Sunday, October 26, 2014
Friday afternoon ended with a lovely massage. After a very hectic week at the office, there's not much better way to spend some time on a Friday! Then, I had to go shopping. Now, unlike a lot of my friends I do NOT have the shopping gene. Unless, of course, it means shopping for cookbooks or my gardens... The pocket in my purse where I stash my car keys, keys to my other two offices, modem, good pen, and assorted other "sharp" objects had sprung a leak. EVERYTHING had worked its way through the hole and was now under the lining of my purse. I'd discovered it Thursday evening when I'd worked way late and just wanted to get home. Connie and I'd driven separately so I was at the office by myself. I'd locked my office door behind myself and headed for the front door of the office. No keys. ARGH! I rummaged and rooted to no avail. Finally in desperation I headed to my admin's desk and emptied my purse. I could feel them but not get them. Fine then. Scissors it was. A few snips and the whole lining of my purse was split. And, my keys were in hand. Now, I had to deal with replacing the purse. Ugh! That meant shopping. So, Friday I was off to Macy's to find a purse. Two separate pockets, both of which zip. Black. Strap I can carry over my shoulder. Not much to ask, eh? Well, there was ONE purse that met my requirements. Ok, fine then, it'd do.
On my way home I detoured to Goodwill. My friends Pete and Roby came up with a brilliant idea a few years ago. When they take her famous rum cake to a party, they use a plate they've bought at Goodwill. No messing with paper plates that bend, fold and crinkle. No Styrofoam that's so incredibly bad for the environment. Just a one of a kind plate. We're heading to three parties and I'm taking Lizzy Do's famous mounds bars. Here's my link to them: Kate's. And, here's her link: Liz. I wanted three plates. Lucky me. I found three plain, white plates that'd be perfect. And, on the way past the cookbooks, I finally bought a classic I've never owned, Marcella's Italian Kitchen. For all of $2.49 :-) Shopping trip over, time to head home and fix dinner.
It was one of those I can't find a recipe nights. So, we improvised. Our friends Tom and Barb had given us a few homegrown sweet potatoes. I'd not yet found the perfect recipe for them. We had leftover pulled pork. The two might just combine with an apple (also from Tom and Barb) and some shallot to make a wonderful sweet potato hash. Topped with a fried egg. Connie had mentioned that cranberry sauce sometime soon would be good. I'd read a recipe for spiced cranberry sauce. But, it must be in the mountain of recipes in the office ready to be scanned in. Fine then. I'd make both up.
The cranberry sauce was first. Whiskey and orange juice would be good with warm spices. Brown sugar was a must. And, maybe a hint of chipotle pepper... It worked! Then, on to the hash. Peel, dice and cook the sweet potatoes. Saute the apples and some shallot in butter. Drain and add the sweet potatoes. Something was missing. How about some Italian seasoning It's actually a mix called Renaissance rub.
What did we think? Both were a four on a scale of one to five. As Connie said, fives are reserved for something we could pretty much eat every day. Like slices of happiness. We did add a bit of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce to the hash. It was still a four. Very good but I wouldn't want it every day...
Spiced Cranberry Sauce
2 lbs fresh cranberries
1/2 c brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon orange juice concentrate
2 T whiskey
1/4 t chipotle chili powder
1 t ground allspice
1/4 t cardamom
Mix all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the cranberries have mostly popped and the mixture has thickened.
Sweet Potato and Pulled Pork Hash
4 small or 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 lb pulled pork
1 large apple, diced
1 shallot, minced
2 T butter
1 T Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
4 fried eggs
Cook the sweet potatoes in boiling, salted water until just tender. It'll take 5-8 minutes.
While those are cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the shallot and apple. Saute just until softened.
In yet another pan, small skillet this time, fry four eggs. Drain the sweet potatoes and add those to the apple and shallot along with the pulled pork and Italian seasoning. Stir gently to mix . Serve a mound of hash topped with a fried egg.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Time for my last Secret Recipe Club post. They've changed and it's time for me to move on. Next month, I hope you'll come find me at The Bloggers C.L.U.E. Society. It's a new group that I've started with my friends Christiane from The Mom Chef and Liz from That Skinny Chick Can Bake. We'll kick off our group on Wednesday, November 12th with Thanksgiving recipes galore. I picked mine out a couple of days ago and am totally looking forward to making it. Ought to be a lot of fun.
