Weekend of Non-Cooking

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm not slacking, I promise. We had a busy weekend of my niece's 1st Birthday on Saturday, and then lunch w/ an old friend on Sunday. Both were heavy "meals" so we didn't cook at home. I do have some great things in store for this week though.

Wanting to take advantage of fresh, summery ingredients before we move into fall. Here's my recipe list for this week:

Shrimp Stirfry w/ Brown Rice
Basil and Goat Cheese Chicken Breast w/ Whole Wheat Couscous
Summer Vegetable Pasta
Salmon Chermoula (amazing!) w/ TBD fresh veggies

With Labor Day fast approaching, I'm looking forward to some fall favorites. An amazing Cajun Chicken Soup, Turkey and Goat Cheese Lasagna (to die for), Chicken Pot Pies....mmMMmm. Fall foods are the BEST!!

We're actually heading to Texas later this week to visit family in Austin and Wimberley. I'm looking forward to gaining inspiration from my grandmother, who is an amazing South Texas/Mexican cook. Handmade tortillas, empanadas, and she cooks all by feel. No recipes. Just instinct. I hope to bring our video camera and set it up to record a few cooking sessions, so that we as a family can keep them on hand to TRY to recreate some of her amazing recipes ourselves.

More to come...

Ribeye Steaks with Sauteed Onions and Red Potatoes

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nick found a great deal at our local grocery store the other day. One ribeye steak was half off, and the other was .16. Yea, someone made a boo boo, but we reaped the rewards. Sweet. This is like every coupon mom's midsummer night's dream.

Ribeye Steaks with Sauteed Onions and Red Potatoes

Here's what I used:

2 ribeye steaks
1 cup soy sauce
2-3 tbsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp butter

2 medium onions, cut into rings
3 tbsp olive oil

12 small red potatoes, skinned
3-4 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
2 scallions, chopped
1 tbsp butter

I marinated the steak in the soy sauce and steak seasoning for about 20 minutes, flipping once to get both sides. Also threw skinned potatoes in stock pot of water, and set to high (added salt to water).

Meanwhile, I added olive oil to a saute pan at medium heat and added the onions. Sauteed onions until they were browning on the edges and limp/translucent, about 15 minutes. Sprinkled with S&P.

Removed onions from pan and put them on a plate to rest, and inverted another plate over top to keep them hot. In same pan as used for onions, I added another tbsp of olive oil and and 2 tsp butter. Immediately added my steaks and let cook for 3 minutes per side. I pulled them off and allowed them to rest for another 10 minutes.

Once my potatoes were done (check by piercing a potato with a fork, it should split the potato easily) I drained them into a colander and added them back to the stock pot. Added butter, cheese, scallions & S&P. Then I covered the stock pot, and gave the mixture a few good shakes. I find this an easy way to incorporate ingredients w/ cooked potatoes, it gives the dish a "beaten" texture/quality which keeps it more rustic but still really good.

I don't think there were any complaints from this meal. My steak was a little overcooked, but my piece was thinner (I suspect it was also the .16 piece. Hmph.) The potatoes and onions were delish.

Just a note...& Crispy Garlic-Thyme Chicken Breasts

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tuesday night my friend and hairdresser came over to do hair. My hair, my husband's hair, his cousin and her two kids hair, and my sister's hair. Dinner did not get cooked, but rather ordered. Pizza that was. It was yumm.

Wednesday night I went riding. Wheeeee!! Thus, another non-cooking night for me. Nick did make a yummy herbed chicken that he braised in butter and olive oil. MMmmmmm. I'll try to find the recipe.

Found it!

Crispy Garlic-Thyme Chicken Breasts (Douglas Keane of Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA)

Here's what he used:

2 large chicken breasts (w/ bones & skin)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
2 cloves unpeeled garlic
4 sprigs thyme, picked
2 tsp butter

Here's what he did:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Season both sides of chicken w/ S&P, and let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, warm large saute pan over high heat, 2 minutes, then add canola oil. Place chicken in pan, skin side down, and shake pan to prevent sticking. The chicken should glide on tow of oil and should "crackle", continue to cook until skin is light brown.

