Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Spaghetti Squash

I used to grow spaghetti squash, but it's been probably 20 years since I've had it. Tonight was a fun reminder.

Stay tuned for how I prepped it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Steak Pizzaiola

Tonight was random "use what's in the fridge night." It turned out pretty well. I started with a giant chunk of beef brisket. There was a killer sale at the grocery last week--don't buy meat on "sale." It may not be the best thing you do for yourself. Well, this brisket was on it's last leg and I thought I'd better use it up..and quick.

So, I gave it the Gucci Treatment. Infused with some garlic and thyme. It worked out ok. This particularly cut of beef could stand to use more tenderizing; but I do feel the flavor was improved.

As the beef was taking a turn in the pan, I made the pizzaiola sauce; tomato sauce with oregano.

Pizzaiola Sauce

1 TB olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz can diced tomato
1 TB dried oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt & Pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil until shimmering, add the garlic and immediately add the tomatoes and the juice after, so the garlic doesn't burn. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes until thickened. To make the sauce a little more saucy and slightly less chunky, take a potato masher and 'mash' the tomatoes into a thick sauce.

Serve over the beef.

This was better than I thought it would be. The beef wasn't that great texture-wise, but the flavors worked well; the salty, herb-y accents of the Gucci-fied beef and the acid-y, spicy tomato sauce. I would do this again, especially if I had a less than perfect piece of meat.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Turkey Day Countdown


I've been stuck and couldn't figure out my theme for this year's Thanksgiving and Tasting Menu...FINALLY GOT IT...But I'm not telling yet.

If you remember from last year (here & here), Thanksgiving had several hours of tastings before the main event! So far I'm only repeating on of the tasting options, but I really liked it and haven't made it since!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Monday and Tuesday

Monday night's dinner was the Pasta Frittata that I made a few months ago. Very tasty, very satisfying. This was the budget version. The original calls for marscapone and creme fraiche. I used cream cheese and sour cream. Very good. I also added one small green bell pepper diced. This will come as a shock to those of you who know me, but I even considered...thought about...but didn't...add a small bit of broccoli. I can't stand it, but I know it's good for me...I thought this might be a good way to use it. Maybe next time...or I'll still not use broccoli and try another green veg.

On Tuesday morning, I got up and threw together the Braised Brisket recipe and put everything in the slow cooker. When J-lo left for work, he turned it to low. When I got home last night, perfectly cooked. One hour before dinner, I added some quartered white potatoes. When they were tender, served up! Very meaty. Very old skool meat and taters dinner. Nice to use the slow cooker!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cinnamon for your chicken...

Cinnamon Chicken and couscous with roasted veg

Last week I made this Cinnamon Chicken. Interesting. I'd suggest a few changes to the recipe, to suit my tastes.

The original recipe is here at Anne's Food.

To start:
*I let my chicken sit overnight with the marinade. Not a problem, will do that again.
*I used chicken breasts as that's what the store had. OK. I might not do that again. The breasts were meaty and easy to eat, but a bit dry.
*I made double the marinade, I had twice as much chicken, no problem.
*I would do the actual amount of salt next time...I think I only did teaspoons. More salt would be better.
*I had the fennel. I won't use it for this recipe again. The flavor just didn't work for chicken, for me. Maybe if I did this with pork, it might work for me.
*And more rosemary. If I would have used more, but my plant is getting small.

Not too bad. The cinnamon was interesting. I would like to make a bit of a sauce to accompany the chicken. The couscous was nice. I made a roasted garlic blend from a box and did roasted vegetables: sweet potatoes, red onions and cherry tomatoes...seasoned with salt and pepper, little olive oil. This was a good side dish. Again, a little dry, so coming up with a sauce will help that all out. Oh, and toasted pine nuts.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Seasonal Ice Cream

I'm in Heaven!
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak.
And I seem to find the happiness I seek,
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek.

OK, so I didn't really dance with my ice cream, but I want to...

Spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream!

1/3 cup sugar
1 cup 1/2 & 1/2
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2-3/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp pumpkin pie spices
1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend together and freeze in your ice cream maker. Enjoy. It's pumpkin pie in ice cream form and I'm in love.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chicken in Indian Butter Sauce

Tonight I made Butter Chicken.

Indian Butter Chicken is very easy to make and very satisfying.

The sauce going for a swirl with cream.

Served on rice I flavored with garam masala spices. Delish!

