Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Cat Treats

This is photoshopped, btw. I did not put makeup on my cat. But holy crap, I wish I had thought of that earlier.

Our little masked avenger and her wingcat are getting more love than the candy tonight. (And kids are apparently fine with totally looking around into our house, which I'm ignoring for the moment) So far, we've heard:

Is that a halloween kitty? (Yes. Why not.)
Oooh! You have cats? (Again, yes.)
That's a big 'ol cat! (And again...)
How many cats do you have? (Two. You're looking at them both because both want desperately to run out between my legs right now, so please take your kit kat and go, little ladybug.)
Can I pet her?? (After I let her pet Ramona, the 5 year old asked if she could take her trick or treating with her. That was my favorite.)

Happy Halloween!

Olive Oil Cookies

I know, olive oil...cookies? It just sounds so wrong. But one of the Iron Chefs busted out some olive oil cake the other night, and I was intrigued enough to look it up. And all over the internet there are recipes, and there are ravings. Enough to, again, intrigue me.

When I found a New York Times recipe for these cookies, the mix of wine, sugar, rosemary and pepper was just too weird to pass up. Plus, I knew the Pepper Project would love anything that showcased kampot pepper, so I wanted to review it for them. And so, with the visiting Russian as my Sous Chef (who is down for anything involving wine), it was time to bake.

Don't go into these expecting "cookies," and you won't be disappointed. They're more scone-like, actually...sweeter than a biscuit, and not as crumbly or dry. The pepper gave an awesome spiciness every now and then, and the rosemary gives it an earthy, unusual flavor. I like them. The main problem is I don't know when I would make them, since they seem to go best with wine. Maybe as a savory dessert? An afternoon tea alternative? Cause I'm sure you guys are all about the afternoon tea...

Olive Oil Cookies
2.5 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
small pinch of salt
heaping 1/8 tsp fresh ground kampot (or black) pepper
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, chopped
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil (virgin or extra-virgin)
3/4 cup red wine

Heat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, rosemary and sugar. In medium small bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and wine. Stir the oil mixture into dry ingredients, mixing lightly just until combined.

Spray or grease cooking sheet with olive oil. Drop batter by teaspoon onto sheet. Again, I don't recommend using a toaster oven for cookies, but some of us do what we have to. They really don't spread much, so you can fit quite a few on a tiny sheet.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until they begin to brown. Remove to a rack to cool.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Something fishy.

Fish tacos, to me, are not fried. They're light, they're fresh, and they're simple. And because I'm not really in the mood to write right now, that's all I'm going to say about that.

These turned out great. Super easy, too, especially if you buy pre-shredded cabbage. Use good tortillas, too. I'm super into the Tortilla Factory handmade style tortillas right now. They're nice and thick and don't break when you fold them.

Fish Tacos
2 6oz Mahi Mahi filets (I used defrosted frozen ones and it was fine)
garlic powder
1/3 cup 0% greek yogurt
Juice from half a lime (save lime)
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
Shredded cabbage
8 Corn tortillas

Combine yogurt, lime, green onion, and 1 tbsp cilantro. Add a good pinch of cumin, mix well.

Rub fish with the lime half, and sprinkle well with cumin, salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until cooked through and flakes easily with a fork. Flake into large chunks.

Warm tortillas, and fill with cabbage, fish, and yogurt sauce. Top with remaining cilantro and Tapatio or other hot sauce, if you want.

Serves 4. Good with refried black beans (spiced with a bit of hot sauce before heating).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Man-made meatballs

Meatballs should taste like meat. Or so says Esquire magazine, anyway. And that said, their Eat Like a Man recipe this month does not disappoint. Hubby was reading the latest issue in bed the other night, and it was all he could do to not get up and start cooking right that second. (Which I would have been ok with. Spaghetti and meatballs are always welcome right now.)

