Stonewall Kitchen

Have you heard of Stonewall Kitchen?  They’re a local New England place, based in Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut.  They’re known for jams, jellies, sauces and other gourmet fare.  One of the places up in Maine offers cooking classes.  I bet you think I’m about to tell you that I’ve gone to one.  Nope.  Before I tell you who did attend one, a quick overview of the cooking hierarchy in my life.

My grandmother was the first cook in my life.  My dad was the second.  The third was actually a number of people- parents of my friends, aunts, uncles, other friends.  My mother always brought up the rear, so to speak, because she simply didn’t cook.

And when I say didn’t cook, I mean that she didn’t cook.  We had an instant hot water spout in our kitchen so that she didn’t have to boil water for tea.  When I went away to college, she had to call me to ask me how to use the oven.

At one point, after my grandmother died and everyone was home, my mother stood in the kitchen and cooked.  The entire family- all the cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and a few friends- stood around and watched.  One uncle even videotaped it because, as he put it, who knew when it would happen again?!

Mom took a gourmet cooking class at one point when I was in middle school.  She had a great Friday night and then never cooked again.  At least not until that day in my grandmother’s kitchen.

Since those days, my mother has become a more accomplished cook.  Which is not to say that she loves it but she does finally see the value in cooking for herself.  We’ll often play a version of the Food Network show, “Chopped” wherein she’ll call me and tell me what she has in the fridge and I will create a dish for her to make.  Good times.

Which brings me back to the first paragraph.  Recently, my mom and a good friend attended a cooking class at Stonewall Kitchen.  It was taught by Dave Martin, one of my favorite chefs from the Bravo Series Top Chef.  Mum reported that he was highly entertaining and that she learned a great deal.  Then she promptly handed me the recipes from the class.

She also bought me tasty gifties.

From top left across, that would be roasted apple grille sauce, pomegranate grille sauce, and dark chocolate sea salt caramel sauce.  They were all delicious.  But I’ll show you the best one first.  It went extremely well with some simple vanilla ice cream.

So damn good.  (Psst, don’t tell but I’m just sayin’ that maybe it was good straight from the jar on a spoon.  Not that I did that.  Or something.)

I used the pomegranate sauce on chicken.  First I seared the chicken (after seasoning with salt and pepper) in some olive oil.  I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Once they were nice and browned, I took them out and let them rest.  I threw some chopped onions into the pan and let them soften.

Then I added the chicken back in and topped it with the yummy pomegranate sauce.  I put it into the oven and let it bake until the chicken was cooked through.

I served it over some leftover mashed potatoes.  I had to stop myself from drinking all the sauce.  It was so. good.  Tangy and sweet and savory all at the same time.

Not the best plate for showing this off- the colors are all too similar.

I also used the apple sauce on pork chops, made in the same way.  I seared the pork.

I topped it with the apple grille sauce.

I let the pork cook (on the stove) until it was done.

It was very good.  I did prefer the pomegranate but the husband liked the apple best.

So, if you find yourself somewhere that sells Stonewall Kitchen or if someone gives you something from Stonewall Kitchen, don’t hesitate to use it!  So very delicious!!!

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

When I was a kid, that was one of my favorite books.  I loved the idea that it could rain food.  Of course, the book points out that it has a downside.  But I preferred to think about the good points- no hunger, favorite foods all around.  Naturally, it is impossible for me to think about, see or eat meatballs without thinking of the book.

I found this recipe for meatballs in Grandma’s recipe box.  You know the one.  She has a whole section of Chinese food which I think were given to her by a couple who stayed with her for a bit.  It’s a great story, one I promise to tell sometime soon.  Really.  Meanwhile, here’s a recipe for some tasty meatballs which did not come down from the sky.  They’re a bit Asian and nothing like the ones you put in a sub roll.  Serve with some rice and you’d be in for a tasty meal.

Grandma’s Chinese Meatballs

Ingredients

*I made some alterations but will print the recipe as Grandma wrote it and add my alterations as we go.

