Thursday, December 31, 2009

~Happy New Year~

Thought about throwing a dinner at home... maybe next year... And I'd use this tablescape as inspiration. Simply gorgeous and super simple. Thanks, iDiY!

Hope the new year brings you health, happiness, and humor!

I'm White Burgundy?

Sorry, bad Will Ferrell joke... Well, his joke is funny. Mine is just bad.

Wanted to share a new favorite wine. A Chard from Burgundy. Had it with our Supremes the other night and thought it should be noted, before it is recycled. Domain de Rochebin Vin. Not very many white wines capture my fancy, but this one is quite nice.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Belated Christmas Decor

Well, it's too late to give you any ideas about decor for this holiday season, but maybe for next year?

(Some of these things could be done for other holidays too!)

Our Christmas Card: I designed it in MS Word with the fantastic Budmojiggler font (download at with fun little flourishes from dafont too.

Our Christmas Tree: This year I went with a black, red, gold and white theme. Kinda Hollywood Regency. Kinda mod. Created a monogram "brand" for our gift tags using the Budmojiggler font. Found some way cool vintage ornaments at The Antique Mall. Gold cardboard and black pipe cleaner H's rounded it all out. Unfortunately, I took this pic today, and our tree is so dried out!

B&W Abstracts for the Tree: H and I painted with black acrylic paint on a large sheet of parchment paper. I then cut it into smaller rectangles. The frames are made from cereal boxes, painted with black and gold acrylic. I just taped the paintings to the back of the frames and tucked them into the tree. I love the way the light shines through the paper!

Christmas CardDisplay: Tack ribbon to the top of a door or window and secure cards with tiny clothespins. Last year I decked the kitchen with yarn and attached the cards all around the island. I also attached cards to what was the "Bat Tree" then became the "Fall Tree" and is now the "Christmas Card Tree." (I think I'll take it down after NYE and figure out a new display for that table.

Miami: Sra. Martinez is ABFAB

At the beginning of December, Mark and I slipped away to Miami for the giganitimo art fair, Art Basel. While we were only there for 3 days, we visited Michelle Bernstein's Sra. Martinez twice!
Tapas with a twist, everything was delectable!
My favorite was their spin on Patatas Bravas. Crispy proscuitto tucked inside a hollowed out new potato, with just the right amount of spicy Huancaina sauce (A kind of Peruvian cheese sauce... hard to pronounce, easy to eat.) A surprise was grilled the cauliflower, sliced with the leaves and all. The grill brought out a flavor you'd never expect from such a banal vegetable. Deep-fried artichoke hearts with long stems and lemon coriander sauce- simply divine. Chef Bernstein herself was working the downstairs bar on our second trip. Add one to the list of restaurants that need to open in Austin...

Julie & Julia

By the way, we watched the movie last week... and Mark and I agreed: not necessarily less Julie, but definitely more JULIA!

So enchanting... and I'm not even a huge Meryl Streep fan. But, really, you should read the book. I'm adding My Life in France to my goodreads queue.

Lindsey & Julia (Doesn't Have Quite the Same Ring)

But that's alright with me... I can still make a mean Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons. (Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Cream)

Here's Julia's guide to a very delicious dish.

Event: Lindsey & Julia, Together at Last
Menu:Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons, Steamed Asparagus Stalks, Buttered New Potatoes with Parsley

For the Chicken and Mushrooms:
5 tbsp butter
1 tbsp minced shallot
1/4 lb diced mushrooms
1/8 tsp salt
4 supremes (boneless skinless ckn breasts)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
big pinch white pepper  (I don't really like white pepper. In fact, I think it smells like feet. So I excused it from this recipe and used black pepper.)
4 MORE tbsp butter
1 piece of parchment or wax paper cut to the size of a large skillet or oven-proof casserole pan, buttered on one side

For the sauce:
1/4 c chicken stock (I did not make my own- YET!)
1/4 cup vermouth, you can also use Madeira or port
1 c whipping cream
salt and pepper
lemon juice, as needed
2 tbs fresh parsley, minced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the butter in a large casserole (oven-safe) or skillet over moderate heat, until foaming. Stir in the minced shallots and saute a moment without browning. Stir in mushrooms and saute lightly for a minute or two without browning. Sprinkle with salt. Meanwhile, sprinkle the chicken breasts with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken breasts to the pan with mushrooms, and roll in butter quickly. Lay the buttered paper over them, cover casserole, and place in hot oven. After 6 minutes, press top of supremes with your finger. If still soft, return to oven for a moment or two (Mine needed 5 more.) When meat is springy to the touch, it is done. Remove the supremes to a warm platter and cover while making the sauce. Pour the stock into the casserole with butter (and mushrooms) and boil down quickly over high heat, until liquid is syrupy. Stir in the cream and boil down again over high heat until cream has thickened slightly. Off heat, taste carefully for seasoning and add drops of lemon juice to taste. Pour the sauce over the supremes and serve at once, sprinkled with parsley.

For Asparagus:
1 lb asparagus tips
lemon juice
kosher salt

Steam asparagus until tender. Remove from heat and sprinkle with lemon juice and kosher salt.

