Sunday, November 30, 2008

Paula Deen's Mashed Potatoes

I made these for the first time at my house in the Low Country of South Carolina, not too far from Paula Deen's restaurant in Savannah!  It was for Thanksgiving of 2008.  My friends Doug and Chris visited from Atlanta and we had quite a big meal. 

8-10 medium potatoes (it calls for red, I used regular ones)
1/2 cup hot milk (I used heavy cream)
1 stick of butter (I used two)
.5 cup of sour cream - I used a full one.

Slice potatoes about 1/4 inch thick. Boil about 15 minutes. Any old potato masher will work fine. I threw in the two sticks of butter and put a lid on the potatoes (off heat) for about 10 minutes to get it nice and creamy. Mash mash mash, then add the heavy cream and sour cream. Mash mash mash.

Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole

Come back later...

Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts

Come back later...

Pumpkin Chili

Come back later...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Grilled Brie and Cherry Jam Sandwich

So maybe this isn't my most inventive meal. It tasted great though! I made it up myself, too.

Just make a grilled cheese sandwich except use brie cheese, and, liberally spread cherry jam on the bread (inside).


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Oktoberfest foods and beer

Originally uploaded by Skyhawk Flyer
This meal was an example of "winging it" with a theme.

I had bought Spaetzle this month already as Wegmans is highlighting Oktoberfest. I already had really good German beer in the house - I stocked up at Wegmans. It was what Mom and I drank in Munich - Paulaner.

The night they arrived (October 7) I went shopping and saw that Wegmans had a section on German foods for O'fest. I bought some pickled cabbage. I also had flank steak in the fridge and leftover gorgonzola sauce. (for all that I wanted to know what to do with all of it after I made it - I've almost eaten the whole container since the day I made it, urp).

So we had a fairly German meal. For the flank steak, I just added salt and pepper and threw it in the oven for 20 mins - it was a little dry, oops. The gorgonzola sauce helped moisten it a little but my Dad thought I had served jerky. The spaetzle was sprinkled with good parmesan cheese and I merely heated up the pickled cabbage.
I also set out some bread with my good olive oil. Glasses of German beer all around, and we were all set.

Gullah home cooking

What is that, you say?

The Gullahs were among the first foreign inhabitants of the islands off the Low Country. I say inhabitants, but, they weren't exactly brought here of their free will. Daufuskie Island is just off Hilton Head Island.

This recipe came from the book mentioned below, and I found it on Epicurious. The link is below. The beauty of this dish is that it is basically stir fried leftovers.

Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way by Sallie Ann Robinson

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups cooked rice
leftover chicken, pork chops, hamburger, fish, shrimp, bacon, or whatever

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion and bell pepper and stir-fry 3 minutes. Add the eggs and scramble. Put in the rice and your favorite meat, stir-fry, and the aroma will get your taste buds hungry. Serve immediately for breakfast, dinner, or supper.

What I did:

I bought already chopped onions and green peppers from Wegmans (lazy). Next time, I'd leave out the peppers. I browned about a pound of hamburger and the rest of the recipe I followed spot on.

Easy and filling (tasty too) and I'd consider tabasco sauce or ketchup on the side.

Don't fry chicken while wearing shorts

Well, I thought I'd give you an update. I had hoped this was going to be a triumphant post, one where the toddler finds she can run a marathon... but nooo, I had to go and burn my hand on hot oil!


Sunday I was idly flipping through one of my many cookbooks (I actually own more than ten, can you believe it...) and came across what looked like an easy recipe for fried chicken. Well, it was easy, all apart from the hot burning oil, but I digress.

So, the recipe. It called for marinading the chicken in buttermilk for an hour or so and then the flour mixture has cayenne pepper and garlic powder in it. The treat was the honey/butter/pecan glaze you pour on top.

Well, my version didn't have pecans and it wasn't exactly a glaze, but it was good.

