Sunday, November 16, 2008

Early Thanksgiving Dinner

Barrett won't be around for my favoritist (shut up, it is so a word!) holiday of the year, Thanksgiving. He'll be on a much-deserved vacation to Miami Beach and the Bahamas next week. So I decided to make a Thanksgiving dinner this weekend just for us. I've never made a Thanksgiving dinner in my life--it turned out pretty well, I must say!

My first pumpkin pie ever. With a pre-made crust, it was a snap.

From left to right: that green bean casserole with the onion crunchies on top (not one of my faves but Barrett loves it, so it made the cut); garlic mashed potatoes (Barrett made these); wine; turkey; cornbread dressing; and pie. Cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and gravy were not featured in our dinner since they are our least favorite traditional dishes. Don't get me wrong--if gravy's on the table, I'll indulge! But I wasn't interested in making it. Also, please note remote controls on the couch all poised and ready to play the next episode of "Battlestar Galactica."

Here's the dinner with Colin, a.k.a. "McLovin'," doing his kneady-pillow thing in the background. I included this photo because when he is McLovin', he is beyond hilarious.

Here's Trixie and Colin, hanging out in the kitchen, waiting for their own dinner which did not include any turkey, stuffing, or pie whatsoever.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Apologies for the lagtime

Hello! I feel the need to apologize for the lack of posts in the past month. For one thing, our camera sort of sucks lately and then it went AWOL for a bit--it turned out to be in the garage. But also, I just not been in a write-y sort of mood. Election jitters? Rainy day blues? Who knows.

I have been cooking, though! I can at least list (and link, if I can) some of the recipes I've made:

1. Mushroom-Shallot Quiche: holy hell, bookmark this one immediately! I made this for the Election Night party I attended and it was out of this world. Melting Gruyere cheese with butter-sauted crimini mushrooms and fresh thyme. . . mmmmm! It was a big hit. I'm heading downstairs to make it again for lunch today.

2. Curried Honey Dijon Roasted Chicken: I made this last night. So good, so easy! I served it with a side of Sauteed Swiss Chard. Love that Swiss chard!

3. Roasted Butternut Squash with Carmelized Onion Pizza: the hits just keep coming from Kevin at Closet Cooking! This was more ambitious, to be sure, but worth it. I did NOT make my own crust, but had dough from Trader Joe's. I also didn't use butternut squash since I already had a whole roasted acorn squash in the fridge from the night before that I needed to use. And I've never fried sage leaves before, so that was fun.

4. Mainly, though, I've been cooking straight from the Cooking With All Things Trader Joe's cookbook. I've been having fun with my continuing exploration of these recipes; getting to shop at Trader Joe's is an added bonus! I can't possibly type out all of the recipes that I've used, but I will list them here. I promise to make them all again and dedicate a post for each. So far, I've made:
- Stuffed Red Peppers
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Black Bean and Ricotta-Stuffed Portabellas
- Tortellini and Chicken Sausage Soup
- California Fish Tacos
- Penne Pepperonata with Shrimp and Asparagus
- Corny-Copia Bean and Veggie Casserole (huge household fave)
- Spicy Szechuan Tofu
- Saag Paneer Lasagna
- Red Curry Halibut
- Okey-Gnocchi with Peas and Pancetta
- Chickety Chinese Chicken Salad
- Curried Chicken Pitas (this is gonna become a lunch staple, methinks)

On board for this coming week:
- Soyaki Broiled Salmon
- Vegetable Tikka Masala
- Italian Wedding Soup, again
- California Fish Tacos, again, because yum!

Oh, and I have a story to relate about the Corny-Copia Bean Veg Casserole. This is a dish that contains cumin-sauteed onions & garlic with kidney beans, plain yogurt, a jar of oil-based mixed vegetable bruschetta, and cornbread on top. Guess who decided that this casserole would be a perfect dessert to his bowl of kibble? Yep, Colin. That stupid cat ate the onion/kidney bean/bruschetta mixture underneath the cornbread (he left a hollowed-out portion), sat around feeling nauseous for an hour or so, then promptly, well, upchucked it ALL OVER THE BASEMENT CARPET. What on earth in this recipe is attractive to cats? The cumin-y onions? The beans? The bruschetta mixture? What a wierd cat.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


What more can I say that hasn't already been said a million times over by millions of ecstatic, joyful, hopeful people around the world in the past 24 hours? I am so proud to be an American today, and for that, I thank you, Barack Obama. Now let's get to work!!