For Buttered White New Potatoes with Parsley:
1 lb white new potatoes, quartered
1 tbsp salted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tbsp parsley, minced

In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Cook until fork-tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain in colander and return to pan. Add butter and toss. Sprinkle with parsley.

I've Got Work To Do!

My fabulous husband tested the limits of stocking stuffing this year...
Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking greeted me Christmas morning.
My lovely in-laws gave me The Gourmet Cookbook, and from my brother-in-law, The Gourmet TODAY Cookbook.
As I said, I've got work to do!

Daily Candy's Adorable Artiste

I've received Daily Candy emails for almost 8 years now... and have always adored their little watercolors. Today's DC featured a video about their creator. Caitlin McGauley's watercolors are so precious and whimsical! She preserves her memories and day-to-day activities (from food to new shoes) in colorful little sketches and vignettes. And now she's doing commissioned work! Oh, how I wish I had time to paint about my life...

Dear, Oh Dear: Green Bean Casserole, AT LAST!

Well, I suppose even bloggers need a vacation?

Anyways, about that green bean casserole...

After Thanksgiving, I thought, I don't need to write down what I did, I'll put it on my blog... Well, that didn't happen, so when my mother-in-law requested it for Christmas dinner, I was a little concerned. Would  I be able to recreate it, sans- recipe? The answer is YES!

So, here you go:

Green Bean Casserole with Shitake Mushrooms and "Tobacco" Onion Topping

2 lbs green beans, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
1 1/2 cups shitake mushrooms, chopped
1/2 stick butter
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 large shallots, thinly sliced (about a cup)
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water
2 tsp dried sage, crumbled
1/2 cup parmesan
2 oz cream cheese
kosher salt and black pepper

For the "Tobacco" Onion Topping:
"Tobacco" Onions are a mixture of red and white (or yellow) onions, dredged in flour and fried. The resulting topping looks like dried tobacco leaves.
1 red onion, sliced into rings
1 yellow or white onion, sliced into rings
1/2 c flour
2 tsp paprika
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tbs butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Heat butter and oil in a large skillet or stockpot (with cover.) Cook shallots and garlic with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 5 mins. Add wine and boil until reduced by half. Add cream, water, sage,1/4tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper and bring just to a boil, stirring constantly. Add green beans and mushrooms. Simmer, tightly covered, until beans are tender, 20-30 minutes. Stir in parmesan and cream cheese until melted.
While beans are cooking, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil and butter for onions in a small skillet.
In a shallow bowl, combine flour, paprika, salt and pepper. Dredge onion rings in flour mixture. Cook onion rings in small batches, until golden brown and crunchy. Allow to rest on paper towels.
When beans are tender, pour them (and sauce) into a large casserole dish. Top with fried onions. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until beans are bubbly.
Can be made one day ahead and refrigerated. If doing so, do not put onions on top until ready to reheat. Will take 25-30 minutes to heat through.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


To post about Christmas Decor tomorrow!
Plus, the GB Casserole was delish... gotta post that recipe before I forget how I made it!
Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

So many things to be thankful for this year...

I'm making Green Bean Casserole with Shitake Mushrooms & Tobacco Onions and a Goat Cheese Tart for tomorrow.
I'm excited about the casserole- it's a recipe I've been conjuring up for about a month now. My only worry is that it contains no "Cream'o" soup... I do love the traditional green bean casserole, but mine has shallots, champagne, and sage. Plus, freshly fried little crispy onions on top. Wish me luck!
(Hope they'll like this more than the brussels sprouts I forced on everyone a few years back!)
If it's any good, I'll share the recipe!
Waiting on the tart to come out of the oven... then off to bed I go... gotta get up early for the 5 mile Turkey Trot!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

London Broil with Grilled Zucchini and Red Onions

In most parts of the country, Fall is in full swing. Blustery winds, piles of leaves, bare branches, maybe even a few snowflakes. 
Well, in Austin Fall is like an awkward teenager trying to find itself. Eighty degrees one day and close to freezing the next. Some trees have lost all of their leaves, while others seem to think that it's April. We drag out polar fleece and mittens only to wear them with flip flops.
But the beauty of this mixed-up season is that we can make a hearty pot of chili one night, and fire up the grill for some burgers the next. 
London Broil with Grilled Zucchini and Red Onions is a reminder that, here in the Hill Country, Summer is never very far from our minds.

Event: Fall Grilling

London Broil with Zucchini and Red Onions
Iceberg Wedge Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese Crumbles

For the London Broil and Veggies:
1.5-2 lb London Broil
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise, 1/4" pieces
1 red onion, peeled and sliced, 1/4" rings
2 tbsp mint or basil, chopped
1 oz parmesan curls (use a vegetable peeler)
2 tsp red wine vinegar
+more salt and pepper

Prepare the grill to HI heat (~450-500 degrees) Coat meat in 1 tbsp olive oil and minced garlic. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Toss zucchini and onions in 2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place meat and vegetables on grill. Cook meat 3-5 minutes per side, to desired doneness. Grill vegetables 3-5 minutes per side, until soft and lightly charred. Remove from grill. Allow meat to rest 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, drizzle vegetables with remaining tablespoon of oil. Drizzle with red wine vinegar. Top with mint/basil and parmesan curls. Salt and pepper to taste.

