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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tuna, Pepper and Olive Pasta

One of my favorite magazine sections is Fine Cooking's Make it Tonight.  I always get one or two great ideas for weeknight dinners.  This month's edition is no exception.  We made a pasta that was great and have a tilapia with orange salsa on the menu for next week. 

Our plan on Friday evening was to head to The Tamale Place.  Guy Fieri visited there on a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives segment.  Our next stop was going to be Final Friday at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Both are pretty far west of us so it made sense to combine the trip.  Then, Thursday evening we had an ice storm.  Supposedly on Friday the temps were to get high enough to melt the ice.  They didn't.  Main roads were fine.  Side streets pretty treacherous.  And, who knew what the parking lots and sidewalks would be like?  Felt like an excuse to have a quiet evening at home.  Actually, it didn't take much of anything to convince us that we wanted to be at home -lol. 

Now, I had to come up with dinner.  Connie suggested chicken parmesan from the latest Cooks Illustrated.  Alas, we had no boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the freezer.  After we got in the car for the trip home I opened my Fine Cooking.  There it was!  Pasta with peppers, tomato and tuna.  Oh, and olives.  Flavors we love. 

We got home and I started pulling cans and jars out of the pantry.  Yup, you read that right.  This is the perfect pantry dish for us. We always have all of the ingredients on hand. 

Peppers, olives and sun-dried tomatoes got chopped.  Tuna and tomatoes got opened.  The pasta water was bubbling away.  Time to figure out a salad.  Connie loves hearts of palm.  We had a jar of them.  We both love blue cheese.  There were kiwis and Brianna's Poppyseed dressing to be used up.  So, what if I peeled and mashed the kiwis and mixed them in the salad dressing?  Time to test that theory.  We both loved the dressing.  The kiwis added a little bit of a citrus note.  Took some of the sweetness away.  Our salads were ready to go.  Might I note here that it is incredibly difficult to type with a very active kitten on one's lap... 

The pasta sauce came together in no time.  We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner!

Tuna, Pepper and Olive Pasta
serves 4-6


2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 c olives, coarsely chopped (you can use a mix of black and green - I used kalamata and green)
1/2 c diced jarred roasted red peppers
2 T coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, including juice
2 5-oz cans tuna in oil, drained
2 T finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (we didn't have any and I wouldn't substitute dried so I omitted this)
1/2 - 1 lb dried penne rigate or other short, sturdy pasta


Start your pasta water - not the pasta, just the water.  Lightly cook the garlic in the olive oil.  You just want to get the garlic to release it's flavors, not brown.  Add the olives, peppers and sun-dried tomatoes and cook on medium heat for a few minutes. 

Pour in the tomatoes and their juice.  Use a fork to crush them just a little bit.  Cook the sauce for about ten minutes.  Now, it's time to start the pasta.  Add the tuna to the sauce and cook it for 5-10 minutes.  The original recipe called for adding 1/2 c of the pasta water to the sauce.  I didn't think that was necessary so use your own judgment.  And, although the recipe called for a pound of pasta, we used half a pound and found it was the right amount for us.  We also tried this with and without a bit of grated parmesan on top and both of us concurred the dish doesn't need anything else.  Last but not least, this made a fabulous cold pasta salad for lunch the next day.

adapted from Fine Cooking

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ham and Potato Chowder

It was one of those weekends that I was lucky to get any real work done at all.  Most of Saturday was devoted to my "extra" dad Bob's funeral.  And, about a perfect funeral it was.  His parents were friends of my grandparents.  Then, he and Lou and their five kids moved in kitty corner from us when we were in gradeschool.  We grew up together.  Football and basketball at our house.  Strawberry torte for Tim's birthday.  Gnawbone Camp over Labor Day weekend.  And, our parents were the best of friends.  Dad and Bob, Mom and Lou.  Two families intertwined.  Bob and Lou added on to the family cabin a bit west of Indy.  It's now one of my favorite places in the world.  Connie and I will pick Mom up and some of the kids and their spouses will meet us at the farm for dinner one evening this week.  We'll laugh and cry and reminsce and know that Dad and Bob are undoubtedly together chattering away about anything and everything! 

