Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oh Happy Day

merry christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Life for Leftovers

Pulled Pork becomes Carnitas tacos...Only made more delicious with the addition of a sprinkling of crunchy cabbage and fresh cilantro...

...and some freshly fried tortilla chips
...and some creamy, dreamy guacamole

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This Week

For the party, I cooked enough food for...um...probably close to 40 people. We had closer to 20. So we have a LOT of leftover pork, chicken, and smoked salmon. Since this is our last week in B'ham before going home for two weeks for Christmas and New Year's, my goal is to eat as much of these leftovers as possible. I'm going to try to be creative...Friday night we're going to see Avenue Q {so excited}, so I think we'll eat out at a restaurant we have a gift card for. And then Saturday night will be our little Christmas celebration, so I'm going to make us a fancy meal we can enjoy with the bottle of Veuve Clicquot we've been saving. Have a wonderful almost-Christmas week!

Monday - Thai-style chopped chicken salad
Tuesday - Asian pork & veggie noodle stir fry
Wednesday - Carnitas soft tacos, guacamole, margaritas
Thursday - Cocktail party for Katie, Jags game for Jason...dinners on our own
Friday - Eat out before Avenue Q
Saturday - Smoked salmon toasts, braised short ribs with homemade pappardelle-style noodles

Sugar's Sweet

These yummy little bites are inspired by the brilliant minds at Martha Stewart. I am not huge on baking, mostly because I don't have much of a sweet tooth. And the patience some baking requires...well, I don't have it. So I love recipes like this where there's very little actual measuring or baking involved. These crispy, nutty, chewy little bars were reminiscent of Samoas Girl Scout cookies {a fave of mine}, and they a big hit at the party. Jason doesn't even like coconut, and he enjoyed these.
Like so many other sweets, the end result of these is so much greater than the sum of it parts. I made a few substitutions to the original recipe...and I thought the end result tasted more like toffee than butterscotch, so I just rewrote it and linked the original. Finally, I didn't count how many graham crackers I used...just fill your baking sheet; you'll have enough toppings.

Loaded Toffee Bars
adapted from marthastewart.com

1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
12 to 15 cinnamon graham crackers, plus more as needed
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. Spread walnuts and coconut on baking sheet; bake until golden, 5 minutes. Cool thoroughly; toss with chocolate chips.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. (katie note: mine was 17.25x11.5) Break graham crackers into quarters; fit in pan in single layer.

In saucepan, whisk butter and sugar over medium heat until smooth; slowly and carefully pour over crackers. Bake until bubbly, 10 minutes. Sprinkle with nut topping; press gently but firmly. Cool; press fillings again, and separate rectangles.

Low and Slow

The first recipe I'll share is for the pork, which is my all-time favorite go-to thing to make for a party. Pork shoulder (AKA pork butt) is very inexpensive and very hard to screw up. You can flavor it in a million-and-one different ways, and it's a never-fail crowd pleaser. When you bring it home, remove some, but not all, of the fat cap {the thick white layer}.

I wanted to keep the flavors simple so it would meld well with the roasted garlic aioli I attempted to make. {Attempted is the operative word here. More on that later.} Anyway, I used a mix of freshly ground black pepper, kosher salt, and a great seasoning called Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Salt. This was a staple in our house growing up, and it's still a staple in mine. {And Peyton's!} We lovingly call it Krazy Jane's. It's fantastic on pasta, steak, veggies...and it makes a mean bloody mary seasoning.

I digress.

Take a handful of seasoning and toss it on the pork shoulder. Rub it in like a nice shiatsu massage. This is a crucial step. The meat is thick, so the seasoning has to penetrate, and it won't unless you really smoosh it in. Then put the hunk-o-meat in a deep-sided roasting pan, and cover with foil. Now here comes the absolute most important thing to remember...forgetting this is the only way possible to screw this up. The oven temp must go no higher than 270º. For a 7-pound roast, you'll want to give it at least 6 hours, but it could probably go even longer.

The magic of this cut of meat is in its heavy marbling. At this low heat, the fat and connective tissue completely melt, rendering the meat juicy, flavorful, and succulent. Any hotter, and you won't get the luscious texture. And that's it. When it comes out, let it cool for about a half-hour, and then using two forks, shred it into bite-size pieces. Put a good amount between a nice, soft bun, and voila—pulled pork sliders!

Here are some other flavoring options for this versatile cut of pork...
Carnitas: Cumin, chipotle chile powder, and a touch of cinnamon
Vietnamese-style: Fish sauce, sugar, small hot chiles, and lime zest

Southern BBQ: Smoked paprika, sweet paprika, Krazy Jane's, brown sugar, and garlic powder

To Be Jolly

(I did not take this picture, fyi)

I am happy to report that the party was a hit. We're so blessed to have so many wonderful friends here in Birmingham, and we were happy to host {almost} all of them last night! The food was well received...yay! I have to admit, though, I was running around like a crazy person until about 10 minutes after the party started. I made the brilliant decision {can you sense my sarcasm?} to do everything the day of the party.

Really—what was I thinking? Well, I probably wouldn't have had such a hard time if I hadn't had to slow-roast the pork ALL DAY at 250º. What I should have done was start the pork first thing in the morning instead of 11 a.m. after running pre-party errands. I had three other things to bake, but they couldn't go in until one hour before the party. YIKES.

But Jason was the best sous-chef any girl could ask for. He was such a trooper...the two of us must have looked like a well-organized yet chaotic dance duo. I was here and there with scorching trays full of crostini, he was swinging by with bubbling pots full of peanut butter and chocolate chips. The oven would beep and we'd both go running. But...it got done. And miraculously, not much after 6:00 when our first guests came. {And in the meantime, Rebecca was a lifesaver with her beautiful platters and bowls, as well as her candle lighting, drink pouring, and general sweetness.}

Anyway, on to why any of you read this blog in the first place: here's a rundown of what we ate.