For Salad (per serving):
2 slices thick bacon
1/4 head iceberg lettuce wedge
1-2 tbsp ranch dressing or vinaigrette
1/2 tomato, sliced into wedges
1 oz blue cheese crumbles
2 tbsp chopped red onion
fresh ground black pepper

Cook bacon and allow to cool before crumbling. On each plate, place lettuce wedge and top with dressing. Top with tomatoes, onions, blue cheese and bacon crumbles. Sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper. 

Quick Trick for Garlic

Every cook has his or her own way of doing things. Thought I'd share my method of peeling garlic. You'll need a garlic clove, chef's knife, and cutting board or other work surface.
1)Slice off the end of the garlic clove. (The hard nodual side that connected clove to the head.) Some of the skin may begin to peel off once you do this.

2) Lay a large chef's knife on top of the clove and press down gently. (For smashed garlic, press harder.) This makes garlic much easier to peel.

3) Carefully peel the skin from the clove and chop, mince, or slice away!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Menu for the Week

Sunday-Roast Lemon Chicken, Smothered Green Beans, Broiled Tomatoes with Pesto
Monday- Balsamic Glazed Meatloaf, Cauliflower Puree, Stewed Okra with Tomatoes and Green Chiles
Tuesday- Grilled London Broil with Zucchini and Red Onions, Wedge Salad
Wednesday- Stir-Fried Chicken with Bok Choy, Baby Bellas, Celery and Water Chestnuts Tossed in Garlic-Ginger Soy Sauce
Friday- Dinner with Friends!?

And now, you too can leave a comment!

I changed my anyone who is interested in my blog can comment! (The old settings required that  you sign on to Blogspot/Blogger and have a member ID.) Note: Your comments will be sent to me for moderation, then displayed on the site.

I hope to have time to catch up tomorrow afternoon. Fingers crossed for a long nap!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Letterpress Giveaway on iDiY!

I've been wanting a letterpress forever!!! Go to iDiY for your chance to win!
iDiY "The L Letterpress Giveaway"
DIY L Letterpress 4-Step Process
If you've never visited iDiY, it's a fabulous resource for wedding and holiday decor.

Because E Asked...

Blue Hanger is Goodwill's Outlet Store.... I know, I know, why would you need to go to an outlet for a thrift store???
Well, for starters at BHSouth, which houses only clothing and other "soft" goods, everything is $1.25. You can find vintage stuff, label stuff, funky tapestries, and table linens. The North location features odds and ends... toys, lamps, mirrors, furniture, glassware, vases, and all kinds of goodies. Now for the catch:
BH is completely unorganized; everything just tossed together in bins. It's a good idea to wear gloves... and bring some hand sanitizer. The hunt is a definite process, sifting through household detritus (just had to use that word...) to find your next Holiday centerpiece.
They turn over new tables of stuff about every 30 minutes... ushering out the "old" and bringing in the "unknown." While this process takes place, a barricade goes up, and people cram together. They ignore what is already out on the tables, trying to decide if that tweed thing across the room is a men's jacket or a women's skirt in just the right size. BUT don't try to cross too soon! The Blue Hanger Bouncers will boot you out faster than you can say "antique road show."
When those barricades are taken down... AND the officials have given the "OK"... the hoard swoops down onto the promised land. These vultures are ruthless... elbowing their way in front of you and snatching up their prize.
If you think I'm being overly dramatic... Just go... I dare you!
(And I'll go with you...)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gourmet Tribute: Grilled Chicken and Hot Cherry Pepper Panino

i will
insert photo here when 
whatever it is that is 
not working between iphoto 
and blogger starts working

While the published recipe only serves one, I "double-and-a-halfed" the amounts to serve a couple and a little one... or provide a few extra bites to sneak while tidying up the kitchen. Yeah, you know you do it!
These sandwiches are crispy, gooey, and can make you feel a little light-headed if you take a heavy hand with the cherry peppers.

Event: Turn-Around Night II

Menu: Grilled Chicken and Hot Cherry Pepper Panino with Tomato Basil Salad

4 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano
kosher salt and black pepper
1 loaf ciabatta bread (Sliced horizontally (through the center), then into two 4 inch wide pieces, and one two inch wide piece. This will make two large sandwiches, and one mini.)
1 lb pkg thin-sliced boneless-skinless chicken cutlets
2 tbsp bottled hot sweet diced cherry pepper (such as San-Deli brand)
3 balls (bocconcini sized) fresh buffalo mozzerella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
4 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
Special Equipment- Grill Pan (Although, this could be done on the outdoor grill OR panini press.)

