Tuesday, September 30, 2008

30 Day Dinner Challenge

If you've been a regular reader of this blog, thanks! I just wanted to say that I'll be blogging somewhere else (though, actually still from my own home) for 30 days, starting October 8th. I'm doing a 30 day dinner challenge, that I've started with a couple of friends. They will all be starting tomorrow (I think), but our family is going out of town tomorrow for 5 days. I've decided to delay our start one week because I can't actually be cooking us dinner while on vacation (I'm not that ambitious, even if we have a hotel kitchenette!), and I need 2 days upon returning to prepare.

So, visit the other blog: http://30dinners.blogspot.com. I will not be the only writer, so there should be plenty of recipes, cooking tips and techniques, and what not there for you to read! Enjoy, and happy eating!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


OH. MY. GOD. I've run out of onions in the house! I can't believe it. I haven't had to buy onions all summer long, and at long last, I've run out. We've been getting them in our CSA box all summer long. Spring onions. Walla Walla sweet onions, & red onions. Suddenly, no more.

Luckily, I had shallots and scallions from the grocery store on hand.

1 cup carrots, 1/4" dice
1 cup celery, 1/4" dice
1 cup scallions, chopped
1 shallot, rough chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, rough chopped
1/2 cup of bacon, diced
1 lb ground beef
beef stock, as needed
1/2 cranberry beans, fresh (or other beans are fine, too)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 cups roma tomatoes, *peeled & chopped

-Render the bacon pieces in a pan. Add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and sweat until they just start to become tender.
-Brown the ground beef in a pot with a little olive oil. Add the spices, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well to combine the spices & meat.
-Add the vegetables and bacon to the ground beef, and cover with beef stock.
-Add the cranberry beans. If you are using canned beans, do not add them yet.
-Add the tomatoes, and any additional stock if needed.
-Cook for two hours.

*A popular way to peel tomatoes is to remove the core stem, score the opposite end in a small "x" with a paring knife, and boil them for 15 seconds. After boiling, plunge them into an ice bath to stop the cooking. The scored end will have loosened the skin, and the tomato is ready to be peeled, ready to be chopped to desired shape. This blanching method may also be used with peaches and nuts. Also known as concasse tomatoes.

This is just what I did for my chili. I feel like everyone has a chili recipe they like. I actually don't, not that I think any are bad. I'm just not good at sticking to a particular one. I picked one out of a chili recipes book, a friend bought for me with her Marlboro cigarette points, just as a reference. I encourage you to do tweak my recipe all you want. I know I probably will in the future!

Monday, September 22, 2008


David and I celebrated our 3 year wedding anniversary tonight (even though our actual anniversary is on Thursday). We had dinner reservations for 7:30pm at Campagne. We dropped my dad off at the airport, which was much quicker than we had expected. We got to Pike Place Market at 6pm, and decided to see if they could squeeze us in early. No problem.

Dinner was fantastic! Here's what we had:

David - Beef tartare with slices of potato fried in duck fat & arugula & parmesan salad; Veal sweetbread with curry carrots.
Anny - charcuterie plate with house cured duck proscuitto, bresaola, country-style pate, and rillette; sea scallops & gulf prawns with halibut brandade & sauteed Chinese spinach.
For dessert, we shared a lemon-ginger creme brulee.

It was all so delicious!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Marsala Wine Braised Chicken Legs with Shitake Mushrooms

*may use chicken thighs as well/instead
**if using dried mushrooms, reconsistute them in hot water first

Sear chicken, on all sides, in a hot saute pan with oil.
Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup marsala wine & allow to reduce slightly.
Add the mushrooms with the soaking liquid.
Bring to a boil.
Transfer to an oven proof dish, cover with foil, and cook in 375 degree F oven for 30 minutes.
*hang on to the saute pan
Pour the liquid back into the saute pan and reduce by half. Whisk in a teaspoon of butter into the reduction, and pour the sauce back over the chicken and mushrooms.

What do I do with these chicken legs?

I did a freezer pull earlier this week. In that pull was a pack of 3 chicken legs. They sat in the fridge, thawing. Then, they thawed. And, they continued to sit in the fridge some more.

The truth is, I had cooked 5 nights straight, and I was a bit burned out. Wednesday morning I woke up and said to my husband & dad, "We're eating out tonight." But, by that afternoon, I suddenly felt inspired, and those lettuce wraps made it to the table. So, yesterday was Saturday, and I had successfully gotten dinner on the table for all of us 5 nights in a row. I looked at those chicken legs and annouced, "Sushi tonight?"

