Thursday, September 30, 2010

Step-by-Step Recipe: Mini Honey-Mustard Meatloaves with Roasted Potatoes

It's been grey and rainy in the DC area the last few days--particularly last night and this morning.  It's made me crave comfort food, so I did something I almost never do--prepared two beef dishes within one week.  I generally try to make only one beef dish per week, if that, for health reasons.  I figure we're already eating it twice a week since we usually have leftovers, and that's more than enough red meat for a week!  Because I try to limit the amount of red meat we eat, I often make these mini meatloaves with ground turkey.  Feel free to do the same, but be sure to use the dark meat turkey--the all white meat is too dry.  Also be sure to cook it all the way through, which might mean a few extra minutes in the oven.  But this week?  I was extra bad and used the "meatloaf mix" ground meat sold by our grocery store (a mix of beef, pork, and veal).  Don't tell on me!  It was delicious, and I have no regrets.

This recipe for mini honey-mustard meatloaves with roasted potatoes came from one of my Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazines.  My husband and I like it so much I'll make it 2 or 3 times every fall/winter.  When I make it, I skip the salad that is included in Martha's version of the recipe and prepare another kind of vegetable.  This week it was a green salad, but more interesting than the one provided in this recipe (I added grape tomatoes! I live on the edge, eh?).  Before we get to the recipe itself, let me state for the record that I am almost embarrassed to share this recipe because it is so easy.  But it's delicious.  And can be made on a weeknight.  And for those two facts?  On the blog it goes!

Step-by-Step Recipe: Braised Beef Short Ribs

In honor of fall, I felt it was time to make something hearty for dinner this past Sunday.  So I pulled out one of my favorite Pioneer Woman recipes, and we were not disappointed.  I made braised beef short ribs with creamy goat cheese polenta and brussels sprouts.  The latter two aren't part of the step-by-step, but I can link to the recipe for the polenta below (there was no recipe for the brussels sprouts).  I know braising sounds like some fancy technique, but it's really very easy--it just takes a while.  Lucky, most of the time is spent in the oven, with little hands-on help from you!

If you've never had beef short ribs, they are inexpensive, fatty, and delicious when braised.  Just make sure that if they have bones you get bigger pieces than I did.  Usually when I ask the butcher to cut them for me at the grocery store (they never actually have them in the meat case), they debone them, too.  It doesn't matter much--bone or no bone--since the meat becomes so tender from the braising that it falls apart, anyway.  But if you don't want to feel cheated, follow my advice.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Recipe Lesson Learned: Apple Muffins with Cinnamon Topping

Having made a less-than-pleasant discovery about something I made, I decided to try a new type of post here at the ol' blog-front.  Consider it an apology to all my friends and coworkers who ate the leftovers from Friday's blog...or consider it a lesson learned for future attempts.  I'm sure this will happen again, and in my efforts to be honest with the 5 people who actually read this blog, I'm owning up.

These muffins were good on Friday, I promise.  And Saturday, too.  Sunday we didn't eat any, because we got breakfast from our local bakery.  This morning they looked fine, but I didn't eat one, having reverted to my usual healthy breakfast.  I brought a few into the office and offered them to my coworkers, as I often do.

And now I feel bad.  I just ate the last one, giving in to the need for a snack. wasn't very good.  Somehow in the two days since Saturday, they got downright mushy.  Not moist--but unpleasantly mushy.  They lost their fluffy muffiny texture.  And the apples had a sort of weird bitter taste.  They weren't terrible, but they certainly weren't yummy like they were two days ago. apologies. And if you make this recipe (and I hope you still will)?  Try to eat them all in 48 hours.  Or maybe make half a recipe.

And now I will go hang my head in baking shame...  It's terribly vain, but I pride myself on my kitchen skills and get very upset when something comes out poorly.  (Which is why I didn't make pie crust for such a long time, because that is hard.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Step-by-Step Recipe: Apple Muffins with Cinnamon Topping

It is technically fall, but the record high temperatures here yesterday sure didn't feel like it.  It hit 98 down at National Airport.  It was my day off, so I stayed inside.  And then turned my oven on and baked some muffins.