Oven-Roasted Pulled Pork Sliders with Roasted Garlic Aïoli
Lemon Chicken with Creamy Lemon Sauce
Black-Pepper-Cornmeal Biscuits with Smoked Salmon
Rosemary-White-Bean Dip with Parmesan Crostini
Parmesan & Black Pepper Popcorn

Spiked Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Butterscotch Bark
Jason’s “Puppy Chow”

Recipes to come!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

'Tis the Season

So, ok, I know I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. But I have a confession to make: cooking, recently, hasn’t provided me with as much joy as it usually does. I think I’m just in a mini funk, and I’m sure it will resolve itself. But it’s been a little disheartening.

This might sound strange…it sounds strange to me, even, but I had an awful, awful migraine a few weeks ago, and I really think it did something to my brain that made me apathetic toward all food. I had no real appetite for a few days after, and I even came home from work one night and nothing sounded good to me except pizza or waffles. {Don’t worry, I’m not pregnant.} So we went out for pizza. That’s just so not like me. That weird palette issue hasn’t happened again, but I have since been a little disinterested in the kitchen. I have made a few things recently I want to share, so bear with me as I pull myself out of my blogging/cooking funk and get some pictures up here. Meantime...

I have a feeling that the Christmas soirée Jason and I are hosting in our new little house this weekend may remedy this meh-in-the-kitchen feeling I’ve been stricken with. I’ve devised a menu of cocktail-hour bites for our friends…I’ll take pictures and share recipes for everything at/after the party. {I’m not really one for making up my own baked goods, so I’ve linked the recipes for the desserts.} We’ll also have beer and wine, along with an alcoholic dessert of sorts.

Happy Christmas!

Oven-Roasted Pulled Pork Sliders with Roasted Garlic Aïoli
Chicken Puff Pastry Bites Lemon-Parsley Chicken Skewers with Parsley Oil and Homemade Ranch
Black-Pepper Biscuits with Smoked Salmon
Rosemary-White-Bean Dip with Parmesan Crostini
Parmesan & Black Pepper Popcorn

Spiked Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Butterscotch Bark
Store-Bought Amaretti Cookies
Jason’s “Puppy Chow”

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What I'm making...

Sunday - Minestrone, salad, crusty bread
Monday - Bunless burgers, spinach and chickpea saute
Tuesday - Baked chicken breasts with tomatoes and white beans, Heston Blumenthal's broccoli
Wednesday - Asian-style salad with grilled shrimp
Thursday - Cornmeal-crusted pan-fried fish, creamy lime slaw

Monday, November 24, 2008


It was rainy and cold here today. Fitting for a Monday, especially for a Monday after a wonderful, beautiful weekend spent in sunny, breezy New Orleans with a lovely group of girls. (One of whose mother sometime reads this blog, which excited me to no end to find out.)

So...what to eat when the weather is nasty? Soup,
bien sur. We had brothy soup last week, so creamy chowder was in order. I've made chowders before. But I wanted something different. I'd never made clam chowder, but it's one of Jason's favorites. So I found a recipe on Epicurious and made some tweaks to suit our tastes (and the contents of my fridge).

I'm sorry I didn't make this sooner—it's definitely one of those classic recipes I can check of my "to make" list. (And then put it right back on my "to make again" list.) I'm sure we've all ordered clam chowder at a restaurant and received a bowl of pasty milk with a few sad little rubbery clams and some mushy potatoes. (Meg—I'll never forget your chowder from Cedar River.) Well, this one was nothing like that. It was creamy, flavorful, and comforting—and perfect for a cold, rainy weeknight. Serve with a green salad, and you're golden.

Classic New England Clam Chowder
{adapted from gourmet magazine}
You could certainly use regular bacon in place of pancetta...and heavy cream or regular half-and-half in place of the milk and fat-free half-and-half. But I must say, the lightened-up version was very creamy and still delicious.
serves 6 as a first-course, 4 as a light supper

4 (tunafish-size) cans chopped clams, juices reserved
2 cups bottled clam juice
1 (1/4-inch) slice pancetta, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 bunch green onions, chopped finely
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled, diced small
2 cups whole milk
1 cup fat-free half-and-half
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Oyster or saltine crackers

Drain the clam juice from the clams, and combine with enough bottled juice to equal 3 cups of liquid. Cook the pancetta and butter slowly in a stockpot over medium heat until lightly browned and crisp, about 4 minutes.

Add the green onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2-3 minutes.

Whisk in the clam juice, bring to a simmer, and cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally; it should be the consistency of heavy cream. Add the potatoes and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the clams, milk, and half-and-half in a small saucepan, and simmer for 5 minutes.

When the potatoes are tender, add the clams and milk/half-and-half to the soup base. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce. Serve in bowls with the crackers on the side. (The roux)

Creole and Cajun in the Crescent City

Just back from New Orleans...get jazzed (er...sorry for the terrible pun) for a rundown of the fantastic food we had. Here's just a little something to get your mouths watering...

(photo via passionateeater.com)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shame, shame, shame.

{Photo by Portal and Friends via Flickr}

I can't help it. I love chips and queso. I might draw the line at the kind that squirts out of a pump at concession stands. But queso, processed and gooey and salty as all get-out, holds a dear place in my heart. Many people in Birmingham just call it cheese dip. Which is actually more fitting, seeing as how this stuff is not even close to something authentically Mexican. Ay Dios mio, I can't get enough.

What is your secret (or totally public) shameful food indulgence? Mom...fried shrimp? ;)

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Hi. I won't make excuses, but I know I've been MIA for way too long. For my (however small) crowd of readers, I apologize for the abrupt halt of even remotely interesting posts. Especially after I set out last Sunday saying I'd be back. And then I wasn't. Again, I come with no excuses, just an apology. And! A soup recipe.

We were craving something light but still warm since it's mighty chilly here in Birmingham. A brothy soup fit the bill. And since we've been trying to stay budget friendly with our dinners, this was also a clean-out-the-pantry meal. A can of tomatoes, a can of beans, a box of broth...some spinach and chicken in the fridge needing to be eaten, and the the last of a bottle of white wine. An onion came from Publix, but otherwise, everything else was readily at hand. I kept the flavors very light and simple—feel free to add and adjust to suit your tastes.