2 lbs hamburg

1/2 package Peppridge Farm Stuffing (soak in water and squeeze out)

1 onion, ground

1 clove garlic, mashed

1 egg

Sauce:

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 cup water

3 beef bouillon cubes

1 clove garlic mashed

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 cup sugar or molasses

1/2 cup heinz chili sauce

1/2 cup vinegar

Directions

I had some ground beef patties that I needed to use up and they were from Whole Foods and therefore contained nothing but beef.

I was also lazy (well documented all over this blog) so I threw in all the ingredients into the food processor.  I also added a little bit of red pepper I needed to- you guessed it- use up.

I gave it a good whirl and added the beef.

Another whirl or two and it was ready to go.

I threw it into a bowl and then added panko crumbs and a splash or two of milk.  (I didn’t have any stuffing mix).

I mixed it all with my hands, still the best kitchen tool I own.

Then I took the time to make them into little meatballs.  Such a time-consuming task.  But worth it in the end…

Once that was done,  I started working on the sauce.

Mix the soy, water, beef bouillon (I used better than bouillon), garlic, ginger, sugar, chili sauce and vinegar.  I had no chili sauce so instead I used 1/4 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup of raw cane sugar and 1/4 of a cup of rice vinegar instead.  (my thinking was that chili sauce is basically jazzy ketchup and that rice vinegar would offer some Asian flavors)  Pour the sauce into a pan and bring it to a boil.

Heat a saute pan large enough to hold your meatballs (my pan was crowded).  Cook them over medium high heat- brown them on all sides.

When your sauce has boiled, mix about a tablespoon of cornstarch with a few tablespoons of cold water.

Add this mixture to the sauce and stir well.  It will thicken the sauce and give it the silky texture that we’ve come to know and love in American Chinese food across the nation.  Let the sauce cook as it thickens, then pour it over your meatballs.  Let the whole mixture cook over medium heat until the meatballs are cooked through and coated in the sauce.

Serve it with rice and some sort of green.  We like broccoli.  Mmmmm.

Seriously, I’ve Told You, Do Not Doubt Grandma

As I’ve mentioned before, whenever I’ve doubted grandma’s recipes, she’s turned out to be right even when I’ve had doubts.  See here and here.

It happened again.  But before I get to that, a word or two about Grandma.

I recently asked my family to email me any food memories about our house and my grandparents.  There were a few consistent ones which I hope to post in the coming weeks.  One of the main ones was the abundance of food that was always on her table.  Another was the amount of love with which her food was seasoned.  Everyone agreed that, even if they couldn’t remember specific foods, they remembered how welcome she made everyone feel and how this made every meal delicious.

I will add that, apparently even from beyond the grave, she was always correct about her recipes.  I made her marinate for flank steak tonight (because the hippo was gracing my table and she loves to eat steak when she visits) and followed her cooking instructions.  I doubted her when I should not have- the steak didn’t seem done to me and yet, it was.  To perfection.

When will I learn?  Do not doubt grandma, she knows of what she speaks.  Always.

Marinade for Flank Steak

Ingredients

3 cloves of garlic, smashed

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 teaspoons oil

1 teaspoon ginger, grated

Directions

Combine all ingredients.

Pour over steak and let marinate for ten minutes (according to grandma.  I let mine marinate longer).

Put under the broiler for 3-4 minutes each side (for rare- if you prefer more well done, I’d say 4-5 minutes each side).

Let it rest for several minutes before slicing to let the juices redistribute.

When you do slice it, do it against the grain, on the bias and thinly.  It will be delicious.

We had ours with fresh peas and wok-fried potatoes.  Yum.

Summertime

It is hot here.  And I don’t mean, “gee, it’s warm, perhaps we should look into air conditioning”.  I mean HOT.  As in, if you don’t have A/C you’re being instructed to go to a “cooling center.”  It’s hot.

Between the heat and the baby weight I’m dying to shed, eating is not high on my priority list.  (Yes, it is hot enough that I’m losing my appetite.  Go figure.)  It also makes me feel like I’m back with Grandma for the summer, planning healthy salads and trips to the farmer’s market in order to get fresh produce and trying to resist the homemade pies.