Saturday evening we were off to Columbus to see our grandkids and celebrate Rosie's third birthday.  Connie and I'd figured out a breakfast that they could help make.  On the menu we had toad in the hole, bacon and strawberry blossoms.  The strawberry blossoms came from a fun cookbook called  Cooking with Kids.  They were super easy to make.  We cut the canned biscuits into "petals" and lined muffin tins with them.  Then, we spooned in some strawberry preserves (about a tablespoon) and sprinkled on a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg.  They were baked at 375 for about 15 minutes and were totally devoured!  Here are some photos of our breakfast:

Kara said she was off to get Rosie's cake.  I asked if she was going anywhere near Jeni's.  Now, if you've never heard of Jeni's, you need to visit their website to understand.  It's  Amazing flavors!!!!  She laughed and said sure, we could run by there.  Pretty soon, the whole crew decided they were up for an adventure.  Connie got pear riesling sorbet.  David got a stout and rosemary and a whiskey and something.  Kara got brambleberry and something and I got salted caramel and banana with goat cheese caramel.  YUM!  Then, on our way out the door from our indulgence, David started talking again about how wonderful the Dublin Village Tavern is.  And, the Irish eggrolls.  Basically a reuben in an eggroll.  And, the ham and potato chowder.  Well, we'd had dessert, maybe we should have lunch!  So, into the tavern we trudged.  Connie and I split an order of the Irish eggrolls.  Fabulous.  He got a cup of chili and I got a cup of the chowder.  And, he sampled my chowder.  Lo and behold the man who doesn't like soup liked the chowder!

After lunch we went to Sam's so Connie and I could get provisions for the dinner at the farm.  Then, we headed back to Indy.  And, stopped at the grocery on our way home.  I was ready to try and recreate the chowder.

Ham and Potato Chowder


7-8 medium red potatoes
4 ribs celery
1 medium onion
12 baby carrots
1 poblano
8 oz ham cubes
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 c milk
8 oz Dubliner cheese, shredded


Dice the potatoes, celery, onions, carrots and poblano.  Make sure the pieces are all about the same size.  Put them in a large saucepan and add water.  You don't want the water to totally cover the veggies but it should just come up to almost the top of them. 

Simmer until the veggies are tender.  While they're cooking away, make a roux with the butter and flour.  Melt the butter.  Add the flour and cook on medium heat until it's a tiny bit brown.  Pour the milk in slowly stirring constantly.  Once thickenend, add the cheese and stir until it's melted.  There should still be a little water left in the veggies.  You don't want a bunch or this will end up being a broth and not a chowder.  So, pour some of the water off into a bowl on the side.  Then, stir in the ham cubes and the cheese sauce.  Add back in the cooking water as necessary to reach the consistency you want.   

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pickle Dip

I have a confession. I felt REALLY guilty about making a three ingredient recipe for Secret Recipe Club.  Half a dozen others were printed from my assigned blog:  Melissa's Cuisine.  Stuffed shells, "payday" bars, roasted cinnamon almonds, stuffed cabbage casserole, pumpkin donut muffins and homemade cheezits.  But, the pickle dip kept calling my name.  I dragged my heels.  Bought the chicken to make the stuffed shells.  Had the ingredients for everything else other than the stuffed cabbage casserole.  But, I wanted the pickle dip.  Every time I picked up the stack of recipes I pulled it out and drooled over it. 

Then, I got a call from the folks who provide my CRM software.  That's client relationship manager software.  Would I please come to the T3 Technology Conference in Miami and be a panelist on a panel of advisors talking about their CRM software.  I hate flying.  And, I am still buried at the office.  But, I love Redtail.  And, the only appointments I had scheduled for that day were wholesalers.  Easy enough to reschedule those.  Ok, fine. I'd go. 

Now, I was under the gun to get ready for the week since Tuesday had most of my prep time.  No time to really cook.  You're getting the drift here, aren't you - lol.  Secret Recipe Club would just have to wait til I got back from Miami.

Tuesday morning I was up at 3 am and on a flight at 5:10 am.  I slept most of the way to Charlotte.  Changed planes in Charlotte and planned on sleeping the rest of the way to Miami.  But , my seatmate was a delightful fellow named Pat.  He and his wife (two rows up and also on the aisle) were on their way to a two week cruise.  They live in Kennebunkport, Maine.  I can't tell you when I've so enjoyed chatting with a stranger on a flight. 

Hike to the taxi stand at the airport.  It felt like two miles.  I forgot the shoulder strap for the bag so my arms were on fire.  Finally, in line.  Ah, at the front of the line.  The attendant asked where I was going and I said the Hilton on Biscayne Blvd.  The fellow behind me said he was going the same place.  Fine, we'd share a cab.  Turns out he's an Aussie who's moved to Atlanta.  He founded a company working with investor behavior.  Fascinating guy to talk with. 

Dave from Redtail had gotten my name badge and my room key so I was able to head into the conference and start soaking up info.  I learned an amazing amount.  Finally, 4:00 hit and it was time for my panel.  I had a great time showing everyone how the software works.  The best part is that I'm pretty much a technological idiot and I can very successfully use this software. 

