Sunday, March 24, 2013

More March Meals

The last few weeks have been insane.  Getting a house ready to sell is way more work than I ever thought.

It's going well, though.   I've packed up a lot of things for storage, and we've painted, cleaned, fixed, installed, and lots of other action words and items.  Pretty soon though, I'll be packing up the cookbooks.  That's ok though, there's still the Internet.  :)

I haven't had time to write individual meal posts, so how about a summary.

One night last week we had Pork Lettuce Wraps, courtesy of this month's "Cooking Light."  Usually I make these with chicken, so this was a nice change.  The ground pork is mixed with garlic and ginger and sauteed, and the vegetables (peppers, cucumber, etc...I didn't have any carrot so I put some onion in there instead) were supposed to be raw.  I don't really like raw veggies on a wrap, so I opted to sautee lightly.  It called for a serrano pepper, but only half of a serrano pepper.  Right, anyway....I chopped up a whole one because they're small and I am just NOT going to put half a serrano pepper away in the crisper to rot slowly.  I ignored my desire to put sriracha sauce in the mix and I'm glad I did because OH BABY!  Those were spicier than expected.  Delicious though.  Brian wasn't crazy about them because of the intense flavors.  (Fresh garlic, ginger paste, serrano)  I served the leftovers over rice the next day and was thrilled with them.

We were replacing the carpet in the family room over to Pergo laminate flooring on St. Patrick's Day weekend.  I had anticipated that this would take both Saturday and Sunday, so there really wasn't a point to making a corned beef and cabbage dinner.  Which is really too bad, because I love corned beef and cabbage!  So I planned an Irish Beef Stew instead.  And thanks to the awesome skills of hubby, my brother and my dad, the floor was done in a day!  I am SO THANKFUL that we have family members that not only have the skills to do this kind of work, that they don't mind helping!  The stew was really good, with some Irish soda bread on the side.  (not made by either of us, but bought at Price Chopper.)

Lastly, and I feel this really deserves its own blog entry....steak over arugula with a parmesan butter.  This recipe was out of Epicurious (goodness what a great cookbook!) and it only called for 12 oz of ribeye steak.  I was skeptical, I really was.  But sliced up, and served with a balsamic brown sugar and shallot glaze and the aforementioned pamesan butter?  This was good enough to be restaurant food.  And I wasn't at all unhappy with the amount of steak.  So, so very good.  And a very easy recipe to boot, the only difficult part was making sure you didn't overcook the steak.

That's it for now, folks!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Surprise Afternoon Brownies

I was driving the Little Kid to daycare before work last Thursday when I got a call from the Big Kid's afterschool program.  With the incoming snowstorm they were going to close early, so he wasn't going to be able to go there.  I swiftly took the afternoon off and called the school and asked that they put him on the regular bus to the house.

Surprise afternoon off!  I felt a little bit like a kid headed on vacation, myself.  And a little quality time, just him and I.  I got to the house early and tried to think of something fun that we could do together.  He loves to cook, so I settled on brownies.  The only chocolate in the house was a bag of chocolate chips.....with a brownie recipe on the back!

Preheated the oven...then headed outside to meet the bus.  His expectant little face...watching for his the first thing I see as the bus pulls up.  He was quite nervous with this change in his routine, but was thrilled to have Mom all to himself for a couple of hours.  He readily agreed to brownie-making, as long as he could eat some that day and watch "Ultimate Spider-Man" afterwards.  Agreed, buddy.

This was a strange recipe, like no other brownies I'd ever made.  It called for melting half the chocolate with butter on the stove, and then adding everything else directly to the pan on the stove.  But I can't complain with how they came out, and the smile on the Big Kid's face!

Monday, March 4, 2013

ATK and Shepherd's Pie

Some nights there just isn't anything on television.  Last night that happened, and we did the unthinkable....we turned it off and went to bed.  Most nights though, we find something palatable and stay up anyway.

On one of those "nothing good on TV nights" Brian found "America's Test Kitchen" on PBS.  (I know!  PBS has good kids' stuff and the occasional concert or documentary, but other stuff too!)  This is a show where they put recipes to the test, making them many times to decide the "best" way.  They also have segments on testing out kitchen gadgets too.  And it's produced and filmed in Boston, so there's the local flair of it too.  Brian's put a bunch of them on our DVR and we've found some delicious things. 

The first one?  Shepherd's Pie.  I've been making it for years, using the recipe in the cookbook from the campground that Brian's family has been going to since he was a kid.  It's good....but nothing dynamite.  Ground beef sauteed with onion, add a can of drained corn, some flour to thicken it up, then put in an oven-safe pan and cover with mashed potatoes.  To make it more flavorful we added a layer of shredded cheddar between the potatoes and meat, and like it with steak sauce dolloped on top of the individual servings.

Yep.....ATK found a way to improve all of that.  Last night's shepherd's pie omitted the corn and added mushrooms, peas and carrots.  They used baking soda as a tenderizer for the meat, and the potatoes got "chived."  The whole thing was cooked in a cast iron skillet (ease from stovetop to oven) so it was truly a one-pan recipe.  And the scalloped top of the casserole with the potatoes perfectly browned?  I bow down to you, America's Test Kitchen.  This was a delightful Sunday dinner. 

The only problem is, theirs takes like two hours to prepare.  So obviously, this is NOT a weeknight dinner for sure.  But it makes a ton of leftovers, so I know what's for lunch almost every day this week.  No steak sauce required.  :)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Best of the Week

We had a week of crappy dinners.  Lots of hustle and bustle tends to do that, so it was meals made of boring chicken and ho-hum canned veggies.  One night even featured a skillet meal from the freezer section, something that we used to rely heavily upon.  I'm glad we've gotten away from that stuff!

  I know that we are going to have a lot of meals in the next couple of months that have "quick" and "convenient" ingredients.  Neither one of us likes it, though.  , This week Brian wrote a menu that put that stuff to shame. Lemony Zucchini Risotto on Thursday night, served with a poached egg on top.  We've made that one a few times now, and I still love it just as much, and ALWAYS have the leftovers for breakfast the next day!!  I am kind of in love with risotto, and will definitely be happy to try some more versions.

 The most intriguing meal?  Roasted chicken and kimchi-smashed potatoes.

This one comes courtesy of Epicurious....which has never produced a bad meal in our kitchen.  This one didn't disappoint, either.  Kimchi is not something I thought that I'd want to try, nor did I think that my husband would MAKE kimchi.  For those who don't know, kimchi is a fermented cabbage dish from Korea.    Authentic kimchi is mixed up in glass jars and left to ferment for some time.  I had a boyfriend in high school whose mother was Korean, and she used to make it and leave the jars on their back deck.

Anyway, the recipe called for store-bought jarred kimchi.  Our local market didn't have it, and I was shocked (shocked!) not to find it at Wegman's.  So we found some cabbage/slaw mix in the produce aisle and decided to give it a whirl.  The spices are more authentic, but the cabbage blend was more "pickled" than fermented.  Looked pretty authentic!

First of all, I have to admit.  Kimchi does not look appetizing.  But this meal was actually pretty great.  The chicken thighs were spicy and quite crispy, with the perfect blend of sririacha and fresh garlic.  The kimchi was good, and the dandelion greens were bitter but worked in the dish.  I don't know if this is something I'd eat again, but I was pleasantly surprised!