In the summer I had a large bunch of rhubarb to deal with from my grandpa's garden, which is when I found this recipe.  Because I wanted to make something I knew would be good, I took this recipe and subbed apples for the rhubarb.  Success!  I can already think of a dozen ways to make them better, but this was a pretty good start.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Step-by-Step Recipe: Homemade Basil Pesto, with Pasta

In honor of the official end of summer (which is September 23 this year), yesterday I made a double batch of homemade basil pesto.  Is there anything better?  (Don't answer that.)  My basil plants will probably keep producing until our first frost, but they are definitely slowing down because of the shortening days (and lower heat).  Aside: Oddly enough, in July when it was about 1,000 degrees outside and 200% humidity (don't tell me I don't have a flare for hyperbole!), my basil grew and grew and grew.  The basil growth thing is pretty much the only good thing I think came out of that ridiculous heat wave.

Anyway, everyone should make homemade basil pesto.  There's no reason not to do so--unless you'reallergic to basil, can't have Par mesan cheese, or just hate yummy things.  Because basil pesto is certainly yummy.  And nearly embarrassingly easy to make.  Unless you don't like garlic, in which case...well, maybe this blog isn't for you, because I am not shy about garlic.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Restaurant Experience: Jaleo (and Red Velvet)

I almost feel like it's cheating to write about Jaleo, since I've eaten there at least a dozen times.  But that just proves how yummy it is, right?

For those not fortunate enough to have been there (you need to visit me, because I will take you there!), Jaleo is the Spanish tapas (small plate) restaurant of famed chef José Andrés.  (Chef Andrés also owns Cafe Atlantico--and mini-bar, Zaytinya, and Oyamel, all located in Washington, DC.)  There are three Jaleo locations in the DC area, but the best is the one in DC proper, in the Penn Quarter neighborhood (which happens to be close to my office!).  The Crystal City location is really beautiful and the food is still quite good, but I have a soft spot for the DC location.  Which is where my husband took me for dinner last night.  It was a special treat for a weeknight, especially since he works out in the suburbs and had to drive all the way downtown to go there.

Clearly I was very excited to go there.  But as it was not planned in advance, I only had my iPhone camera available.  And while the camera is surprisingly good, the lack of flash means it does poorly in low light.  Sorry!  I hope you'll forgive the poor quality photos.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Just for Fun Diversion: Chef Crushes

In honor of tonight's Top Chef Season 7 finale, during which a chef that I definitely do not have a culinary crush on will take home the title (I know this for a fact since none of the three finalists really do it for me), I thought I'd post about chefs.  And crushes.  (Also, I can't upload last night's photos from my iPhone at work, so I can't blog about that.  Yes, I'm at work.  It's my lunch hour, and it's completely allowed.)

I was inspired to talk about chef crushes because I had my first ever Chef Sighting yesterday.  I was on my way to lunch with my project team, walking near the Verizon Center, and I spotted a familiar face.  It was Susur Lee, the celebrated Asian fusion chef who was a finalist in season 2 of Top Chef: Masters.

Let me say for the record that Susur is not one of my chef crushes, though he was so fun to watch on Top Chef: Masters, and I am totally intrigued to eat at his DC restaurant, Zentan, at some point.  Mostly I was excited to see him walking around, and to recognize him!

So who are my culinary crushes? 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Step-by-Step Recipe: Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake

So I bake too.  Less often, of course, as I have fewer opportunities to bake than cook, but I find it therapeutic in an entirely different way.  This past week was a good friend of mine's birthday.  As long as I have known her, I've always known that she loves lemon cake.  So when I saw this recipe on Pinch My Salt, I knew I had to make it for her!  (It also gave me an excuse to use my bundt pan, which I am truly in love with.  It was a wedding gift.)

