Sunday, July 24, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Blueberry Lemon Trifle

Our air-conditioning died sometime yesterday.  We didn't notice until it got to be about 76 degrees on the main level of our house (we keep it about 70 year round, since our upstairs is usually 5-6 degrees warmer).  I guess we shouldn't be surprised, since we're at the tail end of a record-setting heat wave.  And yet...we are at the tail end of a record-setting heat wave.  Which means it was 100+ yesterday, and 95 today.  By some miracle, it's still below 80 inside the house, and a refreshing 70-something in our basement.  Which, conveniently, is where our home office (and my computer!) is located.  The repair folks will be here tomorrow.  Please cross all of your fingers and toes that it's an easy fix and the house will be cool by the time I return from work.

Now, back to this trifle.  I made this blueberry lemon trifle last weekend when it was less hot.  I was looking for a no-bake dessert, since we're still having troubles with our oven.  While the original recipe involves baking, I substituted store-bought angel food cake for the homemade cookies.  (I think the cookies would have been delicious, so if my oven ever works again, perhaps I'll give that a try!)  It was a snap to pull together, and surprisingly delicious.

So what is a trifle?  It's really just a layered dessert, with layers of cake (or cookies), creamy filling, and fruit.  It's traditionally served in a tall clear glass bowl (usually footed), so that you can admire all the pretty layers.  However, I do not have a trifle dish, so I just made it in a souffle dish.  It may not look as pretty, but it sure tasted beautiful!

In addition to substituting the angel food cake for the cookies, I also made one big trifle rather than the small individual ones in the original recipe.  I also used just 2 cups of yogurt (yes, yogurt!) and a whole jar of lemon curd.  I was shocked at how good the yogurt-lemon curd cream tasted--it didn't taste yogurty at all.

Click for the recipe!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Grilled Vegetables

This record-setting heat wave is bound to end eventually.  Maybe I'll feel like cooking again when it does.  But in the meanwhile, I'd like to share some more of thr recipes I made last weekend.  Like this awesome orzo salad.

This Mediterranean orzo salad wth grilled vegetables is great because it's adjustable.  The basics--proportions and the dressing--are a good foundation to build from.  You can use whatever veggies you'd like, and you could use goat cheese instead of feta if you prefer.  I left out the olives because my husband doesn't like them, and it was still delicious.  I forgot to add the fresh parsley the first night I served it, and it was still good.  I used a bit of fresh oregano that I grew, as well, and it added a nice touch.

I used 2 small zucchini, 2 small yellow squash, one orange bell pepper, and one medium-sized Vidalia onion.  I probably didn't need all the zucchini, but they looked so pretty at the farmer's market, I couldn't help myself!  The largest time sink in this recipe was grilling the veggies--I used my indoor grill pan, and it took three batches to get them all cooked.

I served the orzo salad with grilled pork chops on Saturday night, and the leftovers with salmon grilled indoors on my grill pan on Sunday (pictured).  It was great leftover.

Click for the recipe!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Butterbeer (for Adults)

Friday night, my husband and I stood in line for over an hour just to get seats at a late showing of the final Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II.  Luckily, I bought tickets online a week in advance, or else I'm not sure we would have gotten in!  It was a great movie, and extra great to enjoy a little glass of butterbeer before heading to the theater!

As promised last week, I spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen this weekend.  The first experiment was to try the popular beverage of witches and wizards: butterbeer.  I found a recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, Ezra Pound Cake.

I'll tell you right now that while I fully believe this is a good buttebeer recipe, I'm not sure I'll make it again.  And since it has about 98398739 calories, that's probably a good thing.  The end result is a creamy, butterscotchy beer beverage.  If I could not make the beer part, I think it would be even better.  But then it's basically homemade butterscotch eggnog.  Because I didn't like the beer part that much, I used very little of it, which is why my glass here looks so pale compared to the one from the original recipe.

But the butterscotch cream is pretty tasty, and you could probably cut it with some cream soda to make a nice, though admittedly less buttery, drink.

Click for pictures and recipe!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recipe Roundup: What I'll Be Making This Weekend

I am off from work every other Friday, and tomorrow is one of those Fridays.  On my "long" weekends, I usually have more time (and desire) to cook and try new things. 

Given that I still don't have a reliable oven (it works, but the temperature is inconsistent, which makes it unpredictable and frustrating), I won't be making any blueberry muffins like I really want to.  But there are other things I can do with those blueberries!  And there are some other things that look interesting.  Here are a few things I'm considering trying over the next few days.

The final Harry Potter movie opens tomorrow, and Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake has been posting Harry Potter-themed recipes all week.  Most sound delicious, but many involve baking (Pumpkin Pasties, anyone?).  But this homemade Butterbeer recipe does not!  I fully intend to brew a batch so that we can enjoy it before we head to the movie theater!

Gina of shared a recipe for a Fish and Shellfish Soup that sounds awesome and easy.  We'll see if my husband will go for it.  Perhaps if I can find a recipe for that delicious French rouille that goes so well with toasted rounds of bread and French fish soup?  It is Bastille Day today, after all, so a French-themed meal might be called for.  And this soup recipe basically sounds like a simplified version of the fish soup we had in Provence and Nice, which was unexpectedly delicious.

Speaking of blueberries, don't these Blueberry Lemon Trifles from Kerstin at Cake, Batter & Bowl look good?  I could probably substitute store-bought poundcake for the cookies...  Anything involving lemon curd is a winner in my mind!

Since the weather is supposed to be nice this weekend, I see us spending some time on our patio, and I will definitely be asking my husband to fire up the grill.  Perhaps some steaks or pork chops served alongside this yummy-looking Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Grilled Vegetables from Pam at For the Love of Cooking?

(And I'm still thinking about that Grilled Chicken Salad with Fresh Corn, Feta, and Blueberries that Pioneer Woman shared a while back that I included in my salad post the other week.  We'll see if I can squeeze that in, somewhere.  Maybe if we get some good-looking corn from the farmer's market?)