What to cook?  Well, slap on K.D. Lang’s Invincible Summer (the ultimate summer CD) and hit the kitchen.  Briefly.  Or, crank up your grill and grill burner outside and hit your deck/patio/backyard. We’ll be making BBQ Chicken and Quinoa Salad.

No, seriously, stay with me, because even though you may dislike quinoa, this is worth it.  I swear.  In fact, I told my husband we were having this for dinner and he turned to me and said, “It would be ok with me if you stopped trying to like quinoa.  Really.”  Then he ate the salad and had to admit it was pretty damn good.

It was so good that I had it for lunch the next day.  And, for the record, I hate quinoa.  But, as referenced above, I keep trying to like it as it’s really good for you. I have found that I prefer the red kind but only had white in the house.  The salad was good enough that I didn’t even care.

This is some kick-ass salad.

BBQ Chicken and Quinoa Salad (based losely on this recipe from Iowa Girl Eats)

Ingredients

1-2 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)

1-2 ears of shucked corn on the cob (or 1 cup kernels)

1 cup quinoa

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup black beans (not dried)

1/4 cup BBQ sauce, plus more for chicken so maybe 1/2-3/4 cup in all

1/4 cup plain greek yogurt

1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Optional:

Cilantro (Yuck.  We all know how I feel about it)

1/2 avacado, sliced

Directions:

I suspect, after some googling, that you are able to grill raw corn.  If so, it saves you turning on your stove.  If you don’t want to, boil water to cook your corn.  At the same time, heat up your grill.  Season your chicken with salt and pepper and throw it on the grill to cook.  I actually baked mine the day before because I was Getting Things Accomplished.  You could use any cooked chicken you had around, baked, grilled, sauteed, whatever makes you happy.

Now, to the quinoa.  Put it into a mesh strainer and wash the hell out of it.  Seriously.  Rinse it for several minutes in cold water.  This will make it not bitter. 

Once it’s rinsed, heat up a saute or saucepan on the stove or your grill burner.  Toss in a little bit of olive oil and then the quinoa- you’re going to toast the heck out of it, something that also keeps it from being too bitter. 

Do this over medium to high heat, stirring so that it doesn’t burn.  Once it’s toasted enough- I’d say you can’t over-toast- a few minutes, add the chicken broth, lower the heat to medium-low and throw a cover on it.  Just leave it alone now.  It’ll do its thing.

Ok, throw your corn in the water or on the grill.  I chose to do both- cooked it in the water for a few minutes and then put it on the grill to roast a bit.

Once your chicken is cooked, cube it up and toss it with some BBQ sauce.  Pre-made sauce is all sugar but I love it.  Since I bought it from Whole Foods, does it count as healthy?

Grill your corn and let it cool.  Cut the kernels off of it.  Try not to snack on too many as you do.

Shred your cheese, slice your avacado, drain and rinse your beans and check on your quinoa.  I let mine cook quite a while and it made it fluffy which I liked better than “popp-y”, if that makes any sense.  There was still the texture I associate with quinoa but it was softer somehow.

Mix the BBQ sauce and yogurt together to make a surprisingly tasty, creamy dressing.


Now for the fun part.  Put it all together and eat.  Throw some quinoa on the plate and top with some of the beans, cheese, avocado, corn and beans.  Drizzle the dressing on top and try not to gobble the whole thing up in one gulp.

This photo does not do it justice but honestly, I was too eager to eat to take any more.  The qunioa soaks up the dressing, the corn pops and the cheese, beans and avocado are all creamy and filling.  The hardiness of the chicken and the sweetness of the BBQ sauce make it the perfect combination.  I’m telling you, it’s been a day and I’m already thinking about making it for dinner again tonight.  Mmmmm.

