January 28, 2011

A great restaurant meal!

Lucky me got to spend 3 days in sunny San Diego for work, and with only two conference meals provided.  Both lunches, one hot and one a box lunch.  Good food, but nothing really spectacular.  The other meals we were responsible for, meaning we were able to choose some pretty nice places to eat (of course with future reparations of a certain dollar amount).  This meal was at a restaurant on Harbor Island called C level.  Interesting name, as it was right on the water with a SPECTACULAR view of San Diego city, including the USS Midway.

I ordered the lobster salad blt sandwich.  Really a good choice.  Chunks of lobster in a creamy sauce, topped with small, crisped pieces of bacon, lettuce & tomato.  The sandwich came with lobster bisque, which was of course super rich, but just enough of a portion that it wasn't overwhelming. 


January 23, 2011

This is why cholesterol medicine is made...

Saturday was a beautiful day.  After the morning fog burned off the sun gave us 70 degrees.  Wow!  We took the opportunity to do some grilling.  T-bone steaks, asparagus, and baked potatoes.  Yum.

Joe used McCormick Grill Mates 'Montreal Steak' seasoning for the rub.  We grilled up some mushrooms and onions, plus I had some leftover filling I used for stuffed mushrooms on Friday night that made a nice compliment to the steak.  The asparagus was steamed on the grill first, wrapped in tin foil with olive oil and salt & pepper, then placed on the grate for those nice grill marks.  The baked potatoes were cooked in the microwave then wrapped in tin foil and kept warm on the grill. One chicken breast was cooked, seasoned with McCormick chicken seasoning (for Jessica).  To round out the meal we opened a bottle of Monte Antico, from Toscana winery in Amador County.  Fabulous meal!  


January 17, 2011

Apparently everyone is not a fan....

...of a twist on an old family favorite: Tuna Noodle Casserole.  Made as a lasagna instead of casserole style with egg noodles.  The recipe was in the January 12th edition of the Sacramento Bee.  Using no boil noodles, tuna in oil, and evaporated milk, my family eschewed the recipe and told me it was NOT to be repeated.  Yeah, I agree.  So much so that I already threw the cut-out recipe away, so if you're interested you'll have to do an online search.  Sorry.


January 11, 2011

Ode to My Sister

Fear not your fretful Costco meal,
Last night's brie, I ate the wheel.
Whenever cooking me eludes,
I eat but junk, my gut protrudes.


January 10, 2011

I Cheated!

Okay, so we had a rotisserie chicken from Costco tonight, with mashed potatoes and gravy, plus mixed veggies.  Too easy, I know.  But I have to cut some material for the quilt class I'm taking this week, plus the new Reader's Digest came in the mail today.  Cooking is not on my list of priorities tonight!


January 9, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie....

Chicken pot pie is a great way to use left over chicken.  The other night I put a chicken in the crock pot, and have used the meat to make chicken enchiladas and chicken pot pie, plus there's enough left over to make chicken salad for lunch. 

Chicken Pot Pie
2 pie crusts (can be homemade or store bought.  I use pillsbury rolled pie crust)
1/4 chopped each, chopped celery, carrots, mushrooms, and onion
1 cup large chunks cooked chicken
2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups white sauce (recipe to follow)

Roll out one pie crust into a deep dish pie pan.  Layer chicken, potatoes, and vegetables into the crust. Pour white sauce over all ingredients.  Cover with the second pie crust.  Roll, flute, and pinch edges together.  Cut four small slits in the top crust.  Brush milk over the entire top crust.  Protect crust edges with tin foil, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

White sauce
Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large sauce pot.  Add 1/2 cup flour and stir until all the butter is incorporated (will be the consistency of small lumps of peas).  Let cook on med. heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add one can of chicken broth, whisking to smooth out the flour lumps.  Add another can of chicken broth, or milk, cooking on med. high heat until thickened.  Add a small touch (very small) of Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Helpful Hints 
This recipe can also be made with a single pie crust on top. 
Let the pot pie rest for 15 minutes when done, giving the sauce inside more time to thicken as it cools.
For a creamier white sauce, use one can of chicken broth and one cup of milk, instead of two cans of chicken broth (although if you do this you may need to add chicken flavored 'better than bouillon').
An immersion blender might be needed to get rid of all the lumps in the sauce.
Letting the pie crust sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes prior will make it easier to roll.
The amount of sauce needed is approximate.  We like our pot pie saucy.  If you prefer it drier use less sauce.