I'm definitely looking forward to spending some time in the kitchen--what about you all?  What's on the menu for this weekend?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup

I'll be honest with you all, the heat of the summer is making me cranky.  Despite many years lived in the south, including 6 years in Florida, I've just never become a fan of hot weather.  It could be because I'm fair-skinned and don't tan (so I just walk around looking flushed and sweaty all summer), or maybe because my hair has just enough natural wave in it that the humidity turns me into a big frizzball.  Or perhaps because it's so hot that I don't even feel like cooking.  Really. 

Truth be told, I haven't cooked that much in the last couple of weeks.  A couple of nights ago we grilled burgers (no recipe needed).  Last week we had "kitchen sink pasta" at least once (pasta + whatever we've got on hand, all tossed together).  But nothing really worth sharing.  My parents were visiting over the Fourth of July holiday, and we only cooked at home once.  What did we make?  Grilled pork chops (again, no recipe), and two of the salads from my last post.  (That squash ribbon salad is awesome, by the way! Even my husband, who doesn't care for squash or zucchini, really enjoyed it!)  All delicious, but nothing really blogworthy.

And I'm afraid it's going to get worse.  My oven is on the fritz again (it had a slow meltdown this past spring, and we had it repaired under our home warranty; the same issue seems to be rearing its head again), which means no baking, roasting, broiling, etc.  Not only does this limit my options, it also just puts me in a bad mood.  We have tons of blueberries at home, and I can't even bake muffins!  (I know, I know.  Cry me a river.)

But you, my friends and few readers, deserve better than this.  So I'm going to reach back in time and provide a recipe I made a while ago, and then I will endeavor somehow to find recipes to share that don't involve the oven.

When it's nearly triple-digit heat outside, it seems a silly time to share a soup recipe.  But I honestly think this soup recipe is so delicious and flexible that you could adjust it to make it lighter in warm months and heartier in cool months.  And it's easy and quick, which are good things no matter what the weather's like. 

I found the inspiration for this recipe from a recipe for crockpot chicken tacos on Tasty Kitchen. The chicken taco meat has three ingredients.  What's not to love?  I recommend you give them a try, as well, and then you can use some of the leftover chicken for this soup, as the original recipe intended.  But if not, no worries, you can still make this soup in a snap.

Click for recipe and pictures!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Recipe Snapshot & Ideas from Around the Web: Summer Salads

We haven't hit it yet, but we know it's coming--that part of summer when it's just too hot to cook.  When you can't bear the idea of turning on your stove, let alone the oven.  The good news is that there's so much wonderful produce floating around this time of year that it's a lot easier to get dinner on the table with little or no actual "cooking" involved.

One of my favorites this time of year is the simple caprese salad--luscious ripe tomatoes, creamy fresh mozzarella cheese, bright fresh basil, and very little else.  I prefer mine with just a drizzle of really good olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

I recommend using a mix of tomatoes if you can--I made this salad last summer, and the plum (Roma) tomatoes and yellow tomatoes complemented one another perfectly.  Yellow tomatoes have less acid in them, and are a bit milder.  I like to think of them as a "gateway tomato" for folks who don't love tomatoes.  (It's sad, yes, but there are many people who don't.)  Also, you need to use fresh mozzarella, which is usually sold in the deli section of your grocery store, with the fancy cheeses--it's spongier in texture than the stuff you usually put on pizza, and is often packaged in liquid.  If you prefer to gussy your caprese up with balsamic or other flavors, might I suggest this recipe from the Pioneer Woman?  My recipe is at the end of this post.

What if Caprese salad isn't really your thing?  Never fear.  Here are some other ideas for yummy hot weather meals that won't even make you break a sweat!

Seared Chicken Salad with Cherries and Goat Cheese Dressing, from Everyday Food  magazine: I've made this a couple of times, and it's delicious and easy. The tang of the goat cheese is perfect with the crisp lettuce and sweet cherries!

Grilled Chicken Salad with Feta, Fresh Corn, and Blueberries, from the Pioneer Woman: I haven't tried this, but it sounds delish!

Thai Chicken Salad, from For the Love of Cooking: This sounds totally delish, and might help satisfy a craving for Asian food while keeping things light.

Squash Ribbon Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts, from Ezra Pound Cake: This is so unique; I wonder if I could get my husband to eat squash this way?

Hope there's something here to inspire you to make the most of the summer's bounty of fresh produce.  I want to head to the farmers' market right now!

Caprese Salad, recipe by Julie
Time: 15 minutes, including washing the basil. Serves: 2-4.

  • Mixed ripe tomatoes, about 1 large or 2 small tomatoes per person
  • 8-16 oz. fresh mozzarella (depending how much cheese you want per person!)
  • 1-2 cups fresh basil leaves, whole (again, depending how much you like).
  • Very good extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Sea salt, such as fleur de sel, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Wash tomatoes, remove the cores of large tomatoes, and slice into 1/4-1/2 inch slices using a serrated knife. Arrange on a large plate or platter. (You may add some salt and pepper at this point if you want to focus the seasoning on the tomatoes themselves.)  Since the ends of the tomato don't usually look as pretty, you can just go ahead and eat them right now--no one will know!
  2. Slice mozzarella into equal thickness slices and arrange on top of the tomato slices, however you like.  Tip: the trick to slicing the mozzarella is to use the same serrated knife you used for the tomatoes.
  3. Rinse and pat dry the basil leaves.  Scatter across the salad.
  4. Drizzle the whole salad with olive oil, to taste, and season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.  Serve immediately.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Blueberry Cobbler

Well, it's officially summer, and about that time of year, with blueberries everywhere.  I don't know about you all, but I often forget about blueberries in the colder months (I think it's a defense mechanism), but then in the summer, when they are bountiful, I just cannot get enough.  One of the simplest ways to enjoy them is to bake them into a yummy homemade cobbler.  It's far easier than pie, but just as delicious, in my humblest of opinions.

Forgive me the bad picture--while I did in fact bake a blueberry cobbler last weekend when my father-in-law was in town, I did not take any pictures of it.  The pictured cobbler was made a couple of summers ago, pre-blog.  But you get the idea, right?

So what's the difference between a cobbler and a crisp, or a crumble?  Well, this isn't scientific or well-researched, but a cobbler is most likely to have a cakey or biscuity topping, while crisps are usually topped with nuts and/or oats, and crumbled with, well...crumbles.  I prefer cobblers, personally, because you get both a soft and fluffy topping AND a crisp crust.  Win-win.

