Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How is it 98 degrees still?

Might as well make the most of it and BBQ with friends, yeah?

I love this recipe for so many reasons: it reminds me of my mom, it's super summery, and it's easy. There's chopping, yes, but a rough to small chop is fine...the onion is really the only thing that needs a finer chop.

I actually boiled the eggs in with the pasta to save from cleaning two pots. You have to rinse the pasta why not.

Mom's 'Macaroni' Salad
One package small macaroni noodles (the ones shaped like jujubees)
Two tomatoes, chopped
One can of olives, sliced or chopped
Two hard boiled eggs, cooled and chopped
Three stalks celery, chopped
Half a small red onion, finely chopped
About 3/4 cup light mayo
Salt and pepper

Boil a few quarts of water in a stock pot (enough for all the pasta), add pasta and cook according to directions-10-12 min or so. Drain well, put in large bowl and chill in the fridge.

In medium bowl, combine tomatoes, olives, eggs, celery and onion.

When pasta is cool, mix in mayo, and then stir in tomato mix. Salt and pepper to taste, chill til ready to eat.

Eat with anything worthy of other BBQ food, summer food, or otherwise. And friends, obviously.

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's fall enough

Hubby and I have been on a budget. Which isn't really cool, cause that basically means I'm on a budget, seeing that I do all the shopping...
Not the point. We've been good...especially me, who counts Starbucks, the chiropractor, and mani/pedis among the (few, actually) major cuts. And let me-my bare toed, nail-bitten, sore self-tell you...I need me some pumpkin spice latte. They've been at the 'bucks for like a month, and I haven't had as much as a sip. I'm telling you, the air changes a bit, it's suddenly dark when my alarm goes off in the morning, and my need for pumpkin hits.

And so, as I'm trying to save money...this is my alternative. I cook. I wanted to do stuffed shells, but all I could find were lasagna noodles, so once again, I worked. Served nicely with baby carrots steamed with dill. Even KittyH wanted some.

Pumpkin Lasagna
Olive oil
A few thin slices onion, chopped
A couple garlic cloves, minced
About half 14oz can pumpkin
1 container low fat ricotta
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup or so of chopped walnuts
Lasagna noodles, prepared or no-bake (I love you, trader joes)
Store bought light alfredo sauce ( I use the refrigerated buitoni stuff..molto bene), diluted with a tbsp of water or so, if needed, to get to a smooth, medium thin sauce
Parsley, to serve

Preheat oven to 400.

Sautee onion and garlic (or use an equal amount of shallot) in a bit of olive oil for a few minutes until soft. Remove from heat.

In medium bowl, combine ricotta, pumpkin, egg, about 1/4 tsp each of ground allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt. Add pepper to taste (good pinch). Add garlic/onion mix. Combine well.

In casserole dish, cover bottom lightly and evenly with a bit of the Alfredo (1/3 cup or so). Make layer of lasagna noodles, breaking pieces up if needed to puzzle piece it together.

Spread 1/3 of pumpkin mix across noodles. Cover with another layer of noodles. Spread 1/3 pumpkin mix, then sprinkle across half the walnuts. Cover with noodles, then rest of pumpkin, then noodles, then pour over remaining Alfredo sauce. Sprinkle rest of walnuts across top. Cover with foil. (if using no-boil noodles, let sit 20 minutes before continuing)

Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil, cook another 10 minutes or until bubbly.

Let cool 15 minutes or so. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

*if you can see, the rockalicious salt on the carrots (and everything else I cook lately) is Let's just say it was a gift. From Cambodia. From a straight up salt field. I also have, also from Cambodia, but I've been afraid to use it. Much like the super awesome olive oils we got as wedding gifts two years ago(Thanks L&E!)...I've devoured one of each of said 'duel gifts,' and have been delighted...which makes me more hesitant to use the other. It's like a good wine...Perfect occasion, you know? Anyway. Thanks again, Boss Lady. Get better and go on vacation already. You and Tom bring back the best stuff. (xo)

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seriously Literate, September

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larssen
For the record, said tattoo is mentioned exactly once (I think), and has no other bearing to the story other than a vague, stereotypical explanation of the kind of girl who would get such a decoration (in this case, a sexually experimental, historically abused hacker). The tattoo-lover in me is not immune to this fact, obviously, but I'll let it go. Resentfully. Because yes, she IS the girl with the dragon tattoo.