The recipe for the sauce makes three cups. For tonight, for the two of us, I used 1 1/2 cups of the sauce. The remainder went into the deep freeze for a later date. I suspect I can take it out of the freezer the night before/morning of, let it thaw and heat over a very low simmer before adding the chicken.

Hot Packets! 2

It's been a year since I made the Tex-Mex Hot Packets. Those were good. This variation was alright. I tried to make these in a way that would mimic a favorite sandwich.

Tonight's Hot Packet variation is: Chicken & Cheddar with apples and red onions.

At the Footnotes Cafe in Olsson's Bookstore downtown, you can order an Edgar Allen Poe...Chicken (or turkey--can't remember) with cheddar, apples and red onions on a crusty baguette. YUM. This was alright...but nothing spectacular. I don't care for the apples...once cooked, they loose too much structure. The poppin' fresh dough doesn't have much structure either. Too buttery and flaky. Good try this time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pee Cans / Pea Kahns

Simple Dessert from Tuesday Night!

Pecan Pie Tart
adapted from

1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick, softened)
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/8 tsp salt (pinch)
1 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 TB butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt (pinch)
2 eggs
1 cup broken pecans
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale yellow. Mix vanilla, salt and egg together until well blended.

2. Stir in flour. Mix well.

3. Press dough in the bottom (& sides) of a 9 1/2 inch tart pan. Flour fingers if dough is too sticky.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until edges are browned.

5. Combine brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, salt and butter. Beat well. Add eggs and combine.

6. Stir in pecans.

7. Place pre-baked crust/tart pan into a rimmed baking sheet to collect spills if they happen. Pour sugar/egg/pecan mixture over crust. Sprinkle with the mini chocolate chips.

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until set. Loosen edges from side of pan while warm. Cool completely. Cut into serving pieces. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.

YUM! This was a great, fast dessert. The crust had some great flavor and thrown together in just a few minutes. The filling was sweet, but not coyingly sweet. The only thing missing was a little creme sauce or scoop of ice cream. Next time I will get some bourbon in there somewhere...Ohhh, bourbon ice cream? Oh that would nice!!!!

Going Green

As I mentioned in the previous post, I had grand plans for my Monday evening. They were somewhat, slightly thwarted by my over zealous excitment to pre-make dinner for Tuesday evening. CB&SK were coming over for games and dinner on Tuesday and I wanted something super easy to serve and have been keeping an eye on a recipe over at the Well Fed Network.

The most exciting thing about the Chile Verde recipe had to be using tomatillos. I've never cooked with them. I've grown them when I was a kid in the country, but I've never cooked with them or eaten them in a homemade recipe. We had them in manufactured salsa, but again, not homemade.

What fun was in store! (recipe at the end)

Get your tomatillos. Peel the papery skin off and rinse them.

You'll need some Poblano Chilis and Jalapenos. 6 Poblanos and 3 Jalapenos. Rinse those guys as well.

The inside of the tomatillo.

For this recipe, we toss the tomatillos under the broiler to get all golden, scorched and delicious. They have lots of liquid in them that releases when heated.

The peppers are also roasted. Usually I roast my peppers on the stove top. Since I was roasting the tomatillos, I just did them the same way. Turn them about half way through.

Everything's ready. And that's pretty much it. The only thing not shown is some broth. I used three pounds of boneless pork loin chops, trimmed and cubed. 2 onions, diced. Some garlic--which I roasted with the tomatillos and peppers--I used less than the recipe called for, because I'm an idiot--5 cloves intead of a full head. The recipe called for whole cumin seeds toasted and ground. I was lazy and used the ground cumin on my spice rack. The other jar of seasoning, I picked that up in Puerto Rico. Salt, Pepper, Garlic and a few other mild flavors. I like it and have used it in several dishes since I've picked it up. A nice all purpose season salt.

The Chile after cooking for awhile. The recipe makes about a full quart of chile. Which was enough for four grown men to have hearty servings and a few smaller servings left over for lunch. I made the chile on Monday night and reheated it and served on Tuesday. Let those flavors do their magic!

The final dish. I served the chile over rice and topped with a dallop of sour cream and chopped cilantro. It was delicious. I had a second, smaller helping. The peppers bring a heat, but it's pretty mild and slightly sweet. The pork was tender and absorbed many of the flavors.