Recipe below the cut!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Mushroom Risotto

I'll be honest and admit that I actually prepared this recipe a few weeks ago and just never got around to posting it.  So the mushrooms I used in the recipe may not be easily available, but no matter--any fresh (or maybe even dried) mushroom will do!  I used a mix of your standard white grocery store mushrooms, and some pioppini mushrooms bought at a local farmers' market.  Morels would be a great, though pricey, addition.  Use whatever mushroom is available and suits your budget, so long as it doesn't come from a can or a jar. 
As soon as I saw them, I just new I'd be putting them into a risotto.  I love making risotto--almost as much as I like eating it!  All the stirring is downright therapeutic.  I like it so much that I've even quasi-published my own recipe on the TastyKitchen website for a lemon herb risotto.  The basics are the same for this risotto recipe, but the flavor is much earthier, and it satisfies a totally different craving.

Recipe and pictures below the cut!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Southwestern Green Chile Chicken

I promise I've been cooking, but I've been making stuff that I've already blogged about, or that wasn't worth blogging about.  But that all changed this evening, with this recipe for green chile chicken.  I'd remembered seeing it on one of the other food blogs I follow a while back, and was inspired today to make a variation on it.

Have you seen the commercials on TV for Philadelphia brand Cooking Creme?  It's like cream cheese, but softer and easier to mix in.  It also comes in a few flavors--tonight's flavor was Sante Fe.  If you're like me, and you just love cream cheese, give this stuff a try.  Since it's relatively new, it's often on sale at the grocery store.  That's how I tried it.  Also, it's not nearly as unhealthy as you'd think.  I used this in place of the monterey jack cheese-mayonnaise blend called for in the original recipe.

My husband doesn't care for black olives, so I left those out.  I topped the chicken with fresh cilantro instead. I also left the chicken breasts whole, since there didn't seem to be any reason not to!  It was flavorful but not really spicy--just a bit of zip--and was delicious served with corn-tomato relish and cilantro-lime rice (from a box) and some fresh guacamole.

Pictures and recipe below the cut.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Best Thing I Ever Ate: San Francisco/Napa Valley Edition

Well, unfortunately, there wasn't just one.  But I'll try to narrow it down to the top few.

First of all, my apologies for the long absence.  I just did not have the energy to blog when we first got back from California.  I've been cooking at home, but mostly just throwing things together, and not really following recipes.  I have a few recipes in my stash that I plan to post next week, probably.  And with the farmers' markets back in full swing with the late spring/early summer produce, I'm sure there will be plenty to blog about!

Back to the task at hand.  We ate like crazy on our vacation.  San Francisco is known for good food, certainly, and with good reason.  The Napa Valley is also known for great food--lots of delicious locally grown produce, artisan cheeses, organic meat, and of course--fantastic wine.  I almost wish I could say we'd been more mindful of the calories we consumed.  But we weren't.

Highlights of San Francisco:

  • Tiny Swedish pancakes at Sears Fine Food, which was, conveniently, right next to our hotel.  It was so nice to start out a day of sightseeing with a filling breakfast.  I also loved the sourdough French toast (my husband less so), but overall, it was just a great experience.  The one more we diverged and went somewhere else, it was tasty, but we wished we'd gone to Sears!
  • Amazing Parisian macarons and other tasty treats from Miette Patisserie at the Ferry Building.  I tried the chocolate-lavender macaron, and I've got to be was better than any of the macarons I had in Paris.  It was amazing. I ate it in teeny-tiny bites to try to make it last and refused to give my husband a bite (uncharacteristic). Now that I see they do a mail-order business, I am sorely tempted to have a box shipped to my house immediately.  We also picked up some peanut butter cookies that served as our bedtime treat the rest of the week (on the occasion we were able to resist dessert with dinner, that is).

  • My entire meal at Fleur de Lys.  My chef crush on Hubert Keller knows no bounds.  My husband and I had dined at the Las Vegas location in 2009 (now known simply as "Fleur"), and at the time, it was one of the best meals of our lives.  We booked our reservation for our last night of our trip, thinking it would be a last hurrah of sorts. But as that Friday night reservation approached, we were so satiated with good food from our time in Napa (more on that in a bit) that we actually considered canceling.  But wow, am I glad we didn't.  We were smart this time and only did a three-course tasting menu with wine pairings, instead of the four we did in Vegas, because we recalled that there would also be an amuse-bouche and petits fours that came with the check. (In Vegas, the very sight of the petits fours had made me queasy; in San Francisco, I managed to make some room for them and enjoyed every last crumb.)  I don't remember everything that we ate, but I vividly remember my appetizer course, which involved a little baeckeoffe (Alsatian casserole) of vegetables and foie gras in veal stock, topped with a delicious crust and slices of black truffles.  On the side was a tiny little foie gras and duck sausage "burger."  The dish was, as you might expect, divine.  My other most vivid memory of our meal there was our dessert.  We both opted for the souffle--I had the chocolate, and my husband tried the Grand Marnier.  If you ever have the opportunity to dine at Fleur de Lys--and I hope that you do--I suggest, no, I urge, that you have the souffle.  It is well worth all 1,383,394 calories.  Promise. (Pictured: the souffle I had in Vegas in 2009.  It looked pretty much the same this time, except the ice cream was a cherry-kirsch flavor instead of mocha.)

Highlights of Napa Valley (with pictures!) below the cut!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Foodie Anticipation: San Francisco Edition

My husband and I are going on vacation to San Francisco and Napa Valley very soon.  I am so excited about all of the food and wine that I can barely contain myself.  What this also means is that I won't be cooking or posting much for a bit.  Which is too bad, because I have two recipes ready for posting, but just haven't had the time.  Perhaps when I am refreshed from vacation?

But in the meanwhile, some thoughts on what we'll be eating.  It's my understanding that San Francisco is one of the best foodie cities in the U.S., and we are looking to take full advantage of that fact.  We have some dinner reservations in both SF and Napa thus far, though we're hoping to be a little flexible to try some different things when we get there.

We'll be dining at Fleur de Lys, Hubert Keller's place, our last night in San Francisco.  We've eaten at the sister restaurant in Las Vegas, and it was perhaps one of the best meals of my life. We expect we won't be disappointed.

