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Monday, October 12, 2009

Tacostacostacos

There are quite a few ways to feed a crowd, but I almost always go with TACOS. We had visitors on Saturday and here's the filling that I made, served along with the usual toppings.

Pineapple Chipotle Carnitas


5# pork picnic shoulder or butt
2 cans diced tomatoes with chiles
12 oz beer, or hard cider, or regular cider
1/2 - 1 can chipotle sauce (depending how spicy you like it)
1 can pineapple tidbits
1 small onion, diced
1 head garlic, chopped
ground cumin
Adobo all purpose seasoning

How I did it:


Trim all the big chunks of fat off of the pork. Sprinkle Adobo and cumin all over the pork, and rub it on in. Set aside. Heat a big pan or wok on med-high, add about 1T oil, then saute' the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Remove the onions and garlic from the pan and return to heat. Add another 2T of oil, the sear the pork on all sides.

Transfer pork to roasting pan or crockpot. Add all of the other ingredients. If cooking in the oven, cover with foil. Cook on 350F for 3-4 hours, or in the crock pot on low for 8-10. The longer that this cooks, the softer the meat will get. You want to be able to shred it easily with a fork.

The easiest way to do that is the two-fork method, holding the meat with one fork and shredding with the grain with the other fork. If you've cooked the meat long enough, this is super easy. If you have to fight with the meat, you need to cook it longer. You can do this right in the pan, and mix it with all of the chunky bits and cooking juice before serving.

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I actually did a 10# shoulder - it fed 10 of us and I have an insane amount of leftovers. We should have had them for dinner last night, but someone was drinking drinks that taste like candy and someone really needed Chinese food while she lay on the couch watching Dollhouse and regretting her folly.

Someone = me

Friday, October 9, 2009

Curry In A Hurry

(That was the name of the restaurant where I first had Indian food. It was on Thayer St. in Providence. We may have gone the same day I got my nose pierced in a sketchy loft with a skate ramp built up one wall....I can't remember and that is a story for another day, anyway.)

Keely was invited for dinner last night, and as of 11 o'clock yesterday morning I had no idea what I was going to cook. Years ago we used to have weekly dinner parties, where we would drink a bunch of wine and spend four hours trying out Jamie Oliver recipes and stuffing our own raviolis before finally eating at 9 or 10 at night. Good times. I was thinking about that, which made me remember this amazing rice pudding with cardamom and pistachios, which made me want Indian food. I poked around in the cabinets and came up with Curried Tomato Soup and Roasted Squash with Cardamom. (I also made rice pudding, but it was from a hippie mix I had sitting around.) I put too much olive oil on the squash, which was sad. I've made it a few times before and it's usually very good.

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Curried Tomato Soup

2 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes - Tuttorosso brand "New World Style w/ Basil" is good for soups, because it's more of a puree'.
1 small red onion, finely minced
1/4 c. minced garlic
1/4 c. grated fresh ginger
2T curry powder
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 c chopped cilantro leaves
1 can coconut milk
2 c. broth (chicken or veg)
1/2 bag of frozen peas
1 tsp lime zest
2 tsp sugar
salt to taste

How I did it;

Saute' the onion, garlic and ginger in a large pot until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add broth and peas, come to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the tomatoes, bring to a simmer. Stir in curry powder, coriander, and sugar. Simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes to blend all flavors.
Gently stir in the coconut milk and heat through. Remove from heat, add cilantro and lime zest and salt to taste.

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Everyone liked this! Even Eliza, who normally does not care for curry. This makes a good amount of soup - five of us each had a bowl, I froze a quart for later, and Liza and I are both taking it for lunch today. The recipe can easily be halved.

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Roasted Squash w/ Cardamom


1 large butternut squash, peeled & cubed
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
1 T ground cardamom (I would go for coarse ground over powder)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1T sugar
seeds of 1 pomegranate
salt/pepper to taste
1-2 T olive oil

How I did it;

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl, transfer to roasting pan. Roast at 375F for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your squash cubes and how your oven runs. Stir halfway through, so that nothing sticks to the pan and you get a more even roast.