Here is my honest summation. This is a well written, plot-filled (and fueled), book. It defies the regular recipe, so to speak, of a suspense novel, which I appreciated, but it took a hell of a long time to get to the damn point. 440 pages, to be exact, before something interesting happened. And that, as someone with an attention span of roughly a half hour, infuriated me. I have eight (EIGHT!) library books needing to be read—three by next week. And so, yeah, I need a book to be engrossed by, not one that makes me pick up my phone and play Angry Birds every 20 minutes.

So to those who told me to stick it out, that it gets better...let me ask you: Were you satisfied with the ending? It makes me wonder what the next two books in the series are all about, but to honest, I don't think I want to read them to find out. I'll wait for the movies. Especially cause Daniel Craig is in this one. And we say...yum.

Overall consensus:

The Liars Club, Mary Karr
I'm starting to feel like I need a love story or something equally happy right about now...I was just telling the hubby today that I think part of the reason I loved Garden Spells so much was that it was overall a happy book. There's enough effed up crap around me, thanks. I appreciate that other peoples' lives are exceedingly worse than mine, but really? No fun. I like to be taken to a happy place now and then.

Ok, that's not a fair intro to this book. I love memoirs, and it's good, really, even besides the cancer and the alcoholic parents and the being raped at age 7. Re-reading that sentence makes my point even less sensical, but it's true. She seems to have a good head on her shoulders, and enough sense to make humor out of what was obviously not your typical/healthy childhood. But, and this is petty...I hated the last paragraph. She should have ended it the paragraph prior. Just saying.

Overall consensus
(Man, I love summing things up, I'm keeping this idea): Read Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls instead.

Weight of Water, Anita Shreve
I loved Shreve's book The Pilot's Wife, so I decided to stick some of her other works on the list. I intended on reading Middlesex next, but I decided after my sad-book bitching I better not, cause y'all gave it such mixed reviews.

Turns out it didn't matter. This one tugs at the heart strings more than a bit. I didn't cry or anything (turns out I only cry during Grey's Anatomy), which is good, cause I hate crying. There's a reason I refuse to watch The Notebook, people.

I really liked this book—it tells two really good, really vivid stories. And even though she jumps back and forth between them without warning, you follow easily. I called one ending about half way in, but the other one surprised me a bit (sorry to be vague, but I'd seriously kill the ending(s) otherwise).

Overall consensus:
Thumbs up. Shreve wins again. It's a fairly quick read, too, which I appreciate.

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
I put this one off for awhile, as I mentioned, because I got a 'boring' from The Parallel and a 'not good' from someone else (Kate B?). But I also got a LOVE from another of I was torn. And then I read the back of the book and realized the author also wrote Virgin Suicides, which I haven't read, but love the movie oh-so-much...and the balance was tipped.

This book is so freakin' good. I was expecting a sad, depressing tale, and it's just not. Maybe some of my exuberance comes from the fact that I was a Sociology minor and am fascinated by this type of thing—the book examines the family history of a man named Cal...which is short for Calliope, as in, he was born a female. (As a side note for my fellow Grey's fans...what's with the name Calliope and sexual identity??)

The first half is a beautiful (albeit slightly disturbing) look at Cal's extended family and the biological choices they made that eventually led to his being born a hermaphrodite (hint, it's genetic). It's so interesting and so honest...I kept forgetting it was fiction and not a memoir.

The second half, which is more on Cal's childhood, is a bit slower, but still interesting. This is totally a book we should have read (had it been out then) in one of the Gender Identity classes I took in college. It would have been perfect for that.