How the hell do you fry anything without splattering it all over? I'm sure a lot of this had to do with the heat of the oil - I had no idea what I was doing, so I just let it get good and hot and the first ones I threw in turned brown IMMEDIATELY - in fact you are supposed to let them cook 7 minutes on a side - I turned them over in about a minute and they were charred. I turned the heat down to low immediately and then put in the next batch.

Well, the first piece of chicken didn't want to unstick from my fork so, one hand was holding the big lid (so that the splatters wouldn't hit me) and the other one was gently trying to shake the chicken off, and somehow the oil came up - not splattered really, more like bounced, from the chicken piece - and a big glob hit the meaty part of my palm. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW! I'd say a quarter of my palm, the meaty part under your pinky, below the fold - covered in oil - it all happened really fast.

I immediately put it under cold water and held several ice cubes under this cold water - this was so the ice would melt quickly. I did that for a while and luckily, luckily, when I woke up this morning there isn't a lot of evidence anything happened last night - it is swollen a little but not really red.

It was shiny last night and pretty red (maybe in part from the icy water) and I was sure I'd see blistering. I don't know if it will blister eventually, but right now it's not as bad as I expected.

The chicken tasted good though.

Peach and Prosciutto Pizza, oh my

You heard it right. Peach and Prosciutto. On a Pizza.

This is yet another recipe from Sandi's estimable Whistle Stop Cafe cooking blog. And I can vouch for this - it's delectable. To me, the rosemary and prosciutto were the star of the show, with the bufala mozzarella and olive oil a close second. The peaches, to be honest, weren't noteworthy here, but, on the other hand, as it is October I had to use thawed (frozen) slices.

Here is her link:

Peach and Prosciutto on a Pizza

And here is her recipe in its entirety:

Peach & Prosciutto Pizza

1 pizza dough
6-8 slices prosciutto
2 peaches sliced
1/2 cup mozzarella
fresh rosemary
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Make your pizza crust, spreading the dough very thin. Brush the dough with oil, sprinkle generously with rosemary, salt and pepper. Top with slices of peaches and prosciutto cut into thin slices. Cover the top with a good mozzarella. Bake in a preheated oven at 350° 10-20 minutes- depending on the thickness of your crust.

And here is what I did with it:

First of all, I used frozen peach slices. I thawed them in the microwave (quelle horreur!)
Pizza crust, ready made.
I slopped on the EVOO.
I used a whole sprig of rosemary - all the leaves.
I liberally covered the pizza with cut up mozz cheese.

15-17 minutes on 350 and then I shut off the oven and left it in there another 5 minutes.

It was delicious and I have two lunches for this week, now.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Creamy Gorgonzola Fettuccine

Cows near Heiligenblut
Originally uploaded by Skyhawk Flyer
Friday afternoon, half an hour before I leave work: what do I want to eat tonight? For some reason the first thing that came to mind was pasta in a creamy gorgonzola/walnut sauce. I googled the words and the below recipe came up. This recipe was in Cooking Light in 2000. Below is the recipe and far below is what I actually did. Why do I have a photo of cows, you ask? Well, Gorgonzola is a cheese from cows.

Creamy Gorgonzola Fettuccine
8 ounces uncooked fettuccine
3 cups (1-inch) diagonally sliced asparagus (about 10 ounces)
2 teaspoons butter or stick margarine
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups fat-free milk
1/4 cup (2 ounces)
1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Gorgonzola or other blue cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Cook pasta in boiling water 6 minutes, omitting salt and fat. Add asparagus, and cook 2 minutes or until tender.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, and cook for 3 minutes. Add flour; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in cream cheese and salt; cook 3 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly.

Drain pasta and asparagus; place in a large bowl. Add sauce; tossing to coat. Serve with Gorgonzola and walnuts, and sprinkle with pepper, if desired.