The recipe was a big hit--the birthday girl may or may not have had a third piece--I would never embarrass her by saying that she did.  Ha!  My husband has declared it superior to his favorite TastyKake, which I think is a compliment.  I enjoyed it--the lemon flavor in the cake is mild; it's much more potent in the glaze, which is why it's very important.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Step-by-Step Recipe: Penne with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

It's September, and I needed a taste of fall.  Last week I posted about my food obsessions, and pumpkin is definitely on that list.  I really like finding pumpkin in unexpected savory dishes, and this is one of those.  The first bite the first time I made it was like, "Hmmmm...that's not what I expected."  But it's delicious if you can get over the whole pumpkin-not-at-all-like-pie flavor thing.

This recipe is from one of my monthly Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazines (which I have received for about three years now, thanks to my sister-in-law and her husband).  It's a quick one that is perfect for a week night.  Perfect served with a green salad...or by itself.  Pumpkin is a vegetable, after all.  Ha!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Step-by-Step Recipe: Thai Red Chicken Curry

I hated Thai food until about five years ago.  True story!  Now I love it--particularly creamy coconut curries and pad see ew.  I found this recipe (which I have since altered a fair amount) on a few years ago, and I was excited that it was so simple to make.  Hopefully you won't have trouble finding the curry paste.  Even in a metropolitan area like I live in it can sometimes be a challenge.  The last time I tried to find it at my usual grocery store, all they had was the Indian kind--which is totally different--so I ended up at an Asian food market.  I now have enough red curry paste to last me for years.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Personal Food Biases: Can You Trust Me?

I promised this last week, and since I haven't done much cooking this week (that happens sometimes, much as I wish it were not the case), I thought this was a good time.

We all have things--food things--that we just love.  Those things we seek out when they're in season, or must order when we see on a menu.  We also have those things that make us scrunch up our faces when we mention them, those things we push to the side of our plate, and those things that we can't even smell for fear of our stomach turning.  That's what this post is about.  I figure if you know my biases, you'll better be able to tell whether or not you can trust my judgment on all things food-related.

I'll start with the negative and work to the positive.

Vegetables:  Lima beans, beets.
As a little girl, I was forced to sit at the table by myself to finish my peas and lima beans.  Peas I [mostly] got over with age, but lima beans linger.  I will eat around them in vegetable soup.  I will pick them out of succotash.  They are mealy and bland and just...ew.  Beets are both better and worse.  In recent years, I have encountered a bite or two of roasted beet that did not completely gross me out.  But in general, I avoid them like the plague, as they mostly remind me of those foul purple pickled beets of my childhood.  *shudder*

Meat and seafood: Mussels/clams/oysters, sushi.
It's the texture of mussels, et al., that I cannot get over.  If I happen across a fried clam, I'm usually okay.  As for sushi, I can tolerate a California or salmon-cream cheese roll when the need arises...but in general?  Not my first choice.

Dairy: Milk, French cheeses.
As a little girl, my mom had to add strawberry or chocolate Quik to my milk to get me to drink any.  To this day, I don't think I could drink a glass of plain milk if you paid me $100.  (Oddly, I love pretty much all other dairy.  I would bathe in sour cream if I could.)  The French cheese thing surprises me, too, especially considering how much I like other cheeses...and how much I like pretty much everything else French.  But the French keep their cheese at room temperature, allowing them to get extra ripe.  And they really like them ripe and stinky.  On my two trips to France, I have tried all varieties of French cheese (even some very fine ones at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Provence).  I have only found a few I can handle: Comté, which is basically French Swiss cheese, Boursin, and the occasional bit of Saint-André.  I actually detest both Brie and Camembert.  Yes, I really feel that strongly about cheese.

Other: Chocolate combined with citrus flavors, licorice, eggs (hard-boiled or poached)
Chocolate with mint, yes.  Chocolate with peanut butter, please yes.  Chocolate with coffee, anytime.  Chocolate with raspberry or cherry, okay.  But with lemon or orange?  PASS.  Also, there are two kinds of people in the world: people who like licorice and people who think those people are crazy.  I'm the latter.  The only way I eat eggs is scrambled or in an omelet.  I cannot think of much that is grosser than the solidified sulfur-smelling yolk of a hard-boiled egg.  But the runny yolk of a fried or poached egg is a close second.

Okay, onto my food obessions!