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Cardamom smells GORGEOUS. It's one of my absolute favorite scents. If you want to get crazy you can also add a tiny pinch of ground cloves to the mix. This is a nice side dish for roast meats, like lamb or chicken or pork, as well. Feel free to sub dried currants or cranberries for the pomegranate seeds, or to leave out the onion. The squash is really the star here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A brisket, a brasket.....or something.

The brisket that was intended for Sunday's dinner was re-heated for Mondays dinner, to a resounding chorus of, "Eh." I will do it again, because I love slow cooked shredded meat, but will definitely mess around with the seasonings.

I saw this recipe and I happened to have a bottle of liquid smoke (Kaliis uses it in her collards and often cooks at my house on holidays). Now The Crockpot Lady is not kidding when she says that a little liquid smoke goes a long way, and I was not thrilled at the prospect of "wet beef jerky", so I only used two tablespoons. I also used fresh garlic, as that is what I do. It really does make the house smell amazing while it's cooking, garlicky and smoky and oh my god good. I shredded it, mixed it with apple cider and bottled bbq sauce, and left in in the crock for another hour.

Verdict; it was not smoky enough for me. I'll add more liquid smoke next time. Other than that, it's hard to go wrong with slow-cooked beef.

I served it with seared greens and mashed celeriac. Celeriac is a delicious sub for mashed potatoes and abundant this time of year. We get them through our CSA. They are delighfully wierd looking and subtly flavored - I mashed mine up with cream, butter, rosemary and roasted garlic. The only thing to watch out for is that sometimes they are really starchy and won't get creamy when you mash them. A lot of people will throw in a couple potatoes to the mash, and that's really nice too.

Almost forgot - I roasted garlic in the crock-pot! When I cooked the brisket, I put a layer of foil on top to reduce the cooking area so that it wouldn't dry out. Then I prepped the garlic like you would for the oven, wrapped it in the foil packet, and just tossed it in on top of the other foil. It was perfect! I actually have a small crock and will be roasting garlic in that from now on.

Speaking of smoked foods, Jeffrey and I had a Business Dinner at Apollo Grill last night. (I'm serious you guys, there were spreadsheets and everything.) They are running a gnocchi special that is de-friggin-licious. Gnocchi with smoked chicken, cranberries, walnuts and winter squash in a light gravy-like pan sauce. It took all my willpower not to lick the bowl. I'm going to try to figure out the pan sauce part and make this at home, because when they take it off the menu I'm going to be a sad girl. I had a dirty martini with organic tomato vodka - so yummy. Hayes makes a damn good martini.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Weekend wrap-up

I did not cook this weekend. Well, I cooked once but I'll give you that at the end of the post.

On Thursday night we took a couple of friends out to the newest place in town, Venus. Venus is partially owned and partially chef-ed by my friend Casey, and it is my new favorite restaurant. Absolutely amazing meal.
We started with a round of drinks and appetizers for the table. My Hendricks martini was perfect. My friend Sarah says that you can judge a place by the quality of their martini and I have found this to be true. The Escargot was out of the shell and done with mushrooms, a rich reduction, and butter foam. It was a perfect flavor balance and the snails were perfectly cooked, not at all rubbery. You really have to be careful not to overcook snails and they got it on the nose. The mussels were done simply in a tomato-garlic-wine broth, but did not suffer for the simplicity. The ricotta gnocchi was outstanding. Each bite literally melted once it hit the tongue. We actually asked for extra bread (grainy, chewy inside, crusty outside) to sop up the sauces.
After the first course we were treated to a sample of 'Deconstructed Corn Chowder'. It was basically a corn chowder, but instead of finishing it with cream, it's finished with a cream foam.

Say what you will about the showiness of molecular gastronomy, but it was so delicious.

For the main course, Jeffrey had the Cornish Game Hen, Bob had the Cassoulet, Sarah had the Filet Mignon and I had the duck special. It was a pan seared duck breast with cranberry compote, duck confit "latkes" (I can't think of the proper word right now), and a brussel sprout/fingerling potato/winter squash hash. I want this meal every day for a year. It was incredible, everyone was extremely happy with the food, the service and the atmosphere. If you're in the area and want to splurge - go to Venus. They have a very nice, reasonably priced wine list and craft beers on tap, and the Cellar Bar downstairs is cozy and warm. I look forward to dropping in there this winter and sitting by the fireplace in the corner.