In Napa, we were unable to secure reservations at Thomas Keller's famed French Laundry, unfortunately.  (Though our American Express card is relieved.  That's some heavy lefting.) So we're going to try out one of his newer ventures: Ad Hoc. Ad Hoc is a very different type of restaurant; the menu changes every night, but everyone gets the same 4 courses every night.  The food seems to err toward comfort food (lots of red meat and homey-sounding desserts), but I know it'll be more interesting than that!

We also have reservations at Tra Vigne, which was Michael Chiarello's brain child.  Several friends have recommended we eat here, and I'm already daydreaming about the freshmade mozzarella.

I'd also love to have some traditional dim sum while in SF, because where else can you be sure you're getting the real thing (other than NYC)?  If anyone has any recommendations, we'd be appreciative.

Sears Fine Food is right near our hotel, so it's likely we'll stop in for their famous Swedish pancakes, as well.

We do plan on doing some things other than eating while we're there, but not much.  Just kidding!

Any tips or recommendations before we head out?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Restaurant Experience: Willow

This past Monday was my husband's and my second wedding anniversary.  It's hard to believe it's been two years already, but at the same time, sometimes it seems we've been together forever.

As my oven is currently broken, thus limiting my cooking abilities, and because it was a Monday night after a very busy weekend, we decided to go out for a special dinner.  I made a reservation at Willow via, and entered into the comments that it was our second anniversary, and we hoped for a quiet table.  Apparently the folks at Willow actually read those comments, as we learned!

Pictures and details below the cut. (Forgive the quality of the photos; they were taken with my flash-less iPhone and I was dependent on the lighting available to me.)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Lavender Cupcakes

It's officially spring.  My car is covered in icky yellow pollen, the azalears are blooming, there is asparagus everywhere I turn, and I finally broke out my flipflops a few days ago to give my toes a taste of freedom.  With the arrival of spring comes a variety of holidays and special occasions.  The Royal Wedding was today, Mother's Day is just around the corner, and graduation and weddings are on nearly everyone's calendars.  In my mind, special occasions mean special food!  So when my work had a bake sale with a Royal Wedding theme, I just had to try something a little special: lavender cupcakes.

I may have mentioned in a previous post that I love the taste of lavender.  Yes, the taste.  I love the smell, too, as evidenced by the lavender sachets in some of my drawers and the soap in my shower, but the flavor is really special if done right.  Because many people have never eaten anything with lavender flavor, some will find it peculiar or even perfumey, but if you don't go overboard with it, it adds a lightly floral je ne sais quoi to these that is just perfect for spring.  If I had a bridal shower to go to, I would totally make these!  So if you've got a mom who loves cupcakes, a grad who loves lavender, or a girlie baby/bridal shower coming up, take note!

Recipe and notes below the cut!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Recipe Rundown

Happy Easter, all!  If I had my act more together, I would have posted Easter recipes over the last couple of weeks, so that people could feasibly recreate any recipes that seemed appealing.  But alas, I am not.  The good news, though, is that the recipes I'm sharing now are good any time of year, not just at Easter!

My husband and I were alone this Easter, which just means...more leftovers!  I only scaled back slightly on the food.  We had a small orange-glazed ham, twice-baked potatoes, honey and curry glazed carrots, and steamed asparagus.  The recipes for the ham glaze and the potatoes are worth trying for any special occasion!

The ham glaze was perhaps the best I've had.  I'm not the biggest fan of orange-flavored things, but the recipe got great reviews on the Food Network website, and I've had great luck with Ina Garten's recipes, so I decided to give it a try.  The twice-baked potatoes are a standby in our house. (Note: normally, I like to make them with smaller potatoes, but our grocery store only had these enormous Paul Bunyan-size russet potatoes; as a result, my husband and I shared one large potato.)

Here are links to the recipes, if you're interested.  I can't say enough about the ham--I'm actually looking forward to the leftovers this week!

Orange-baked ham: Ina Garten (Note: the recipe is for a very large ham; since I wasn't feeding 30 people, I got a much smaller--and boneless--ham.  As a result, I cut the glaze recipe in half.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Pasta with Proscuitto and Peas

Sorry for the long absence, friends.  No good excuse, really, except that life has gotten in the way.  I'm going to try and make up for it, I promise!

It's definitely spring here in the DC area, and I continue to crave dishes with spring ingredients.  This particular dish, pasta with prosciutto and peas, is something that definitely makes me think of spring, because of the peas and the lemon juice/zest added to the sauce, which adds a springy brightness.  As a kid, I never would have eaten this, because I hated peas.  They are still not a favorite of mine, but I've learned to appreciate them in certain dishes.  But a bowl of creamed peas?  Still like a bowl of kryptonite to me.  Ha!

With a green salad on the side, this is an easy and filling weeknight meal.  And if you're like me an enjoy pasta with cream sauce, but don't enjoy how guilty it usually makes you feel, this is a slightly lighter version than some.

Pictures and recipe below the cut!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Ham and Cheese Quiche

The spring flowers and trees are blooming...but the spring temperatures have been inconsistent at best.  This means more recipes with the tastes of spring, but with some extra heartiness.  This quiche totally hit the spot.  Say what you will about quiche being feminine, my husband loved this.  It was hot, cheesy, filling, and delicious.

You could put whatever you wanted into this quiche; I went the traditional way with diced ham and shredded cheddar cheese.  You could do whatever cheese you'd like--swiss would have been great, too.  You could probably add vegetables, too, though you'd want something that wouldn't add too much moisture to the quiche, because that would affect how it cooked.  (I'm as much of a fan of veggies as the next girl, but I decided to just serve a salad on the side.)  And quiche is good for brunch, lunch, or dinner!  The secret to this quiche is that it uses cottage cheese instead of heavy cream.  This makes it lighter without sacrificing the taste or texture.

Recipe and pictures under the cut!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Potato Leek Soup

Lately I've been craving food with the taste of spring. But because it's been unseasonably chilly, I've been looking for recipes that have spring ingredients but are still hearty enough for cold days. I made this potato leek soup from my Everyday Food cookbook for the first time a couple of years ago, and my husband and I both really liked it.  Then I promptly forgot about the recipe until recently.  It's really easy to make and has simple ingredients, yet tastes somehow more complex than you'd expect.  It can be eaten hot or cold, though why you'd ever want to eat cold potato soup, I don't know.