Put entire pan into oven for 10 minutes, skin side of chicken still down. Flesh side of chicken should still be raw, don't worry.

Pull pan out, and back on burner on medium heat. Smash garlic cloves with palm of your hand and then add to pan. Add thyme as well. Add butter and carefully flip the chicken, use a spoon to baste top of chicken with frothy butter mixture. Continue to baste for 1 minute.

Remove chicken to a resting plate, and let sit 5 minutes.

We served this with leftover baked beans and cole slaw from the BBQ last weekend. My large chicken breast was still slightly raw, but it was a BIG breast. Nick put it back in the pan for another 5 minutes - I also think this happened because the original recipe calls for boneless, skin-on chicken, and we used bone-in skin-on chicken. I think the bones helped insulate the chicken from the heat, and therefore took longer to cook. This was yummy!!

Chicken Kabobs with Greek Salad and Hummus

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One of my favorite dinners is Greek Chicken Salad. There are a few places in the northern virginia area that make impressive Greek Salad's. One is Moby Dick's House of Kabob, another is Paisano's in Fair Lakes. While I enjoy patronizing our local stores, its also a challenge to try to recreate them in my kitchen. On top of that, I despise store-bought hummus. I think it tastes mealy and is too lumpy. So I have perfected my own recipe, after several middle-eastern friends and coworkers had provided me with several hints. I made this dinner in three parts: Chicken and Green Pepper Kabobs, Greek Salad with Calamata Olives & Feta, and Hummus with lightly toasted wheat pita wedges. Yummmmm.

Chicken and Green Pepper Kabobs

Here's what I used:

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 large green bell pepper
1/2 cup greek dressing
6 pre-soaked wooden skewers

Here's what I did:

Set the grill to Medium heat. Used kitchen shears and cut the chicken into large 1.5" cubes, and added them and the greek dressing into a dish to marinate. I also liberally sprinkled them with S&P. Chopped the bell pepper into 1" pieces. Alternated chicken and peppers onto each skewer, with a small space in between each piece. I put about 4 pieces each of chicken and peppers on each skewer...smaller skewers might require less per skewer.

Cooked skewers, turning occasionally, for about 6-8 minutes. Longer if chicken pieces are larger.


Greek Salad with Calamata Olives & Feta

Here's what I used:

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large cucumber, skinned, halved lengthwise, and then chopped
2 tbsp reduced fat feta cheese
6-8 pitted Calamata olives
Greek Dressing as desired

Here's what I did:

Combine all ingredients into a large salad bowl. I don't add dressing until salad is plated. I let each person choose how much dressing they want to add. I also hold the olives for my husband, who doesn't like them, and just add them to mine.



Here's what I used:

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) rinsed well and drained
2-3 tbsp Tahini (sesame seed paste)
4-5 tbsp good olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp champagne vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder (or 2 cloves roasted garlic - yumm!)

Here's what I did:

In a food processor or blender, combine chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, vinegar and S&P. Slowly add olive oil until mixture binds together. Continue to add olive oil, and blend until mixture achieves smooth, peanut butter-like consistency. If you like your hummus more grainy, process it a little less. I like it the smoother the better, w/ no grainy or lumpy texture.

I also like to cut pita bread into 8 wedges, and then let toast in the toaster oven for about 2-3 minutes and serve hot with the hummus. Enjoy!!

Sunday Family BBQ (Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Caprese Salad & Strawberry Poundcake)

Monday, August 24, 2009

The hubbs and I (okay mostly the hubbs) cleaned the house top to bottom yesterday. He got up at 6:15am expressly for the purpose of doctoring & putting his 7 lb pork butt into the gas grill for what would be a 14 hour cooking marathon. Was it worth it? A resounding YES! from the 6 adults who waited, and waited, and waited some more. It was AMAZING. Now if I can dig up the recipe. I have already been turned down on my request for him to "guest blog" because he doesn't want to "have to write it all down".

My contributions to the evening were: Caprese Salad. Strawberry Poundcake. Recipes below.