Guilt ridden by a full day of eating out for the last four meals, mostly junk (Crossroads foodcourt food for lunch yesterday, Japanese for dinner dinner last night, Top Pot Doughnuts this morning, and Subway for lunch today), I felt that I needed to check out those chicken legs.

Fresh? YES! Gotta love the Foodsaver !

Here's what made it to the table:
-Marsala wine braised chicken legs with shitake mushrooms
-a HUGE salad with lettuce, lemon cucumbers, green bell peppers, & spiced pecans from Trader Joe's, with this blackberry vinaigrette my inlaws got us from Snoqualmie
-corn on the cob
-Red Baron French bread pizza boats
-leftover lettuce wrap filling

Weird variety of foods, but everything go eaten! I was delighted. I do have to admit that my dad, husband, and son seem to eat most things. Well, maybe not my son, but neither my dad or husband are that picky...especially not my dad.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Breakfast Sandwiches


I ordered croissants from Boulangerie Nantaise through www.spud.com , but I think these sandwiches would've worked with any croissants.

I made two with sliced ham and two with strips of bacon. Each of the sandwiches got one of those meats, a fried egg (medium), and a slice of swiss cheese. I put them open faced under the broiler for a couple of minutes. As a side item, we had low fat, vanilla, organic yogurt with diced fresh peaches.

Pretty simple meal, but everyone enjoyed it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Clam Chowder

Yup, that's what I made tonight. Let's see if I can remember what I did...

Okay, so I just started to type up a recipe, and I realized that I just don't remember the exact measurements. Sorry. So, please use what you think you would like, depending on the size of the party you are serving. Remember, it's soup, so making a big batch is okay!

onions, chopped 1/2" dice
carrots, chopped 1/2" dice
celery, chopped 1/2" dice
yukon pototoes (although, I think russets are better if you want a little more starch for thickening), peeled, cut to 1/2" dice
corn, fresh, kernels removed
bacon, 1/4" diced (optional)
1 can of clams
1 pint cream

-Heat a pot with oil. Add the chopped onions, carrots and celery & sweat until the onions are transluscent. Add the chopped bacon. *If your bacon is on the fattier side (mine wasn't), start with the bacon, and use the rendered fat from the bacon to cook the vegetables.
-Add the potatoes, corn, and clams
-Add just enough water to reach the top of the vegetables, bring to a boil
-Add cream, and any additional water if you would like more liquid
-Allow to simmer until all the vegetables are soft & the soup has a nice thick consistency - mine went for 2 hours

**if you would like a little more corn flavor to the soup, you could throw in the cob of the corn while cooking and fish it out before serving; or put it in a pot of cold water, and let it cook for 30-45 minutes, for a tasty corn broth to use some other time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lettuce Wraps - Again

Tonight, we had lettuce wraps, once again. This time, I used ground beef instead of ground pork. In addition, we had fried rice made from leftovers of our lunch today. I had picked up some chicken katsu and chicken yakisoba from a nearby teriyaki joint. I added a little chopped garlic, some green beans, and an egg...PRESTO! Dinner was served!

It was a real hit with the family, including my dad, who loves to wrap anything edible in lettuce.This is my dad, the happy lettuce wrapper.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wild Mushroom Risotto and Sesame Green Beans

Big hit with the boys tonight, this risotto. I bought this dry wild mushroom mix from Trader Joe's that I ended up being a little disappointed with. There was a ton of wood ear mushrooms in the mix. I'm a fan of them, but I would've preferred some dried porcinis, chanterelles, even shitake. I also felt like the mix didn't taste mushroomy enough. But, in the end, the dish was a hit, so that's what matters most. I also bought the only arborio rice I could find at QFC, which was just a generic brand. It definitely was not as nice as the stuff I've gotten at DeLaurenti's.

These green beans, on the other hand, bought at the farmers' market this afternoon, were off the hook. Fresh, beautiful, tasty. I blanched them, cooled them, and then cut them into thirds. To finish them, I browned about a tablespoon of butter in a skillet, added the beans, seasoned with salt & pepper, and let them cook on medium/high heat for about a minute. I added just a touch of water, as the pan was very dry, then chopped garlic. I tossed that around and cooked for another minute or so, added a teaspoon of Banyul vinegar and about a teaspoon for toasted seasame seeds. Very yummy indeed!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Home Grown

Not the clearest photo, but these are some of the sungold tomatoes we have been enjoying this summer, grown right outside our door in our own little garden. We don't have much growing in our boxes this year, but plenty of these little gems. Our other tomatoes are starting to ripen as well. We have some San Marzano (Roma) and I believe Black Beauty (I forget their name), which are an heirloom variety.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pork Spare Ribs - Part 2

So how did it turn out? Pretty darn good, if I say so myself...
These are the beans I made as a side dish. I'll share my confession when I talk more about them.
These are the ribs.