(props to Barrett for poster creation!)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Poached Egg over Wild Rice, and, How To Poach An Egg

Hiya! I made this dish on Tuesday but my sorry ass hasn't gotten around to posting it until this morning. The weather is solidly autumn now and I have made peace with it. It's always easy to make peace with summer ending when it means comfort food! Soups and stews will be heavily featured here for the next few months, I'm guessing.

Here's a lighter comfort food I made recently. It's perfect if you want a hearty dish that doesn't sit heavy in the stomach: Poached Egg over Rice. I used wild rice for my dish and used up most of a bag of pre-shredded chard I had bought at Trader Joe's--I always use way more chard than the recipe calls for because it cooks down so much. This recipe could use some more spice, too, as it is a bit plain. I ended up liberally sprinkling mine with red pepper flakes. Heat works well with this.

Before egg:

After egg and before chowing down (sorry for the dark photo):

Now, let's talk about poached eggs. I have seen many online discussions about the "best" way to poach an egg. Some use a spoon, some use a poached egg device they bought at the store, and, oh, all other methods that involve a kitchen device that keeps the egg in a perfect round shape. What is the obsession with keeping a poached egg in a round shape? It must come from the same expectation that people have about wanting only perfectly-shaped fruit. I just don't get it. No matter the shape, it tastes the same, folks!

The part about the poached egg you should be concerned with is making sure the yolk doesn't get hard. It's all in the timing and the water temperature. Making the well-timed poached egg is an art form in my family, and has been passed along from hungry parent to hungry child for at least three generations. It's fool-proof and easy as pie, too, with no spoons or poaching devices needed!

The Poached Egg
  1. Grab pan. This pan should be deep enough to hold water that will cover one egg in its entirety. That is key. Fill this pan with water--again, enough to cover one egg that is laying on the bottom.
  2. If you have it, add just a tiny sploosh of apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar. Vinegar helps prevent the egg from sticking to the bottom of the pan, but regular white vinegar makes the egg taste tart. If you don't have those vinegars, no worries. Just be vigilant.
  3. Put pan on burner and crank up the heat. Now, you DON'T WANT THE WATER TO EVER REACH A BOIL. What you want is for the water to heat up until small bubbles that are forming on the bottom of the pan start to gently bubble up to the top. You don't want too many of these bubbles to form and you don't want them bubbling really fast, because then you've gotten the water too hot. Too hot = egg white cooking before the yolk cooks.
  4. Crack in your egg and do it gently. The white part will spread out and this is fine. The egg will sink to the bottom. Let it sit there for a little bit, until the white starts firming up and keeping a shape.
  5. Then take your spatula and gently gently loosen the egg from the bottom. You now want it floating. You need it floating so you can see the yolk. Why?
  6. Here's why: your poached egg will be done the very second the white part immediately surrounding the yolk stops jiggling. So, grab the pan handle and start gently jiggling the pan! Keep jiggling it, keep jiggling it, keep jiggling it.
  7. Has the white part right around the yolk stopped jiggling? Great! TAKE THE EGG OUT RIGHT NOW. Do not delay this or else your egg will have a hard yolk. You will be bereft of the yummy yolky goodness that is the hallmark of the poached egg. Remember--if you let the yolk get hard, you must eat that one. The cook always eats the screwed-up egg!
See? It's quite simple. You can have a small child gently jiggle the pan and scream out when the white egg part is firm. Kids love that job! I know I did. Happy poaching!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Potato Leek Soup

Potato leek soup is one of the most basic, simple, and delicious soups out there. It doesn't need anything more than leeks, potatoes, water/stock, and cream. There are variations, of course, but that's the gist of it.

The recipe I use most often, I got from some blog, but now I can't locate it on the internet anymore. I printed it out a long time ago. I want to give credit, but I guess I can't. So, thanks whoever originally posted it--it's my favorite variation on this soup.