What I did:

For starters, I bought asparagus (Spargel! white asparagus) and maybe the first clue should have been that buying it in October isn't likely to yield high quality. The first thing I did was to start to prep it, and after cutting roughly 1/4 of the bunch I tasted a few slices and literally spit them out. Too bitter! I wasn't about to gamble on all this food and cook them anyway in the hopes that they would taste better after cooking. In the garbage they went. It is a shame...

Because the fettucine was 12 oz and not 8 I decided to enlarge the sauce ingredients slightly. 3T of butter, for instance. 2T of flour, maybe even a little more. 1.5 cups of milk - 2%. 3 oz of cream cheese (the only thing that was light in this entire recipe!). 3/4 of a cup of gorgonzola cheese. I also stirred the cheese directly into the milk/butter/cream cheese combo which was cooking. I didn't think merely crumbling it on top would be the same effect - I wanted sauce! I didn't toast the walnuts. That may be a good idea.

I now have an entire 2 cup container of gorgonzola sauce in the fridge, even after having my meal last night. It was very good, and scratched my itch. (Now what am I going to do with all that sauce??)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Jack talk Thai! Chicken and Basil

Simmering coconut milk
Originally uploaded by Skyhawk Flyer
Here is another recipe from the book "One year at Books for Cooks Vol. 3".

I just realized, however, in writing this blog (food already eaten, dishwasher humming) that I completely forgot the "basil" step. Basil and garlic, slightly stir fried in sesame oil, as a matter of fact. Oops.

At any rate, here is the recipe and my variations below:
Thai Chicken with Basil
4 chicken breasts (skinned and boned).
8 fl oz/1 cup chicken stock
8 fl oz/1 cup coconut milk
1 fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 star anise
1 t ground coriander
3 oz skinned unsalted peanuts
1 t sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 handfuls of basil leaves

Cut the chicken breasts across on a sharp diagonal into 1 inch strips. Put the stock, coconut milk and spices into a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 mins and the sauce should reduce by half.

Toast the peanuts in a dry pan over slow heat until nutty and golden. Stir the chicken strips into the sauce and cook gently until white, tender and cooked through. Take off the heat and adjust the seasoning.

Heat the oil and fry the garlic. When it starts to color and crisp, throw in the basil and stir fry until wilted. Stir the garlic-basil into the coconut and serve at once with saffron rice, garnished with toasted peanuts.

Sounds marvelous doesn't it? That basil garlic would have been a really nice touch.

What I did differently:

1 can each of chicken stock and coconut milk - in other words, roughly double the amount.
I bought dried chiles in a bag and threw three of them in the sauce while cooking. It didn't seem to do anything.
I bought anise seeds - in a spice jar.
I bought ground cilantro (coriander) in a spice jar.
Completely forgot to do the last bit.

It was pretty good, if a bit bland. The chili didn't juice it up, and the last part of the recipe would also have been good.

Anyway, I now have a few lunches and dinner this week.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An unlikely but delightful pairing - butternut squash and pears

In the "wonders never cease" category, I made another dish from scratch tonight.

I found the recipe for Butternut Squash and Pear Soup in a (literally) 9 year old cookbook. In 1999 I was in London and went on a mission to find the little travel bookshop made famous in the movie Notting Hill with Hugh Grant. It really does exist, although Hugh wasn't there. On the same street (probably next door, although I don't remember) was the shop "Books for Cooks" and I browsed some titles. You may find this interesting, given my aversion to cooking, but I actually have a fair number of cookbooks. I bought a few from that bookstore as a matter of fact (one, because of the stunning photo on the cover...).

The one I used tonight was the One Year at Books for Cooks, Vol. 3. Apparently this recipe came from the book Anna's Kitchen.

1.5 pounds of squash (peeled, seeded, chopped)
3 ripe pears
2 onions, peeled and chopped
3 T butter
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
2 T chopped coriander to garnish
4 T creme fraiche to garnish

The method:
Melt the butter and stew the onions with a pinch of salt until soft. Peel, halve and core the pears, and add them in with the chopped up squash. Cover and cook slowly until all are soft. Pour in the boiling stock, bring to a boil again and then simmer for 20 minutes. Liquidise and push through a sieve into the rinsed out pan. Reheat, adjust the seasoning and serve in warm bowls with a spoonful of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of coriander.