So, let's talk about Nicole from Picnic.http://picnicnz.blogspot.co.nz/ She's working on her PhD and has discovered she loves cooking. Among a lot of great looking baked goods, I found a couple of pizza recipes on her blog. One used pita bread instead of pizza crust. What a great idea for lunches. We've got a toaster oven and a microwave so things that I can bake or heat up at the office are perfect.
I decided both pizza recipes would be a great idea since I was buying a bag of pita bread anyway... And, making homemade pizza sauce anyway... My tastebuds were totally set for the lamb pizza for Monday. Sunday evening during my normal cooking spree, I'd browned the lamb, made the pizza sauce and caramelized the onions. We had a big bag of non-perishable stuff on the kitchen table. Another bag of perishables had gone to the basement fridge. Both were scheduled to head to the office on Monday. I'd asked Connie to put the onions "in the bag to go to the office." He put them in the non-perishable bag... What we had there was a failure to communicate. Ok, so we'd start with the chicken pizzas instead!
What did we think? These were VERY good. I'm not a fan of plain tomato paste so I made homemade sauce from tomato paste. Most of the recipes I found called for either starting with crushed tomatoes or crushing tomatoes. Growing up, though, Daddy used to make a VERY tasty barbecue sauce starting with tomato paste. So, I was pretty certain I could come up with an equally tasty pizza sauce. When I put the pita pizzas together, I added some greens to add a bit of flavor and nutrition. We use the mongo containers of baby chard, kale and spinach from Sam's Club whenever we use greens - which is pretty much most days of the week... Here's where you can take a look at Nicole's version: chicken pizza.
What did we think? The pizza sauce was good. I think next time though I'll make it with the crushed tomatoes. The chicken pizza was very good. The lamb pizza was almost as good but we marked it just a tad bit lower. In any event, pita bread pizzas will become a regular at the office! Yes, I confess, it was busy and I didn't even think about lamb pizza recipes until I'd eaten half of mine...
For the sauce:
4 oz can tomato paste
4 oz water
1 T olive oil
1 shallot, finely minced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 t- 1 T Italian seasoning
Saute the shallot and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the water and Italian seasoning. Simmer for at least 15 minutes.
1 wholegrain pita bread
2 T pizza sauce
1 cooked chicken breast, sliced thinly
handful of fresh spinach or mixed greens or baby kale...
handful grated cheese - I used gruyere
sweet chili garlic sauce
Toast the pita bread for about two minutes. Spread one side with pizza sauce.
Top with the greens. Lay on the chicken slices. Sprinkle on the pickled jalapenos. Top with the cheese. Broil about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. Before serving, drizzle with sweet chili garlic sauce.
1 wholegrain pizza bread
2 T pizza sauce
1/2 lb ground lamb
1 small onion, sliced
1 beer (I used Heinken)
seasoning (I used Penzey's Bangkok but you can use pretty much whatever to get the flavor profile you want)
1/4 - 1/3 c crumbled feta
Season the lamb with whatever seasoning you've chosen. Then, brown the lamb and remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Drain. Add the onion to the lamb drippings. Saute until softened. Pour in the beer and sauté until the beer has evaporated. Drain the onions. Toast the pita bread for about two minutes. Spread one side with pizza sauce.
Top with the ground lamb, then the onions, then the feta. Broil for about 10 minutes.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
My friend Shelly died of melanoma. At age 51. She'd moved to Phoenix about nine years ago. I'd see her when I'd go out there for a conference. Or we'd chatter away on the phone. She was the driving force behind Girls Night Out, a group of friends who've gotten together for about 20 years. She had surgery in March and they thought they got it all. In May it was back. By the end of August she was gone. The last month of her life we took turns calling to make sure she got a phone call from one of us every day. By the end she was on such heavy meds that she could barely talk. So, we had a memorial service here in Indy. It was a drizzly, grey Friday. Matched our moods. Each of us got a white balloon to write on. Then, we released them in unison. Then, each of us got about a teaspoon of her ashes to scatter. Afterward, we all went to our hangout for many years, Daddy Jacks. About half the crew had her favorite drink, Bacardi and Coke with a lime wedge. I'm not allowed caffeine so I stuck with red wine. We laughed and cried. I miss her.