Chile Verde
(recipe from Well Fed Network)

3 pounds of pork shoulder or sirloin of the same - Cube it
5 or 6 poblano chilies
2 small yellow or 1 large white or whatever - Dice it
1 head of firm & happy garlic - Smoosh and mince
1 heaping tsp of good salt (or none, you make the call)
2 tsp toasted cumin seeds, then grind to powder
2+ fresh, hot chile peppers - You decide
enough chicken stock, mebbe a quart or so
1.5 to 2 pounds fresh tomatillos
cilantro to finish, if you like

Before you do anything you need to broil the tomatillos until they’re pretty. Remove the husks and rinse before you broil, foo.

While they’re doing their thing, fire roast the peppers. Once they’re all black and happy, toss in to paper bag for 10 minutes. Scrape off the skin, do not do this with water. No washy away tasties, get it? Cut stem and remove seeds. Dice ‘em up.

Whiz the roasted tomatillos just a bit in a blender or food processor, all mooshy.

I’m going to make this REALLY easy on you. Get a huge pot and throw everything in there at once and cook it. Simmer until its done or your ready to eat, this is 2, 3+ hours.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ground Cherries

2lbs of tomatillos. For Tuesday night's dinner.

I haven't cooked in a week. I have been a little busy with evening lecture/discussion, work event, wedding, laying like bibb lettuce, moving furniture, etc. So I thought tonight I'd make up for lost time and make two dinners...tonight's and tomorrow's. Well tomorrow's dinner took a bit more time than I expected...and since it needed several hours, I wanted to start it first. And it took a little too long, so I didn't actually get to make tonight's dinner. Bummer. So we had a box of mac n' was horrible! Awful! Not again.

So anyway...tomatillos...aka ground cherries. They are of the tomato family. These little fruits come wrapped in a papery jacket that you need to remove. FUN. I roasted these little suckers under the broiler for 20-30 minutes until charred.

Stay tuned for dinner. And I apologize for taking a week break. I have all the meals planned for this week, so I should have several updates.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Book quotes

I wanted to share some excepts of Barbara Kingsolver's newest book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Here you go:

Oh, America the Beautiful, where are our standards? How did Europeans, ancestral cultures to most of us, whos average crowded country would fit inside one of our national parks, somehow hoard the market share of Beautiful? They'll run overa McDonald's with a bulldozer because it threatens the way of life of their fine cheeses. They have international trade hissy fits when we try to slip modified genes into their bread. They get their favorite ham from Parma, Italy, along with a farvorite cheese, knowing these foods are linked in an ancient connection the farmers have crafted between the milk and the hogs. Oh. We were thinking Parmesan meant, not "coming from Parma," but "coming from a green shaker can." Did they kick us out for bad taste?
Chapter 1, page 4
Scott's Note: Interspersed in the chapters are small articles written by Barbara's husband Steve, as well as short essays, menus and recipes by their daughter, Camille. Here is an article by Steve:

If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That's not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast.
Chapter 1, page 5
Steven L. Hopp
Scott's Note: There was a point when I got the giggles early on. Somethign along the lines of explaining where certain foods come from. And though it might be funny to think some folks don't know that a potato comes from underground, Barbara makes a great point:

We can't know what we haven't been taught.
Chapter 1, page 12
Scott's Note: One point I guess I never realized was how much of the U.S. foodstuffs come from just a few varieties of corn, soybean and wheat. I'm certainly hopeful that the scientests are regularly watching to make sure this doesn't happy, this is a scary thought:

History has regularly proven it drastically unwise for a population to depend on just a few varieties for athe majority of its sustenance. The Irish once depended on a single potato, until the potato famine rewrote histoy and truncated many family trees. We now depend similarly on a few corn and soybean strains for the majority of calories (both animal & vegetable) eat by U.S. citizens. Our addiction to just two crops has made us the fattest people who've ever lived, dining just a few pathogens away from famine.
Chapter 3, Page 34
Scott's Note: In the first article that Steve gives us in the book, we're presented with the grim fact that a great deal of the natural resources (i.e. OIL) used by the U.S. are used for food production, Barbara gives a strong visual here:

Transporting a single calorie of perishable fresh fruit from California to New York takes about 87 calories worth of fuel. That's as efficient as driving from Philadelphia to Annapolis, and back, in order to walk three miles on a treadmill in a Maryland gym.
Chapter 4, page 68
Scott's Note: I'm sure that Barbara didn't set out to write the book to change everyone and their habits. But more than likely set out to get people to at least think about how small changes and a little work can have a positive outcome on a community. A slogan comes to mind: "Think Globally, Act Locally." In an argument about buying locally, some folks may say that the money then doesn't go to developing nations to help them, in fact the farmers/workers in developing nations receive so very little money to begin with. Their time/energy would be better served, working the land and farming for their own communities, instead of farming and sending the produce thousands of miles away.