The two days we ended up waiting were well worth it, however. It was absolutely fantastic—totally restaurant quality, totally time consuming, and totally appreciated. All I had to do was run to the store for him, eat and do some dishes (and not even that many! He cleaned as he went! He's learning!!). Well, and not think about how many calories are in these suckers. Bacon and olive oil are kind of in excess here...

There were some changes, of course...veal is not allowed in our house (yep, I pull that card), so that went out the window. We also wanted to use pancetta, but it was $6 per 3oz, and bacon was $6 for 16oz. So, yeah. Oh, and we did half in the toaster oven and half on the stovetop...the stovetop set ended up having a thicker sauce, but that seemed to be the only real difference.

So here you go. The man's awesome, total fat-kid, meat-heavy meatballs and sauce. It makes a ton. Make it on a night you have a handful of hungry dudes to feed.

Basic Tomato Sauce (also from Esquire)
4 28oz cans good quality whole tomatoes
6-8 garlic cloves, crushed
olive oil
a few basil leaves

Pour tomatoes and their juice in a huge bowl and squish/crush tomatoes by hand (or use a potato masher, if that's more your bag)

Heat about a half cup olive oil in large-enough sauce pan, and add garlic. Let cook until they sizzle but don't brown, a couple of minutes. Add about a third of the tomatoes at a time, letting them come to a simmer before adding more.

Lower heat, tear some basil leaves (4 or 5 big ones), and throw them in. Cook at a low simmer for about 45 minutes.

1 lb ground beef (85 percent lean/15 percent fat)
1 lb ground pork (as lean as you can get)
About 2/3 a package of thick-sliced smoky bacon, finely minced
2 whole eggs
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried rosemary

Combine above ingredients and mix well with your hands. Just do it.

1/3 cup bread crumbs (we used seasoned)
1/4 cup 1% milk
1 heaping tsp coarse sea salt
1.5 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Slowly add milk to bread crumbs, stirring until the mixture has the consistency of wet sand. Add S&P, and add to the meat mixture, mixing well. It'll be super sticky at this point-it's ok. Refrigerate the meat mixture for about 30 minutes.

canola oil for browning
your tomato sauce (above), kept warm over low heat
finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape meatballs into roughly 2 inch balls, shaping with your hands. In a large skillet, heat about a quarter-inch canola oil until very hot. Working in batches, brown all sides of each meatball ( a couple minutes a 'side').

As they finish, transfer browned meatballs to a deep, ovenproof dish. Cover meatballs with tomato sauce. (Totally submerged, if possible) Bake until done, an hour or more. They should feel firm to the touch.

If you're going the stove top route, place browned meatballs in large skillet or dutch oven—two if necessary, you don't want to overcrowd them—and cover with the sauce. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, and cook, partially covered, about an hour.

Serve alone or over a bit of pasta.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The crust is the worst part of the pie.

That's my opinion, anyway. It's so...crusty. And burned, half the time. And full of calories, which generally means it's just a waste of my time.

Word on the street is that I'm hosting Thanksgiving again this year, so I was digging around online for recipes and got sidetracked thinking about pumpkin. From there, my brain turned to pie, which made me think of how much I dislike crust, and ta-da...the search for crustless pie was on. This was a mix of a couple of them, plus some ideas of my own.

I'd call this more custard-like, actually-its nice and thick, but it's not as sweet as you may expect. If you prefer a sweet version, maybe use pumpkin pie puree, or use white sugar. Or serve with ice cream. Being less sweet has a bonus, however—it's low-cal. 1/8 of a pie is less than 170 cals.

Oh, and before you give me too much credit for "baking" again, this hardly all got mixed at once in one bowl, and I cooked it in the toaster oven.