So, life has been bittersweet recently. I've known that I needed to be able to grieve but wasn't really able to do so. Then, we went to see Calendar Girls. One of the characters dies of cancer. Yup, that unleashed a torrent of tears. Now, I feel better. Going to Phoenix next month for a conference will be very hard. I know I can do it. It's my broker/dealer's women's conference. They actually have a two day conference just for the women. How cool is that? About a dozen of us are flying in a day early to do our business plans for next year. The bad news is that my friend Windus who lives in San Diego won't be able to be there. And, Melissa from Kansas City has left to join another firm. I'll still get to see a whole bunch of friends. Yup, I'm pretty darned lucky!
Speaking of lucky, we had dinner with four friends at a great new Indy restaurant called Union 50. Liz is also knows as That Skinny Chick Can Bake. Her hubby Bill is such a great guy. Their across the street neighbors, Pam and Steve joined us. Steve and I have known each other since middle school... We'd highly recommend Union 50. Connie and I split a salad, mussels and a duck/duck confit/sweet potato dish. All were VERY good.
During dinner, Liz and I started chatting about how much fun a new blogging group would be. One with a monthly theme. Seasoned bloggers. By invitation only. The next day, we started chatting with our friend Christiane, The Mom Chef. The Blogger C.L.U.E. Society was born. Please come visit on November 12th for our first reveal. We'll be posting the second Wednesday of every month. November will be Thanksgiving foods. I can't wait to see what all of these talented bloggers come up with!!
After a lovely Saturday evening, it was time to head back to the office on Sunday. Someday we're going to be able to quit working seven days a week!!! After we escaped the office, we headed out to run errands. Then, we started cooking. Prepping for my last Secret Recipe Club post. Dinner for Sunday. Partial prep for Monday and Tuesday's dinners.
I'd wanted to try a shrimp dish from the Food Network cookbook I bought while we were out in Seattle. There was also a cauliflower that was getting very long in the tooth. Cauliflower gratin and coconut shrimp with jasmine rice and mango basil salsa don't exactly go together. Too bad. That's what we were having :-) What did we think? The cauliflower was amazing. I'll make that again soon. The shrimp was very good. I'd prefer larger shrimp but that's what we found today... Now, the confession... Alas, I didn't get a photo of the finished dish. Suffice to say we had it for three meals and loved every bite!
Cauliflower Gratin with Gingered Crumbs
1 1/2 lbs cauliflower, broken into florets
3 T unsalted butter, divided
2 T flour
1 c half and half or light cream
1 t lemon juice
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
dash of Tabasco
1/4 c grated Swiss cheese (I probably used half a cup...)
1/4 c fresh bread crumbs
1/4 t ground ginger
2 T finely grated Parmesan
Heat your oven to 350F. While it's heating. cook the cauliflower in salted water until just a bit more done than al dente. You do not want mushy cauliflower here... Drain and put the cauliflower in a baking dish.
In a small saucepan, melt two tablespoons of the butter. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Don't let it get brown. Slowly whisk in the half and half. Add the nutmeg, lemon juice, Swiss cheese and hot sauce. Cook until it's thick enough to coat your spoon.
Gently mix the cheese sauce with the cooked cauliflower. While the sauce is cooking, melt the last tablespoon of the butter in a small skillet. Add the bread crumbs and ginger and cook until browned.
Sprinkle the crumbs over the cauliflower. Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
adapted from Greene on Greens
Coconut Shrimp with Mango-Basil Salsa and Lime Jasmine Rice
for the salsa:
1 mango, finely diced (I used the jarred version from the refrigerated section...)
