Friday, October 31, 2008

The love you make

The problem with gift exchanges is that you inevitably end up with one gift giver who doesn't quite "get it" and someone ends up with a homemade pair of socks, while someone else gets a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.

The same can be true of recipe exchanges. There's always that fear that you're going to end up with something dripping in mayo. Something disgusting that I'd have to make while someone else got some light delicious recipe to make. And that, my friends, is why I love my cooking board. The women on it are fantastic and have amazing taste and incredible recipes. Since participating in our recipe exchanges I have never ceased to get excited upon receipt of each recipe. They always sound fantastic and most of the time taste even better.

This month I got a butternut and acorn squash soup - one of my all time favorite soups. And one I hadn't made yet this fall season. I was beside myself with giddiness. I couldn't wait to find time to make it. And then roasting the squash, simmering the soup, watching the gorgeous color and smoothness of the soup come to light. I stuck my finger in it numerous times "just to taste." I even gave Thatdog some of the roasted squash which he loved.

I love this soup, I love the creaminess, the warmth, the flavor. Thatboy remarked to me that while he loves the squash, the "real flavor of the soup" comes from the onions. Really? The onions? And that's why he's not allowed in the kitchen.

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup
1 medium acorn squash
1 smallish butternut squash
1 Fuji apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp salt salt
pinch pepper
pinch nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375
Cut each squash each in half and remove the seeds and stringy insides.
Place face down in glass baking pan and bake about 45 minutes at 375
(or until tender when pierced with a fork).
When tender, scrape all the flesh out of the peel and put in a bowl.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter in a large soup pot. Add the
onion and apple and cook until soft (about 5 minutes).
Add the squash and 4 cups vegetable broth.
Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Let simmer 15 minutes, then
puree with an immersion blender. (Or transfer to a regular blender or
food processor).
Serves 4-6.
Each serving has:
Calories 237.3
Total Fat 6.9 g
Saturated Fat 2.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.4 g
Cholesterol 7.8 mg
Sodium 1,436.4 mg
Potassium 1,061.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 46.2 g
Dietary Fiber 3.5 g
Sugars 2.0 g
Protein 3.2 g

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brand new day

While Shakespeare may have penned "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," I think he may have been wrong. For instance. Take the above dish. It's really attractive, no? No. No it's not. Even my attempts at prettifying it by adding a sprig of twig are really no help. In fact, it looks an awful lot like dog food. But if I posted a recipe in here entitled "Dog Food" not a one of you would make it. But call it what it actually is - "hash" and although you still won't make it, at least you're not calling the authorities to report that a crazy person has taken over Thatgirl's computer.

According to Wikipedia, hash is "often a mixture of beef (often leftovers of corned beef or roast beef), onions, potatoes, and spices that are mashed together into a coarse, chunky paste, and then cooked, either alone, or with other ingredients." (I sure am glad they link to foreign words like "onions," "potatoes" and "paste" because otherwise I would have been lost.) Hash is the perfect way to use up leftovers and a staple hangover type food. Greasy and filling and its got all its protein and carbohydrates mixed together. It's a one skillet kind of meal which makes cleanup easy. And that's usually a big plus for me after a night out where the last thing I want to do is clean.

This is probably the most basic hash you can find, using up the leftover ground beef from our meatballs. And for easy breezy help in making the paste, I used a can of already made beef gravy. I mean, sure you could make your own, but that defeats the purpose of this throw together meal, now doesn't it?

Basic Hash
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 russet potato, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 can beef gravy
  • pinch of thyme
  1. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and cook until browned.
  2. Add remaining ingredients.
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Serves 2.
Each serving has:
Calories 496.8
Total Fat 29.9 g
Cholesterol 82.6 mg
Sodium 896.9 mg
Potassium 931.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 28.0 g
Protein 29.1 g

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In the middle of the celebrations

As Thatboy began his first of three attempts to wrap himself in tea-stained gauze, I had the task of coming up with dinner. As usual, my "in a hurry" meal involves chicken. I called out to my pre-mummified man "How would you feel about terriyaki chicken?" He was interested. And so I headed to the portion of the pantry where I keep the soy, terriyaki, hoison, chili garlic paste, fish sauce, and oyster sauce, only to find we were completely out of terriyaki sauce.

Well, they say necessity is the mother of invention and so I jumped on the net and began seeing if I could whip together some terriyaki sauce on my own. The recipes seemed pretty easy - did you know terriyaki had a soy sauce base? I didn't. The recipes I found all called for mirin, sake, rice wine, or sherry. We all know I love putting alcohol in things, but I didn't have any of this stuff on hand. So I left it out. Then I needed ginger. But I didn't have that either - I did have ground ginger so I subbed that in, but honestly, if you know you're going to make this in advance I suggest picking up some fresh ginger and using that instead.

Terriyaki Sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  1. Heat soy sauce and sugar over medium heat in a saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add garlic and ginger and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

She dresses in black

Let's consider this my Halloween post, since I don't think I'll be blogging tomorrow - too many plans! I got an email from my office building stating that there's a building wide Halloween party with prizes for costumes. Talking with one of the paralegals today we both laughed at what the boss would say if we showed up in costume. Instead, I'll wear black. Both in honor of the holiday and to mourn the fact that I can't dress up for work anymore.