And with that, I'm back.

Sunday Night Soup

serves 4 with leftovers
I didn't want this to be too heavy on the chicken, so I only used 1 1/2 breasts. You can use one or two, or even none. I kept the chicken breasts whole and shredded them, because I prefer that texture in soups, but you could chop the raw chicken into bite-size pieces and toss it in the hot broth, and it would cook much more quickly.

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional olive oil for drizzling
1 onion, chopped or diced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 (14.5-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed well
1 cup white wine (the drier the better)
1 (4-cup) carton chicken stock
1 1/2 chicken breasts
1/2 (16-ounce) bag spinach, chopped well
1/2 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and salt, and stir to combine. Cook until onions are soft and transluscent, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes including the liquid in the can, then add the beans. Add wine and broth; stir, taste, and adjust seasoning. Raise heat to medium-high, and add chicken. Lower heat if necessary to maintain an even simmer.

Cook chicken for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts. Remove, and set aside to cool slightly. Put spinach in soup, and lower heat to medium-low. Using two forks, coarsely shred chicken. Return chicken to soup, and stir to combine.

Ladle soup into serving bowls, and squeeze a wedge of lemon over each bowl. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil, and serve.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

For real this time

So...moving took a LOT more out of us than we thought it would. I guess it wasn't the smartest plan to try to move over the course of a workweek, instead of over a weekend. Hm. Anyway, we ate out...every night. Agh! It pains me to admit it, but I didn't unpack the kitchen until yesterday, so we did a little tour of some inexpensive B'ham spots. Pizza at Chez Lulu (always delish), Chili and BBQ at Demitri's (darn good), pho and spring rolls from Que Hong (just so-so), and tacos at Cantina (our fave). I went out for drinks after work on Thursday (we scored a free appetizer...sweet!) and I made fried rice for myself on Friday. Saturday's I've-been-unpacking-all-day-in-a-freezing-house-and-all-I-want-is-something-hot-and-fast dinner was at a place that will remain unnamed. It wasn't even a little bit good.

OK, so, this week will be my actual first week in the new kitchen. Needless to say, I am ready to get cooking again! Here's what I'm making...

Sunday - Chili & grilled cheese
Monday - Pork tenderloin Chicken thighs with creamy mustard-thyme pan sauce, Heston Blumenthal's broccoli
Tuesday - Tuscan White Bean Soup, garlicky spinach
Wednesday - Ina's Indonesian Ginger Chicken, quinoa
Thursday - Solo dinner again...probably leftovers.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

This Week

I'm sorry I've been MIA — we didn't end up moving yet, but we will be in the new house by tomorrow evening. So after we're finally settled, I promise to update, update, update!

Until then, here's what I'll be making in our new house this week...

Sunday - packing...eat out
Monday - Ginger Chicken, broccoli, roasted grape tomatoes
Tuesday - Beef tacos, creamy lime slaw
Wednesday - Asian pork noodle soup
Thursday - Solo dinner...maybe baked potato with broccoli & cheese...or leftovers...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I still love you...

...I'm just a bad blogger! It's been a busy month, and the upcoming week promises to be even crazier. Some things to note: we're moving (just to a new rental house a few miles away) this week, mostly in the evenings after work. (We'll be out of town for the next 4 weekends, so this week is really the only time we can do it!) As a result, dinners are going to be quick, easy, and most of all, inexpensive. I'm cleaning out our freezer and fridge as best I can before we move, plus I've been trying to use as many coupons as I can. This week my goal is a $50 grocery bill. Can I do it? Tune in, and I'll share my savings.

Sunday - Chili and cornbread
*I'll need to buy all the fresh ingredients for this
Monday - Pork chops and roasted acorn squash, salad
*I have an acorn squash on hand, so pork and lettuce go on the list
Tuesday - Beef enchiladas, zucchini ribbons
*I have corn tortillas on hand, and meat and sauce in the freezer from the last time I made this. A tip I love is making double batches of things when cooking for two...freeze half, and you have an easy dinner for "free" the next time you want it.
Wednesday - Broccoli-chicken quiche, salad
*I have frozen chicken thighs and eggs on hand. Broccoli goes on the list.
Thursday - Tomato-basil soup with Italian turkey sausage meatballs
*I'll just need an onion, chicken broth, and tomato sauce for this. Italian sausage on hand in the freezer.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Sweet 100

So even though I'm not really a sweets person, I thought this was too fun to pass up. Remember the Omnivore's Hundred? Well, this one speaks to my sweet tooth...and from the looks of some of these that I've never tried, I'm going to be spending some time baking!