First, what I changed from the above:
Wegmans sells pre-cut and prepped, vacuum sealed butternut squash
1 large onion, not 2 (it didn't call for large or small)
Instead of coriander and creme fraiche I used cinnamon and a dollop of yoghurt. I did BUY coriander so maybe tomorrow when I have it again I'll use it.

Nota bene - the squash was rock hard when I opened the seal, but, I turned the heat below medium, added a half cup of the boiling stock to help it soften more, and let it simmer for a good 20-30 minutes and it was all soft and mushy then.

I DID strain a helping with a sieve directly into my bowl, mostly to taste it, but then I added in the leftover mush that was still in the sieve and stirred. It was pretty creamy. I won't bother to separate it out the next time for eating. It is easier to taste the pears when you leave in the "mush".

The cinnamon and yoghurt were a great touch. I'm sure the coriander would be fine too.

I can't quite decide if the chicken stock overpowered the taste or not. It wasn't "all chicken-y" but I'm thinking the next time I may even use 3 cups chicken stock to a full cup of water.

This is supposed to make 4 servings but I'd say more like 6.


The photo here has nothing to do with the meal, but, it is a "fall" kind of photo and the soup is definitely a fall kind of soup.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cooking with a laptop - Tomato Spinach Tart


I found a great blog called the Whistlestop Cafe Cooking. Sandi and Bill own the Whistlestop Cafe in Alabama and she has a great blog about her cooking.

I decided to make her Tomato Tart, and in order to do so had to put my laptop on the kitchen counter to follow her recipe while I cooked. Since I like to have either a glass of wine or a glass of beer while I cook, I had to be extra careful. (My beer of choice today was a Franziskaner Weissbier).

Her blog is here:

And her recipe is here:

Here is the recipe in written form.

Tomato and Spinach Tart
1 bag spinach
1-2 tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 small sliced onion
1/2 cup sour cream (low fat)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup grated cheese
1 pie crust
Bake at 350°
Press pie crust into a large tart pan. Combine coarsely chopped spinach with onion and garlic. Stir in sour cream and most of the cheese. Press into the tart. Combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour over the spinach. Top with slices of tomato and sprinkle with more cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Allow to sit for 15 minutes before slicing.

I can't wait to take it out of the oven! I used Asiago cheese this go around. I also had to make two, because the above is more than it seems (I used pre-made pie crusts, not a tart baker) so I ended up using 2 eggs and a half cup of milk for each one.

In other news, yesterday I went to the annual art show in Old Town Alexandria and came home with (surprise) more pottery. This is a beautiful hand thrown and hand painted bowl which is now gracing my counter as a fruit and veg holder. Here it is:

Additionally, my new-found determination to actually cook versus eat at restaurants or other no-brainer food is making real inroads into my eating habits.

Last week, in addition to the Cranberry Chicken below, I also made haddock (pop in the oven at 425 for half an hour, two pats of butter and a lot of lemon juice) with a side of my own recipe I call Lazy Noodles.

Lazy Noodles:

Chicken stock in a can
One cup of water
Egg Noodles
Frozen peas.

Boil the liquid. Add a whole bunch of noodles. I mean, pack 'em in. Turn heat to medium and cover. After 5-6 minutes add in some peas. Maybe half a cup or more. After a few more minutes, it's done. Do not drain. It is not quite soup, not quite "stew", but it sure is good.

My other home cooked meal, which I had twice last week (lazy, lazy) was a Brie and Cherry Jam Grilled Cheese Sandwich. The bread slices were the large size so believe me, I was full after I ate just that for dinner with a glass of milk.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I actually cooked something new tonight... Cranberry Chicken

Since my last posting, I have literally made ONE new thing - and that was chicken soup from a picked over rotisserie chicken. That was in June I think.