Friday was Kid Free Friday, for the evening, and Lloyd Cole was playing at Apollo Grill. We were excited to see Lloyd live - he lives in our town and I've been saying hi to him for about four years now, but I hadn't actually seen him play. It was fantastic.
For the sake of full disclosure, I will tell you that I cooked at Apollo for a couple years. It's owned by the aforementioned Casey (of Venus). It's conveniently located downstairs from our office. None of these things effect what I'm about to say; Apollo has great food. When we're not rocking the lunchovers it's always our first choice for lunch at work, and Jeffrey and I like to go sit at the bar, grab a burger and a drink, and verbally process business. We eat here a lot, and I've never had a bad meal. On this night, Jeffrey went with the burger and I was thrilled to discover the Bratwurst back on the menu. Apollo changes the menu seasonally, and the bratwurst is a fall/winter dish. The links are split and grilled, then served with cider-braised red cabbage, a mushroom gravy, and whole grain mustard mashed potatoes. I had it with a pint of Rapscallion. It was a good night.

It was such a good night that I was completely useless the next day and spent most of it blobbing it out on the couch. The kids took off, and Jeffrey and I were left to our own devices. So we went out for tacos.
La Casita Azteca is the only taco place in town. (I say this to mean that if we drove four more miles we could get to Northampton where there are three taco places, but we were dirty and lazy and it was raining out.) We had tried it right after it opened (in 2008) and were hugely disappointed. The prices were high, the portions were small, nothing had flavor, and everything was soggy. We didn't bother going back.
Then, a couple months ago, I was going for lunch with a friend and she suggested La Casita Azteca. When I told her about my bad experience she looked at me like I was crazy, and then took me there anyway. (This lady actually briefly lived in Mexico, so I trust her opinion.) I have to tell you, it was great. Two weeks ago, different lunch date, she wants tacos, we go here, also great. Saturday night, go with Jeffrey - still great. He had a giant burrito, I had a giant torta. Definitely going back. It's a cute little place, brightly colored inside and out. They even have a pretty courtyard with picnic tables and fairy lights for when the weather is nice. Bonus - beer & wine license, so you can have a Tecate' with your meal.

Sunday I started feeling guilty that we had take-out three days in a row, so I made brunch. Pumpkin muffins (from a box, thanks Trader Joe), bacon, and Shirred Eggs. This was actually my first time making my own shirred eggs. I first had them a few years ago at Cafe Gitane in Manhattan, and I don't know why I don't make them all the time. Super easy, super yummy, and you can use whatever you have in the house!

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Shirred Eggs

(serves 2 or 3)

6 eggs
1 tomato, chopped
chopped garlic to taste
1/4 c of chopped onion
a couple handfuls of chopped spinach
1/2 cup cheese (I used cheddar & parm this time)
1/4 c olive oil
1 T butter
cream or milk (about 1/3 c)

How I did it:

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat (does that make sense? maybe). Add the oil to the skillet, then the butter. Melt the butter in the olive oil, then add the onions and garlic. Cook until translucent (1-2 minutes). Saute' the tomato and spinach in with the onions and garlic, until the spinach is wilted and the tomatoes are heated through.

Remove from heat, and crack the eggs onto the vegetable mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Pop it into the oven for about five minutes. Pull it out, sprinkle with cheese. Back into the oven for about five more minutes.

Those times are estimated. I actually "overcooked" ours, because we like our eggs runny and at a total of 15 minutes, ours were solid. I am guessing that 10 gives you runnier eggs, but I'm no scientist. Whatever, they were yummy and may become a weekend staple.

Yesterday I visited friends who live about an hour and a half away. I had a brisket waiting for us in the crock pot but we got too hungry during the trip, said eff it, and got Chinese. No regrets.

I'm re-heating the brisket as I type, and will report back tomorrow.

"Why are there still no photos?", you ask. Well, it's because children are horrible and my child deleted all of my food photos off the memory card and took pictures of THE CAT.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Teriyaki? More like TeriYUCKY, amiright?

I came to a sad realization yesterday - I do not like bottled teriyaki sauce. It's only sad to me because it was a staple in the house when I was a kid. Sweet and salty, it was the best thing since ranch dressing and we used to use it as a condiment on anything plain that my mother served up.