Between my panel and dinner I had an hour to sit in my room and enjoy the view. 

Yup, I enjoyed that view :-)

Dinner, much to my chagrin, was burgers and beer.  I'd really wanted Miami food.  But more than that I wanted to spend some time relaxing with the crew.  We were joined by a couple of journalists, the guys from my financial planning software company and a few others.  All in all a wonderful time.

Then, I was up again at 4:00 am.  Ugh.  The trip back to Indy was great.  The Miami to Charlotte leg my seatmate was a fellow from Miami who loves Scully's Tavern as much as we do.  Then, Charlotte to Indy I sat next to a fellow who'd been in the Junior Achievement class I taught in ummm, the late 80's.  That  was a fun thing to find out!

We got to the office and my arse was dragging.  I made it through taping the radio show and crashed.  That meant working late.  We got home at 7:00.  Just at the time my Hoosiers started playing basketball.  Dinner was either going to be really easy or it was going to be a pizza delivered!

Now, you really see the story don't you?

So, here we are.  Out of time and energy.  We had things to do Thursday thru Sunday.  It was now or never for the Secret Recipe Club and Melissas Cuisine.  Since we all post together on the third Monday of the month and since I've so thoroughly enjoyed browsing Melissa's blog, I felt compelled to make the pickle dip. Ok, quit laughing already.  It's true.  I finally had my excuse!  Pickle dip it was :-)

Connie says, "What is THAT???"   Pickle dip.  "Really?  Pickle dip?"   Yup.  Just try it, please.  Now, you hear the sounds of munching.  And, munching.  And, munching.  The pickle dip was pretty much devoured.  We high fived.  We'd found a GREAT new recipe.  And, it is SO easy.  Trust me on this one, friends.  You want to make pickle dip. 

Now, Melissa, I have once again all the ingredients for the shells.  They're back on the menu.  And, I really want to make those "payday" bars.  And, I still have a stack of recipes from your blog printed out and on my desk.  But, it's the pickle dip I'll remember you by!  Here's how to go read Melissa's original post:  Pickle Dip.  And, yes, I'll be back to try more great recipes from Melissa :-)

Pickle Dip


8 oz block cream cheese
1 c chopped pickles (I used Klaussen's hearty garlic dill but am guessing ANY kind of pickle would be fabulous here)
1 T pickle juice
1 T Worcestershire sauce


Whip the cream cheese.  Blend in the pickle juice and Worcestershire.  Whip again.  Blend in the chopped pickles.  Serve with crackers or chips or pretzel chips.  Now, here's the little change we made - I topped the final version with a bit of Emeril's Essence. That pretty much took it over the top!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Baked Deviled Eggs

Connie says, "What are we having for dinner?"  I say, "Hard cooked eggs filled with mushrooms and shallots and...."  He says, "No, what are we having for dinner?"  Once again I begin the dissertation describing the dish.  He once again says, "What?"  By this time I'm totally frustrated and so is he.  He won't listen to the recipe and I don't have a name for the recipe.  You see, I'd picked up Simca's Cuisine at our friends Mary Kay and Andy's house and it'd fallen open to a recipe where you hard cook eggs and mix the yolks with cooked mushrooms and onions and top them with a mornay sauce.  That sounded good to me.

We were supposed to have dinner with some clients.  Dick retired and we were going to celebrate.  Then, Kathy had to work late and I was still pooped from my trek to Florida earlier in the week.  That's rescheduled.

So, I was home with nothing planned for dinner.  I considered making a pizza.  Alas, there were no Boboli crusts around and my yeast has seen better days.  Ok, fine.  It's seen better years.  Hmmm.  I looked in the fridge.  Eggs.  Mushrooms.   Ahhhhh, the makings of THE dish. 

Out came the egg cooker.  And three skillets.  And a cutting board.  Ugh.  I'd just finished cleaning up the kitchen from yesterday's mell of a hess.  Finally, everything was in a pie plate and under the broiler and I had a lovely glass of wine in my hand. 

What did we think?  A solid four out of five.  During dinner Connie said, "You know if you'd just told me we were having baked deviled eggs I'd have understood the recipe."  I said, "AH HA!!  That's what we'll call it!"  So, here you go.  Great for brunch, lunch or dinner.  Baked deviled eggs.  With a tip of the hat to Simca's Cuisine and the balance of the recipe to what needed to be used up in my fridge.

And, after dinner, time to relax.  Juste before bed we brought in the FOB's food.  (That's the fat orange boys who were feral and live on the screened porch.)  Annie and Wee Mac get a few pieces of kibble.  And, they share very nicely, thank you.