  1. Red Velvet Cake
  2. Princess Torte
  3. Whoopie Pie
  4. Apple Pie either topped or baked with sharp cheddar
  5. Beignet
  6. Baklava
  7. Black and white cookie
  8. Seven Layer Bar
  9. Fried Fruit pie
  10. Kringle
  11. Just-fried (still hot) doughnut
  12. Scone with clotted cream
  13. Betty, Grunt, Slump, Buckle or Pandowdy
  14. Halvah
  15. Macarons
  16. Banana pudding with nilla wafers
  17. Bubble tea
  18. Dixie Cup (*Can someone fill me in on what this is, exactly?)
  19. Rice Krispie treats
  20. Alfajores
  21. Blondies
  22. Croquembouche
  23. Girl Scout cookies
  24. Mooncake
  25. Candied Apple
  26. Baked Alaska
  27. Brooklyn Egg Cream
  28. Nanaimo bar
  29. Baba au rhum
  30. King Cake (find the baby!)
  31. Sachertorte
  32. Pavlova
  33. Tres Leches Cake
  34. Trifle
  35. Shoofly Pie
  36. Key Lime Pie (made with real key lime)
  37. Panna Cotta
  38. New York Cheesecake
  39. Napoleon / mille-feuille
  40. Russian Tea Cake / Mexican Wedding Cookies
  41. Anzac biscuits
  42. Pizzelle
  43. Kolache
  44. Buckeyes
  45. Malasadas
  46. Moon Pie
  47. Dutch baby
  48. Boston Cream Pie
  49. Homemade chocolate chip cookies
  50. Pralines
  51. Gooey butter cake
  52. Rusks
  53. Daifuku
  54. Green tea cake or cookies
  55. Cupcakes from a cupcake shop
  56. Crème brûlée
  57. Some sort of deep fried fair food (twinkie, candy bar, cupcake)
  58. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting
  59. Jelly Roll
  60. Pop Tarts
  61. Charlotte Russe
  62. An "upside down" dessert (Pineapple upside down cake or Tarte Tatin)
  63. Hummingbird Cake
  64. Jell-O from a mold
  65. Black forest cake
  66. Mock Apple Pie (Ritz Cracker Pie)
  67. Kulfi
  68. Linzer torte
  69. Churro
  70. Stollen
  71. Angel Food Cake
  72. Mincemeat pie
  73. Concha
  74. Opera Cake
  75. Sfogliatelle / Lobster tail
  76. Pain au chocolat
  77. A piece of Gingerbread House
  78. Cassata
  79. Cannoli
  80. Rainbow cookies
  81. Religieuse (French cream puffs)
  82. Petits fours
  83. Chocolate Souffle
  84. Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)
  85. Rugelach
  86. Hamenstashen (A Purim dessert)
  87. Homemade marshmallows
  88. Rigo Janci (Hungarian chocolate mousse/cake)
  89. Pie or cake made with candy bar flavors (Snickers pie, Reeses pie, etc)
  90. Divinity
  91. Coke or Cola cake
  92. Gateau Basque
  93. S'mores
  94. Figgy Pudding
  95. Bananas foster or other flaming dessert
  96. Joe Froggers
  97. Sables
  98. Millionaire's Shortbread
  99. Animal crackers
  100. Basbousa

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Easy Peasy Week

Sunday - Cookout with friends
Monday - Eat out (work dinner)
Tuesday - Italian sausage, peppers & onions, salad
Wednesday - Whole trout on the grill, Mom's Green Beans,
Thursday - Cocktail party after work...grab something out

An Old Favorite, Revisited

When I was in high school, I decided for about a year that I was a vegetarian. In fact, for a while, I was vegan. Then I realized that my 100-pounds-soaking-wet self didn't do so well without any animal protein at all. So I put the milk and eggs back in rotation. Then one day, I missed chicken, and I indulged in a PF Chang's chicken lettuce wrap. After that, I realized that food was just more delicious when you eat meat.

Anyhow, my wonderful parents, while secretly knowing this was just a phase, made my eating preferences a priority in the house. We had this cookbook and leaned heavily on the dishes listed in it, especially the Eggplant Parmesan. Unlike many Italian-American dishes, it was super light and fairly healthy save for the layers of melty, gooey mozzarella cheese. I still enjoy making this dish when I have time to let it bubble away in the oven...on weeknights, though, that's not always possible. So I did a little eggplant parm remix, and turned it into a pasta sauce. It was perfect with whole-wheat pasta, which I find a little too hearty for lighter sauces. Unfortch, not the most photogenic of dishes, but you get the idea...

Eggplant-Tomato Sauce with Whole-Wheat Pasta

serves 2 with leftovers

Olive oil nonstick cooking spray
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
Handful fresh basil, torn
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 box whole-wheat rotini, penne, or other short-cut pasta
Garnish: 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450. Generously coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Place eggplant on the baking sheet in one layer, and spray again with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, tossing halfway through.

Meanwhile, cook pasta per package direction. Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, and cook, stirring often, until softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, dried oregano, and salt and pepper. Gently simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove eggplant from oven, and add to tomato sauce; stir to combine. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Add pasta to sauce, and add pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, until the consistency of the sauce is to your liking. Stir in fresh basil and Parmesan. Serve, topped with mozzarella cheese, if desired.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I made two soups recently that were pretty great. Especially now that it's beginning to cool off, soup just seems like the coziest meal to come home to. Both of these soups are fairly light—filling and hearty, but not heavy or rich.

The first one was inspired by this amazing aioli/dip at The Ravenous Pig, an awesome restaurant in my hometown, Winter Park, Florida. They have this fried okra that's pretty much heavenly, and the creamy tomato-dill condiment they serve alongside i
t is addictive. I always think tomato-basil...rarely tomato-dill. But dill is my all-time favorite herb, and though it's usually associated with summery foods, it's a great way to freshen anything year-round. This soup is lovely in its simplicity. It was so good I ate two bowls.

Tomato-Dill Chicken Soup
serves 2 with leftovers for lunch

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups chicken broth
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 boneless, skinless chicken thigh, diced
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
Garnish: chopped fresh dill

In a stockpot or large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add water or more oil as needed if the pan looks dry. Add garlic, and cook, stirring often, until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute.

Lower heat to medium; add tomato sauce, sugar, broth, and dill, and stir to combine. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Add chicken, and cook, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Garnish with fresh dill, if desired.

Soup number two was inspired by a conversation I had weeks ago when my friend Jessica at work told me her mom made white chicken chili. This sounded intriguing to me—white chili? There's this strange thing here in Birmingham called white barbeque sauce...have you heard of this? I've never had it, because it just sounds wrong. But white chili...well that sounded delicious. Of course it wouldn't be real chili, I knew, but it just seemed like something Jason and I would like.

So I looked for a white chicken chili recipe to see what this was all about, and the best-looking one I found was from Cooking Light. I used to cook from CL all the time, and haven't in a good long while. But now I'll be looking to its recipes a lot more. This was great and low-fat, low-cal...and just yummy! I made a lot of changes, but the general recipe is pretty solidly based upon Cooking Light's version, so I will link the original recipe and then give you my edited verion below.

White Chicken Chili
serves 2 with leftovers for lunch

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, undrained
1 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In a stockpot over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onion, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add some liquid from the can of green chiles to moisten pan. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, and chipotle powder, and stir to combine. Add more liquid from the chopped green chiles to moisten pan as needed. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes more.