Tips: the recipe says to puree the soup in a blender, but because my food processor was more easily accessible, I used that instead--the puree was not as smooth (which you can tell from the pictures). You could also try an immersion blender if you've got one; I've not had the best luck with mine, though.  Also, if you can't find fresh chives (my grocery store was out), you can use dried, just use half as much. 

Recipe and pictures below the cut!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Best Ever Chocolate Layer Cake

Every year for his birthday, I offer to make my husband whatever cake he'd like.  Usually he flips through my recipes for inspiration, but this year, he searched online and told me he'd like me to make Ina Garten's chocolate layer cake. Every recipe of Ina's that I've tried has been delicious and pretty straightforward to follow, so I agreed. And wow, am I glad I did.  This is officially the best chocolate layer cake I've ever had.  And definitely the best cake I've ever made! My husband and his family (who shared the cake with us) loved the cake--even our two-and-a-half year-old nephew.

What makes this cake so special is the coffee.  If you're not a lover of coffee-flavored things, never fear.  For the most part, the coffee just amplifies the chocolate flavor.  It's a bit more noticeable in the frosting, but you can't even identify it in the cake itself.  The cake is light but firm, and not overly sweet.  The frosting was rich and smooth and totally delicious.  If there's a special occasion coming up and you need a great dessert, I totally suggest you try this cake.

Recipe below the cut!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Balsamic and Cherry Pork Chops

Some weeknights are tough for my husband and I, in terms of getting a decent homecooked meal.  I suppose that could have something to do with the fact that neither of us gets home from work until after 7 o'clock, but it's also because we both have jobs that are intellectual in nature, and some days I don't have the brain power to follow a recipe.  My husband sometimes wishes he could spell me from cooking duty, but cooking does not come naturally to him.  Every now and again, though, there's a recipe that is simple enough that either of these challenges can be overcome.  These balsamic and cherry pork chops fit the bill completely.  I can make it even when I feel braindead, and my husband can make it, as well, without too much coaching on my part.

A friend from work actually shared the original recipe with me a few years back, from Cooking Light.  I altered it slightly to suit our tastes (and what was available in my pantry), and it's become a regular in our weeknight dinner rotation. I usually serve these with couscous and a green vegetable (whatever I have on hand)--this last time it was simple sauteed spinach (a major upgrade from the boiled frozen spinach of childhood). It's because I'm midwestern by birth, I think--all meals need a protein, a starch, and a vegetable.  I can't help myself!

Recipe below the cut!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Dark Chocolate Mocha Brownies

In my house growing up, I don't remember my mom ever baking brownies.  My mom was far more likely to bake some fancy exotic sounding cookie.  Or homemade apple fritters.  Or a triple chocolate cheesecake.  So until recently, I didn't know one could bake brownies from scratch--I'd only ever made them from a boxed mix. Sometime last year I volunteered to make brownies for a baby shower at work--and decided to look for a recipe online.  I was so pleasantly surprised after I tried them--while from scratch brownies take more prep work than boxed brownies, they bake in less time.  And these were delicious.  I tweaked the recipe to suit my tastes, and I've been making them this way ever since, to delicious and well-received results.

My husband's birthday is tomorrow, so we celebrated this weekend.  We went to dinner with friends on Saturday, and my husband asked to have brownies and games at home after.  Blessedly, there are only a few leftover, as we don't really need the temptation!  The secret to these (other than the butter) is the little bit of instant coffee.  If you add just a little, the brownies don't taste like coffee, just really chocolatey.  But my husband likes coffee and chocolate together, so I added a little more than normal.  Result: yum!

Recipe below the cut!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oscar Night Roundup

Whew.  This post will be a short one, as I am extremely busy with work these days, and still sort of worn out from Sunday night's festivities!  I made it through the workday on Monday mostly on adrenaline, and that's all gone now.  Oscar night was a great success.  I served two of the last three recipes I've shared here on the blog, and they were big hits with our guests! 

Here's a picture of the spread, minus a few things that were still in the oven.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of everything, but I was busy playing hostess and didn't get any pictures of the table when all the food went out.  Plus, certain items disappeared so quickly it was hard to get pictures. You can see my cute little gold stars that described all of the items.

The full menu, with links to recipes as appropriate:

  • Olives and cornichons
  • Crudités with sour cream dip (no recipe for the dip--just sour cream, a bit of mayo, some parsley, and some other herbs and seasonings depending on my mood)
  • Popcorn
  • Cheeses (manchego, fontina, sharp cheddar, and chevre with herbs), crackers
  • Sliced Spanish chorizo
  • Spinach dip (brought by a friend)
  • Ricotta and goat cheese crostini
  • Asian turkey meatballs with soy lime sauce (I made these about 1/3 the size as the regular recipe, and then baked at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.)
  • Cheddar puffs
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Chocolate covered strawberries
  • Dark chocolate mocha brownie bites (I baked for 28 minutes, so they were a bit firmer than I usually do, and then used a small round biscuit cutter to cut into small rounds)
The evening was a lot of fun, despite the fact that I had the poor taste to win my own Oscar pool.  Ha!  Until next year, friends!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Stuffed Mushrooms

The other recipe I tried last weekend was stuffed mushrooms.  I know, I know...stuffed mushrooms are played out.  But no one can deny that they taste good.  And this particular variation, brought to us by the fabulous Pioneer Woman, is especially yummy.  Unlike the puffs I posted about the other day (which I'm not sure I'll make for my Oscar party), I am definitely making these for our guests.  My husband would probably leave me if I didn't.  Just kidding!

The filling, with the spicy sausage (I used turkey sausage), onions, cream cheese, etc., is a bit different than mushrooms I've had in the past, but was super yummy.  I made a half batch to sample with my husband, and we ate all of them in about 3 seconds.  (Hey, it was dinner!)  Make these for your next get together, and enjoy!  Thanks, PW!