Leftovers, Passover Style (or, how to build a recipe)

One of the things I most admire about professional chefs is their ability to know what flavors will work well together.  Like on Chopped, for example.  A recent episode featured ground lamb, Stilton cheese, eggplant and birch syrup.  Now, if you gave me those, I’d have an idea that lamb and eggplant might go together since they’re both featured in middle eastern cuisine.  And I know that Stilton is like blue cheese so it’s stinky and powerful.  But birch syrup?  No idea about that one. Put them all together in one cohesive plate?  No way!

But if you’re a professional and/or experienced chef, then you know that the sweetness of the birch syrup (which is apparently like maple but “with more pine and wintergreen notes”, according to Aaron Sanchez) will pair nicely with the savory cheese.  You would also know that ground lamb will make a good meatball, particularly if you cook it in something like red wine in order to keep it moist.  You’d know that eggplant needs to be seasoned just so and that to put it all together you definitely need a starch.

I can not claim to be a professional chef but over the years, I have been able to learn what goes together well, partly from eating at restaurants, partly from reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows and partly from experimenting.  I have a sense of how to build a sauce, how to add flavor, how to fix mistakes (too much salt?  add a potato to absorb it) and how to re-purpose leftovers.  Cooked chicken goes well into soup, casseroles, tossed with pasta or with salad.  Lemon, garlic and rosemary are good flavors for chicken.  Apple cider and apple cider vinegar go well with pork.  Bacon makes everything better.

As a result, when I needed to use up leftovers from the big Passover meal, I was able to combine them in a way that made sense, was delicious and was pretty healthy, as well.  I’ll try to talk you through my thought process so you can see how I, a home cook, made it happen.

I had lots of peppers left over since I had intended to make a salad but didn’t.  (Hippo, I am so sorry but this post will have peppers as a main ingredient (and some zucchini as well) and I know how you feel about those.  You could always use cabbage leaves or Portobellos or another vessel.)

I also had leftover roasted balsamic veggies, cooked chicken and matzo. When I lived in Israel, we’d often make stuffed peppers with rice and vegetables.  I’ve also made and have eaten stuffed cabbage as well so I knew that I could chop the chicken and veggies and use those as part of the stuffing.  Crumbled matzo could be substituted for the starch element (usually rice).  I would just need some sort of binder like cheese or egg, to help hold the mixture together.  I peeked into the fridge and, lo and behold, I had some leftover ricotta that needed to be used. I also found some parmesan cheese that could be melted on top.

Thus, a dish was born.

I give you stuffed peppers, passover style.

Stuffed Peppers

Bell peppers (one or two for each person, depends on how hungry you are)

Some sort of protein, cooked: chicken, pork, beef

Some sort of vegetable mixture: mine was a mix of roasted onions, summer squash, tomatoes, garlic and zucchini.

Some sort of starch: rice or couscous would be good; for passover I used matzo

Some sort of binder: creamy cheese like ricotta or an egg or two

Salt, Pepper, other spices to taste, maybe a little cheese for the top

Directions:

Wash your peppers and cut off the tops.  Scrape out the seeds and ribs.

I sliced just a little bit off the bottom so that they’d stand up but you must be careful not to slice so much that you make a hole- your filling will leak out if you do.

Place them into a steamer basket and steam them over boiling water for a few minutes, just until they start to soften a little.  Mine took maybe 5-8 minutes.  They’ll be going into the oven later so don’t worry about actually cooking them.

Meanwhile, chop your vegetables and your protein into small (minced even!) pieces.

Veggies roasted but not yet chopped

In a bowl, mix the veggies, protein and starch (in this case, chopped chicken, crumbled matzo and chopped roasted veggies).

Add your binder- eggs and/or cheese- and mix well. I used ricotta and an egg.

Season with salt and pepper and whatever else you like (go italian with oregano and basil or try something more middle eastern like cumin and turmeric).  Place your peppers in a baking pan and set your oven to 375.

Stuff each pepper with the mixture, topping with cheese if you so desire (I almost always desire cheese).

Bake at 375 until heated through and the cheese on top is melted and lovely.  About 15 minutes for me.