In August, for the heck of it, I actually tallied up what I spent on either groceries or restaurants in July. It totaled 775 bucks. Keep in mind I'm a single girl! I thought, whoa, I better start paying attention.

A month went by... and for the heck of it I totaled up my August grocery and restaurant expenses. Over 1100 bucks. Yes, over 1100 bucks. That's just insane - especially since I can't say I eat THAT well. (part of that was restaurant week with friends - who always know where to eat).

Gadzooks. OK, I'm going to really turn over a new leaf here. That is just ridiculous. If I were a gourmet cook, or could whip up a dinner party from scratch, I could completely understand 1100 bucks in one month. The problem too is that I buy WAY too much in one outing and if they are fresh veg, they invariable go bad before I'm able to get to them, and if they are "staples" I either forget about them in the pantry, or, I plain and simply don't use them all up. I'm not someone to buy ONE can of tomato paste, I have to buy 5. And maybe crack open one - or maybe not.

So tonight I pulled out my Savannah cookbook and made Cranberry Chicken. Very Easy.

It calls for

  • Boneless chicken breast (6 pounds - I had 1.5 pounds)

  • 1 oz pkg onion soup mix (I used about half that)

  • 1 8 oz bottle of Catalina dressing - I used half a cup

  • 1 16 oz can of cranberries - I used half a cup.
Mix up the ingredients, sans chicken of course.

Heat oven to 350, arrange chicken in a casserole dish (no top), pour mixture over it, pop in oven for one hour.


My amounts were clearly off - probably a little dressing and onion soup heavy - but it was VERY good and the chicken was really moist.

And would you look at that - I actually have lunch for tomorrow and either dinner again, or lunch the next day. I had an arugula, bufala mozz, and pine nut salad. With really good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I do think though part of the reason I waste so much food is because I am a really really bad leftover eater. I get bored easily.

Pssst - while it was cooking, I soaked in the tub and had a good German Weissbier. Shhhhh.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Farmer's Markets - rites of summer

Red Pepper, Olive Oil
Originally uploaded by Skyhawk Flyer
It's been quite a while since I posted anything. Travel, work, hobbies, they all get in the way of learning to cook. Cooking isn't a hobby yet, although I will say having a blog (a neglected blog) at least gets me to think about cooking!

I've visited farmer's markets twice now this summer. We have one every Thursday in the park next to my office, and a few weeks ago I picked up some steak rubs and also dip mix from a gent who makes them from scratch. Here is his link:

I pan-seared and then broiled a filet mignon using one of his rubs a week or so ago. I'm going to add that to the "recipes made" for 2008 even though that was ridiculously easy. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I also made his tomato-chipotle dip which I used with some fresh veggies (not purchased at a farmer's market, alas).

Another recipe I made from my friend Paige was roasted red peppers! Slice a red pepper (core it, and all that) and then douse it with olive oil. A little salt and pepper, and then pop it under the broiler. Keep an eye on it, and turn the pepper slices every so often. Delicious!

Yesterday I went to another farmer's market and bought a massive cucumber. I've already eaten half of it (yes, it's that big - only half). Cucumbers and tomatoes, swimming in olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar and of course salt and pepper. I'm a simple eater, what can I say.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The fruitless gardener

Here are some updates on my "gardening":

The HOA hired a new company to mow the common areas of the subdivision. These guys mowed a significant part of our backyards, with only an 8 foot swath near the deck that I had to mow. When did I finally mow? Erm, Saturday. No, it wasn't (quite) knee high! The lawnmower quit during one pass though. (this is the BACKYARD, where no one goes...)

I did hire a guy to completely re-do my front yard. He's going to re-sod my grass... and really put some punch into my flower beds. I asked him to make it a butterfly garden. I did select the flowers - does that count? I can't wait to see it.

The bulbs I forgot in the garage I finally planted about 3 weeks ago and they are really pushing up tulips. No blooms yet, but the stalks are really strong. My other tulips are past their prime but they were beautiful while they lasted.