In a small bowl, stir together 3 tbsp of oil, garlic, oregano, and 1/4 tsp salt and pepper.
Heat grill pan over med heat until hot. (Or fire up outdoor grill.)
Brush crusty sides of ciabatta with some of garlic oil and place bread, oiled sides down, on clean work surface. Grill chicken, turning once, until just cooked through. Divide chicken pieces between sandwiches, cutting or trimming as necessary. Layer mozzarella slices, cherry peppers (Note: Leave cherry peppers off the little sandwich, if serving to young'uns!!!), and another slice of bread on top of chicken, creating a sandwich.
Place sandwiches on grill pan and weight with a heavy skillet. (If skillet does not press down, add a few unopened food cans on top!) Cook, turning once, until cheese has melted and bread is slightly charred and golden. (About 6 minutes)
Meanwhile, toss tomatoes, basil, 1 tbsp oil, and vinegar in a small bowl. Season with kosher salt to taste. Cut sandwiches in half and serve with salad.
Kiddie Mods: Leave out cherry peppers. Tear chicken into pieces before putting on sandwich. Ciabatta is a chewy bread that may not be suitable for all young toddlers. (Sounds like a disclaimer before graphic television shows!) The same ingredients would be just as tasty on a softer sandwich bread.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Art Basel Miami Beach 2009

So excited that Mark and I are going to Miami for Art Basel!
We happened to be in Venice during the Biennale this past summer, and Art Basel is just as major. I'm reading 'Seven Days in the Art World' to brief myself. I'll be sharing lots of pics of this gathering!
Seven Days in the Art World

Erin Curtis at Women and Their Work

This is the last week to see Erin Curtis's show, Perspective Threshold, at Women and Their Work Gallery.
I worked with Erin on this installation, and just can't get a long enough look at her paintings, prints, and other creations.  I want to go to all the fantastically colorful places she depicts. And, someday, the painting pictured above, Caldor, will be mine... Oh yes, it will be mine. (If someone else hasn't already bought it!)
The show is up through this Saturday, November 14th.

Vin de Table de Choice

 The perfect "Let's Just Drink Some Wine" wine. In the 1.5 liter size, ya know.

Architectural Finds

I am in love with this chunk of wood. All I can do is imagine the rest of the house it belongs to...

Found it on my latest Blue Hanger North hunt. Don't know about the Blue Hanger? Just ask me...

Less is More, More or Less

Most of the time I align with the old contrary adage, "More is more." But sometimes "less" can impress. And "less" definitely keeps your pocketbook more full...
Almost a month ago (for the TXOU game) I placed a single mum in a vase. And here it is today:

Mad About Mad Men

Sunday night marked the finale of the third season of Mad Men on AMC. Our friends, Mike and Erin, joined us to say so-long to one of our favorite series...  well, just until next summer! We had dinner plans, so drinks and dessert were on the docket for the night.

Event: Mad Men Finale

Apple Pie with Cheddar Cheese Crust
Gin Martinis and Cigarettes
Beer and Bailey's (Not together)

Mike and Erin brought an amazing apple pie from Central Market. And thin slices of cheddar cheese to melt on top. We reheated it in the oven with the cheese draped over the top of the crust; it was warm, sweet, crumbly and slight salty. Just perfection! Thanks, guys!
(Note: The pic above is from I neglected to take pics of M&E's yummy pie! But here's her recipe for it: Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust. Also, Mike said that he had it first at The Frisco.)
We got out all the makings for martinis and our Lucky Strikes, then decided that we weren't brave enough to face Monday morning with a cloud of gin over our heads... and we were out of Lucky Strikes, 'cus we don't smoke. (Don Draper and Roger Sterling are shaking their heads in utter disdain.)
So the guys downed a few 2 Belows from The New Belgium Brewery and the ladies sipped Bailey's on ice.
We're looking forward to next season's premiere- Salisbury steak and Jello mold, anyone?!

Decorator's Trick

A quick trick to maximize your decorating dollar!

Place floral arrangements in front of a mirror... voila, you've doubled your bouquet!

Menu for the Week

Monday- Gourmet Tribute: Pork Saltimbocca with Sauteed Spinach
Tuesday- Chicken Paninis with Mixed Green Salad
Wednesday- Roasted Chicken, Sweet Potatoes, and Onions with Caesar Salad
Thursday- Giant Pizza Night?!?

15under15: Pork Saltimbocca with Sauteed Spinach

(Also a Gourmet Tribute... with my mods!)
15under15s come in handy on nights like tonight... Mark's gotta have a quick dinner, play with H-man, and get back to the office.
I call these Turn-Around Nights. Turn-around Nights require something quick-fired, yet special...  something that says, "I love you, and thanks for working so hard for us." This meal fits the bill.
(Please excuse me if I seem overly sentimental- I'm listening to The Avett Brothers!)

Turn-Around Night with the Hubby (and H running around)

Pork Saltimbocca
Sauteed Spinach with Garlic

2 (1 inch thick) center cut pork chops OR 4 1/2 inch thick center cut pork chops (bone-in)
2 sage leaves, chopped finely
2  thin slices fontina cheese (I used provolone- cheaper and just as gooey/tasty)
2 slices prosciutto
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil, divided between pork dish and spinach
1 garlic clove, minced
1 plastic box or giant bag baby spinach
2 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees with rack in middle. 
If using 1 inch pork chops, cut a pocket into each chop. If using 4 thinner chops, you're just gonna sandwich all this good stuff in the middle. Sprinkle half of chopped sage in each "pocket." Stuff/layer with cheese and prosciutto. Pat pork chops dry and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. 
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large ovenproof skillet over med-hi heat. (Note: If you don't have an oven proof skillet, cook pork chops on stove in non-stick skillet, then transfer to baking sheet to finish in oven.) Cook pork chops until undersides are golden, about 3 minutes. Turn and put in preheated oven. Roast until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. 
Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a stock pot over med heat until it shimmers. Saute garlic until pale golden. Rinse spinach and add to pot, still wet. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Season with salt, if desired. 
Transfer cooked chops to plates. On stove, add butter pieces and lemon juice to pan, stirring to loosen brown bits. Pour sauce over chops and serve with spinach.
Kiddie Mod: Cook an extra little chop for your little one. Garlicky spinach draws in even the pickiest veggie protestor! 