Lower heat to medium; add the chiles and any remaining liquid, beans, and broth, and simmer for 8 minutes. Add chicken, and stir. Cook for 8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Turn off heat and let cool for 2 minutes. Add cheese, and stir well to melt and incorporate thoroughly into soup. Add cilantro, and serve.

Close...but no CPK

Have you ever had the miso salad at California Pizza Kitchen? I have to admit, I have had some pretty terrible experiences at the chain restaurant, but the past few times I've gone, I've ordered the miso salad and been more than happy with my selection. The veggies are crunchy and the dressing is really yummy.

So I decided I should try my hand at this salad...I mean, why pay $7 for something I could make for less? Well...I tried to find one of those "restaurant secrets" web sites...the ones where they share recipes from restaurants, or at least close-enough knockoffs. But this dressing recipe was nowhere! Those sneaky CPK people, trying to keep me coming back.

Well, anyway, I made a miso dressing. It's not the same as the one at CPK, but it is delicious. And something tells me it's healthier because it doesn't have the creaminess of the aforementioned dressing. And I also didn't include the deadly-good but dangerous fried wonton strips. This is fairly low-carb, too, especially if you eliminate the edamame (which apparently contains quite a bit of carbs). Oh, and a side note: my camera battery died right when I went to take a photo. Sorry for the picture-less post!

Chopped Asian Salad with Miso Vinaigrette

serves 2 with leftovers for lunch
Depending on how much you like miso, start with 2 tablespoons of miso paste, taste, and add more if desired.

1 medium-large head napa cabbage, sliced thinly
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced into matchsticks
1/2 small bag frozen edamame, shelled
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin matchsticks
2 to 3 tablespoons white miso
2 to 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil, or to taste
1 to 2 chicken breasts, grilled

Combine the vegetables in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine the miso, vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Whisk well, and then slowly whisk in the vegetable oil, adding more if you think it tastes too tangy. Taste, and adjust seasoning; add soy sauce, vinegar, or oil if needed. Toss veggies with dressing, and top with grilled chicken.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Jason and I had grilled oysters a few Friday nights ago. Yummm...we decided we'd do 3 dozen next time.

This shot is the result of the 1 dozen I polished off without a pause. Saltines, hot sauce, and lemon...and a few piping-hot off the grill, slurped right from the shell.

A Few Random Things...

I've been meaning to write for the past two nights, but both evenings have gotten by me, and before I know it, it's past 9 and I'm exhausted. So I do have two recipes to share, the Chopped Asian Salad with Miso Vinaigrette (just for you, Kristin!) and Whole-Wheat Pasta with Eggplant-Tomato sauce. But they're not coming tonight...just a few pictures (this one is Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps) until I get a chance to make my brain work fully!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

This Week

Monday - Chopped Asian salad with miso dressing
Tuesday - Pork chops, mashed cauliflower, sauteed spinach
Wednesday - Whole wheat pasta with eggplant-tomato sauce
Thursday - White chicken chili

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What We're Having

Low-carb meals again...

- Mexican Chicken Chili *UPDATE: the base of this chili was much too spicy to have as a soup. It was great as sauce, so I froze it (sans chicken) to have on hand the next time I make enchiladas. Maybe next time I will use milder peppers (apparently guajillos pack a serious punch!)
Monday - Asian-style bunless burgers, Heston Blumenthal's broccoli (p.s. try this broccoli immediately--it's amazing!)
Tuesday - Tomato-dill chicken soup, salad
Wednesday - Flank steak with chimichurri, spaghetti squash
Thursday - Grilled shrimp and zucchini skewers, grilled romaine with homemade ranch dressing

Monday, September 15, 2008

Just a Little Tangent

Allow me to step up on my soapbox. Or, more accurately, my salt box. You see, I think I know why a lot of people say their cooking just doesn't taste right. It's salt. Or, rather, a lack thereof. Our family friend Annette, an amazing chef, has always said that salt is the most underused spice in the American kitchen. (Yes, I said spice.) People are so afraid that salt will make food taste salty, but that's just not true. Salt makes food taste like food...like really delicious food. If you've ever eaten a meal with me, you know I love salt. Pickles, olives, salt & vinegar chips...but when I cook for anyone but myself, I use restraint...I don't subject people to my crazy love of tart and salty.

Still, I use more salt than the average person. Some people have watched me cook, noted my heavy hand with salt, and then commented that my food doesn't taste salty. They always wonder why. The answer: using salt is like turning up the volume on food's flavor. Unless you go majorly overboard, salt shouldn't be a flavor in and of itself.

Usually in the recipes I write, I don't give exact amounts of salt (or pepper), and it's because to learn to feel confident in the kitchen, you should get to know what the right amount of salt feels and tastes like. I say feels like, because I always (always!) use my fingers to distribute salt in a recipe. Kosher salt is the easiest to dispense by hand. It also evenly seasons things. It's the only salt I cook with. For salting things like French fries or popcorn, a fine-grain sea salt is my buddy.

There are all kinds of fancy salts...unrefined gray salt, smoked salt, pink salt, black salt, fleur de sel...which are all kind of like garnishes, in that they're not really for cooking, but for finishing dishes. This is a good resource for finding out more.

So, in conclusion, be bold with the salt. Use your fingers. Sprinkle it in the pan, taste, add some more, taste...and keep adding until it tastes amazing. Trust me, and trust yourself. You might be surprised to see how much you use, especially if you're not accustomed to using much salt at all. I promise you'll notice a difference.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Let Me Begin with the Beginning

Recently someone asked me if I've always been good in the kitchen. I had to admit: it wasn't until college that I really started looking at food as more than sustenance. Yes, there were favorite dishes when I was younger, and sure, some of my fondest memories of childhood involve food. But mostly because the food was cooked by someone I loved, or eaten with people I loved.

When I cooked for myself as a kid, I made pasta with butter and cheese, scrambled eggs, canned soup, "Chinese noodles" (a concoction of ramen noodles, but
ter, and soy sauce...high-brow, I know!), and occasionally, bagel bites.