January 5, 2011

Menu planning and kitchen basics

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times.  "When you fail to plan you plan to fail".  Sometimes I need to be told something a thousand times, and other times I need to say it the same number of times.  Anyway! It seems that planning family meals 3 or 4 days out works best. Why not a week, you might ask? Well, certain fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs are not at their peak at a week, and sometimes I just like to order a pizza.  Although, I totally advocate going to the grocery store only once a week, but in reality it's more like every 5 or 6 days, which averages out to 5, maybe 6 times a month.  Grocery shopping can be frustrating (why do all the people have to shop on Friday?), time consuming, and expensive.  Planning my meals in advance helps save me from all those above-mentioned ills.  I try to plan meals around what I might already have on the menu, and put on the grocery list for next week what I think I'll make.  Having said that, I'll choose one or two meals a week that I need "special" ingredients for, and by that I mean stuff I normally don't have on hand, otherwise most of the meals I make come from what's in the pantry.

Great pantry basics:

low sodium chicken broth
canned mushrooms
white wine
balsamic vinegar
top ramen (you'd be surprised)
canned tomatoes & tomato paste
canned tuna
variety of pasta
canned beans

Of course the fresh ingredients you keep in the fridge should change as the seasons, incorporating farmer market goods whenever possible.

Tonight I put a whole chicken in the crockpot with aromatics, and tomorrow I'll take the meat off the bone.  Andrew wants chicken enchiladas on Friday, and the rest will be used Sunday for either chicken tortilla soup or chicken and dumplings.

Slow cooker chicken

1 whole chicken, washed, then covered with water in the crock pot.  Add large chunks of onion, celery, carrots, and 2 bay leaves.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook on low heat over night. 


January 4, 2011

Back to the same ole' same ole'

Wow, what a depressing title.  I guess I meant it more like ...and now I have to remember to plan for dinner....which for me means planning 4 days in advance.  Three weeks and two holidays can really leave a girl in a bind, ya know?

Following Marie's announcement of eating less meat...our dinner tonight was crock pot beef stew.

Cut into cubes a pound of chuck roast.  Dredge in seasoned flour and sear in hot oil until brown.  Put into the bottom of the crock pot.  De-glaze the bottom of the pan used to cook the meat with red wine, add chopped onions and cook until soft, 2 or 3 minutes. Layer on top of the meat in the crock pot.  Peel and chop into 1" cubes a large rutabaga.  Add to the crock pot.   Chop celery, carrots, and mushrooms (personal preference on the total) and add as the last layer in the crock pot.  Add enough liquid (beef broth or water, but the broth will add a lot of flavor so that's what I used) to cover all the layers, and set on high for 5 hours, turning to low for the last few hours.  Check about an hour before serving. If it's not thick enough make a past of flour and water, stirring until smooth, and add to the stew, letting it bubble until all the flour pieces are gone.

Serve with garlic bread (great sauce for dipping bread in) and a nice spizy Zin (it seems we always go to the Zin here!)


Christmas Dinner!

Yes, it's a little late, but in my defense, I was.....lazy?  Whatever it was that made me take so long, it was worth it because the picture looks wonderful.

Freshly steamed asparagus, canned cranberry sauce (of course it's sliced in rings), rosemary roasted red potatoes (with garlic and olive oil), sweet Hawaiin rolls, and stuffed pork roast.  Looks great, doesn't it?

Served with sparkling cider (for those under 21) and a nice Villa Toscano Old Vine Zin. 


January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's official: 2011 has arrived, and along with it comes a sense of renewal. Why else would we make resolutions? I don't anticipate difficulty in my resolution to eat less meat. There's an abundance of excellent vegetarian recipes to choose from (hello, risotto with butternut squash, leeks, and basil from December 2010's Bon Appetit!)--it's just a matter of getting organized.

S. is coming over for dinner tonight and we're going to make vegetarian burritos. We made them a few weeks ago, and they were delicious. Here's what you need, but of course you can make your own substitutions:
  • 1 Pkg whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 Can black beans
  • 1/2 Green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 Medium onion, sliced
  • 1/2 Cup pepper jack cheese, grated
  • 1 Medium tomato, diced
  • 1/4 Head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 2 Tbs cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • Sour cream to taste
  • Guacamole to taste
  • Hot sauce to taste
Heat the black beans in a pot on the stove. Sautee the bell pepper and onion in olive oil, until tender. Add drained black beans, bell pepper, and onion to prepared ingredients (vegetables and cheese), and then wrap in flour tortilla. Enjoy!

Here's a photo from when we prepared the dish a few weeks ago: