Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mini Quichie-ism

I love playgroup. I love the women and I love the kids. I love that we all try to feed our children well, and yet nobody cares when the hostess breaks out 50 Chicken McNuggets to feed the 15 children on a Friday afternoon. In fact, we find it to be genius and adopt the practice as our own.

I also love that they all Oooh and Ahhh over my mini-quiches that were, in reality a little soggy on the underside. And given that Lent is impacting the wine consumption, I think they meant it.

Just to prove to Lovely Jill that I actually made them and am not just passing Trader Joe's off as my own, here's the recipe. Though I didn't take pictures, so I guess I could still be lying:

Mix two eggs, 2/3 cup cream, and 2 tbsp dijon mustard in one container; and 4 oz of corn, 1c. shredded cheddar, and half a chopped red pepper in another. I used a biscuit cutter to make puff-pastry rounds just slightly bigger than the bottom of muffin tin (12 smallish). Spoon the corn mix into the center of each round, pour a little of the egg over top, back at 350 for about 20 minutes. They did taste good, especially if you like your puff pastry a little doughy which I do. And apparently so do my friends. Or at least, they love me enough to say they do.

So, in college my roommate - Fabulous Ness, and I invented a religion one night. The basis of the religion was that she and I could marry as many men as we wanted and we would all live together - commune style. The purpose was to marry men with many different talents so we essentially didn't have to pay for anything or do anything for our selves. We were going to marry Nick - our hair stylist, David Duchovny - this was pre-sex addiction revelation, Trevor - a particularly cute RA to organize our social lives....etc. The point of this story is that we were eating quiche at the time, and so (logically) named the religion Quichie-ism. Um. Anyway. I'm done now.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Geek Love

Awwww. You guys. I'm not writing, and you're still reading. That's really inspiring to me. I'm sorry, and thank you.

We've been breaking this last couple weeks...I did that massive two week cooking day. And then Cousin needed some catch up time. And then she needed more catch up time. I'm not sure what they are eating. I think I'm going to cook next week...And I'll probably be using this Rachel Ray menu, as forwarded by the Lovely Susan. Or maybe a week from the Once-a-Week Cooking Plan: How to save the world and balance the budget in two hours a week. Or whatever that grandiose title was.

Tuesday I cooked for a different crowd. Bookclub! Yay! We read Water for Elephants so as to be better prepared to go see Edwa...I mean, Robert Pattinson in the movie next month. Also, Reese - whom I want to be when I grow up.

Though really, I just love the book. I think this is my third bookclub discussion on it. It's beautifully written, gives such a rich picture of circus life, and I love Rosie the Elephant to death. She is so stinkin' charming. The first time I read it, I also read Geek Love - another circus story. It's much, much, much darker and with a magical realism bent. But I think Geek Love makes a better post title. So there.

Anyway, we had "circus" food. Kettle Corn, Pigs in a Blanket, apples with fancy caramel sauce, and Strip and Go Naked Punch (in honor of Rosie, the lemonade drinking elephant).

Lovely Dawn sent me this caramel sauce recipe. It is insanely good. So good that you forgive it for having the dreaded corn syrup. So good that you will skip lunch the next day so you can use the calories to eat the leftovers with a spoon and cashews sprinkled on top.

Caramel-- oh, high heat, that's why it's taking so long!

Much better.

Um, Kettle Corn. Popcorn still mystifies me. I just kind of pour some oil and some popcorn in my Whirly Popper and pray. But since I was having guests, I thought I should be intentional about it. But not intentional enough to make sure I had the right oil. I know olive oil is the wrong oil, but my other choice was Crisco. Like, solid Crisco. So I blobbed it in there with the sugar, salt and corn as the recipe (which clearly didn't intend the oil to be solid) directed. Oops. It burned. Yeah, saw that coming, didn't you? I did it again and this time I melted the Crisco first. Much better.

Pigs in a Blanket....did you know that Pillsbury now makes just a sheet of crescent roll dough??? AWESOMENESS! No annoying lines that we don't need! So I cut the sheet into teeny-tiny crescent roll shapes to put on my teeny-tiny cocktail sausages.

The four year old wrapped them for me and I baked them at 350 until they were brown and puffy. Then I served them with a really hearty brown mustard. Yum.

And the punch. Um. Yum. It shouldn't taste so good: 12oz frozen lemonade concentrate, 12 oz water, 24 oz beer (the cheaper the better), 12 oz vodka (the nicer the better).  Sounds terrible, yes? It's so not. It's so good that you will drink lots. It goes down smooth....and leads to inappropriate behavior. You're on your own with that.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Week 2 of The Once-a-Week Cooking Plan took me about 3 hours this morning. So I'm hoping Week 16 will go about as quickly. Or even faster! A girl can dream.....