As an adult, I don't really use it very much. It has a ton of sodium for one thing, and I did go through a long period of making almost everything from scratch. However, the kids like it (of course) and so once it a while it comes into play. Hibachi at our favorite Japanese place, for example. I just can't eat it any more. It just tastes like salt to me, no matter what I do with it or whatever small amount I use.

Last night's dinner was supposed to be Teriyaki Chicken Kabobs w/ Rice Balls, but things got a little hectic after school and I just didn't feel like taking the time to make the kabobs and the rice balls, or to stand at the grill and wait for the kabobs to be done. So, I deconstructed the planned meal and made Teryaki Chicken with Pineapple and Broccoli, and Sushi Rice. The kids loved it, and I ate it because I was hungry. I think this goes into the repetoire under Things I Cook For The Kids On Nights When I Have Alternate Dinner Plans.

This is super easy. We had leftovers, so I guess it would probably serve 6 depending on how big your family's average portion is.

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Teriyaki Chicken With Pineapple & Broccoli

2# Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cubed
1 lg can chunk pineapple -or- 1 fresh pineapple, cubed
2 crowns broccoli, chopped - or- 1 bag pre-cut
1 bottle teriyaki sauce (I like Trader Joe's Island Soyaki, or any other pineapple teriyaki)
1T cornstarch
1/4 c water
1 bunch scallions, sliced
cooking oil (2 - 3 T)

How I did it;

Marinate the chicken in about 1/2 the bottle of teriyaki. I put it together in the morning and it was perfect by the time I started cooking at 6. Drain the marinade right before cooking the chicken, and discard.

Get a wok or a large skillet REALLY hot. The best thing that pro kitchen work ever taught me was that if you don't get the pan super-hot for a stir fry, you end up with a soggy mess instead. When the pan is smoking hot, add the oil and then quickly add the chicken cubes. Brown the chicken on all sides, then add the broccoli. Add a splash of water and cover for 1 minute to steam the broccoli a little. Uncover, then add the pineapple. Allow the chicken to cook through, stirring a couple of times. Add the rest of the bottle of teriyaki. It should come to an almost immediate boil.

Whisk the cornstarch into the 1/4 water to make a slurry, then stir the slurry into the wok. Keep stirring, this will thicken the sauce and you don't want it to stick and burn. (about 1 minute)

Toss in the scallions, remove from heat, and serve with rice.

I made sushi rice, with black sesame seeds. It looked pretty.

Someday I will find my camera cord and add photos to the blog. Someday.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hide The Veggies, The Kids Are Looking

If I continue to be good at updating this, and you continue to read, you will notice a recurring "Tex-Mex" theme. It is undeniably my family's favorite kind of food. It's cheap, it's easy, and you if you don't give a frig about authenticity you can throw in whatever you have in the house. It's also a fantastic way to hide vegetables from your kids.

Last night was Burrito Night. Burrito Night differs from Taco Night in that the wraps are bigger and I make rice. I also plan for leftovers - I make a crazy amount of filling and I buy two packages of wraps. Then I make, individually wrap, and freeze a bunch of burritos. We can take them to school and work, they're good for when The Teen is hungry and rummaging around (always) and Jeffrey has a midnight snack when he's up late making comics. Sometimes I throw together a salad or a smoothie to go with, but if the filling has enough of the aforementioned hidden veggies I don't stress about it too much.

Here's the deal with hiding vegetables; if you chop them up small enough and it's in a sauce, they will not notice that the vegetables are there. You can do this in a food processor, but I don't. I have to keep my processor in the basement due to lack of cabinet space and I can never find all the parts and I hate cleaning it. I use this instead, and it is the best. Do not be fooled by it's Slap-Chop-like appearance. It works, it's machine washable and it fits in my cabinet and on my woefully small counter.

Here's a by-no-means-comprehensive list of things that I have put in burritos;

Spanish Rice
Leftover Rice Pilaf
Sweet Potato (with black beans...soooooo gooood)
Spinach or whatever greens I got from the CSA and have to use up
Carrot
Potato, mashed or otherwise
Rotisserie Chicken
Dal/Lentils
Broccoli
Summer Squash
Asparagus
Roasted Winter Veg

Basically if you can put avocado and cheese on it and wrap it in a tortilla, I will serve it as a burrito. We once had roasted winter veg with dinner and the kids wouldn't even look at it. The next night I chopped up the vegetables really small, added a can of beans and a packet of taco seasoning and they each had seconds. I win.