Garden Grown Caprese Salad

Here's what I used:

2 dozen fresh-picked cherry tomatoes (usually use roma)
1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese
1 bunch fresh sweet basil
2-3 tbsp good olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Here's what I did:

I halved all my homegrown cherry tomatoes (never refrigerated - please don't refrigerate your tomatoes!) and threw them into a serving bowl. Added olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and generously sprinkled w/ S&P. I then covered it and let it sit for several hours on the counter to marinate.

Once we got closer to eating (see "waiting" notes above), I plucked the biggest, best basil leaves, stacked them on top of one another, rolled them into a "cigar" shape, and chopped them across their width. This gives the basil a "string" shape. Then I chopped once across their length to shorten them. I also took my fresh mozzarella ball, and cubed the mozzarella into little 1/2 x 1/2 cubes. It probably would have been better to get the leetle balls, and half them, to mirror the cherry tomatoes - but alas they were not on SALE and mozzarella is "espensive" around here.

Throw cheese and basil into the mix, and stir. Serve immediately. AMAZING. And so satisfying that I grew the little "maters" myself.


Strawberry Poundcake

Here's what I used:

2 big containers of strawberries, pitted, cut into 1/2"-ish pieces
2 tsp splenda (or sugar)

1 loaf Sarah Lee Poundcake (CHEATER!! I know. I'm so ashamed)

1 can Whipped Cream

Here's what I did:

Super easy. Add strawberries to bowl, sprinkle with sugar. Cover and let sit for an hour or two. The strawberries will begin to break down and create a juice. When ready to serve, slice the poundcake (head hanging in shame), top with strawberries, strawberry juice and whipped cream.

The Caprese Salad was a huge hit with the family. Everyone said it was the best they've ever had. I attribute it to the fresh, never fridged tomatoes. They were so incredibly sweet, it was almost unbearable. The strawberries were delicious. I need to get the husband unit to give me the pulled pork recipe, it was ridiculously succulent and just amazing. He's a bbq master, I bow to his grilling power.

Meatloaf with Tomato Gravy

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I think Meatloaf is an ultimate comfort food. Add a pile of mashed potatoes, and you'd satisfy most. This particular recipe is exceptional, as far as meatloaf goes. It ain't your mama's meatloaf. haha. I think what makes it more interesting is not only the layering of flavors in both the meat and the gravy, but the flavor of the gravy itself. Velvety, tangy, and just jumps off your tongue. Yet another Ina Garten recipe, this is another family favorite.

Here's what I used:

Meatloaf Ingredients:
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs (seasoned or not)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 lbs ground beef (or meatloaf mix)
1/3 cup grated parmesan (powdered works too)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 large eggs


Gravy Ingredients:
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
15 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz chicken broth
1/4 cup parmesan
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast the breadcrumbs for several minutes in a large skillet, and then transfer to large mixing bowl. Add olive oil to skillet, and then onion, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Transfer to same mixing bowl with bread crumbs. Also add in meat, Worchestershire and cheese. Incorporate ingredients together, add egg, and stir to coat. **This may seem unappealing, but here's where I use my hands. I don't think there's a better way to mix together the ingredients than freshly washed hands (sans any rings, etc.) and use your fingers!! haha.

Transfer meat mixture to a foil-lined cookie sheet and press into desired shape. I usually go for a small, short "loaf of bread" sort of shape. Rounded ends, straight sides and slightly rounded top. Bake for 45 minutes (internal temp of 160 F).


Cook onions, garlic and oregano in olive oil and butter until browned, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and bay leaf, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and crushed tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer until sauce begins to thicken, about 5-10 minutes. Whisk in parmesan cheese, vinegar, salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and transfer sauce to a serving bowl.

Once meatloaf is done in the oven, tent with foil, remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Then slice, and serve with gravy and choice of sides.

I didn't have to ask my husband about this one because I've made it about 2 dozen times over the last few years. Its always a hit. Sydney liked it too!! I don't usually consider this a "summer" dish, but we had 80/20 ground beef in the fridge, and were all burgered out. So we decided on the "meatloaf recipe". We didn't have any sides w/ it, while its super yummy w/ potatoes, veggies, etc...its also heavy and can easily stand on its own. The husband unit followed his up with Peppridge Farm Chocolate Cake & Cool Whip...I went to sleep in a food coma.

