enough different flavors to keep it interesting. Hopefully the family will agree and I won't be chucking five pounds of leftovers come Sunday. The lesson here is to always freeze extras right away. They say that they'll eat them, but they never do......

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spinach Salad

I have three incomplete recipes/blog posts from over the past week saved as drafts. Sometimes I start writing the posts in the morning, well before I start cooking dinner, because evenings can be busy and I don't always have time to sit and do a whole post at once. In the case of two of the drafts, I didn't feel like the recipe was as good as I wanted - so I will tinker with those before final posting. In the case of the third, life got in the way and we ordered pizza that night.

Today's post is completely different than I originally planned. I was going to post a recipe for a blood orange and jicama salad that I made to go with tacos. I have made a few versions of this salad over the years, and it's quite tasty. However, last night's salad was not. It was pretty gross and I ended up throwing it down the garbage disposal...which is a thing I never do. I absolutely hate wasting food and will usually just deal, but this was just nasty. The jicama was kind of funky tasting and ruined the whole thing. I'm going to try it again another day, we'll see what happens.

Anyway, for dinner tonight I had made tuna casserole and a spinach salad.

February 8, 2011 - Spinach Salad

1 lb spinach - washed, dried, stems removed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
1/2 red onion, julienned
1 avocado - peeled and sliced, then tossed in 1 tsp lemon juice and 1/4 tsp salt
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered or sliced
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Dress with a basic vinaigrette: 1/4c vinegar (I used cider) 1/2 c olive oil , 1 clove grated or pressed garlic, 1 tsp fancy mustard, 1 tsp sugar, s/p to taste