Last night was ground beef, potato, onion/garlic and spinach with yellow rice. We will all be having lunchovers today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Family (Meal) Planning

I have kids and, as everyone knows, in order for kids to grow into healthy functional adults that don't open meth labs in the back of the trailer in order to earn enough to feed their seven bastard children all named Jayden you have to provide them with a rich buffet of activities and experiences. This school year brings guitar lessons, voice lessons, fencing practice, tutoring, two different dance classes, and carpooling from Eliza's school which is two towns away. Plus, I work.

This could all easily result in the consumption of Burger King four times a week with frozen pizza bagels on the off days. It's easy to get overwhelmed by a schedule, and it seems that a lot of families just eliminate mealtimes all together - they throw any quick food into their kids as they run out the door because hey you have to eat and hurry up and grab your cleats we're late as it is. My daughter brought home a flyer from school for Eat Dinner With Your Kids Day, and I felt profoundly sad. I make a point, even with our schedule, to eat dinner as a family. We're averaging about five nights out of seven, as weekends are more casual and once in a while we eat in front of the TV. The rules are; no phones, no laptops, no TV (you can see it from our dining room table), and no answering "I don't know" and "Nothing" to questions about your day. Even if dinner lasts 15 minutes before we run back out the door, it still counts.

"How DO you do it Holly you are amazing," you say. Oh, you.

The key is planning. I sit down on Sunday and come up with at least six dinners.* I try to get the kids to suggest stuff, it's nice to have them involved in the process. Then I make my shopping list and hit the stores. I've also come to terms with shortcuts. I used to be militant about everything being from scratch, but you learn to make concessions (Rotisserie chicken is now a kitchen staple, makes my life a little easier).

For example, here's our menu for the week;

Monday - Stuffed Shells with Panzanella

Tuesday - Burrito Night

Wednesday - Teriyaki Chicken & Pineapple Kabobs with Sushi Rice Balls

Thursday - Caribbean Quinoa & Peas with Tropical Fruit

Friday - Tomato Gorgonzola Soup with Popovers and Salad

Saturday - Pizza Night

Sunday - Crockpot Smoked Brisket, Polenta, Roasted Broccoli

Sounds fancy and complicated, but none of these will take me more than a half hour prep time. I always have pizza dough in my freezer and I usually budget for take-out pizza just in case we have a Day. I use my crockpot at least once a week, more in the winter.

I feed a family of four for an average of $150 a week - that's three meals a day, because the kids like to bring lunch to school. I do belong to a CSA, which is pretty great for the budget. I throw away a lot less un-used, funky food now.

I realize that every family is different. I understand working 3rd shift and sleeping during the day, and I understand being broke, and I understand Circumstances more than you know. This is what works for me, in my life, with my family, and maybe it will work out for you too.

Hey you know what? Here's a recipe for Panzanella!

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Panzanella (Bread Salad)


8 oz Ciliegine (those little balls of fresh mozzarella), drained
16 oz cherry or grape tomatoes
1 c chopped basil (I like a nice chiffonade)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 head green or red leaf lettuce, rough chopped
1 tsp - 1 T finely chopped garlic (to taste)
1/2 c olive oil
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
s/p to taste

about 6 cups of cubed bread. I recommend a nice dense loaf. I usually use a whole grain peasant boule', which sounds fancy but I can get it at Stop & Shop. Day old bread works best. If you have time to plan ahead, cube the bread in the morning, leave it out on a cookie sheet or your cutting board or what-have-you, and let it dry out. This dish was born out of a need to use up day old bread so think untoasted crouton.

How I did it:

It's a salad, so it's not real hard to figure this one out. I like to toss everything but the bread and lettuce together and let it sit and marinate a little while I cook the rest of the meal. (This can, however, be a nice meal on it's own - especially in the summer when it's too hot & gross to cook.) Then you can toss in the bread cubes about 5 minutes before serving. It is a style choice of whether or not you toss in the lettuce. I like to, but it also looks real pretty sitting in a bed of greens.

*Most often used for inspiration & recipes: Food Network, Real Simple, The Crockpot Lady

I only read Real Simple for the recipes, I swear.