Don't worry, I'll be dressing up plenty tomorrow night to make up for it. So let's have a super creepy meal in honor of Halloween. Did you ever play that game where you close your eyes and pass around bowls of "organs"? Eyes, brains, heart.....maybe that was just my family. Anyway here's a bowl of brains and hair, all covered in blood. (Or for the squeamish, pasta and meatballs in marinara sauce)

Oven-baked Meatballs
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/3 cup boxed stuffing mix
  • 1 tsp onion, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix, and shape into 8 balls.
  2. Place on a cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes or until browned.
Makes 8 meatballs.
Each meatball has:
Calories 90.5
Total Fat 6.2 g
Total Carbohydrate 1.9 g
Protein 6.3 g

Monday, October 27, 2008

I ask you very confidentially

Sure you've heard of chicken in a foil packet, but have you ever made steak in a foil packet? I know I haven't. But the other night I decided, why not? Why not indeed. It made making dinner very easy. I don't recommend this with a nice cut of steak, because you're not going to get a sweet red medium rare this way, but for something thin and cheap this is definitely a way to go. And I'll let you in on my latest kitchen trick - keep a box of onion soup mix on hand at all times. It's great for dips, soups, dressing, and steak toppings.

Foil Packet Steak
  • Steak
  • 1 pkg onion soup mix
  • can of beef broth
  • can of mushrooms
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Tear about 3 feet of aluminum foil and foiled it in half. Lay the steak in the middle of the foil. Spread the broth and onion soup mix over the steak . Fold up the foil and seal it so the broth doesn't leak out. Cook for 40 minutes.

Serves 2.
Each serving has:
Calories 297.4
Total Fat 13.8 g
Saturated Fat 3.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.4 g
Cholesterol 64.6 mg
Sodium 1,259.6 mg
Potassium 572.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 12.9 g
Dietary Fiber 1.4 g
Sugars 0.2 g
Protein 30.5 g

Sunday, October 26, 2008

There lived a man

Sounds like the start of a dirty limerick right? Geez, more and more I'm realizing you readers have one thing on your mind. Actually it refers to a song I've had in my head all week. A haunting kind of song. Perfect for Halloween week right? The song is "Nature Boy" by Nat King Cole. And it makes me think of Thatboy in a lot of respects. And although I call him Thatboy, he is in truth a very strange and special man. He puts up with so many of my quirks, and indulges in my whims. Like my desire to make ridiculous Halloween treats two weeks in a row. I take up the entire kitchen for a week, stay up insane hours, and make the most horrendous mess. He patiently cleans up all my messes, rubs my back and tells me how fantastic my creations are.

And he's completely supportive of my chili obsession. I was so excited when the weather dipped this week. I knew that it meant it was time to whip out my kidney beans and ground beef. And then I saw it in my Trader Joes. A can of vegetarian chili on an endcap. Interesting idea....except I like my chili chock full of meat. Thick enough to eat with a fork. So I took that can of chili and added the most unvegetarian thing I could think of. Ground Beef. Then I added the rest of my chili goodies. Have I mentioned how much I love the fall?

How to Doctor Chili in a Can
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can Trader Joe's vegetarian chili
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 oz salsa
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  1. Heat oil in large pot on high heat. Add ground beef, onion, and garlic. Stir and cook till meat is crumbly and browned.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, cover, and cook for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serves 3.
Each serving has:
Calories 532.5
Total Fat 22.7 g
Cholesterol 66.7 mg
Sodium 1,328.6 mg
Potassium 1,043.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 51.2 g
Protein 31.0 g

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Try to see it my way

The way I see it, you're not really an alcoholic if you ingest most of your alcohol by adding it to food. So what if I use a ton of alcohol in my cooking - wine, rum, beer, and even tequila.

My family? We're tequila people. I mean sure, lately Thatdad's taken to his Grey Goose martinis, but he was a tequila man long before that. I grew up on tequila, sipping the good stuff and pouring the not so good stuff into margaritas. When we were on vacation last month, I turned to Thatboy and asked what he wanted for dinner. He responded that he wanted some kind of pasta dish, but not with red sauce, he wanted a different kind of sauce, and chicken, and it should be spicy. I immediately thought of making a tequila cream sauce for the chicken and pasta. It went over VERY well. So well, in fact, that when we got home I decided to see how it would go without the cream and pasta. Just your simple, basic, every day tequila chicken.

Tequila Chicken
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • sliced almonds
  • juice of one lemon
  • sprinkle of cilantro
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 Tbsp tequila
  • 1-2 chicken breasts
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Put butter and almonds in microwave safe shallow baking dish. Microwave on high 3 minutes, stir, then continue on high 2 more minutes.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients and spoon sauce over chicken. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes or until cooked through.
Serves 2.
Each serving has:
Calories 355.1
Total Fat 24.5 g
Total Carbohydrate 2.0 g
Protein 27.6 g