 

Quick

Y’know, it’s not that impressive that I’m “cooking” while I’m adjusting to having two small kiddos.  Mainly because my “cooking” has been a lot of thrown together salads.  Taco salad for one, and this improvised chef’s/cobb salad for another. I’ve found, if I add enough “stuff” the husband is ok with salad for dinner.

For more yummy salad ideas, see this post over at The Hungry Hippo.  As she points out, salad is quick, easy and uses up all kinds of odds and ends from the refrigerator.  Plus, you know, healthy.

Not a bad idea for me since I go back to work in about three weeks and my maternity clothes are too big, while my regular clothes are too small. I’m pretty sure I won’t be taken seriously as a professional if I show up to work in sweats and yoga pants (my current uniform).

Perhaps if I bring the baby, he’ll be enough of a distractor that no one will notice?  Or does that also put my professionalism into question?

love the little sleep smiles.

And to be fair, here’s the lovely toddler, with her Daddy, mesmerized by her current favorite TV show.  She’s a bit obsessed.

in her hand is a little LED piggy for your keychain. she's also obsessed with this.

Cute kids, I think, and so it’s easy to see why I’m not cooking as often!  They’re awfully fun.

Pioneering

Well, hello there again!  Come on in, grab a seat.  Just move that basket of laundry aside (It’s clean, I promise), and, oh, wait, don’t sit on the crayons, let me move those.  Would you like something to drink?  I have….. milk, water and juice.  Hmm.  Apparently we have no wine or beer.  Anyway, would you like a snack?  I have, um, pretzels, snap-pea crisps and, um, baby yogurt.  Hmmm.  Apparently we don’t have much food.  Well, let’s chat about life.  What’s been going on with me?  Um….  actually, nothing.  Considering how much “free” time I have, it’s surprising how little I get done.  Mostly I spend time with my two kids- one is at daycare most days- and do laundry.  Lots of laundry.  Loads of laundry, if you will.

Sometimes I do watch television, though.  Mostly Food TV, Big Bang Theory re-runs on TBS and, sadly, various shows on Bravo (Millionaire Matchmaker and Tabatha Takes Over have sucked me in, hardcore.).  I recently got to watch an episode of The Pioneer Woman.  Now, I’ve been reading the blog for years and I love her recipes, her photographs and her story of falling in love with her husband (she was a city girl who fell in love with a cowboy and who moved to the middle of nowhere to live with him on a ranch.  She has four children and her life is magical- at least the public face of it.  Anytime I’m fed-up with my life, I click on her blog and daydream about moving somewhere isolated where I can simply spend time with my children and cook.  Then I return to reality.).  But I didn’t love her show.  She comes across differently in her writing than she does on television. Which is not a criticism, exactly, since who knows what it’s like to be on television?  I’d probably come across really differently too.

Anyway, I ended up making two recipes from that show and, who’s surprised, not only am I not the next iron chef, I am also not the pioneer woman.  The soup came out well- I’ll link to both her recipe and give you my take on it below- but the pots de creme did not work for me.  I followed her recipe exactly but for whatever reason, it didn’t set.  This is one of my continual kitchen issues.  Puddings just don’t set for me.  I did manage to fix it by cooking it in a water bath for a few minutes.  It ended up a bit like creme brulee- the top got a bit harder (read: slightly burnt) but the inside was silky smooth.

I may not be the pioneer woman, but I can pretend, right?

The Pioneer Woman’s Corn Chowder & Pots De Creme

Failure first:

The link to her Pot De Creme here.

I followed it exactly but used vanilla rather than grand marnier.  I don’t actually like chocolate and orange together.  As I said, they didn’t set but I fixed that with a bit of a bake in the oven.

Whipped cream will cover a multitude of sins.

Notice the “creme brulee” top.

Link to The Pioneer Woman’s Corn and Cheese Chowder here.

I actually followed her recipe pretty closely but I will admit, I did not measure anything.

I chopped the veggies.

Meanwhile, I cooked the onions in butter. I let mine get a bit darker than recommended.