Overall consensus: If you want an easy read and/or are squeamish about the idea of sexual/gender confusion, this may not be the book for you.

Next up:
Strangers at the Feast, Vanderbes
Fortune's Rocks, Shreve
City of Thieves, Benioff
The Sugar Queen, Allen

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sorry, honey, but sun-dried tomatoes win.

I've been working on a jar of sun-dried tomatoes for quite awhile now. But when I'm the only one in the house that likes them, there are only so many excuses I have to dig in.

So, in true passive fashion, I decided to go ahead and just use them and not tell Hubby. Not that I think he's incapable of looking at a piece of chicken and realizing what the tangy, deep red additions are...I just wasn't in the mood to cook two versions of the same dish. I did go ahead and add an extra tbsp or so to my leftover portion, which only made it that much better. Mmmmm. I so love those oily little dehydrated suckers.

Oh, and his reaction? "...are these sun-dried tomatoes?" That was it. No complaints, no whining. He's good like that.

This is a twist on my normal stuffed chicken-rather than do a side slit, I did a lengthwise slit down the top, so the mix sat more on top than inside...if that makes any sort of sense at all.

For the rice, I sauteed half an onion (chopped) in a bit of olive oil, mixed in a cup of brown rice, then cooked it in 2+ cups of broth for 40 minutes.

Spinach, Tomato and Almond Stuffed Chicken
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 large or 3-4 medium)
About 1/2 cup finely chopped spinach (I used leftover frozen spinach, defrosted)
1-2 tbsps chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp toasted slivered almonds
(If you have plain, just heat them in a dry skillet over medium, moving frequently, until brown)
1 oz or so blue or gorgonzola cheese (or goat or whatever)
Oregano, about 1/2 tsp
Half an onion, sliced
1/2 cup broth

Make slits down chicken breasts big enough to hold filling.

In bowl, combine spinach, tomatoes, almonds, cheese, oregano, and some salt and pepper to taste (good pinch each or more).

In large skillet, heat a bit of olive oil (1tsp or so) and add onions. Let caramelize down (cook without messing much with them) over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until they start turning golden brown. In the meantime, sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, and arrange tomato mix in the slits.

When onion is ready, add chicken to skillet, filling side up. Let brown over medium high for 2 or 3 minutes, then add broth and bring to a low boil. Cover, and let cook about 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve chicken and onions over rice.

See, not only does it taste better with more tomato, it's more colorful, too.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Clammy, in a good way

I really, really love clam linguine. It's easy, it's quick, and it goes well with wine. So, hello, I'm all for it.

You could use fresh clams, if you were so inclined, but, um, I'm not. I'm poor. And impatient, so...I go with the canned ones. They totally work just fine.

Clam Linguine

2 servings cooked pasta (linguine/spaghetti/whatever)
olive oil
3-6 cloves chopped garlic, more or less depending on your preference
1 can whole baby clams, undrained
1 can chopped clams, undrained
1/3 cup or so of white wine
red chili flakes
salt and pepper
Handful chopped parsley
Splash of milk or half and half
Half a lemon plus slices
Fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese

Heat a bit of olive oil in large skillet, then saute garlic over medium for a couple minutes. Drain the clam liquid into skillet, saving clams. Add wine, a good shake of red pepper (to taste), and a good pinch each salt and pepper.

Bring to a low boil, let cook about 4 minutes. Add clam pieces. Let cook another couple minutes, then add pasta, parsley, milk, and juice from the half lemon. Mix well, cook about 2 minutes. Serve hot with cheese and a lemon slice.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lasagna, pig style.