Mia's Pico de Gallo (Guacamole)

Friday, August 21, 2009

My grandmother taught me this fresh, simple recipe years ago. Its a family & friend favorite, so I thought I would share it.

Here's what I use:

2 avocado's, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
1 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
juice from one lime
pinch of Red Pepper Flake (optional)

Here what I do:

Add all ingredients to a med/large mixing bowl and stir. Very difficult. Serve with tortilla chips. ;)

Black Bean & Cherry Tomato Dip with Goat Cheese

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My husband was playing golf last night, so it was just the girls. Sydney, myself, and our two dogs, Jazmyn and Madison. Since it was just us, I made snacks, which is something I love to do. I'm a grazer by nature; I love the variety that snacks offer. That said, I'm in dire need of FOOD, I haven't shopped for this week, so the kitchen is "running on empty". I still found a way to have a yummy snack AND satisfy the picky Ms. Sydney.

Sydney got baked Sweet Potato Fries. Yes they came from a bag in the freezer. (gasp). Sue me, it was easy, she'd eat it, and we HAD it.

I made a variation of an Ina Garten recipe, her's was entitled "Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes". I had fresh cherry tomatoes from my neighbor's garden, and a can of black beans, so this recipe fit the intent of my ingredients. I also had some left over goat cheese. YUMM.

Here's what I used:

2 tbsp good olive oil
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
12-14 cherry tomatoes, rough chopped
1/3 cup chicken stock

Here's what I did:

I added the olive oil to a sauce pan and put on medium heat. Once hot, I added my shallot, and allowed to soften for about 5 minutes, added garlic, and cooked for 1 minute. Then I added my black beans, tomatoes and chicken stock. I was going for a dip-like consistency, so took out my potato masher, and gave the whole mix about a dozen mashings. I let this cook down until it reached the consistency of hummus. At this point, I added S&P to taste and adjusted accordingly. I'm not shy on flavor, so I probably added a good tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper...but adjust to your liking.

I then used a spatula to transfer all my hot yummy dip to a bowl, and crumbled about 2 oz. of goat cheese on top. I enjoyed my dip with some whole grain flatbread crackers w/ the little seeds on top. It was SO YUMMY!!!

No reviews for this one other than mine. I loved it. It hit the spot. Sydney was not a fan, but I didn't expect her to be. It was mine, all mine. I think I'll have some for lunch wrapped in a spinach wrap. Ooooh, the possibilities. It would also be AWESOME as a burger topper, for those that like to add, add, add to their burgers.

Chicken Tomato Pesto with Whole Wheat Penne

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Last night I was inspired by a Pesto Penne recipe, but wanted to use what was in my house, and try to "de-fatten" some parts of the recipe as well. I try to use whole wheat pasta whenever possible, and just overcook it slightly to take out some of the inevitable bite that whole wheat brings to the pasta's texture.

Here's what I used:

1 box Whole Wheat Penne Dried Pasta

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken breasts, cut into 1" or so strips
3 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp tomato pesto w/ olives (this is just what I already had, regular pesto is great too)
2 cups fat-free 1/2 and 1/2
2 tbsp butter (can substitute Smart Start)
1 tsp garlic powder

1 cup grated parmesan

Here's what I did:

First I started by filling a large stockpot with about 4" of water, added salt, set to high and put on the lid. Once boiling, I added my pasta and let cook, stirring occasionally (penne sometimes sticks together).

Meanwhile, I seasoned my chicken strips with S&P, and added the olive oil to a teflon-coated skillet, let it heat for a minute. Once the oil was hot, I added my chicken strips and cooked for about 2-3 minutes per side. (Cook longer if you leave the breasts in tact - strips cook much faster). I lined a plate with paper towels and removed the cooked chicken, and upturned another plate on top - to keep in the steam/heat.