I chopped the bacon (it’s easier to chop if it’s frozen and I tend to keep bacon in the freezer so that I always have some on hand- everything is better with bacon.) and added it to the onions.

Once the bacon and onions have cooked, add the chopped veggies.

Let those cook a bit as well.  Then add the corn.  I used frozen, the Pioneer Woman used fresh.

Sprinkle the flour over the veggies.

Stir and let the flour cook for a minute or two.  Then add the broth.

As it cooks, it will get thicker and creamy.  Add the milk or half and half or cream or whatever.

After that simmers for about fifteen minutes, add the cheese and let it all melt.

Mmmm.  So good.  The husband loved it (it has bacon) and he’s not generally a soup guy.

I may not be the Pioneer Woman but at least I can pretend sometimes.

Two Under Two (or What We’re Eating Now That I Have No Time)

I am cooking, I promise.  I even tried a brand-spanking-new recipe last week.  Of course, I didn’t love it.  But I tried it.

It does make me wonder how my grandmother managed to do it.  She had three kids within four years of each other and I have no idea how she got dinner on the table every night- no microwave, no take-out, no heat-and-serve food.  I know how she got dinner on the table every night when I was a kid- because I was there and saw it- but she wasn’t working then- Oh, did I not mention that she also worked in the store with my grandfather?  I do know that when I was a child, she’d start cooking dinner around 4pm, after picking me up from school and giving me a snack, while asking about my day.  I realized this afternoon that I’ve modeled myself after her- we get home from daycare pick-up around 4pm and I start cooking around then as well.

I also know that my grandmother’s children used to grade her meals.  Yes, with letter grades.  I found this charming when I was younger and now I think it would just piss me off to no end.  I mean, I get annoyed now if my husband doesn’t like what I make.  These days my feeling is something along the lines of, “there’s food in front of you.  be grateful.”

So what are we eating?  Well, really nothing that would garner an “A+”.  We’re eating things that are simple to make and that don’t take up a ton of time.  I’m also trying to be on the more healthy side so am trying hard not to make pasta every night. Some nights it works, other nights we’re eating eggs.  What can I say?  I’m adjusting. But, to honor family tradition, I’ll add some letter grades to what I’m about to share.

Without further ado, here’s what we’ve been eating:

On Valentine’s Day, I made Lady Gouda’s Lovebirds and Alton Brown’s Stovetop Mac and Cheese (Final Grade: A).

Last week we had Taco Salad (Final Grade: A) and we had homemade Chinese Food.  Normally, I avoid frozen, heat-and-eat dinners but I bought spring rolls and dumplings at Whole Foods, thinking perhaps they’d be marginally better than the regular grocery store stuff.  I made the fried rice.  The results?  The rice was good.  The frozen stuff, not so much.  (Final Grade: B)

Last night we had BLT salads (Romaine lettuce with bacon, tomatoes and homemade croutons- really easy, chop up some bread, toss it in a bit of melted butter and some salt and then toast in under the broiler for a few minutes until golden and toasty) with ranch dressing.  (Final Grade: A).

I got my latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated a few weeks ago and decided I wanted to try the Chicken Adobo recipe in it.  I managed to photograph it so I’ll share but we weren’t that thrilled with it.  Not sure if I made it wrong or if it just wasn’t what we wanted but the final grade for that one was a B.  I may not make it again.  But you try it and let me know what you think….

Cook’s Illustrated Chicken Adobo

Ingredients

8 bone-in chicken thighs

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk

3/4 cup cider vinegar

8 garlic cloves, peeled

4 bay leaves

2 teaspoons pepper

1 scallion, sliced thin

Directions

Toss the chicken in a bowl with the soy sauce.  Let it marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.  When you’re ready to cook, remove the chicken from the soy sauce (but save the soy sauce, don’t get rid of it!) and place it, skin side down, into a room temperature skillet (non-stick is good) large enough to hold the chicken.  If you don’t have one large enough, do it in batches or two different pans.  Or make less.  You decide.  Put the pan over medium-heat on the stove and cook for about 7-10 minutes, or until the chicken is browned.