Potato Leek Soup

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 leeks, rinsed and trimmed of the dark green part (always a big duh, but whatever)
  • 3-5 potatoes, peeled and cubed (you MUST peel them for this soup!)
  • 6 cups chicken or veggie stock
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • juice of 1 lemon (which is 5 tbsp)
  • dill, however much you want
  • salt and pepper
  1. Halve lengthways, then slice the cleaned leeks into thin, little half moons. Cube the potatoes.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add leeks and potatoes. (I also sliced up one carrot and tossed it in, for color.)
  3. Season the leeks and potatoes with salt and pepper, and toss them to coat with the butter. Saute for about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Then turn heat down to medium, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until potatoes are soft. (I added some frozen corn here, just 'cuz.)
  5. Mix the cream and lemon juice together in a small bowl.
  6. Blend the soup using a stick blender or food processor. (I tend to blend but leave some small chunks of veggies for texture.)
  7. Stir in the cream/lemon mixture and dill. Keep adding salt, pepper, and dill to taste.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chicken Chili and Sick Kitty

Hola. It's a worrisome day here in the household, as Colin is sick. We fed him his usual can of wet food at 9am, whereupon he ate half of it and pretty immediately regurgitated it. He's been lethargic and punky ever since, and was even hiding under the bed for awhile. He's now been asleep on top of the towel shelf in the bathroom for a few hours. We squirted some water into his mouth in case he's getting dehydrated--I'll continue to do that for the rest of the evening. I'm concerned about him and hope the little shaver feels better by morning.

Because of his lethargic state, Trixie has actually dared to lay next to him on the towels! This is nothing short of a miracle and proves how out of it he is, because normally he'd be nipping at her feet while holding her in a headlock. She's curious about his lack of interest in her. I got it on camera! You'll never see the likes of this again:

Here's a tranquil photo that Barrett took earlier this week of Trixie sitting in the kitchen window with some houseplants, soaking in the September sunshine:

Okay, since this is supposed to be mainly a food blog, I will throw you all a bone. Or rather, a pot of Chicken & White Bean Chili. I saw this on Crazy Aunt Purl's blog today and knew that that is what I wanted for dinner. The weather turned chilly and rainy overnight; nothing else would do. Here's a crappy overlit photo of it, as proof:

'T'was yum. I added an extra cup of veggie broth to mellow out the scalding three tablespoons of chili powder it calls for. This is a four-alarm chili, my friends!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Purslane Salad with Garlic-Yogurt Sauce

Every summer, one of my garden beds is taken over by this weed. I pull it up but it keeps coming back. It grows at an alarming rate.

It looks like this up close.

Here, it is fighting for acreage with our strawberry plants, which also grow at an alarming rate. The lavender just tries to mind its own business.

So imagine my shock when I saw a recipe using this, this, WEED on the Almost Turkish Recipes blog. This WEED has a name: purslane. Or pigweed. Or verdolaga, if you please. And, not only is it an edible cousin to spinach, it's very nutritious--high in Omega 3 fatty acids. It's the salmon of the vegetable world! Except that salmon is expensive and this stuff is free and in my backyard. The author of Almost Turkish recipes, as well as other food blogs I've read, seem to have a difficult time finding this and when they do, it's priced rather dearly. My fellow food bloggers, you are more than welcome to come and raid my backyard! Please, I beg you. I'm drowning in purslane.

Thanks to the dismally cold and wet Seattle summer, none of my vegetables save the snap peas flourished. I am determined to harvest something, dammit! Tonight, it was the WEED. I made a Purslane Salad with Garlic-Yogurt Sauce. Here's the bunches of WEED that I yanked out, washed off, and cut up.

I sauteed a minced onion with garlic, added lemon juice & water, somesalt, some rice, and let that simmer. At the last minute, I chopped up some tomatoes and tossed them in for color. I mixed minced garlic into some plain yogurt and black pepper as a sauce to dollop on the salad. We had the WEED rice salad with tofu dogs and homemade raspberry iced tea, because that's how we roll in this house--random combinations of food that we dare to call dinner!

The verdict? Barrett was a bit hesitant on it. He liked it alright, but acknowledged its "different" flavor and said he simply wasn't used to it. I can see where he's coming from. It's bright and almost lemony, very hearty, but with a decided earth-y overtone. You can taste that this grew in soil, more than most other greens I've eaten. I understand people not taking to it. I like it. I want to try other recipes with it, like the purslane salsa recipe I spotted somewhere.

And thus ends the story of the WEED.

Postscript: we recently acquired a very very very fuzzy couch pillow that Colin absolutely adores. He adores it so much, he drools on it while kneading it. His new nickname when he is kneading on this pillow? McLovin'.