Christmas Preview

A little something I'm working on... H is up, and so is my time!

Gourmet Tribute: Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage and Escarole


Another dish that took me by surprise. While it is warm and filling, it is by no means heavy. The flavor profiles are distinct, yet they all work together. We enjoyed this soup out on the patio, with a bottle of Palo Alto Reserve, a very affordable Chilean wine that holds its own against the fennel in the sausage, and the bitter greens. Plus, it sports a very autumnal bottle design!
We left off the croutons and subbed Collards for the Escarole (not sold at our HEB).
Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage and Escarole is an excellent addition to your recipe file... PLUS! It only takes 20 mins... not quite quick enough to qualify for the 15under15, but hey!
Thanks, Gourmet!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Autumn Door Decor

This season's door decor is made from items purchased at the Dollar Tree. Add some hot glue, and you've got a striking display that welcomes cooler weather and falling leaves. Altogether, it cost about twelve dollars. Change the colors to fit your decor... or other seasons!
Fall Door Decor
~7 pkgs broom stick grass Stems (2 purple, 2 magenta, 2 orange, and 1 red)
~1 pkg gold spiral twigs- only used 1/2 the bunch, so leftovers can be used for other decor
~1 pkg gold berries (two per pkg)
~3 pieces painted fruit ornaments, string loops cut off, (I used 1 pear and 2 pomegranates)
~8 inches gold or copper ribbon
Arrange broom stick grass in an crisscross pattern. Hot glue in place and tie with ribbon. Hot glue gold berry stems in an X on top of ribbon. Arrange fruit pieces just under berries and hot glue to ribbon. Stick gold stems inside ribbon, in front of broom stick grass. 
Hang on a nail using ribbon on door, wall, mailbox... anywhere that needs a little sparkle!

Gourmet Tribute: Pappardelle with Chicken and Mushroom Ragu

Pappardelle is probably my favorite form of pasta. Like fettuccine on steroids, it lends a lasagna-like quality to any pasta dish. Gourmet's Pappardelle with Chicken and Mushroom Ragu is the perfect "Texas Fall" dish. It is at once hearty and light... with savory flavors that impress. I don't usually buy chicken thighs- when recipes call for it, I buy white meat instead- but I liked the tender, rich taste that the dark meat brought to the table. The addition of balsamic vinegar lends richness and the arugula brightens things up. A delicious dish!

Pork (or Chicken) Posole

On Monday, I came back to Real Simple's Chicken Posole Recipe, with a few modifications. I subbed sauteed pork cutlets for the chicken and added anaheim peppers from our garden to the onions. Garnish with a little avocado and a drizzle of lime juice.

With chicken or pork, it's simple and delicious!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Menu for the Week

Monday- Pork Posole with Avocado
Tuesday- Gourmet Tribute: Pappardelle with Chicken and Mushroom Ragu
Wednesday- Ladies' Night- Wahoo!
Thursday- Gourmet Tribute: Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage and Escarole 
Friday- Hmmm... no plans yet...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

MORE Part II...

These meals are slightly more complicated, but can still be done in about 15 minutes. If you want, substitute simpler sides to make your life easier. (Or enlist a sous chef to take care of the accompanying dishes!)

Read through these recipes before you start cooking... I've written them sequentially, with step-by-step instructions for the whole meal. The timing should be fairly realistic, but may seem a bit harried. They are ALL worth the effort!

Minute Steaks with Truffle-Parmesan Faux-sotto and Wild Green Salad

For Entire Meal You'll Need:
3-4 thin-sliced sirloin steaks (~1/2 lb each)
coarse sea salt, fresh ground black pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1 cup instant rice (such as Uncle Ben's... not Minute Rice!) cooked according to package instructions
3 tbsp salted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
1/2 c+ 2 tbsp shredded parmesan-reggiano (divided)
2 tsp truffle oil (can be optional... but I highly recommend it)
3 cups wild greens
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
1 lemon half, for juicing

Cook rice according to directions. While rice is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet on medium-hi. Pat steaks dry and sprinkle both sides evenly with sea salt and pepper. Add steaks to skillet. (If all do not fit, cook in batches.) 
Cook steak 2-3 minutes per side, to desired doneness. (Do not turn or move until cooked on first side.) While steak is cooking, chop tomatoes in half or quarters. 
In a medium bowl, combine greens and tomatoes. 
After steak has cooked (4-6 minutes total), transfer to a plate and let stand 4-5 minutes (or until sides are ready. 
In another bowl, combine cooked rice and butter. (Note: If you don't have time to let butter come to room temp, pop in microwave for 10 seconds. Also, cutting in pieces or putting it near the hot stove works helps.) Stir in 1/2 cup parmesan-reggiano. If you want it creamier, add a little more butter or a tbsp of cream. Drizzle with truffle oil and top with a little more parmesan, if you wish. (Another Note: Shaved parmesan curls on top are a delicate and delicious addition... just use a potato peeler!)
Juice lemon over greens and tomatoes. Drizzle insides of bowl with olive oil and toss. Sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper, and remaining 2 tbsp parmesan.
Serve steak, faux-sotto, and greens together on the same plate. Delish!