Chicken, skin side down, in skillet.

Meanwhile, add the coconut milk, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and pepper to the soy sauce you saved and whisk it together.

Soy sauce with garlic.

 

soy with coconut, vinegar and garlic

When the chicken is brown, remove it from the skillet and put on a plate.  Pour out the fat that has collected in the skillet (don’t save) and return the chicken to the pan, again, skin side down.  Add the coconut and soy mixture and bring it to a boil.  Once it has boiled, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about twenty minutes.  Do not cover.

Chicken, returned and waiting to boil.

After 20 minutes, flip the chicken so that it is skin side up and cook for about 15 minutes.  If you’re into it, you can cook it until the internal temperature is 175 F.

Chicken, flipped and cooking.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the skillet and cover it loosely with foil.  Don’t use the same plate as before as you had raw chicken on that one and you don’t want to mix raw and cooked chicken.  Yuck.  Remove the bay leaves from the sauce in the skillet and turn the heat back up to medium-high.  Cook the sauce until it thickens, about 5-7 minutes.

Pour this over the chicken and serve topped with the chopped scallion.

We served ours over rice with broccoli on the side.  It wasn’t bad, just… not what we wanted.  The husband hates eating bone-in, skin-on chicken because he doesn’t like the work involved and doesn’t eat the skin.  I’m not sure this recipe would work with boneless-skinless chicken but I suppose I could try.  It was a sort of soy-y, vinegar-y taste, not bad but a bit plain.  A good hearty meal, though, that was pretty inexpensive.

Tonight we’re having pizza and tomorrow we’ll be having club sandwiches and maybe soup.  My big fancy meal will be Friday night- Chicken Picatta.  If it’s good, I’ll report back. Meanwhile, I also managed to make some pumpkin bread this week to share with a dear friend who came to visit with her beautiful 9-week old daughter.  It was delicious and perhaps the best thing I’ve made all week.

 

Easing Back Into It

Well, hello.  I’m here.  Suddenly the mother of two under two and that’s sort of blowing my mind.  I’m not sure when I got old enough to be the mother of two children but, there you go.  My husband and I just looked at each other a few nights ago and said, “WTF?!  Weren’t we just at <insert name of favorite bar here> getting drunk?  Wasn’t that like, yesterday?”

Nope.  It was 12 years ago.  Yikes.

At any rate, I am now officially on maternity leave and am attempting to cook dinners again.  I’m easing my way back into it, doing some easy things while I adjust to the new (non) sleep schedule (it’s ironic but my almost two year old is having more sleep difficulty than my newborn.  Go figure.) and try to get to know the new man in my life.  So far, he’s pretty mellow and my daughter seems to like him.  I’m crossing my fingers that it will continue that way.

So, in honor of easing in, I give you two recipes.  Well, to be fair, I’ll give you one recipe that can then be used as leftovers to create another.  No “how-to” photos, just an end product.  Sorry about that.  Haven’t quite mastered cooking dinner while photographing and watching the newborn and almost two year old.  I’ll get there.  Maybe.

Easy Taco Salad

Ingredients

Romaine lettuce (not totally nutritious but has a good crunch and is marginally better than iceberg.  Marginally.)

1 lb ground meat (I used chicken, you could use turkey or beef)

1 packet taco seasoning (ok, full disclosure, I hate commercial spice mixes and would usually make my own- cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, chili powder, etc- but I was trying for easy.  Bring on the MSG.)

Shredded cheese

chopped tomatoes

1 red pepper, chopped

1/2 avocado, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

Handful tortilla chips, crunched up into small pieces

Directions

In a skillet over medium heat with a bit of oil, brown your onion.  Add 1/2 the red pepper and the meat.  Cook until browned and then add the taco seasoning and mix well.  If it’s too thick, you can add a touch of water but not too much- you don’t want it to make a sauce, you want it to coat the meat.  Set aside to cool a bit.