But because I'm a glutton for punishment. Or don't know my limits. Or am smoking crack. Anyway, for one of those reasons, I'm also going to start this tomato jam recipe. It's pretty no muss, no fuss. When I first got my hare-brained idea, after brunch in Madison, I found this recipe. But on closer inspection, it was for refrigerated jam only. I'm not sure I want it enough to eat it all at once, I wanted to can it. So I Googled again and found this recipe from my friend Marisa's blog. I don't know why on earth I didn't check there first. It's called Food in Jars, ferchrissakes. Anyway. I'm using about a pound of Roma tomatoes that I froze from the farmer's market last summer. Though now that it's started, it's really only enough for one small jar. Oh well. If it's good, I'll make a monster batch for canning this summer.

So chicken week!! Starting I don't make good bacon. I mean, it's bacon, so it's always good. But I can't get it to cook uniformly. Luckily this is going in something. I'm not sure what, but something. And apparently I'm to cook the onions in the fat. That idea definitely doesn't suck. And the aroma of the tomato jam and the bacon blending together is absolutely heavenly.

Chopping cheese is hard. Well, chopping a semi-soft cheese, like Gouda, is hard.

I don't know why it has to be chopped. That's weird. Is Gouda semi-soft? I just made that up, 'cause it's sticky when you try to chop it. I hope no one ever takes this information on the blog for anything more than my own ridiculous ramblings and ideas. I have no cooking expertise. At. All.

And then I dripped salmonella on my Diet Coke.

These soups are nice and easy, mostly just assemble - the dijon chicken soup is cubed chicken breast, dijon, evaporated milk, white sauce (flour and butter), bullion, garlic and cayenne. No cooking beyond the chicken, just combine and freeze.

This chicken-asparagus casserole looks delish!

I used yogurt instead of sour cream, because I'm still not great with estimating what I need in actual packaging. I guess it's not so much estimating as paying attention to actual amounts. Ahem.

And chicken fettuccine, again easy, looks good....I'm a little skeptical about the freezing and reheating pasta. But we'll see. It's cubed chicken, alfredo sauce (half and half, the chopped gouda, shredded parm all melted together), and spinach mixed with fettuccine.

Then there were two fish things. I made them. There was papaya.

But I'm done talking about fish.
Instead, I'm going to talk about what I did with the tomato jam:

The chicken asparagus casserole had biscuits on top and there were 4 left over. I baked them with cheese on top and then spread the jam over them. It is yummy. Not as yummy as what I had at the Old Fashioned. It's not as jammy. It's kind of spiced ketchupy. But I think I'll try it again with a full recipe. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Two Weeks, One Day

In the grocery store last night, mid-shop, I realized what heavily canned recipes these are. Like GW though, I didn't want to swap horses mid-stream. Had I been home and able to look at the recipes when I realized it, I'd have made appropriate fresh substitutions.....'cause look!!!!:

Seriously, I think I could start a bomb-shelter with all this non-perishable goodness. I can't even talk about the chicken and fish thawing in the fridge. It gives me palpitations. I'm a little daunted, y'all. I'm essentially cooking 4 weeks of meals in one day. Two weeks x 2 families. Hold me.

This cookbook has a "Putting It All Together" page at the beginning of each week which has advice like "chop all onions," but doesn't add up the measurements for you. And the week is (presumably) arranged in such a way that the recipes flow....we shall see!

First up, Seafood week. Since they didn't give me measurements, I'm just going to chop a shit-ton of onions. I'm going to need them. For those of you who don't understand sophisticated "chef-speak", a "shit-ton" is as much as my food processor will hold. If I don't use them, I can freeze them.

Hmmmm....these recipes might require less cooking than I thought. This could be good. It's a lot of assembling, me thinks. Like this Ruby Red Poached Pear soup: blend sauteed onions, beets, pears, allspice, and broth. Then freeze. Maybe that's the method behind the canned food extravaganza madness? God, I love the smell of canned beets.

Note to self: you are getting cocky. Stop pouring liquids right next to the laptop. You will die without your laptop.

And observe the posted "liquid fill" line when pureeing things with beets!!! Moron. No picture, I leaped directly into clean up mode. Sorry.

Next up is the bean salad side....I bought enough for two recipes. But by the time I got 1 can of all 4 types of beans (kidney, garbanzo, black, wax/green) in there, it's huge!! At least, huge for two families with children who are slightly picky. Add red onion, red pepper, balsamic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Freeze, thaw, serve chilled. Hmmm. Now that it's done, there are two family size servings and it occurs to me they could eat one each week. I guess I should have doubled it after all. C'est la vie. 