And last but not least - those roses from last summer, the ones I mistreated and abused horribly (including replanting them rather roughly)? They are barking mad with flowers and buds! There are no less than twenty six flowers or buds busting out all over.... (I counted!)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

2007 meals: The List

Here is what I made from scratch in 2007. I'll write a separate post for the recipes.

1. Moroccan Pumpkin Soup
2. Pan -seared filet mignon (prior to sticking it under the broiler) and a baked potato. Yawn.
3. Jerk rub, mixed with Veuve Cliquot, used as a marinade for steak (my own recipe, haha). I also reduced the leftover marinade with limited success.
4. Chicken with mole sauce I had brought home from Mexico City (the mole, not the chicken).
5. Orrecchiete con rapini
6. Boo Hoo Burgundy Chicken
7. Rice/Garbanzo beans meal.
8. Dinner party - Beef Bourguignon, Onion Delight, Baked Brie with garlic
9. Citrus Soy Tilapia
10. Chicken Casserole
11. Another party - Greek Hamburger Stew, also Baked Brie with Garlic
12. Homemade spaghetti sauce with pasta
13. Beef Stroganoff
14. Saltimbocca
15. Beth's rapini with garlic and burnt balsamic vinegar
16. Honey Lime Grilled Chicken
17. French Onion Soup

I thought I had more than this actually. This is hardly more than once per month. Wow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Not a Domestic Goddess

Those who know me roll their eyes when I say I'm going to cook dinner. "What, salad in a bag again? With steamed broccoli? mmmmmmmmmmmm".

Well, in 2007 I had this bright idea that I would learn how to cook. I can follow a recipe - an easy recipe. I actually do know cooking terms - some of them, anyway. I'm not a complete cooking idiot - it's just never been a priority for me. I go out to dinner a lot (and I do have foodie friends, so we eat well), I take-away a lot too, and I'm telling you, salad in a bag is good for you and tasty too! Especially if you pile arugula with walnuts and goat cheese and dried cherries and home-made salad dressing (see, I'm not completely helpless!)

I decided that once per week (or rather, 52 times during the year) I was going to plan, shop, and prepare one new meal. The parameters were that it would have to be an actual recipe made of food components and not just opening a can of something or other or salad in a bag. I had also hoped that the more exposure I had to this strange new world of "home cooked meals" that I would have a ready-made arsenal of recipes in my repertoire and could go to the store without a list and still come home with tasty things to prepare. The "shopping without a list" plan was easy, since it has been my modus operandi since I moved away from home. It doesn't always bear fruit however. Pardon the pun.

Well, 2007 was a busy year as usual - a LOT of traveling (I actually spent almost four weeks total in Europe on vacation, and I think 8-9 nights at my beach house, and then various business trips and trips home to visit the family...) and as always a lot of work... and I recognized very early on (this is key, so pay attention, all you other non-domestic goddesses!) that the hard part of cooking IS NOT THE COOKING. It's the planning! Anyone can find time on a Sunday afternoon to hang out with the cookbooks, fresh ingredients, music, and a bottle of wine.... My problem has always been "before the trip to the store".

I just don't sit down and think about food - I think about food just before it's time to eat. This doesn't bode well for serious culinary skills. So, 2007 was an experiment and while I did NOT cook a new recipe every single week - I did partially succeed in that by the end of the year I had almost 20 new tried-and-true recipes at my fingertips.

I decided to make more of an effort in 2008. What, you say? We are already well into 2Q in 2008? How many new things have you made so far this year? (Erm, don't ask. Please)

I already know that in order to reach my goal I will have to double up some weeks. Maybe keeping a diary will help. Later I will post some of the things I've already made this year. I hope you (somewhat) enjoy my progress!

Oh yeah, about the gardening. I doubt this blog will have much about gardening. If I bite off more than I can chew I'll never accomplish anything. There may be the odd post here and there about my flowers but that's likely going to be it. You never know though!
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