A few years ago, back when we had just started living together, Hubby-then-boyfriend decided to buy a pig. Well, a third of a pig, to be exact. This was at the tale-end (tail-end?) of my semi-vegetarianism, so this was absolutely not my idea—I'm pretty sure the convo went something like this:

Boyfriend: So, my dad wants to buy a pig from the fair this year, and I think we should go in on it with him.
Pammy: eat?
BF: well, yeah. We'd split it with him and a friend.
Pammy:'d split it. You do realize I don't eat pig...
BF: Oh, you'll eat this. Fresh pork is different...
Pammy: (roll-eyed smell-poo face)

He was right, of course, I ate it—but it wasn't for the was out of absolute necessity, seeing that a third of a pig is approximately 6 million pounds of meat. In my freezer. Leaving zero room for ANYTHING else.

It's...interesting. You pick a pig, they load it on a truck, and it comes back to you in about 68 wrapped parcels, with everything from chops to sausage (plain and Italian seasoned!) to bacon to ribs to rump roasts. So we got creative looking for ways to get me to eat some. (He ate most of it like some sort of caveman, but I still had to help.) And I still don't love pig, let's be clear here. But I'll eat pork chops now, and I do have him and that damn pig to thank/blame for that.

The point, however, is that the best creation was the Italian sausage and veggie lasagna we came up with one night. Seriously, it's fantastic. And it popped into my head for some reason when my girlfriend Dr. N. (our first official Docta in the 'family'!) asked me to show her how to cook something new this weekend.

I think she was surprised by how easy this was...yeah, it takes a little while to cook and to sit, but that's the most time consuming part. If you want to substitute ground Italian-seasoned turkey or plain sausage, go for it. We also used the no-cook lasagna noodles from Trader Joe's, which saved us from having to wash another pot. If you don't have those, cook lasagna noodles according to package directions-you'll want them a little undercooked so they don't get too soggy.

Oh, and hubby made the sauce. Lucky us! (and lucky you, cause he told me what he put in-recipe for that is below)

Sausage & Veggie Lasagna
1 package spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (about 6 sausages)
1 package sliced mushrooms (I used brown)
1 package frozen artichoke hearts
About a half cup frozen chopped spinach
One tub low-fat ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 package pre-shredded low-fat mozzarella (2 cups)
Prepared lasagna noodles
Hubby's Marinara (or about 6 cups of store bought)
Parsley and/or Parmesan, to top

Brown the sausage over medium high heat, breaking into chunks/pieces as you cook it. When it's close to cooked through, drain out the fat, and add the mushrooms. Cook a couple of minutes, then add the artichokes. When all is cooked through (about 5-10 minutes), remove from heat.

In a bowl, combine ricotta, egg, a dash of nutmeg, and some salt and pepper (is it too Rachael Ray to say S&P?). Add mozzarella, mix well.

In casserole dish, cover bottom with thin layer of sauce. Fit noodles across in a layer, overlapping if you need to to cover. Spread about 1/3 of the sausage mix across noodles. Spread 1/3 cheese mixture across that. Add another layer of noodles, then a layer of sauce. Repeat til gone-the layers should be*(bottom to top):
(*If it doesn't work out exactly, or you switch it up, it really doesn't matter. Don't stress about it)

If you use the no-bake noodles, let the thing sit at this point for about 20 minutes before continuing.

Cook at about 375-400 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly. Let sit about 15 minutes to cool before serving. Top with parsley or cheese.

Hubby's Marinara
This is still better when he makes it.

Olive oil
One onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
Large jar of plain marinara sauce
1 can tomato sauce
oregano to taste
basil to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
good pour red wine

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients, bring to boil. Reduce and simmer for at least 45 minutes, more is fine.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

As long as my cooler's on, I'm making summer food.

This got a "this is good" not once, but twice during the meal. Agreed. I intended on making it with steak, but decided/was persuaded to leave it in its marinade and BBQ some chicken instead. Summery, no?

The original recipe calls for pine nuts and haricot verts...but my bank account said nuh-uh. One day I'll try it and compare. Til then, this will do just fine.