When I left for college, my sweet freshman-year roommates and I decided to have what we called family dinners...and somehow I got voted to cook the first one. I called my mom asking what I could make that was delicious and easy. Her reply: chicken piccata. It was one of my favorites in high school, and mom claimed it was easy. I wrote her recipe down over the phone, rolled my sleeves up, and dived in.

I burned the butter on my first attempt, but otherwise it was pretty good—and shockingly easy. That did it...I was hooked. It was a slow road to my current obsession with all things edible, but that one dish, that feeling of accomplishment and the look of appreciation from my friends, well...that's all it took.

chicken, after searing

So, for someone who isn't 100% confident in the kitchen, I highly recommend this dish. I mean, what's not to love about lemon and butter? It's impressive and delicious, and couldn't be easier.

Chicken Piccata
serves 4
Sometimes I can't find chicken breast halves, so I just pound out two regular breasts to be super thin, and cut each one in half widthwise. It takes a little more pounding, but it's just fine.

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons softened butter, divided
Additional all-purpose flour
Extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers, drained

Place chicken between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap. With a rolling pin, mallet, or even a bottle of wine (be careful!), lightly pound each breast half to about 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle chicken with salt. (Don't be sjy about it.) Thoroughly mix together 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon butter; set aside. On a plate or shallow baking pan, add additional flour, and coat each breast in flour; shake off excess.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add chicken in 1 layer. If the all 4 breasts don't fit, cook in 2 batches. Cook until chicken is golden brown and mostly cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, and set aside.

In the same skillet over medium-high heat, add the stock, lemon juice, and butter-flour mixture, and whisk to get all the good brown bits (fond in fancy cook-speak) from the bottom of the pan. (If you want to sound impressive, tell someone you're deglazing the pan.) Simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 3 or 4 minutes. If it looks too thick, add a little more stock. Too thin? Keep simmering. Add capers and remaining butter, stir, and taste. Adjust seasoning.

With tongs, place each breast, one at a time, in the sauce to coat, then place on a platter. Pour remaining sauce over top. Serve with couscous or pasta to soak up extra sauce.

Like Making Lemons Out of Lemonade...

Usually I am a very confident cook. I don't claim to be an expert in the kitchen, but I'm comfortable there, and if something doesn't taste quite right, I'll add a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and generally it turns out well.

So I'm writing to admit a kitchen mishap: apparently, I can't poach eggs. Well, I bet I could if I practiced enough times, but my first try was a big fat disaster. Maybe the water wasn't hot enough, or maybe I just got overly confident, but my water was full of stringy whites that barely set up. I couldn't even salvage the yolks. Sigh.

My original intent was to serve the poached egg over a spring-greens salad with seared scallops and pancetta...so when the poaching didn't happen, I just made a vinaigrette with another egg yolk to maintain the creamy richness a poached egg would have added to the salad. It was very yummy, even though it wasn't my original plan...

Seared Scallop Salad
serves 2
12 medium scallops
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 to 6 thin slices pancetta
4 thick slices ciabatta bread
1 clove garlic
1 lemon, juiced (need about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
1 bag spring greens

Rinse scallops, and and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add scallops and sear until golden and opaque, about 2 minutes per side, depending on size. Be careful not to overcook.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, cook the pancetta until crisp, then drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. Break into smaller pieces, and set aside. Toast the bread, in a toaster oven, toaster, or 450-degree oven, until golden brown. While bread is still hot, rub each piece with the garlic clove, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a touch of salt. Cut into bite-size pieces, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, Dijon, and egg yolk. Add a pinch of salt. Using a whisk, whisk in olive oil (about 1/4 cup) until the dressing comes together. Taste, and adjust seasoning. In a large, shallow bowl, toss the lettuce with some dressing (add a little bit to start, toss, and keep adding dressing until the greens are dressed to your liking). Add the pancetta and croutons, and toss again. Top with scallops, and serve.

Dinners for the Week

We're going low-carb for a few weeks...

- Roast chicken, broccoli, salad
Monday - Out for Rebecca's birthday
Tuesday - Asian chicken lettuce wraps
Wednesday - Taco salad
Thursday - Pork & veggie stir-fry

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Summer, How do I Love Thee...

Last summer, I had a delicious pasta dish at a restaurant in Winter Park called Luma. It had fresh house-made pasta, corn, dill, and maybe shrimp or crab, but I don’t recall exactly. It was the crisp pop of the corn against the silky fresh pasta that I remember the most. I’m not sure that corn with pasta is a pairing that is visited very often, but it is one of my favorites. I’ve done my own spin on that Luma pasta before…here’s the sequel.

As I mentioned in my last post, Jason being out of town gives me an excuse to eat the bad stuff he doesn’t like, such as creamy pasta sauces, fatty steaks, and stinky foods like olives and anchovies. Yeah, yeah, he probably keeps my arteries clean simply by not liking butter and cheese, but I can’t help that I love the bad stuff!

So in a compromise, I decided to fill my pasta dish with lots of veggies…and toss it all in goat cheese, melting it on the stove so it was creamy and lush. (I didn't make a huge effort to get a pretty picture—it just looked too tasty!) If you’re watching calories or you just don’t do goat cheese, this would be perfectly delicious without it. A lovely ode to the last days of summer.

Ode to Summer Pasta

serves 2
The intent of this dish is to showcase the veggies; the pasta is kind of a backdrop. If you want more carbs or just a bigger portion, increase the pasta to 1/2 pound.

2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 medium zucchini, cut into matchstick-size pieces
1/3 pound angel hair or thin spaghetti
1 good-size ear of corn, kernels cut off and reserved
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 container crumbled goat cheese
Scant 1/4 cup pasta cooking water or chicken stock
8 to 10 leaves fresh basil, torn or chopped

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat (closer to medium). Add the onions, a pinch of salt, and a little pepper, and toss to combine. When onions begin to soften, add zucchini. Add a little bit of chicken stock or more oil if the skillet looks dry. At this point, drop the pasta, and everything should finish up about the same time. When zucchini just starts to soften, add corn kernels, and toss everything frequently until veggies are soft. Add tomatoes, and continue to cook, stirring, until tomatoes are wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Reduce heat to low.

