Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer Nights

I got a new (to me) cookbook out of the library called "Kitchen Express" by Mark Bittman.  I loved his book "How to Cook Everything" and I will definitely be adding this cookbook to my wishlist.  Everything in the book requires only a few ingredients and tastes really fresh. This book is divided by season, with about 100 (?) recipes per section.  This week we tried Lemon-Parmesan Chicken and Spicy Grilled Pork with Peaches.

The Lemon-Parmesan chicken was really a new variation of an old favorite of mine:  breaded chicken.  This version had grated lemon zest and parmesan cheese mixed directly in the breadcrumb mixture.  I'm not a fan of breading the chicken, but I love the finished product so I got in and got my hands dirty!  (I hate rolling my own meatballs for the same reason.)  Also, pounding the chicken into a thin cutlet is a great stress-reliever!   I did change one thing; instead of cooking the breaded chicken cutlet on the stove in butter until it was cooked through, I browned it in butter on both sides and then finished it in the toaster oven.  Anytime I've e ever attempted to cook a breaded chicken cutlet on the stove alone, I've burned the coating into a black mess.  This resulted in a golden, crunchy crust with just the right amount of butter.  Paired with boiled fingerling potatoes and fresh green beans, and this was lovely!

Spicy Grilled Pork with Peaches was a little different from how we usually have pork around here.  The recipe calls for peach butter, which, thanks to my friend Mrs. I, we had an unopened jar in the house!  You mix some fresh garlic and some spices with the peach butter, and coat the pork chops before putting them on the grill.  I had gotten some peaches, but unfortunately, they weren't quite ripe.  Brian grilled 'em anyway, and they just didn't taste how I expected.  Then I got a couple of bites from the other peach half on the plate and it was just like peach pie filling, hot and sweet.  (minus crust, of course.)   I'd try grilled peaches again sometime, only making sure they're ripe first.  The pork was fantastic!  This one is definitely something I want to make again and again.

So there you have it, two dinners worth their salt on these waning summer nights.  Pretty soon September will be here, the nights will be cooler, and these two delicious dishes will be a distant, sweet memory.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Tradition is Made

 Over a year ago, while perusing Alton Brown's book "I'm Just Here for the Food," Brian discovered a curious recipe.  It's a little thing called "Chip Chop" and as soon as he saw the recipe, he thought that it would be a fun thing to try.

Calories aren't listed in AB's books, and AB Himself often states "I said it was delicious,  I didn't say it was good for you."  So, in this house, "Chip Chop" is now an annual tradition. 

This thing is awesome!  Essentially it's just a pork chop, dredged in crushed salt and vinegar potato chips.  Flavor-wise, it's SO. MUCH. MORE.  It's crunchy, junky and perfect.

In the book, AB suggests side dishes such as fried green tomatoes or macaroni and cheese. We had none of these things in the house, and frankly, those things paired with Chip Chop make me want to check to see if our health insurance covers bypass surgery.  :)  So we paired it with a green salad with light honey mustard dressing and it was good!

p.s.  Will did not partake of the Chip Chop.  Rather, he settled on a leftover burger, green beans and applesauce.  First time in a few weeks he didn't have the same dinner that we did.  Progress is being made in that direction as well!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fresh AND Cheap!

I can't believe it, but as a family we're getting better at this penny-pinching thing.  At first it was tough, but now it's almost like a game, seeing what we can do to save a few bucks. 

One thing that can always use cutting is the grocery bill.  I mean, it's SO EASY to pile all sorts of items in the ol' grocery chariot, and then nearly pass out from the sticker shock.  But do you put anything back once it's reached the conveyor belt?  Probably not.  Lately I've gone heavy on fresh produce, because we could all use some more of it, nutritionally and waistline speaking.  This is the most expensive part of the trip, by far!  It just doesn't seem fair that cookies and ice cream are often cheaper than apples, salad greens and watermelon. 

So, for fun, I checked out a little store called "Banana Joes."  I walked in, expecting more of a vegetable stall and found much more!  Instead of just ears of corn and maybe some apples, I was pleasantly surprised by peppers of all kinds, peaches, nectarines, lettuces, bananas, apples, you name it!  Also, they had a deli, milk, homemade chicken salad, hummus, and a slew of other things.  Most of it is local, but some things (bananas, milk) weren't local.  I filled up a cart with fruit, veggies and two gallons of milk.....for $27!  Peaches and blueberries for breakfast, salad greens, a rainbow variety of peppers for salad and chili....Now this is a place I can live with!  :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Asian-Marinated Flank Steak

I know, I know.  I'm trying really hard not to make separate meals for our three-year old, getting him used to eating the same things that we eat.  But sometimes, you just want something with a little more complex flavor.

This Asian-Marinated Flank Steak is from June's Cooking Light Magazine.   It marinates for 24 hours in the fridge, and then you grill it.  We chose to serve it with white rice and use up the rest  of the veggies from the kabobs we had the other night.  The flavors were excellent paired together!  The only thing missing was a little bit of broth or pan sauce over the rice.  However, since this is a Cooking Light recipe, I totally get why there wasn't one!  And now I have some fabulous leftovers for work. 

The Big One, enjoying his waffles, fruit and Gogurt!

The Little One, enjoying the cool breeze and his Exersaucer while we eat!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Marriage of Coconut and Chocolate

I love it when Brian bakes.  Even though it's hot, and turning on the oven is almost UNTHINKABLE, I can sit on the other side of the house with a cool breeze blowing in the window, smelling whatever's in the oven.  I love benefitting from his baked treats.  And last night was no exception.

He's been tinkering with two of his favorite cookie recipes:  chocolate chip and coconut macaroons.  Both of them are awesome in their own right.  But what about putting them together?  Sounds fabulous.  Probably not going to be quite fabulous until a few tries though, so let the first batch commence!

The trick was to figure out how long they needed to bake in order for neither cookie to be raw OR burned.  So what ended up happening was to drop the dough in spoonfuls like normal, and then  pipe chocolate chip cookie batter out of a plastic bag with one corner cut out.  The chips kept clogging the hole, so they blew out several Target-brand storage bags.  Perhaps there's a pastry bag in Brian's birthday future!)  The first batch came out slightly underdone, but still tasty. 

Add just a little more baking time and VOILA!  Perfectly browned cookies.  However, they were slightly tough.  He tinkered with the butter amount in the chocolate chip cookies, substituting shortening for part of the butter so that they wouldn't spread out so much.  Next time he'll add back in some butter.  And then....the best cookie of the night was drizzled with some additional melted chocolate!
Same cookies, after dinner tonight.  Tonight's cookie was a little softer, perhaps from sitting in a container in a humid house all day.  Or perhaps these cookies are the kind of thing that's better the second day?  Only time (and a lot more baking and taste-testing) will tell!

Currently, this cookie doesn't have a name.  Any ideas?