Green Bean, Tomato and Basil Salad
(adapted from a Cooking Light recipe)

Package green beans (about 12 oz)
Package grape tomatoes, halved
One shallot, finely chopped
Juice from half a lemon
Lemon zest (1 lemon)
1 tbsp honey
About 2+ tbsp 0% Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper
Large handful chopped or ribboned basil
About a tbsp slivered almonds, toasted or plain

Cook beans until almost cooked, rinse with cold water and drain.

In a large bowl, mix juice, yogurt, honey, salt (1/4 tsp or to taste) and a bit of pepper. Add tomatoes and beans. Toss. Sprinkle with basil, zest, and nuts. Toss gently to serve.

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I can have potato salad and potstickers for dinner if I want to.

So, my grandma was from Oklahoma. (Well, one of them was; the other was from Kansas, which, really, is kind of the same thing) And like many grandmas, she passed down a couple of recipes that my mom's side of the family has kept firmly in rotation. I'm not entirely sure if it's because of tradition, love, or some sort of otherwise commitment...either way, Grandma's potato salad rocks...not to say I don't douse it up a bit; it's just that I'm introducing it to this generation (and not to be insensitive, but most of my family recipes-from both sides-are good as nostalgia, but need just a bit of updating).

Or something like that. I loved the original, I just realize now that mayo is not exactly my friend, so I cut that WAY back and added a couple small things to substitute (see optional items).

Grandma's Potato Salad
About 6 largish red potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1 small red onion, chopped finely
3 hard-boiled eggs*, chopped (I remove the yolk from 2 of them)
About 4 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped small
3 tbsp mayo (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
dash of garlic powder, optional
a couple dashes Tabasco, optional
Squeeze of lemon juice, optional

Put potatoes in large pan, cover with water and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cook about 10-15 minutes or until just cooked (It's not scientific, taste it!). Drain, rinse in cool water.

While that cools, do the rest of the chopping/cooking if you haven't yet.

Combine everything. Be gentle to not mess up the potatoes, but don't worry too much if you do. Perfection is overrated.

Chill. Enjoy with BBQ'd food, steak, chicken, or anything else that screams summer. Even pot stickers. Especially if you're home alone. Cause I won't judge if you eat a whole (small) package if you do. (In which case, you win. Pot-stickers should be consumed far more often).

*Boil about 10 minutes. Let sit, them cool and peel eggs. Or however you do eggs. Mine come out right about half the time. This time I cooked on medium about 20 minutes and it never boiled, but they were cooked perfectly. I consider eggs one of my Achilles heels, so if you have any tips, send 'em my way.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

East coast steamers, west coast style.

I love everything about steamer platters but the name. Well, and the price. So when seafood's on sale, I figure it's the best time to recreate at home. You know, go big. Take advantage...cause long story short, I love seafood. This was my first try...I'm not disappointed, even having used defrosted seafood.

West Coast Steamer

Medium onion, chopped
About 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled but whole
2 tsp or so olive oil
1/2 tbsp butter
Smoked paprika (or you can use a sliced kielbasa. Those are strange options, but all I've got. I'm sorry.)
About 1tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper
Small baby red potatoes, about 2 lbs, washed
2 ears of corn, cut in thirds
One package raw shrimp, deveined, shells on
Package frozen bay scallops, thawed
Crab legs (as much as you can afford, I can't usually do more than a lb.)
Any other seafood you want, in one inch or so cubes.
1.5 cups of white wine
Salt, lemon to taste

Heat olive oil and butter in a soup pot. Add onion, sauté a couple minutes. Add garlic cloves. Sauté all for about 10 min. Layer down the potatoes and corn.

Add seafood; shrimp, then scallops and other seafood, then crab.

Poor wine over everything, bring to a boil. Cover and reduce a bit to medium. Cook about 15 min or until potatoes are done.

Remove everything and put in serving dish, saving broth. Season broth as you like, with salt, garlic, lemon, etc. Pour broth over platter.

You'll need bread for this one. It's soppy.

I took a photo of the "after," but I'm ashamed to post it. Let's just say...delicious.

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.