Beef Kebabs Three Ways with Couscous and Tzatziki (and Pita!)

For Kebabs:
1 1/2 lbs sirloin, flap, or hanger steak, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces- To save time, buy pre-cut meat
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper black pepper
Three Flavor Options, in increasing complexity: 
1. 3 tbsp Robust Italian Dressing from Wishbone (or other Italian salad dressing)
2. 2 tbsp sumac seasoning (found at Phoenician Deli), 3 tbsp olive oil
3. 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano, 1 tsp cumin, 3 tbsp olive oil, sauteed 2-3 mins. in a small skillet
Bell Peppers, Mushrooms, Onions, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks, can also be bought pre-cut at some grocery stores
Don't forget SKEWERS!

1 box Near East Couscous (I like the Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil the best)

For Tzatziki:
1 cup greek yogurt (such as OIKOS or fage)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated (using large side of cheese grater... or you can just chop it!)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Pita Bread 

Prepare couscous according to package directions. While this is cooking, begin cu
Prepare the grill to medium high (~400 degree) heat. Combine meat and veggies in large bowl with desired seasonings and kosher salt and black pepper. (Note: It is safe to combine meat and veggies in same bowl, as long as you are cooking them well! If you are squeamish about mixing the two, you can use two separate bowls, and make separate veggie skewers.) Skewer meat and veggies, leaving space in between. This aids in quick cooking. Place skewers on grill. Cook 10-12 minutes, turning every few minutes. 
While meat and veggies are cooking, make Tzatziki Sauce. Just combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
In last few minutes of grilling, place pita bread on grill to warm.
Serve skewers on top of bed of couscous, with plenty of tzatziki sauce for dipping, and pita for wrapping. Opa!

Chicken Fried Pork Chops with Cream Gravy*, Mashed Potatoes, and "Stewed" Okra

For Chicken Fried Pork Chops
4 boneless rib pork chops (1 1/2 lbs total)
plenty of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 cups+ 3 tbsp flour, divided for breading and gravy
3 c milk, divided for breading and gravy
1 large egg
1 cup canola or other frying oil

For Mashed Potatoes
2 Big Russet Potatoes, unpeeled, chopped into 1/2 inch slices
3/4 cup milk
1/2 stick margarine or butter (mmm... Kerrygold!)
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

For "Stewed" Okra:
4 cups frozen (or fresh okra), cut into 1/2 inch discs, stems removed, if fresh
1 15 oz can Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Stewed Tomatoes with Chilis
1 15 oz can water

*My Gourmet Tribute... Chicken Fried Pork Chops from Gourmet Mag? YES! I will miss them. The only thing I don't like about this recipe is the way it is written. So I'm changing it up a bit to make it easier to follow!

Place potatoes in large saucepan, cover with water and turn heat to HI; bring to a boil. (Cook time ~10 mins.) Place okra in large skillet, cover with water and turn heat to HI; bring to a boil. (Both on back burners to save room to work with pork.)
Pound pork chops on both sides with rough-textured meat pounder until very thin. Season with salt and pepper and cut into 3 inch pieces. Whisk together 2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper in a shallow dish. Whisk together egg, 1 c milk, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Dip pork pieces in milk/egg mixture, then dredge in flour. Place on plate. (IF you have some time, let pork rest for 15 minutes... I know this breaks the 15under15 mantra, but it makes the coating just perfect.) 
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over HI heat. When oil is shimmery and very hot (375 to be exact) fry pork pieces, turning over once, about 4 mins total. (You may have to work in batches.) When golden, transfer to paper towel to drain. Place in oven to keep warm.
While pork is frying, check on potatoes and okra. When potatoes are fork-tender, drain, return to pot and mash with milk, butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover with lid to keep warm.
Also, drain okra and rinse under faucet. Pour okra back in skillet and add canned tomatoes and water. Stir and simmer over medium heat until pork is cooked. 
Once all pork is cooked, pour off all but about 2 tbsp oil into a heat-proof bowl or empty coffee can, leaving brown bits. Add 3 tbsp flour and cook over medium heat 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in 2 cups milk, until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve pork and potatoes with gravy, accompanied by the slightly spicy okra. Hmm... I might have to make this tonight!

15under15 PART II

Mark's been super busy at work lately, so that makes me super busy with H. But this morning, he seems to want to sleep in! Maybe I can post Part II before he wakes...