Drain pasta, reserving some water if using, and add pasta to the skillet. Toss with the veggies, and add the reserved cooking water or chicken stock a bit at a time, and toss until everything is combined. Let sit for 30 seconds to allow the cheese to melt, and then thoroughly stir or toss to coat everything with the cheese. Add more water or stock, if needed. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, add basil, and serve.

Gone, Baby, Gone

Woe is me. I am single for the week. Jason has been gone since last week, actually, and I’ve become a lazy cook. Somehow when I’m just cooking for me, I’m a little less enthusiastic about jumping in the kitchen and firing up the stove. I miss sharing a meal with my guy at the end of the day…food, to me, is much more than sustenance. It’s a way to share my love and a way to reconnect with friends and family. Call me a sap, I don’t care. Food is part of me.

The one good thing about being solo for meals is that I can branch out and eat all the stuff that I love and Jason won’t touch. These things include olives, creamy sauces, marbled steaks, tofu, and cheese. Bless his soul, the boy won’t eat cheese. {Except in various processed versions like queso dip, pizza, cheez-its, and the like.} Jason’s eating preferences {aside from the aversion to tofu} probably keep me from having coronary artery disease at the tender age of 26. I mean, really…I am the girl who would sneak pats of butter and eat them—plain!—when I was young. I love the bad, greasy, creamy, cheesy, buttery stuff. Love it.

Anyway…I don’t have recipes to share, per se, but I do have some pictures of a few of my solo meals. First, a lovely, perfectly rare-medium-rare ribeye {pictured above}, marbled and oh-so tender. I have to have acid with fatty steaks for balance, so I just sliced an Alabama tomato, paired it with some baby greens, and doused it all in lemon juice and olive oil. And lots of salt.

Next, a meal Jason surely would have loved…I’ll make it again, J, promise! Craving something totally unfancy, I fried a corn tortilla to golden-crisp perfection, topped it with lettuce, spicy refried beans and ground beef that I cooked with cumin, chili powder, garlic, and salt. I took a cue from the nachos on Last Night's Dinner and made a cheese sauce with Monterey Jack and Cheddar. Oh, and I added some sour cream {but that came after the picture}. Yum!

More to come…

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hey, Nie Auction winners!!

Note to auction winners, please donate directly to the Nielson fund. (nieniefund@gmail.com is the email attached to the acct)


Nie Nie Auction Winners

A big congratulations to Roxanne, Lindsey, Debbie, Stacy, Shawnee, and "Anonymous*" who all bid generously for a copy of Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas! We originally had 5 to give, but since 6 people were generous, we wanted to spread the love even farther. Please donate to the Nielson PayPal fund and forward me the receipt.

With all six bids, our total raised for Christian and Nie is $145! Hooray! I'm so touched, and I can't wait to see how much the grand total is.

*Anonymous, please send contact info asap!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More love

(See below for more info on this post)

My wonderful mom, a foodie, cookbook writer extraordinaire, and generally all-around amazing woman, has lovingly donated FIVE signed copies of her delightful (and super-useful) cookbook, Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas! I think it seems like something Nie would like.

I will borrow Gabrielle's bidding protocol:

How this silent auction works:
1) Please place your bid by leaving a comment with your bid amount in the comments section. Check the comments to see the most recent High Bid. Bidding starts at $10. The FIVE highest bidders will get their cookbooks.

2) Following the close of the auction, I will contact the winners (make sure your comment bid includes an email address or link to your blog or some way to contact you). The winner will pay the amount of their winning bid to the Stephanie and Christian PayPal account. The winner will then forward the PayPal receipt to katiebrandon@gmail.com and I will send you your book!

3) Please bid in increments of whole dollars. The auction will end at Midnight CST on Sunday, August 31, 2008.

4) Thank you for participating!

For a Great Cause

It's funny how this blogging thing works...you become connected to perfect strangers, and there is an amazing bond between people who just like to talk to cyberspace and hope someone is listening (or, reading, I guess).

From one lovely blog, I found out about a woman named Stephanie Nielson who has another darling blog called the NieNie dialogues (how clever is she? her nickname is the last 3 letters of her 1st name and the 1st 3 letters of her last name). She and her husband have four beautiful children, and Nie would write about their sweet little life in Utah.

Last week, Nie and her husband, Christian, were in a terrible small-plane crash. The pilot was killed, but gracefully, Nie and Christian survived. They both suffered terrible 3rd-degree burns and are doing OK, but are going through the struggle of their lives.

Nie's blogger sister, Jane, has been keeping the rest of the blogging community abreast of the situation with daily updates. Through her wonderful sisterly love and kindness, Jane and her husband have taken in three of Nie's kids (the fourth is staying with another sister, I gather). The whole story has really touched me, even though (as I said above) these people are perfect strangers.

All this to say that today is officially (in the blog world) NieNie day. Design Mom came up with the idea to host a silent auction—a lovely way to help raise money for the long and difficult recovery the Nielsons will be going through. I'm amazed at the kindness that spread...165+ blogs are also hosting auctions! Everything from signed BYU football gear (the whole family are big BYU fans) to a signed Maroon5 guitar, to beautiful jewelry, edible goodies, art, and photography packages...

If you feel so inclined, head over to Design Mom, find something you might like to have, and maybe make a bid. I've got my eye on a few things, myself. You'll be getting something fabulous AND helping a perfect stranger who lights up the blogging world, and has touched a lot of other people with her story. It's totally random, yes, but that's how this blog thing works, and I have to say, I love it.

It's me...

...your long-lost blogging friend. I've had a kind-of off week, and no recipes for now, but I do have something to share. A few years ago, I read in the NY Times about cold-brewed iced coffee, and I was intrigued. I am an iced-coffee lover from way back (I have this memory of drinking an iced Barnie's coffee and running into some kids from school who thought it was so weird that I liked coffee. But I digress...)