3 scallions, sliced (I used a shallot since that's what I had)
5 basil leaves, thinly sliced
juice of one lime
salt and pepper to taste
for the shrimp:
1 small jalapeno, seeded and sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 T dark brown sugar
zest of 1/2 lime
1/4 c coconut milk
small handful of basil leaves, torn
1-2 T vegetable oil
salt and pepper
1 lb peeled, deveined large shrimp (I'd recommend 25/lb or larger)
for the rice:
1 c jasmine rice
3/4 c coconut milk
3/4 c water
zest of 1/2 lime
This is much easier to put together than the ingredient list would have you believe! First, make a marinade for the shrimp. Mix it in a non-reactive dish. I used a plastic storage container. Add the shrimp and marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to four hours. If you're going to marinate it for more than half an hour, do so in the fridge. Um, that's a bourbon plum smash in the background... I'm hoping I can get Connie to weigh in on that one!
To make the salsa, mix all the ingredients together. Set aside.
To make the rice, put all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
While the rice is cooking, pour about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Heat it to shimmering. Add the shrimp in one layer. Flip them once. Cook them just until pink. Remove the shrimp from the heat and keep warm. Pour the marinade in the skillet and bring it to a boil. Cook it for at least five minutes. You'll want the sauce to thicken and you'll want enough cooking time to make it safe to eat after marinating raw seafood...
Put the dish together now. Mound a bit of rice on the plate. Top with shrimp. Put salsa on the side and pour some marinade over.
adapted from Food Network Favorites
Friday, October 10, 2014
Some decisions are tougher than others. At the office, I'm pretty good about making decisions. I mean, I'm the boss. The buck stops here. So, I've got to be decisive. But, in my personal life I'm not always as good. For several years now I've been a part of the Secret Recipe Club. Over time, it's changed a lot. Now, it's time to go so I can focus on blogging about the recipes I want to try from friends blogs, cookbooks, magazines... So, I'm officially going to quit doing the Secret Recipe Club. Whew! That felt good to get THAT decision made!
Ok, back to our regularly scheduled programming :-) We've been adopted by a three-legged feral cat. We've named him Smokey. He's VERY feral. Stays at best 6-10 feet away. But, he's now gotten to the point that he relaxes in our herb garden and occasionally on our driveway. Even with just three legs, the boy can hunt. He's fast. We've tried and tried and tried to capture him and have him neutered. No go there. Turns out our neighbor captured him and thought he'd turn him into a pet... Um, no. Feral cats do not make great pets. So, Smokey is VERY wise about traps...
Not too long ago we headed to Seattle to a lovely wedding. While there I bought a couple of cookbooks. Shocking, I know. One of them was Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Dinners. I've never really cooked his recipes. Now, I'm just kind of plowing through the cookbook. The first dish was his chicken, sausage and leek pot pie. Then, I made a carrot crunch salad. And, a roast beef and cornichon sandwich. We didn't care too much for the carrot crunch salad. Gave it a three on a scale of one to five.
The pot pie is another story. We've already made it twice. And, it will become our go-to pot pie recipe. I did use Wolfgang Puck's cheese pastry instead of the puff pastry called for. And, the sandwich. We had those two days in a row. YUMMMMM!
Chicken, Sausage, Leek Pot Pie
for the filling:
chicken - the recipe calls for 2 lb, I used the breasts of a rotisserie chicken
sausage- the recipe calls for 9 oz , I used a pound
2 leeks , diced and rinsed (or, you can use a sweet onion...)
2 carrots, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
2 t thyme
3 T butter
2 T flour
1/2 c white wine
1/2 c chicken broth
1 c cream
for the crust:
Follow this link...
Shred the chicken.
Brown and drain the sausage. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Saute the leeks, carrots and celery. Add the thyme and the flour.
Cook for a few minutes so the flour isn't raw. Slowly stir in the white wine, then the chicken broth. When the sauce is thick, add the cream. Pour into a baking dish. Top with the crust.
Bake at 425 for about 45 minutes.
Roast Beef and Cornichon Sandwiches
1/2 pound very thinly sliced rare roast beef
Slice the baguette in half length-wise. Spread one side with mustard and the other with horseradish sauce.
Layer on roast beef, thinly sliced cornichons and salad greens.
Put the sides together.
Adapted from Jamie's Dinners