15under15 Part II
Buffalo Chicken Salad

Buffalo Chicken Salad
1 pkg chicken tenders, trimmed
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup hot sauce (such as Frank's Red Hot or Tabasco)
3 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1 head romaine lettuce
3 stalks celery, chopped
ranch dressing packet (and mayo, milk accding to packet directions) OR bottled ranch dressing
1/4 blue cheese crumbles

Heat oil in large skillet. Sprinkle chicken tenders evenly with salt and pepper. Saute tenders until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat. While chicken is cooking, heat hot sauce in a small skillet over medium heat. Add butter pieces and stir into sauce until melted. Reduce heat to low. Wash and chop lettuce into bite-size pieces. Make ranch dressing according to packet directions. Arrange lettuce and celery on plates. Dip chicken tenders into hot sauce mixture. (For little ones, skip this step.) Place on top of salad. Drizzle with 1 tbsp ranch dressing and top with 1 tbsp blue cheese. For added heat, drizzle with a little more hot buffalo sauce!
Kiddie Mod: Be sure to chop celery and chicken into bite-size pieces. Leave hot sauce off 1 or 2 tenders, and allow child to dip own food in dressing.

(He woke up... only had time for one recipe! Check back soon!)

Happy Halloween!

Our little Owlie...
Felt and hot glue! While I can sew a bit... straight lines and strictly sewing machine... felt and hot glue are the perfect materials for costuming! And, who knew you could iron felt and get such great effects?
Happy Halloween, everyone!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

15under15 PART I

The other night, a fellow playgroup momma asked how I cook dinner with the Henster at my feet. Sadly, I had to tell her that most of my "real" cooking happens after he goes to sleep. Right now, our schedule doesn't allow us to eat dinner together as a family. H is hungry at 5:15. Mark isn't home until 6:30 or later. So, I prepare dinner for H at 5ish. Daddy comes home and then I start on Dinner II. Someday our timing will work out... and so I ask,
"What WILL I be able to accomplish in the kitchen with a hungry, grouchy toddler grabbing at my apron strings???"
Reports from the frontline (moms with toddlers a few months older than H) are not good... Tantrums, diaper bombs, burned roux. Just terrible!!
I vow that I will not go into battle unprepared! (Where the heck did this war metaphor come from??)
Behold, my...

Fifteen kiddie-and-foodie-friendly meals that can be prepared in under fifteen minutes, without sacrificing flavor or flair!
I've divided the list into five parts, with three menus each.
Modifications for toddlers and kids are at the end of every recipe. 
 Part I
~Chicken Scallopini with Brown Butter Caper Sauce, Angel Hair Pasta, Lite Caesar Salad
~Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus, Buffalo Mozz and Tomato Salad
~Curried Chicken Salad Wraps with Chana Masala

Chicken Scallopini with Brown Butter Caper Sauce
1 pkg chicken, thin sliced, milanesa style (available at HEB) This dish can also be made with pork or veal cutlets.
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup flour
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c chicken stock or broth
2 tbsp capers, drained
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Heat oil in large skillet over HI heat. Sprinkle both sides of chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Cook chicken, turning once, 2-3 minutes per side. (If pan does not fit all pieces, cook in two batches.) Transfer cutlets to a plate. Add butter to skillet over MED heat. Stir and cook until butter is browned, 1-2 minutes. Add stock and scrape browned bits from bottom of pan. Add capers and lemon juice. Pour sauce over chicken. Serve with angel hair pasta (very quick cooking!) and Fresh Express's Lite Caesar Salad Kit.
Kiddie Mod: Cut chicken and pasta into small pieces to serve. Let toddler try dipping lettuce bits into dressing. Caution: Croutons from salad mix are a choking hazard.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus
1 pkg refrigerated fettuccine, such as Buittoni
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp jarred garlic, or 1 minced garlic clove
1/2 stick butter
kosher salt and black pepper
1/3 cup parmesan-reggiano
Cook fettuccine AND asparagus in the same pot, according to pasta package directions, adding salt to water. When pasta and asparagus are cooked, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then quickly drain pasta. While pasta is cooking, bring cream, garlic, and butter to a simmer in a large skillet, over medium-low heat. Add a sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper. Add pasta/asparagus mixture, reserved water, and cheese to sauce. Toss. Serve with sliced buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and evoo, and sprinkled with kosher salt.
Kiddie Mod: Cut pasta and asparagus into small pieces. Balsamic vinegar may be too strong when drizzled, so put a tiny drop on child's plate or tray for dipping. He might find a new favorite flavor.

Curried Chicken Salad Wraps and Chana Masala
1 pkg chicken, thin sliced, milanesa style (HEB sells this) OR 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded
2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 cup miso dressing (in refrigerated dressing section), or mayonnaise
1 small box raisins
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)
kosher salt
1 head iceberg lettuce
Cook chicken cutlets. (Options: 1)Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. 2) Poach in boiling water until cooked through 10 mins. 3)Saute in skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil (10-15 minutes)
Allow to cool, then shred. In large bowl, combine dressing and curry powder. Add in chicken, raisins, carrots, and poppy seeds. Stir until dressing coats chicken and ingredients are evenly combined. Add salt to taste. Separate whole leaves of lettuce from head, wash carefully. Serve salad in lettuce cups with a side of warm, fragrant chana masala.

For Chana Masala (My version of a favorite Indian veggie dish)
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion
1 tsp cinnamon
kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer medium low 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. 
Kiddie Mod: This menu is perfect for kiddos who can chew... but you may want to remove raisins and carrot strands for the youngest set. Garbanzo beans can be slightly mashed for younger tots.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Whoo's Gonna be the Cutest Owl on the Block?