In fact, I think I may have made a grave error in doubling these recipes. I didn't read the intro and saw no indication of yield for each recipe. This cioppino (which appears to be a seafood stew, FYI) seems largish as well. I'm going to make a single batch and see what happens. It did seem like I was buying a lot of meat.
There's enough for, I'd say, 1.5 families. Which is just right, because I never like seafood when I cook it (except this shrimp fried rice, I liked this). Husband likes my seafood. Other people like my seafood. I love other people's seafood. But when I cook it myself, I often can't eat it. 

(Um. I use a lot of bold. It reminds me of the scene in one of the Emily books [Emily is LM Montgomery's other heroine. Not Anne.] when her writing mentor is dying and says to her: "Beware of italics!" The maid thinks she says: "Beware of Italians!" Hee.)

The recipes do seem to flow well. As long as I read the next recipe ahead, then if there is a little down time in the previous recipe I can get going on the next. The recipes have definitely gone up since the cioppino. The salmon stir-fry looks nummy, as does the southern shrimp au gratin. And this is going fast. I'm on dinner 5 after only 3 hours. If week 16 goes as quickly, I'll be done in time for Boozy Playgroup!

My shit-ton of onions seems to be holding up nicely. I love my 8 qt. dutch oven. Best $30 I've spent at Marshall's. I use it for everything. I use it to sautee and to make soups and stir-fries,  just rinsing occasionally. Heart. And sometimes I wax poetic about it too much while I'm sautee-ing and things burn:

But here's the thing about me: I'm going to use those onions anyway and call it "extra flavor." Shhhhh.....

Another thing about me: I always turn enchilada recipes into enchilada casserole. There is a knack to rolling enchiladas in such a way that they stay enchiladas. I do not have this knack. And, much as I am sure I will never be able to shake my booty like my Zumba teacher wants me to, I will never develop this knack. I am Scotch-Irish. My genes did not give me the booty to shake, nor the ability to roll enchiladas. I am ok with this. I am also midwestern. I'm more than ok with a seafood enchilada "hot-dish." Layer enchilada sauce (in this case mixed with sour cream, diced chilies, chopped olives, and the burned onions), tortillas, mixed seafood (this actually comes in a bag labeled "Mixed Seafood." Who knew?), colby cheese, repeat.

Also, I have the wonderful suspicion that these new tortillas I found, when fried and filled with eggs, might finally curb the Monica's breakfast burrito craving I've had since leaving Colorado.

And, you know what makes an awesome lunch while cooking? One of these tortillas with the left over cheese and and enchilada sauce nuked for 30 seconds. Just sayin'.

One week down, one to go. I'm going to break this into two posts. 'Cause even I don't find me interesting enough to read more than this at one time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I'm exhausted, despite my 9 hours of awesome sleep last night...But I have plans to shop tomorrow, and one can't do that without a list, now can one?
I'm once again curling up with a glass of wine and a new freezer cookbook. This one from The Lovely Susan. The Don't Panic book disappointed with the easy Chicken Cacciatore. So I'm a bit gun shy. I'll give it another chance, but for now I'm trying The Once-a-Week Cooking Plan: The incredible cooking program that will save you 10 to 20 hours a week (and have your family begging for more!) by Joni Hilton. How's that for a title?

This book is arranged by weekly menus. I'm going to give weeks 2 and 14 a shot- with 5 entrees and 2 desserts each, plus a couple sides. There is a shopping list at the beginning of each week. I don't need the desserts, but I'm lazy so I'll just buy the list as-is and sort it out later.

So we'll be making:
Poached Pear Soup (side)
Chilled Bean Salad (side)
Mama Mia Quick Bread (side)
 Easy Cioppino (I don't know what Cioppino - easy *or* complicated. I guess I'll find out!)
Maple-glazed Salmon
Orange Blossom Salmon Stir-fry
Southern Shrimp au Gratin
Seafood Enchiladas
Dijon Chicken Soup
Chicken Asparagus Casserole
Fettuccine w/ Chicken and Smoked Gouda
Red Snapper with African Salsa
Shanghi Fish

Um. Wow. That's a huge list. Ok....yikes. Help?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Other Cacciatore Update

Oh. This is not good. Don't make this.
It's fine. But....not really. As it was simmering in the crock-pot, I thought it smelled a little....thin? So I added a cup of red wine. I served it over some lovely, thick, Amish egg noodles. But I still need one of these to  cleanse my pallet:

Or three.
Husband "eh." Now I'm a little hesitant to make more from Don't Panic. Hmmm.....