As for reviews, my guinea pigs were my coworkers...B and I both thought it could have used a bit more sugar (though the low-fat whip helped), but Bossman raved...I thought maybe he was just being overly nice, but as I was heading out for the day, he asked me to leave it there so he could have more. I figured it was probably too much pumpkin for hubby (who hasn't tried it yet) anyway, so I told him to have at it.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie
15oz pumpkin puree
12oz can of 2% evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup quick oats (like Quaker)
2 tbsp brown sugar

In large bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs and evaporated milk. Add in 1/2 cup sugar, flour, spices, vanilla, salt, and baking powder. Mix well. In small bowl, mix together oats and brown sugar.

Pour into a greased pie pan. Sprinkle with oat mix. Bake at 350 for 55 minutes. Check half way through-if it's getting too brown, cover lightly with aluminum foil for the remainder of the time.

Cool completely before serving.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Somebody order me a pizza.

Eternal hunger
+Home alone
+A fridge full of randomness
=Dinners like this

Random, but tasty. It was even in courses, which is multi-purposeful in my mind. I can make dinner last for an hour, and I get to eat more. Win-win.

Appetizer? Check.

Frozen veggie spring rolls with sweet chili sauce mixed with a bit of Sriracha.


Apple Blue Cheese Salad. In other words, romaine with leftover chicken salad sandwich mix (sans chicken)—diced apple, celery and onion—and light blue cheese crumbles with balsamic vinegar. Chives on top.

And then there was risotto.

Mmm. You know I love risotto. This one was easy:

Saute two chopped shallots in a bit of olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes, then add a cup of arborio rice. Saute another minute or two, stirring constantly. Add a cup of white wine, and let cook down, stirring often, until wine is absorbed. Stir in a pinch each (1/8 tsp or so) of tarragon, dill and fresh pepper.

Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and let cook down, stirring often. When liquid is absorbed, repeat with another 1/2 cup of broth. Repeat twice, using a total of two cups. Taste the rice, it should be just a bit chewy but soft. If rice is still hard, add another 1/4 cup or so and cook down. When done, serve with a sprinkle of parm.

Oh, and of course there was dessert.

Dry Cinnamon Toast Crunch totally counts as dessert. Don't judge.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Or you can just be lazy and open a bottle of Barilla.

I'm a big fan of meat sauce. You saute up some ground meat, add a bottle of marinara, and boom. Meat sauce.

Orrrr you can spend an extra 10 minutes and do it from "scratch." I'm pretty sure I'm in competition for The Laziest Preggo on the Planet this week, but I still peeled myself off the couch and away from the TiVo long enough to chop a couple things.*

*I totally cheated and used the Chop Wizard. Much like the infomercials, it is ridiculous. It is also awesome, and luckily I have a mother who enjoys buying me As Seen on TV products. Also, for the sake of full disclosure, I am being overly dramatic and totally worked out for half an hour after work, so I'm not quite as lazy as I complain that I am.

I even made a salad. Although, by "making a salad," I really mean taking the walnut and raspberry leftover salad from the night before and adding an extra handful of greens.

It's a little sad how much the small things impress me right now. Anyway, here is Giada's Bolognese, modified just a bit. (And see? When you make it from scratch, you can give it a fancy name like Bolognese, which sounds so much more legit than "meat sauce," yeah?)

Easy Bolognese
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot (or handful of baby carrots) chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 package (around 20oz) lean ground pork (or beef or turkey)
1/2 cup red wine
Large can crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp oregano
Small handful chopped basil
Small handful chopped Italian parsley (opt.)
S & P
Shredded Romano or Parmesan

Heat a pour of oil (1-2 tbsp) over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute for 5 minutes. Add carrot, celery and onion, and saute an additional 5 minutes. Add meat, and continue cooking until cooked through, about 8 minutes, moving often and breaking up into small pieces.

Stir in red wine and cook for another minute or two. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, basil and parsley, if using. Combine well, adding a bit more wine if it seems really thick. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.

Cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until sauce has thickened back up. Add a good pinch each of salt and fresh pepper, tasting to make sure the salt is right.

Serve over hot cooked pasta and top with shredded cheese.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Let's just make a week out of it.