I'm following Martha's recipe for adorable avian attire this year!
We'll see how long the wings last... and the hat... and the goggles... Okay, so he may just look like a kid with white felt zigzags all over his chest.
But, he's still be the cutest kid on the block!

Chili con Carne et al

So... I've been running behind on recipes ever since my "sick week."

I'll try to catch up!

We had a big late summer harvest of jalapenos and anaheim peppers. Plenty for a spicy chili and accompanying jalapeno-cheddar cornbread. Both recipes are modified from The Joy of Cooking.

Chili con Carne with Beans and Jalapenos

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 lbs ground "chili" meat (a coarser grind)
1-2 tsps salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion, plus more for topping
10 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
2-6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chili powder- see recipe below*
1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes, with juice (San Marzano)
4 cups water
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Season meat with salt. Heat oil in a large pot over med-hi heat. Add onions, garlic, peppers, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring often, until veggies are softened, 6-8 mins. Add meat and brown, pouring off excess fat, if desired. Stir in chile powder. Cook for 2 mins. Add in tomatoes and water, breaking the tomatoes with spatula or back of spoon. Add beans. Season to taste with salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook for 1 1/2-2 hours. Sauce will be reduced and thickened.

*Chili Powder
3 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp tumeric
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1 clove minced garlic

Combine in a small bowl. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Stove-Top Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread
I had never cooked cornbread on TOP of the stove before. It came out a little crispy on the bottom, soft and light throughout. Sooo good! And I didn't have to wait for the oven to pre-heat to 425!
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
Wet (all at room temperature):
2 large eggs
3 tbs melted butter
1 cup milk
4 jalapenos, two seeded and chopped, two un-seeded and chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar
butter (for greasing pan)
Combine wet and dry ingredients with a few quick strokes. Fold in jalapenos and cheddar. Scrape into a generously greased iron skillet. Cover with foil and cook over very low heat 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Menu for the Week

Monday- Taco Salads with Jalapeno Ranch
Tuesday- Mommy's Night Out
Wednesday- Top Chef Night-Out (It's time for that Robin lady to go HOME!)
Thursday- Beef Stroganoff with Homemade Spatzle
Friday- Out with the Hubby!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Red River Rivalry

 It's a wonderful coincidence that UT and Autumn colors go hand in hand!

Hook 'Em Horns!

Event: UTvOU Football Game

Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries
Fresh Fruit
Potato Salad
Hummus and Pita Wedges

We've found that good old ground chuck makes the best burger. Just toss in a little kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, combine, and form patties. Be careful not to overwork the meat. Just lightly pat it into shape. 

For a great burger topping combo, I look to Shoal Creek Saloon for inspiration. Their Reynaldo Burger is topped with grilled jalapenos and onions and cheese of your choice. (I go with American for this one.) Hot off the grill and spicy, it's an amazing burger!

Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries
3 lbs sweet potatoes, washed, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp chipotle powder (or chile powder)
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Toss potato wedges in oil and spices. Spread out on foil covered baking sheet in a single layer. Bake 25-35 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

(Un)Inviting Exterior Decor

Gotta get ready for the trick-or-treaters! (Actually, we only get, like, three or four trick-or-treaters each year... so the decor is really more for us and our guests!)

This year I caved and bought some of those fake pumpkins. The sad thing is, they were cheaper than the real ones, and our Texas "Fall" isn't too kind to decorative gourds. Don't worry, pumpkin farmers! We're still gonna buy some real pumpkins to carve!

I custom painted the owl door hanger (from Michael's.) It was black and didn't really show up on the door. The white "branches" are just cut from white cardstock. Just use painter's tape to adhere to the door.

The giant spiders are from Target (last year.) They held up pretty well to the elements. And to the staple gun I use to hang them. Tough critters!

The crow is from Dollar Tree... but my mom may have bought them all!

It's getting creepy around here...

Death of a Culinary Giant

I am still shocked about Conde Nast's decision to close Gourmet Magazine.... While I am not a long time subscriber- I've only received it in the mail for the past two years- I have become enamored with its recipes, food articles, and photography. Although it may seem intimidating and fussy, Gourmet, in its later years, evolved into a stove-side guidebook. Its recipes, on the whole, were exotic but real enough for a Tuesday night.
I'm not sure what new mag the publishing company will decide to stick me with to finish out my subscription... but it definitely won't be Gourmet.
For the next few weeks, I'll pay tribute to the late food mag with some of my Gourmet favorites.

Spooky Silhouettes

Halloween is the time to let your creative goblins go wild.

Today, I created from black paper cocktail napkins. They've taken over the house! Each napkin makes 6 bats, so one package is plenty. The napkins are not quite opaque, creating a haunting effect. You could substitute black construction paper.

Caution: You may have to call pest control...

"Cocktail" Bats

1 package black cocktail napkins
bat pattern (1/2 of bat shape... or you can freestyle it with the scissors for a less uniform look)
scotch tape/adhesive dots
dried branches
big, heavy vase (filled with water or sand if branches are too heavy)
Find folded side of napkin and draw pattern along that line. Cut along pattern line. Once cut, carefully unfold and separate bat silhouettes. For a hanging bat, bring two wings in towards body and secure with adhesive dot. Use tape or adhesive dots to arrange on  dried branches in a vase or let them fly freely on walls, furniture, windows...