Baked Deviled Eggs

serves 4


7 eggs, hard cooked
3-4 large mushrooms, cremini or white button, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
4 oz chopped pancetta, browned and drained
half and half
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 c milk
1/4 c white wine
4 oz brie
ground pepper
2 t truffle oil


Saute the shallots, mushrooms and pancetta.  Now, you can do them all in the same skillet if you'd like.  I just prefer for the flavors and colors to remain separate until I'm ready to let them dance together.  I think the shallots and pancetta get a nicer browning without the moisture from the mushrooms.   Halve the hard cooked eggs.  Put the yolks in a mixing bowl with the cooked mushrooms, shallots and pancetta.  Mix well.  Add half and half or cream until it's the consistency of deviled eggs.  While you're doing all of that, put the butter in a saucepan and start it melting.  Add two tablespoons of flour and cook it for about five minutes.  Partially cooked flour tastes nasty so make sure you cook it long enough!  Add about 1/4 c of the milk.  It'll almost immediately turn into a paste.  Add the wine to thin it, stirring the entire time.  Then, slowly add the rest of the milk.  Cook until you've got a nice sauce.  Add the brie, nutmeg and pepper.  Stir until the brie meits.  Take the egg whites and put them in a pie plate.  Mound the filling in the whites. 

Top with the brie sauce.  Broil 10 minutes or until the top is nice and browned.  Serve drizzled with truffle oil.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Szechuan Pepper Beef Noodles

So, one of the more interesting aspects of meeting and marrying Connie later in life is that we both have some pretty well-established habits.  He folds pillowcases his way and I re-fold them my way.  He puts the knife on the left side of the placemat and I move it to the right side.  He likes scrawny, plain Kleenex and I like Puffs with Lotion.  I guess he just likes having to fold the stuff before blowing his nose.  Me, I like tissues that I don't have to fold before using AND that don't cause my nose to come to resemble a certain reindeer.  Now, you might wonder why I'm bringing this up.  We've both had colds.  Nasty, debilitating colds.  The kind where you replace every tissue box in the house at least once if not twice.  We've learned to share pretty well.  There are four boxes of tissues on the first floor.  Half are mine and half are his.  Nice compromise, eh?  In reality, it's shocking how similar our tastes and habits are for a couple of folks who didn't meet until they were about half a century old...

Needless to say, there's been a dearth of cooking around our house recently. Nobody's had the energy  It's taken everything we've had to get our work done at the office and keep the house somewhat neat and tidy.  Thank goodness for frozen leftovers or we'd have had our fill of fried egg sandwiches for dinner!

Finally, last week we both felt decent.  And, we had something to do almost every evening.  I was itching to get in the kitchen and fix a real meal.  Friday night was my opportunity.  There'd not been an opportnity to make a menu or go to the grocery so I was going to  have to find something that would work with what we had.  The vegetable drawer had some celery, carrots, half a green pepper, half a red bell pepper and a bag of coleslaw mix.  The freezer had pretty much every kind of meat or fish or seafood we'd want.  I just needed something that'd thaw in time.

On the way to work, as usual, I had a cooking magazine open.  Everyday with Rachael Ray.  And, I found my recipe.  I could substitute like crazy and still come up with a great meal.  I wouldn't dirty every pan in the kitchen - super double bonus - so clean up would be quick and easy and I'd actually have time to read the paper. 

What did we think?  A solid four out of five.  There are SO many variations on this dish.  We kept coming up with alternatives all during dinner. 

Tingly Szechuan Pepper Beef Noodles

serves 4


1 lb dried chinese noodles or thin spaghetti (I used two servings of whoe wheat spaghettini)
3T vegetable oil (omit)
1 lb ground beef (I used ground lamb.  Beef, pork, shrimp... would all be good)
1 onion, minced
1 small red chile pepper such as fresno, minced (I used a dried tien tien)
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 - 1" piece of ginger, minced (don't substitute ground!)
2 t ground szechuan pepper ( I didn't have this and am not particularly fond of really spicy dishes so omitted)
1 t Chinese five spice powder
1/4 c Tamari - dark soy sauce (I used regular soy sauce)
2 c shredded iceberg lettuce (I used a bag of cole slaw mix)
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced on an angle (alas, I didn't have any of these...)


Brown and drain the onion, pepper, garlic and the lamb, beef, pork or whatever meat/seafood/protein you're putting into the dish.  Add the seasonings and the coleslaw mix.  If you're using lettuce, you'll not have to cook this any further.  If you're using coleslaw mix, you'll need to cook it for a few minutes to allow the cabbage to soften.  While the meat sauce is cooking, cook the pasta.  Toss the two together and serve topped with scallions.

adapted from Rachael Ray Everyday