Since all I want lately is pasta, and I'm basically cooking for myself this week, I decided to just quit the front and let myself eat it every night. I'm starting with Ravioli with Sage-Butter and Walnuts, trying Giada's Bolognese next, and will round out the plan with butternut squash filled raviolis in some sort of sauce (a light alfredo?? Taking all suggestions.)

Served this with a side salad—mixed greens, raspberries, chives, toasted walnuts and balsamic dressing. Hubby asked if the secret ingredient for the night was walnuts...I guess kinda, though to be perfectly honest, I'm not a huge fan, and could have done without across the board. Plus, I probably should have chopped them more—or something. There were a lot left over on my plate at the end.

Ravioli with Sage-Butter and Walnuts
1 package refrigerated cheese ravioli
4 tbsp butter (1/4 cup)
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves (or about 1 tsp dried)
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Sea salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. The timing is kind of weird here, so read through the rest before you continue...done? Ok, once the water boils, cook ravioli according to package directions.

While the water's boiling on one burner, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the sage and walnuts. Cook for about 3 minutes, til the butter begins to brown. Take about a cup of the boiling pasta water and carefully add it to the butter, raise heat to high, and let boil about 2 minutes.

While that cooks, combine the vinegar, honey and bay leaf in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and let boil about 4 minutes. It should thicken quite a bit. Turn off heat and cover.

Drain the ravioli once it's done, and add to the butter mixture, mixing gently to coat. Remove from the heat, toss with the parmesan and season with salt. Check the balsamic glaze—if it's thickened too much and seems to be almost solid, return to low heat until it becomes syrupy again. Divide the ravioli among plates and drizzle with the balsamic syrup and a pinch of sea salt.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

This is happiness.

I love me some Italian Wedding Soup. Like, to pieces. Not only does it make me happy, it's also awesome for preggo sickies like me who can't take Nyquil and therefore are stuck with a cold for a week and a half and need to live off of soup and OJ. This makes about 6-8 servings, which has lasted me about a week.

I know I've posted this before, but I changed up the recipe enough to warrant a Round 2. This time I based it off of a Giada recipe and went with ground pork (which actually has less calories than the turkey) and went with mustard greens instead of spinach. Totally enriches the flavor...Hubby says we're adding it to the menu (of our imaginary restaurant).

Italian Wedding Soup
Half a small onion, grated
Handful of chopped basil
1 egg
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 package ground pork (97-3% or so)
Large pinch ground black pepper

14 cups chicken broth
About 8 oz mustard greens, chopped and rinsed well under hot water (or use spinach, curly endive, or escarole)
1/2 cup orzo pasta (or other small shape)
1 egg
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish

In large bowl, combine onion though pork, and sprinkle with pepper. Use your (clean) hands to combine well. Pull off a small chunk and roll into a ball with your hands. Aim for about an inch or so across. Place on a cookie sheet and continue with remainder of pork mix. You should end up with roughly 12-14 meatballs, but more or less is fine.

Bring broth to a boil in a large stock pot. In the meantime, heat a large saute pan over medium high, coat with cooking spray, and place a half dozen (or however will fit comfortably without touching) in pan. Let that side brown about 2 minutes, then turn over and brown another side about 2 minutes. Remove back to cookie sheet and brown remaining balls.

When broth is boiling, add the meatballs one at a time. Reduce to a simmer, and cook about 4 minutes. Add greens and orzo, stirring very gently, then cook another 8 minutes. Combine an egg and 2 tsp parmesan in a small bowl, and whisk with a fork. While soup is still simmering, stir gently while adding egg mixture very slowly. The egg should cook immediately, making strands throughout the soup (just like egg drop soup).

Serve hot with fresh parmesan and fresh pepper on top to taste.

Pass me the bottle.

Guest posting over at Salt & Nectar today! They let the lush talk about drinking while pregnant. Uh-oh...