I do read other magazines, visit other blogs, and have a f-ton of cookbooks...but if I just want to hurry up and figure it out and be done with it, those are my favorite three.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chillin' With Chilaquiles

The weather was gross yesterday, the kind of New England fall rain that sucks all ambition and energy out of you and leaves you a soggy brain dead heap huddled under a blanket on the couch, staring soullessly at the TV. I've been so busy lately that I didn't even put up a fight. I ran some laundry, cooked some stuff, and my friend Kaliis and I drank wine and caught up on a bunch of shows. It was glorious.

I made Chilaquiles-Style Chicken and Rice & Goat Cheese Stuffed Acorn Squash. Kaliis contributed delicious and seasonal apple crisp, and my daughter Eliza baked 3 Hour Cookies.

(3 Hour Cookies are just like chocolate chip cookies, but it takes Eliza 3 hours to make them because she keeps getting distracted. Teens, man. Teens.)

I did not think to take pictures of dinner, this time. I promise that I will for future posts.

The Chilaquiles-Style Chicken is based on a recipe from the October 2009 issue of Food & Wine. I tend to look at recipes, retain the basic info, chuck it aside and start thinking bout how to change it. (It's never that the original recipe isn't good, I just have Ideas.) It was really easy, it tasted delicious, and my boyfriend did a little dance he liked it so much. Here's the recipe;

Ingredients:

family-sized package of chicken thighs (about 8 or 9 thighs)
garlic
ground cumin
chili powder -or- taco seasoning
olive oil
small red onion, diced
4 oz can of green chiles (I like fire-roasted, if you can get them)
28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
can hominy, drained
bag of tortilla chips

Pre-heat the oven to 450.

How I did it:

First, crush the garlic into a paste. The best way to do this is with a mortar and pestle, but I realize that not everyone has that lying around. An easy way is to finely chop the garlic, then add a little bit of salt and work it around with the back of a spoon. The salt will help macerate the garlic with Science. I did not give a measurement here, because I cook with a lot of garlic. The average person will probably want to use about 3 cloves or so.

Mix the garlic paste with your cumin (about 2 tsp) your chili or taco seasoning (about 1T) and a tablespoon or two of olive oil. I used taco seasoning because I have a big thing of it that I bought at Costco, but if/when I make this again I will probably switch to chili powder. Chipotle chili powder would also work nicely! Set this mixture aside.

In a 9 x 12 casserole dish; mix the onion, tomatoes, hominy, green chiles, and half of the spice paste. Lightly crush the tortilla chips, then fold into the sauce.

- a note on chips: I used Trader Joe's tri-color veggie and flax chips, to add a little more flavor and because they're denser and heartier than the average chip. Blue corn would also be nice, but you can use whatever chips you want and they will be fine, don't worry.

Trim any extraneous fat/skin from the chicken thighs, but leave the skin on for the most part. You want the skin, and you want to use thighs instead of boneless skinless breasts so that as the chicken bakes, the juices blend with the rest of the casserole and the flavor all comes together. If you're concerned about fat content and you choose to go with naked breasts, then I would mix some bouillion powder or concentrated broth* into the sauce.

Rub the rest of the spice paste on the thighs, and lay them on top of the chip & sauce mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

*more on concentrated broth packets in a later post, but you can get really good ones at Trader Joe's

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Rice-Stuffed Acorn Squash

My kids hate squash. I love squash. We belong to a CSA, which means that come September, we have tons and tons of....squash. I always take it home in the hopes that someday I will find the magical recipe that tricks the kids into liking squash. This was not that recipe, but they did pick the rice stuffing out and eat that, and sometimes you take what you can get.

This recipe was thrown together with things I had kicking around, but it came out GREAT. I am looking forward to having the lunchovers later.

This makes 4 servings as a main course, 8 as a side dish.

Ingredients


1/2 c uncooked rice (I like basmati, any rice will do)
1 packet Sazon Goya Culantro y Achiote (best rice seasoning ever, I can get it at any chain grocery and at Costco)

chopped garlic (to taste)
1/4 c diced onion
2 cooked sausages, chopped - I used chicken and apple, I would highly recommend it
handful of chopped scallion
1 c crumbled goat cheese

Cook the rice, like you do, in your choice of broth or water with the Goya seasoning packet. It will be fragrant and bright yellow and wonderful. In the meantime, halve the squash and scoop out the seeds and guts.