Two hours into the roasting, I checked on my ribs. Pretty tender, but could be more. I let them go for another half hour. Seemed to be just right. I removed all the ribs from their pans onto another pan to cool. I strained all the juices from the ribs and skimmed off as much fat as I could. Then I started to make my beans.

For the beans, I rendered some diced bacon pieces. (I bought a pack of bacon ends from Thundering Hooves, which was perfect for this purpose.) Then, I added about a cup of chopped onions and two chopped garlic cloves. The bacon didn't give off much fat, so I added a little of the fat from the pork ribs to help the onions & garlic sweat a little. Here's the cheatin' part for the beans...I added one can of pinto beans, rinsed, to the pan. I covered everything with the strained liquid from the ribs, and brought it to a simmer.

The flavor of the beans was incredible, but pretty salty and it was a bit brothy. I took out about a cup of beans with liquid and pureed it with a little water & about a tablespoon of bbq sauce until very smooth. I added that back into the beans to give it a little thickness, without reducing the liquid and making the flavor saltier. This made the dish look a little like refried beans. I still felt it was a bit salty, so I added about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a splash of red wine vinegar. That seemed to do the trick.

To finish the ribs, we threw them on a charcoal grill and slathered them with bbq sauce, flipped, added more sauce, flipped again for another minute and pulled them off the grill. Sadly, I didn't make the sauce. America's Test Kitchen recommended Bullseye, so that's what we used.

I feel pretty proud of myself for making these ribs. They were actually quite simple to prepare, and didn't take a ton of time.

Pork Spare Ribs - Part 1

I bought two packs of pork spare ribs from Thundering Hooves a couple of months ago. They've been sitting in my freezer, just waiting to be thawed. I've sort of been intimidated by these spare ribs, afraid it would be such a long process to make.

Last week, David and I watched an episode of America's Test Kitchen that has inspired me to thaw out the ribs.

As I type, they are sitting in 3 pans in the oven, rubbed with some spices and covered in foil, slow roasting at 275 degrees F. How long will they roast for? I'm not sure. My plan is to check in 2 hours...maybe 3.

This is the rub:
1 T smoked paprika
1 T freshly ground black pepper
1 T kosher salt
2 T light brown sugar

"Ribs have a papery membrane on the underside that can make it hard to pull the meat off the bone. Before cooking, loosen this membrane with the tip of a paring knife and, with the aid of a paper towel, pull it off slowly, all in one piece." - from www.americastestkitchen.com

Step-by-Step: How to Make Tender Ribs
Remove the Membrane: Ribs have a papery membrane on the underside that can make it hard to pull the meat off the bone. Before cooking, loosen this membrane with the tip of a paring knife and, with the aid of a paper towel, pull it off slowly, all in one piece.

To be continued...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Taco Night

I must thank my husband for making dinner tonight. Hard tacos, with Spanish rice. He did all the work. All I had to do was play with my son, and then cut up the watermelon we had for dessert.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Pesto, Sungold Tomatoes, and Chicken

A couple of weeks ago, we received a beautiful bunch of basil in our CSA box. I decided to make some pesto and freeze it in little cubes. I forgot all about the pesto until this afternoon. It's so fun whenever I remember I have stuff I can make for dinner, so that I don't have to make a mad dash to the store. This is what I threw together tonight.

chopped garlic
sungold tomatoes
one chicken breast, cooked and diced
pine nuts
whole wheat spaghetti
chopped green onions
chopped parsley

I cooked the pasta...Okay, I accidentally overcooked it. But, it still worked fine.

Sauteed garlic with zucchini, added the cooked noodles, added the pesto, and stirred to coat all the noodles. Added the pinenuts & chicken, then added the tomatoes at the very end. Turned off the heat and added the chopped green onions and parsley.

This is what I should've done:
Heat the oil, saute the zucchini, then added the garlic. Add the diced chicken, then the pesto. Add the cooked pasta. Make sure everthing is nicely coated with the pesto. Finish with pine nuts, tomatoes, chopped green onions and parsley.