Recipe below the cut!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Chorizo and Manchego Puffs

This past weekend was spent in large part preparing for our annual Oscar party next weekend.  We saw two movies and I tried out two more possible recipes for the party.  This post is about the chorizo and manchego puffs I tried first. (Check back in the next couple of days for PW's stuffed mushrooms.)  I got this recipe from the Food Network website after seeing one of the recruits make it on an episode of Worst Cooks in America a few weeks back.  I figured that if someone considered to be a terrible cook could make these, so could I!

I have a couple of notes about this recipe if anyone else cares to try it. I had trouble filling the puffs with the filling, because my pastry bag isn't a real pastry bag but part of a cake decorating set, so the tips I had were way too small, and little bits of chorizo kept getting stuck.  I ultimately just spooned some filling into the puffs. Also, my husband and I really loved the flavor of the filling, the puffs themselves tasted very eggy, and this sort of distracted from the yummy cheesy chorizo-y center. We have some filling leftover, and I think we'll just eat it on crackers or bread, and enjoy it even more.  I mean, manchego + chorizo + mascarpone = guaranteed deliciousness. Also, if you're not familiar with chorizo, you should know that Spanish chorizo is like a salami--it is already cooked, so it just needs to be cut or minced and added in.  Mexican chorizo is a different meat, and is not cooked.  I found the Spanish kind in the deli section with the fancy cheeses at my local grocery store (same area where I found the manchego and mascarpone).  The recipe explicitly calls for Spanish paprika.  The one I bought is a smoked paprika.  It is totally delicious, and if you can find it, I suggest you use a smoked variety as well.  One last note: these ingredients are expensive.  They are also delicious.  Just make sure that the guests you're feeding are worth the cost of the ingredients.  I know mine are!

Recipe below the cut!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Asian Turkey Meatballs

Every year for the last few, I've thrown an Oscar party. My husband and I have a few (the most ever was 15) people over to watch the red carpet, watch and heckle the show, see who can pick the most winners, and of course, eat.  I typically make a mix of hot and cold hors d'oeuvres.  I've learned over the years that when I try new recipes for the first time right before the party, I become stressed, and it makes it hard for me to enjoy my own party!  Last year I finally got it right.  I had tried most of the recipes in the weeks before the party, so I could prepare everything confidently.  I planned it out so I had time to spare, and actually had time for a short nap in the afternoon before my guests came over.  The party was a LOT more fun for me.

To that end, I have a few recipes picked out for next weekend's Oscar party, and at least one of the recipes was perfect for making into a weeknight meal: asian turkey meatballs. I found this recipe on a food blog I started to follow off and on more (Gina's Skinny Recipes). These meatballs can be made larger for a weeknight meal, or smaller to be served as an appetizer.  They were super easy to make, and dinner was ready in less than 30 minutes!  I was able to get most of the prep done while the oven was preheating.

I served these meatballs with precooked brown rice (the Uncle Ben's stuff in the plastic packets). The plain brown rice is great because it comes out properly and has very low sodium; when I try to make brown rice at home, it always comes out badly.  I heated two packages in the microwave and then tossed the rice with 2 cups of shredded mixed cabbage (cole slaw mix, minus the dressing), some extra scallions, cilantro and ginger (all in the meatballs, so just prep some extra), and just a splash of sesame oil.  We drizzled the dipping sauce that goes with the meatballs over the whole plate, so some got mixed in with the rice, too, which was yummy.  And healthy!

Recipe below the cut!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Expanding Nutritional Horizons: Eggplant

Eggplant has always been sort of hit or miss for me.  What is an eggplant, after all?  It's sort of like a squash, but not quite.  I like pretty much all varieties of squash I've tried, regardless of preparation.  But eggplant--not so much. Eggplant is so pretty on the outside, and ugly on the inside.  If it's not prepared just right, it also has a very bitter taste. The only preparation I'd ever truly enjoyied until recently was eggplant parmigiana, which almost shouldn't count--everything tastes good fried.

Then last May, my husband and I were on vacation in France.  We spent a few days in Provence, spending time in the little city of Avignon, and taking day trips to the Côtes du Rhône wine area and the Pont du Gard aqueduct. One afternoon, after doing a tour of the Palais des Papes (where the pope used to reside in Avignon back in the 1300s), we went for lunch at an outdoor cafe just off the place outside the palace. I remember that it was very sunny and windy, just as it was during most of our visit to Provence. (Le mistral was blowing in earnest the whole time.)  Luckily, this cafe had a semi-enclosed patio, so we could enjoy our lunch outside without being blown away!  As most lunches in France seem to be, ours was a relaxed and lengthy event--partly because we went with the three-course lunch special. For our first course, we had a choice between the eggplant provençale (aubergines confites a la provençale) and French onion soup (soupe de l'oignon gratinée).  I'd been wanting to try something in the traditional provençale style, so I ordered the eggplant, but fearing I'd be disappointed.  (My husband, being slightly more risk averse when it comes to food, ordered the soup.)

Imagine my surprise when this dish came out, smelling amazing, and tasting better than I could have imagined.  It was basically eggplant cooked until it was incredibly tender and sweet, and then topped with a garlicky fresh tomato sauce.  My description doesn't begin to do it justice. With a glass of chilled French rosé (dry and refreshing), this was perhaps one of the most memorable lunches I've ever eaten. (I had roasted chicken for my main course, and some kind of caramel dessert--both were delicious, but the eggplant was such a revelation that I rarely recall the rest of the meal!)

I was so impressed by my eggplant experience in Provence that I decided last summer to try to recreate the dish. My result was okay, but nothing like the delicious dish I had discovered in France.  I had a hard time cooking the eggplant sufficiently such that the sweetness would come out without burning it entirely, so it was still a bit bitter. But the sauce? It was fantastic!

The bottom line on my feelings about eggplant: it's not going to be on the top of my list of favorite vegetables, but I appreciate being proven wrong about some things. I won't be so skeptical the next time. And there will be a next time, for sure.

What vegetable or food have you always been wary of?  Did a special dish change your mind?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Shrimp Scampi with Linguini

My husband requested shrimp and pasta for our early Valentine's dinner.  This recipe got 5 stars on the Food Network site, so I gave it a try.  It was totally delicious.  If I could get away with making something this easy for all special occasions, life would be much easier.  The key to this dish is good mise en place, because everything cooks so quickly, you do't want to be messing with chopping something when you need to be stirring.