Concentrating on local foods means thinking of fruit invariably as the product of an orchard, and a winter squash as the fruit of an early-winter farm. It's a strategy that will keep grocery money in the neighborhood, where it gets recycled into your own school system and local businesses. The green spaces surrounding your town stay green, and farmers who live nearby get to grow more food next year, for you.
Chapter 4, page 69

I might be back with more tidbits and sound bites as I keep reading!

Monday, October 08, 2007

I've been reading

I've been a lazy blogger lately. I've been busy. And when I'm not really busy, I'm working my way through a wonderful b-day present from the Duchess of Narberth (Hey!).

I'm only about 4 chapters into Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, but I am certainly in bliss. The nutshell: Barbara and family move onto their farm and live of the land and eat locally for one year. Interspersed through this memoir are foodie factoids, antitodal stories and recipes. I love it.

I love it because this is where I came from. Soon after I turned 10, my mom packed me up and we joined her soon to be fiance, soon to be husband and we moved out of the city and into the deep Wisconsin wilderness where we "lived off the land."

As a ten year old city boy, this had a lot of appeal. Small mountains (hills really), creeks and streams, woods...I could explore for days. But the appeal soon wore off. We moved 12/31/8x (I don't remember the year.) It was fridged cold. I'm not talking 40s, 30s, 20s...I'm talking -20s, -30s...suck! There was no electric heat in the house we moved to. And since no one was living wood for the wood stove. FREEZING COLD! Shortly after we got in, we started getting firewood and had a warm house. We had a great wood burning stove in the kitchen, which provide a lot of the heat for the house. And soon, my mom discovered how to cook with the wood stove.

Then we started gardening when the spring came. Rocks, rocks and more rocks...When I see TV shows or movies of frontiersmen/women tilling the land...I am with my brothers and sisters...that's some hard work.

As the spring sun warmed the soil, the plants started to sprout. This was exciting! We grew green beans in the city schools...but then they died. Again, the excitment soon faded as the spring sun turned to the summer heat that sweltered and wilted even the toughest plants. And the many weeds. I wanted to play in the creeks and streams, not the dry earth.

After nearly 6 years, and lots of back issues of Mother Earth News, we figured out what to do and how to do it. What started as a barely turned field of rocks and some soil turned into 7+ individual gardens of the freshest produce, herbs and flowers. We canned, dehydrated, perserved, froze and devoured the fruits of our labors.

As I have gotten more and more into cooking over the past several years, gaining wisdom, I look back to what I experienced as a kid with a much greater appreciation and a certain amount of longing. I wouldn't mind going back to a time when the only thing we picked up at the grocery store was milk (and some junk food, I was a kid after all!), knowing that everything else was coming from our gardens and the animals we raised, hunted or fished.

Barbara Kingsolver's book is allowing me to relive parts of my youth, long forgotten and generally unappreciated, with much vigor and vast amounts of jealousy. Pick up the book when you have a chance and enjoy a families experience to get back to the roots of food production and consumption.

(When I get a minute, I have some passages of the book that I have underlined/highlighted that I want to share. Stay tuned.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Smoky Beefy Good

So I've had a few days to rejuvenate after a long celebration filled weekend. It was a fun weekend. I was able to make my Caprese Pasta Salad for our guests...they said they loved it!!! But mostly we celebrated.

Last night I went to a recipe I've tried a few times and I think I've hit the jackpot this time; with the few additions this time around.

Start by prepping your ingredients. Chop your veg. Then the meat.

Bacon is so good.

After the bacon is done and the onions have gone on to the land of perfection, start with the beef. This time around I was actually able to find 'round steak' at the grocery store. It was good.

The recipe calls for white wine. I didn't have any...left I used red wine! Works great. I also added a can of diced tomatoes and the juice. The tomatoes bring an allusion of sweetness that complemented the smoky paprika to near perfection. Yeah! One extra addition was about half of a green bell pepper, diced. It was fine, nothing special. I won't go out of my way to get a bell next time; but if I have it, sure I'll use it.

Again, I reserved the finished bacon for garnish. In the past I've cooked the bacon as per the recipe. But crispy bacon simmering in a liquid for two hours...I do not like soggy, thank you very much. So reserve your bacon and use as a garnish please!