On a plate, spread out your lettuce (I chop mine).  Sprinkle the tomatoes, the other 1/2 of the pepper, the avocado and any other veggies that appeal over the lettuce.  Top with the meat and the cheese.  Sprinkle some tortilla chips on top.

See?  Wasn’t that easy?  I liked mine with a bit of ranch dressing.  It even got a thumbs up from the husband who doesn’t mind salad but doesn’t love it either.

Bonus recipe:

Leftover nachos

Ingredients

Leftovers from Taco Salad

Beans (optional)

Tortilla Chips

Directions

Spread a handful of tortilla chips on a plate (best if it’s a plate that can go in the microwave or oven).  Top with the leftovers from the taco salad- meat, veggies, cheese.  If you want to be healthy, you can throw in a few spoonfuls of black or kidney beans.  I was too hungry to bother.  Pop into the microwave for a few minutes, until the cheese is melted.  I like to use the oven which yields more crispy chips but in a hurry (because was I starving and people were crying), the microwave will do.  Dig in, with one hand, while the other holds a baby.

And, a bonus photo:

See? Two under two. How did this happen?!?

First Kitchen Fail of the Year

Hey There.

No baby yet.

Which is ok.  I’ve been saying I need to get to tonight (I had a big week of meetings and other work obligations, wanted to be able to teach yesterday and to go to the theater with my mother- we saw American Idiot, about which I have many opinions but the basic one is, fantastic production!- and to be able to get some work done today, along with domestic things (laundry! food shopping!  cooking!)) as well as go to the theater again- this time, God of Carnage– and have dinner with my mother for her birthday).  If I can get to tonight, I’d also like to get some time in the upcoming week to get even more work done but, hey, I’ll consider it bonus time.

Of course, I’m due on Super Bowl Sunday- does this mean we have to name him after Tom Brady?

No, of course it doesn’t.  We have actually picked a name but we’re keeping pretty quiet about it until he’s here, just in case we change our minds.

At any rate, I thought I’d finally bring you a new post.  It was my first Kitchen Fail of 2012.  I actually made this on the 2nd of January, just to be sure to get it in early.  I was looking for something light and healthy, quick and easy, but not boring.

It passed on the first four but not the last one.  It was kind of bland.  I spiced it up a bit with some soy sauce but I’m not sure what it really needed.  Maybe some green onion (which I didn’t have so, to be fair, it may have been better if made correctly!).  I’m also not sure where I first read about this but I just googled it and came up with a dozen different sites with it so, you can always do that as well.

Chinese Egg and Tomato

I made the larger size since the husband adores eggs.  You can adjust for portion size- I’d say 2 eggs to 1 tomato ratio for each person.  Also, not a visually appealing dish, as far as I can tell (based on my search).  So maybe good quick-comfort-food but not dinner-for-the-queen-food.

Ingredients

2-4 eggs

1-2 tomatoes

pinch of salt

pinch of sugar

1/2 onion, minced or several scallions, chopped

Oil (I used sesame but I think peanut might have added a nice flavor)

Directions:

In a bowl, crack the eggs and beat them with the salt until they’re well combined.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the eggs and let them set.

Don’t let them cook all the way through and really, don’t let them brown.  Like I did.  Set them aside.

Meanwhile, chop your tomatoes into quarters.

Chop your onion as well.

In the same pan you used for the eggs, over medium high heat, add a bit more oil (if needed) and the onions.  Let them get soft and then add the tomatoes.

Cook for 2-4 minutes, letting the tomatoes release their juice and get a little bit brown and soft.  Sprinkle with a little bit of sugar, just to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes.

Add the eggs back in and mix around so that they cook throughly.

I served mine over rice and with a bit of soy sauce (I am in the camp that soy sauce makes everything better).  As I said, not visually appealing and not that exciting but it was quick, easy, filling and healthy.  Who knew they used tomatoes in China?  Not me- I always associate tomatoes with Mediterranean cuisine.

If you try it, let me know if you jazz it up and how- I have the feeling that this could be a spectacular dish with the right additions.

I’ll see you after I have a baby- I’m pretty sure I won’t have time to post until then.  Happy eating!