Is there anything better than pasta, shrimp, and butter?  I don't think so! I served this with steamed haricots verts tossed in a light vinaigrette.  (Haricots verts are very thin, tender green beans.)

Recipe and pictures below the cut.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe (sort of): Beef Bourguignon

If you've seen the movie Julie & Julia, then you already know that Julia Childs' recipe for beef bourguignon (boeuf bourguignon, en français) is sorta famous.  And known for being delicious.  Well, for Christmas in 2009, I received not one, but three copies of Julia Childs' famed cookbook (actually the set of both volumes), containing this recipe (hey, my friends and family know me well--they just didn't coordinate).  So last March, I volunteered to make this for my husband for his birthday, as we had tried the traditional dish during our visit to Burgundy, the region of Franch from whence this dish came, on our honeymoon.  I also made roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a birthday cake.  The entire meal took me about 7 hours in the kitchen. By the time the meal was ready, I was exhausted, disheveled, and thoroughly disgusted.  "That movie lies!" I crowed to my husband.  They make it seem like all you do is stir the stew!  Then put it in the oven!  And voilà!"  And that is simply not how you make Julia's boeuf bourguignon.

Boeuf bourguigon is essentially French beef stew.  After browning the pieces of beef and sauteeing some of the veggies, you let it all braise in the oven in a whole bunch of red wine (and beef stock).  Let me be clear that this was, by far, the best beef stew I'd ever had.  But after 7 hours in the was hard to even acknowledge that.  I vowed never to make the dish again, and haven't cracked my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking since then. When I think about it, I just remember dirtying virtually every pot and pan in our kitchen, and following Julia's steps thinking, "Why, Julia, why?  WHY does the sauce need to be strained and cooked separately?  WHY do the pearl onions need to be braised separately in red wine?  WHY???"

Nearly a year later, I was contemplating what to make for a weekend dinner for my husband, myself, and another couple.  I have a history of stressing myself out by making new or complicated recipes for guests, ignoring my guests, and then not enjoying myself at all.  I've worked on this for years, and in the last couple of years, have learned valuable lessons about testing recipes before serving them to guests, making things that don't require a lot of last minute work, and making things that are hard to screw up.  So I thought I'd make a braised meat dish, as such recipes require most of the "hard" work on the front end, with a couple of hours spent in the oven, meaning that when my guests arrived, my house would smell great, and I'd be relaxed and
refreshed.  Someone had also mentioned to me that they'd seen Ina Garten (of the Barefoot Contessa cooking show on the Food Network) make a variation of beef bourguignon that seemed easier than Julia's.  I pooh-poohed the idea at first...despite the hours of labor required to make Julia's recipe, I was still very proud to have done it, and considered it to be the signature bourguignon recipe.  But I really like Ina Garten's cooking style and recipes, sooo...I gave it a try.

The verdict?  It was MUCH easier than Julia's recipe.  Still not the easiest thing ever, but easier.  And delicious.  SO delicious.  I'd be hard pressed to say which recipe was better.  And my husband thought Ina's recipe was better, if only because it wasn't tainted by the bitter feelings of the chef (me).  This is a recipe I'll make again. (Not often, because the sheen of bacon grease left on every surface in the kitchen is not something I want to clean up very often, but again.)

Recipe and photos under the cut.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Creamy Chicken Tetrazzini

I grew up in the Midwest (Ohio), and my family ate a lot of casseroles.    My husband grew up on the East Coast (New Jersey), and his family did not eat a lot of casseroles.  When we first met, I was concerned that his lack of love for all things casserole would spell the end of our relationship...but eventually I was able to bring him over to the other side with me.  Sort of.   You'll never catch me making tuna noodle casserole (complete with crushed up potato chips as the crust) for him.  Maybe because even I hated tuna noodle casserole?  But I did get him to love my chicken tetrazzini--and I think it's because I did a couple of things to bring it into the next century.

Mostly what I did was replace all of the canned/jarred veggies with their fresh counterparts.  It's a tiny bit more work, but totally worth it!  (Canned mushrooms and jarred pimento are not things my husband will eat, and I don't blame him.)  The base is still cream cheese and chicken broth, but some things should not be messed with.  (Though I have bowed to concerns about our waistlines and replaced the full-fat cream cheese with the reduced fat kind.)  Many recipes call for heavy cream or cream of chicken soup, and I think the cream cheese base is superior to both other options.  The heavy cream is, well, heavier.  And the cream of chicken soup just doesn't have the same tang of cream cheese.

I also use a short pasta instead of spaghetti noodles.  This is just a personal preference--I really like penne or farfalle.  If you use a long pasta, use something thin (e.g., no fettucine).

When I was growing up, we usually had tetrazzini made with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  You can do it this way, as well, but I really like tetrazzini and want to have it more than once a year!  The perfect solution is a rotisserie chicken from the deli section of your grocery store.  (You can also poach or bake a couple of chicken breasts yourself and then shred them, if you prefer.)  Just shred up a couple cups of the meat, and if there's more on the bird, you can save it for chicken salad or something else.

Recipe below the cut!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Mustard Sauce

This recipe is how I learned why stainless steel pots and pans really are different from nonstick.  The first time I made this recipe, I made it in a nonstick pan, and it did not come out right--because it's not advisable to try to make a pan sauce in a nonstick skillet.  This recipe is also how I learned to make a real pan sauce, and how easy it is!  It comes from my beloved Martha Stewart Everyday Food cookbook.  The dish has a mildly French feel to it, due to the mustard (soooooo good) and the tarragon in the sauce.  It's also really quick to make, and seems fancier than it really is.

As I said the other day, I made this chicken dish with the potato-fennel gratin.  I also sauteed some spinach on the side.  (Why?  Because sauteed spinach is delicious, and because if the sauces from either the chicken or the gratin mixed in with the spinach, it would be delicious.) 

Recipe and pictures below the cut!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Potato-Fennel Gratin

My only resolution for the new year was to try more vegetables.  I'm pretty brave when it comes to eating new vegetables, but I've been hesitant to try to prepare them myself.  I'd never tried to make anything with fennel before. But then a friend shared a recipe for potato-fennel gratin with me, and I thought, "well, why not?"  Anything covered in a creamy cheesy sauce has to be good, right?  Right.  The recipe is from the one and only Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa.  It is definitely not low-fat.  But it is delicious!