I have been meaning to try to cold-brewed coffee (which is apparently a staple in New Orleans), but I just hadn't done it. Then yesterday I saw a post on the fabulous Smitten Kitchen about the process, and I was inspired. It's so simple, really. Here's the original recipe.

And now, I am a convert. There is no comparison between hot-brewed coffee chilled and poured over ice, and the rich, smooth, chocolatey stuff that is the result of cold-brewing. I really didn't think there'd be much difference, but trust me on this one. Try it, just once, and I have a feeling you'll be a believer, too. I'll be making this again (and again, and again...).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday - Tom Kha Gai my way
Monday - Spring greens with seared scallops, pancetta, croutons, and a poached egg
Tuesday - Chicken piccata, broccoli, salad
Wednesday - jason's out of town...so probably pasta
Thursday - ditto...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spice and Easy

What could be easier than mixing a bunch of dried spices, rubbing it on some chicken, and grilling it to perfection? It's the perfect summer supper. Spice rub mixtures are about as varied and different as the number of spices that exist, but when you find just the right one, you know it. Just pick spices that go together, adjust the amounts depending on your preference, and you've got your own blend. (This one is almost identical to what I put in my chili.)

I paired our chicken with a side dish my wonderful friend Maggie showed me a long time ago. When she came home after spending a college semester in Spain, she had our friend Lytle and me over for dinner, and she cooked us a dish she had eaten in Spain. Since then, this dish (I think it's served in tapas bars) has been one of my favorites. The mineral flavor of spinach and the creamy/nuttiness of the chick peas is a flawless combination. It's even great as a light lunch...

Smoky-Spicy Chicken
serves 2

This rub makes more than you will use, but it will keep a long time in the pantry.

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder*
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne

With a mallet or rolling pin, pound chicken lightly between two sheets of wax paper until the thickness is mostly even. In a small bowl, combine all the spices. Generously sprinkle some of mixture on first side of chicken, then use fingers to rub the mixture to cover completely. Flip and repeat on other side. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 30 minutes.

Preheat grill. Place chicken breasts on well-oiled grates, and cook for about 5 minutes per side, depending on thickness. When it feels firm but still springy, remove from grill. Let side a few minutes before serving.

*Ancho chile powder is my go-to chile powder. It's slightly sweet and smoky without tasting like smoke. It has more depth than regular chili powder. You can certainly substitute regular, but give ancho a try—you won't regret it.

Spinach & Chickpeas
serves 2
You can add in some chopped garlic if you like, but if you're feeling lazy (like I w
as tonight), it's fine to just toss it all in the skillet and let it go.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (10-ounce bag spinach)
3/4 (15-ounce) can chick peas, drained but not rinsed
kosher salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and chick peas, salt, and pepper. Cook until spinach is wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Serve.

(How pretty is the fire? I love grilling!)

The Omnivore's Hundred

Fellow food blogger Andrew at Very Good Taste came up with a super fun meme for food-loving people (such as me.) If you want to play, too...

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out (or italicize in my case since I can't figure out how to cross out things) any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile (I second Jennifer Hess's question: does Alligator count?)
6. Black Pudding (I'm pretty game to everything, but coagulated blood turns my stomach.)
7. Cheese fondue

8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese (not a cross-out, but maybe just a taste)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (thanks to dad's garden)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl

33. Salted lassi (I've had it unsalted, but salted sounds even yummier!)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly (do Jell-o shots count? What, I went to the #1 party school!)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat

42. Whole insects (maybe if they were teensy, cooked, and covered in lime juice and salt...)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more
46. Fugu (Not worth it)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (I haven't done the meal, just the Mac...)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV (thank you, Delerium Tremens)
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolin (yep, it's edible)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (This is iffy)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
(I've had them all!)
68. Haggis (I find offal...awful. Pardon the semi-pun.)
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (see 68)
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe

74. Gjetost, or brunost (yeah, it's as nasty as it looks)
75. Roadkill (seriously?)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (I have been to a 3-M place but didn't do the tasting menu. I was also 7, so...)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare (rabbit)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse (this is bordering on a cross-out, but i might eat it if i just had one taste)
90. Criollo chocolate (a fancy, extra-good kind of chocolate)
91. Spam
92. Soft-shell crab

93. Rose harissa (I've just had harissa, there was no rose in it...)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake (see 89)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


It's been one of those weeks where I just feel like we haven't had our fill of veggies. As I've said before, I never met a vegetable I didn't like, but sometimes it's just not the easiest (or, let's face it, tastiest) to eat a ton of good-for-you stuff in one meal. When I was in college, my quick remedy to this issue was to throw a bunch of seasonal veggies into a pot with pasta and cook them pretty much all at once. I finished it with salt, olive oil, and a handful of mozzarella cheese. I'd eat it for days. It was easy and tasty, albeit really plain.

So tonight I decided to take that idea and give it a little nudge in a more creative direction. I roasted the veggies, tossed them with cooked pasta, some tomato sauce, fresh basil, and a bit of cheese, and then baked it to bring it all together. I used Barilla Plus pasta (have you tried it?) it's got lots of fiber, protein, and even omega-3. Definitely better than regular pasta, and the texture is great, too.

Baked Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

serves 2 with leftovers
For the sauce, you can use plain canned tomato sauce or marinara

1 small bunch broccoli, about the size of 2 fists
2 yellow squash
3/4 pint grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/2 lb short-cut pasta (penne, macaroni, rigatoni...)
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
8-10 basil leaves, chopped
1 big clove garlic, chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450. Cut the broccoli and squash into bite-sized pieces, and place on a baking sheet. Add the tomatoes, and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until everything is tender and brown in spots.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in well-salted water until just under-done. Drain, and then add roasted vegetables, tomato sauce, basil, and garlic. Taste, and add salt and pepper to taste. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a small baking dish. Add about half of the pasta-veggie mixture, then top with 1/2 cup cheese. Add the remaining pasta-veggie mixture, then top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Raise oven temperature to broil; broil until the cheese is bubbling and brown in spots. Let cool 3 minutes before serving.

(the veggies looked great even before they were cooked!)