Now, I am a cheater when it comes to stuffed squash, and I always give the squash a microwave head start. Place the halves face-down on a plate with a little bit of water in the bottom. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove from the microwave and pop them (face-up) into a baking dish, also with a little bit of water in the bottom. This helps the squash cook faster and keeps it from drying out.

Give the onions, garlic, and sausage a quick saute', until the onions are translucent. Remove from heat and toss the cooked rice, sausage mixture, scallions and goat cheese together. Spoon into the acorn squash - don't be afraid to pack it in.

Loosely cover with tinfoil and bake for about 30 minutes at 450 degrees.

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We had Bota Box Shiraz with dinner. Yeah, box wine, I know I know. I have to say that Bota is pretty tasty, it's a really good value, and it's environmentally friendly. I give it two thumbs up, but I also sometimes choose wine by who has the prettiest label so what do I know. I'm a beer snob more than a wine snob.

We were all excited to crack into the mead that I had picked up to go with dessert. I realize what that sounds like to the average person - "Oh fie, I hath eaten so much that I must loosen my corset...pass the mead kind sir!" - but mead is enjoying a resurgence. A lot of wineries have taken to producing signature meads, and some of them are just amazing. This one, however, was not. I stuck my nose in the glass, deeply inhaled, and my frst thought was, "Liquid Ricola??"

This mead was extremely medicinal tasting. I understand how it happened, some kinds of honey taste like that. Last winter I bought some local wildflower honey and mixed it into a mulled wine and my whole house smelled like cough drops. However, it wasn't what I wanted or what I was expecting - especially since the label boasted that it was flavored with vanilla bean and spices. I will keep it in mind for later in the winter when I'm sick. I can warm it up and have a nice toddy before bed.

Uh, I just tried to find the bottle because I can't remember the name - and the bottle is gone. Stolen in the night by the brewers to avoid a bad review? Spirited away by Kaliis in her need to mix bad with good to make better? Who knows...but I'll remember it eventually.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A little background....

It always seems that chefs, and food writers, and even your average foodies have a great back story as to why they go into food in the first place. Tales of loving Italian Grandmothers, or family vacations in France, or growing up in a big city where they had a world of flavors at their fingertips. Me, I have no idea where this all came from.

I grew up in a flavorless small town in New England. We had four greasy pizza places, an even greasier Chinese restaurant, and a typical Massachusetts fish-and-chips-and-ice-cream drive in shack. My mother is from the "Dump A Box Of Fishsticks On A Cookie Sheet And Call It Good" school of cooking. I don't even know how it started, but as far as I can tell it was because I spent a lot of time at the library. You do that, when you're skinny and tall and kind of weird and poor and nobody invites you to thier house after school. After blowing through all of the fiction (seriously, I read Watership Down in fifth grade), I wandered over to the non-fiction stacks and started leafing through a series of kids' cookbooks that featured recipes from around the world. I didn't get to actually cook any of the dishes in the books, mostly because I had never heard of half the ingredients and also my parents regarded my interest with little more than passing confusion (I once asked for pan-fried shrimp from the Chinese place and my father made a comment on my "expensive tastes"), but I loved the photos of the food and the idea that there was more out there than bright orange mac & cheese.

I left my parents' house when I was 19, moved into a college town, and had sushi for the for the first time. It all snowballed from there. I started working in restaurants, and teaching myself to cook at home. I had kids, and had dreams of raising well-rounded little gourmands...kids who turned up their tiny noses at the mere idea of processed chicken nuggets and who had never heard of Lunchables. They're about halfway there - they do watch TV and you know, leave the house- but way ahead of a lot of their friends in their food repertoire.

I don't cook for a paycheck anymore, so I cook more at home. I'm lucky, because I get to go out to eat pretty often. I travel for work, so I get to try restaurants all over the country (and parts of Canada). I really like to talk about food. My boyfriend tries to humor me, but I can see his eyes glaze over. He just doesn't give a frig about what I read in the latest Food & Wine, and he doesn't want a review of the meal we just had. So here I am, doing what anybody with a free half hour a day and a love of the sound of their own voice would do.......

I started a food blog.