Then I started my sauce. In the same skillet used for the chicken, I drained the olive oil, but didn't dry it out. I added the butter, and then 1/2 & 1/2 and garlic powder and let cook for about 5-10 minutes. The fat free 1/2 & 1/2 starts to develop a bit of a "skin" on the surface as it cooks, but don't worry, it will still taste great! Add the tomato pesto, and cook for another 5 minutes.

As the sauce was finishing off, I drained my pasta and added it back to the stock pot. I also cut my chicken on the diagonal, into 1" pieces (and cut a few even smaller for my daughter to eat). Finally, I added the sauce, and the parmesan cheese and gave it all a good stir.

This one was a huge hit with my daugher, she usually picks her way through her dinner, and most goes to our two dogs, who are hovering below. I call them the "sharks" because they just circle and stare up at the high chair, watching and jerking their heads looking for a spare, flying morsel. I think they were pretty dissapointed, she wasn't too into sharing.

My husband also liked it, but he is Italian, and loves his white pastas. He's still not a fan of whole wheat. I overcook it mostly to please him, and make it taste closer to white pasta. He said it was "good", but would have been better with white pasta. Yea, well, his waistline will thank me, and pretty sure he didn't go to bed hungry either. ;)

Filet Mignon with Sweet Potatoes & Onion Rings

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Last night I made several of my favorite things for dinner. Steak. Potatoes. and something fried.

Here's what I used:

2 sweet potatoes

2 filet's of beef
about a cup Soy Sauce
1 tbsp. McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning

1 vidalia onion
about a cup of AP flour
about a cup of Heavy Cream
2-3 cups of Olive Oil

Here's what I did:

First I washed and poked holes in the sweet potatoes and threw them in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour.

Next, I marianated the filets in a glass baking dish by pouring about a cup of soy sauce, and generously shaking the steak seasoning into the dish (about a tablespoon). I allowed the steaks to marianate until about the last ten minutes of the sweet potatoe's cook time, so about 45-50 minutes.

Finally I skinned, and cut the onion into ringlets, and placed them into a bowl with the heavy cream (this gives my breading something to grab onto). I was out of Canola Oil, so I winged it with Olive Oil instead. I added about 2-3 cups of it to my skillet, and allowed it to heat up. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl I combined the AP Flour with a good amount of S&P, and then tested the oil with one little onion ring.... Once it got good an hot, I added just enough rings until the bottom of the skillet was full, you don't want to overfill the pan or the breading won't get nice and crispy, and the onions won't cook as well. It took about three rounds of rings until they were all a nice golden brown. As they cooked, I used tongs to move the rings onto a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Once all rings were on the towel, I sprinkled liberally with Tony Chacherie's Cajun Seasoning.

As the final round of onion rings were in the pan, I started up another skillet with about 2 tbsp. of butter. Once that was crackling, I added my steaks and let them sear for 2 minutes per side. Just as the sweet potatoes were coming out of the oven, I lowered the heat to 300 and popped my seared steaks in for about 5-7 minutes. This finishes off the cooking to about medium rare without burning the surfaces of the steak.

On to the plating: I cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise, and then pushed/mashed them in from the long sides to open them up a little. I don't feel the need to add any seasonings or butter to them, they're great as they are. Add the steak, and top with the onion rings. YUMMM.

This got very high reviews from my foodie husband - who is never shy to give me honest feedback on my cooking. His one remark was that he thought the Olive Oil may have made the onion rings a little greasy-tasting, and that Canola Oil may have been better.

C'est la Vie. Maybe next time...

First Post

Monday, August 17, 2009

So I thought I'd give this blog thing a try. My husband, 14 month old daughter and I live in a suburb of Washington D.C. About 3 years ago, my then-fiance and I made the plunge and bought a single family about 45 minutes from the city. Closer to my horses, and actually able to afford SPACE.

I guess I would like to post about what we are up to...and what we COOK. We love to cook. We have quite a collection of cookbooks, and love to gain inspiration from magazines, television shows (mostly Ina Garten), books and our backgrounds.

My husband spent 10 years in Louisiana, and learned to cook Cajun food. My father's family is from Texas, and I learned a lot from my grandmother. Collectively we LOVE to cook, eat, celebrate with friends and family.

So here we go...

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