I served the gratin with sauteed chicken breasts with a creamy mustard sauce and sauteed spinach.  I'll share the chicken recipe later this week.  It was a nice pairing.  The chicken is lighter, but still rich in flavor.  Since I was just cooking for two (plus leftovers!), I cut the recipe for the gratin in half--we still have plenty of leftovers!

Pictures and recipe below the cut!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Recipe Snapshots: Breakfast Enchiladas and Hot Tomato Grits

I did not make these Breakfast Enchiladas.  Just want to be upfront about that.  My mom made them the morning after Christmas.  This was the second time we'd had these, and it was so yummy.  Many breakfast casseroles are too heavy...but this one, while being filling and hearty, just doesn't feel like a lead brick.  And when you serve it with Hot Tomato Grits on the side?  Perfection!

Recipes below the cut!

Breakfast Enchiladas, from Southern Living magazine, December 2004.
Serves: 6-8.  Time: 1 hour (30 minutes of baking).


Cheese Sauce
  • 1/3  cup  butter
  • 1/3  cup  flour
  • 3  cups  milk
  • 2  cups  (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1  (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, undrained
  • 3/4  teaspoon  salt

  • 1  (1-pound) package hot ground pork sausage (could substitute turkey sausage)
  • 2  tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 4  green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2  tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 14  large eggs, beaten
  • 3/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon pepper
  • Cheese Sauce (see above)
  • 8  (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeños
  • Toppings: halved grape tomatoes, sliced green onions, chopped fresh cilantro


Tip: Make the cheese sauce before scrambling the eggs; it should take about 8 minutes. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, and whisk in remaining ingredients.
  1. Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until sausage crumbles and is no longer pink. Remove from pan; drain well, pressing between paper towels.
  2. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add green onions and cilantro, and sauté 1 minute. 
  3. Add eggs, salt, and pepper, and cook, without stirring, until eggs begin to set on bottom. Draw a spatula across bottom of pan to form large curds. Continue to cook until eggs are thickened but still moist; do not stir constantly. 
  4. Remove from heat, and gently fold in 1 1/2 cups Cheese Sauce and sausage.
  5. Spoon about 1/3 cup egg mixture down the center of each flour tortilla; roll up. Place, seam side down, in a lightly greased 13- x- 9-inch baking dish.  (Note: I think my mom only used 6 or 7 tortillas, and baked them in a smaller dish, since there were just 4 of us.)
  6. Pour remaining Cheese Sauce evenly over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with Monterey Jack cheese.
  7. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly. Serve with desired toppings.

Hot Tomato Grits, from Southern Living magazine, December 2008
Serves: 6.  Time: 40 minutes.

  • 2  bacon slices, chopped
  • 2  (14 1/2-oz.) cans chicken broth
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 2  large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2  tablespoons canned chopped green chiles
  • 1  cup  (4 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Garnishes: chopped fresh parsley, shredded Cheddar cheese

  1. Cook bacon in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon, reserving drippings in pan. Drain bacon on paper towels.
  2. Gradually add chicken broth and salt to hot drippings in pan; bring to a boil. 
  3. Stir in grits, tomatoes, and green chiles; return to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in Cheddar cheese until melted. Top with chopped bacon. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Potato Leek Frittata

In honor of the new year, I  am trying to introduce the occasional lighter dish into my repertoire.  But being me, I refuse to compromise on taste.  So when the January issue of my Everyday Food magazine arrived chockfull of lighter recipes, I was interested to see if anything sounded good.  Luckily, it seems to have a lot to offer!  My usual practice on Sunday nights is to make a more elaborate meal that yields leftovers to start off the work week.  But this Sunday, I decided to take it a bit easier on myself, and chose a recipe for potato leek frittata.  Sounds like breakfast?  Well, frittatas are like omelets--quick, easy, and good for any meal of the day.  Also, I had potatoes and leeks on hand, sooo... 

Pictures and recipe below the cut.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year's Resolution: Help Me Help You

Happy New Year, all!  My apologies for my long absence from the blogosphere. My husband and I were in Kentucky over the holidays visiting my parents, and our trip was unexpectedly extended a couple of days when our flight home was canceled. When we were able to get home, we were swept up into work, New Year's events, and a sick cat.  Everything is okay for now, and I hope to be a better food blogger in 2011.  I'm not going to make that an official resolution, though, because that's a surefire way to make sure it doesn't happen! 

I received a totally adorable pink netbook computer as a Christmas gift from my dear husband, which should increase my ability to blog in the new year (allowing me to do so from any room in the house!).  Unfortunately, the screen is defective, and we're having to ship it back for a replacement. In the meanwhile, I thought I'd ask for some help from you, my dear readers (all three or four of you), and share a New Year's-themed recipe (sorry, no pictures!).

First, my request.  What do you want to see in this blog in 2011?  Recipes for specific dishes?  How-to's on specific things (the proper way to dice an onion, how I prefer to peel garlic quickly, etc.)?  Just pictures?  Please be specific if you can--I can keep going posting some of my favorite recipes, but I'd feel less self-indulgent if I knew my posts might be helpful for useful!

Now back to cooking.  Growing up in my family, it was a tradition to have a pork roast and sauerkraut on New Year's Day.  I never quite got into the southern tradition of black-eyed peas, despite all my years living in the south, so I needed to figure out my own pork and sauerkraut.  Last year I tried to the recipe from my edition of Joy of Cooking, and let me tell you--it was a winner.  I'm told this recipe only appears in the most recent edition, as my mom had never heard of it.  What makes this so yummy is that is pleases both those who like sauerkraut (me, in smallish doses) and those who don't!  The kraut in this case is made up of half fresh cabbage (which is braised along with the pork in broth and beer and herbs) and half rinsed sauerkraut.  It still has a tang, certainly, but it's much milder and not as vinegary as what many of us expect.  I made the same recipe again this year, and was once again very pleased (and so were my dinner guests!).

And so, here is the recipe.  Enjoy!  (Below the cut.)