Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cookie Monster

That's what I am. A cookie monster. In fact, I'm more like a non-cooking, submarine eating, chocolate consuming monster. Help! Derailment isn't the word. I haven't even been working out this week! Tis the season...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Holiday Parties

There won't be any cooking in our household the next several days. First off, Johnnycakes is out of town for a few days for work. Secondly, tonight starts off the holiday season for me. I'm going to my first of four holiday parties this week which promise to be full of tasty holiday treats and beverages. I've been really good about diet and exercise the past month so I'm hoping to not get totally derailed this week. Wish me luck!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Monochromatic Meal

They say the more colors in the meal, the healthier. If that's true, then this meal is not very healthy. It's pretty much a monochromatic scale of yellow. Grilled chicken thigh, fried plantains, baked french fried potatoes and half an ear of yellow corn. Despite the shades of yellow, this meal was delicious.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Super Simple Egg Salad

You know how you get a craving for a certain food and it just won't go away? Well I've been craving egg salad for about a week and a half. I finally got around to making it tonight. I don't have a recipe for some sophisticated egg salad. Just the basics in this case!

Super Simple Egg Salad

4 eggs, hard boiled, chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

3 Tbsp. light mayo

salt and pepper to taste

Mix! Chill for 30 minutes and serve on lettuce or toast.

Like I said, nothing fancy but it'll do just fine. I usually eat a fried egg over easy with toast which is pretty plain. I occasionally like scrambled eggs or vegetable omelets but I tend to lean towards simplicity when it comes to eggs. Sometimes I like hot sauce. Maybe some cayenne pepper would add a little punch to the egg salad. Does anybody have any ideas to make egg salad a little more distinct?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Man Food

I have somehow caught a killer cold and Johnnycakes has been waiting on me hand and foot, well almost. This cold has rendered me useless in many respects and cooking is one of them (Tho I did muster the strength to make the lasagna the other night). While I was napping, Johnnycakes made me a real man's dinner: Meat and Potatoes.

I can't complain! The New York Strip was grilled to a medium well perfection in the back yard and the french fried potatoes had just the right crisp. We had a starchy succotash for our veggie. Delicious!

Thanks Johnnycakes for this sustaining meal. I need to rebuild my strength to beat this cold for good!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Lake Lasagne

Sometimes the best recipes are the ones you find on the back of the manufacturer's packaging or on their websites. For instance, the chocolate brownies I made on Thanksgiving were excellent and straight from the Hershey's website.

Tonight's lasagna came right from the back of the San Georgio "no boil" lasagna package. You can find the recipe here:

It's hard to mess up lasagna with all it's cheesy yumminess especially when you are following a recipe. I did tinker with the recipe a bit. Since I'm a veggie lover, I added a can of tomatoes, mushrooms and onions to the mix. I also needed more like two jars of spaghetti sauce to make make the dish the way it is described on the box. Unfortunately, I think it made it a little too watery because the dish fell apart when I cut into it. It was more like a pasta cheese soup than lasagna. Maybe I should have followed the directions...

Well, it still tasted good and will yield plenty of leftovers! That's what's important to us!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Game Day Decision

Now that word has traveled far and wide about Johnnycakes legendary Sunday backyard barbecuing, his services have created quite a demand. Somewhat comically, our neighbor showed up with a pound of scallops and a family pack of chicken wings for John to prepare without prior knowledge.

Johnnycakes was all prepared to make the honey mustard wings he prepared last week when I made a last minute request for good old fashioned hot wings! Johnnycakes claimed I was making an abrupt game day decision but I stood my ground.

To make chicken wings, you actually have to cut off the tips of the wings, and then cut the wing into the traditional top and bottom pieces you get in the restaurant.

With my assistance, Johnnycakes placed the wings into a freezer bag and topped the wings with the "Johnny Rub" as he likes to call it.

The "Johnny Rub" goes something like this:

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup of paprika
1 Tbsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. Salt
dust with pepper

Then you seal the freezer bag and "massage" all the ingredients together until well blended. We let the flavors marinate for a couple of hours in the fridge placing them on the grill to "smoke".
Johnnycakes has taken a liking to the smoking technique. He soaks wood chips in water for about an hour before placing them in a aluminum tray in the back of the grill. This slow cooking technique obviously lends a smoky flavor to the meat and makes the meat almost fall off the bone. The grill was definitely kicking out some smoke! The whole neighborhood could probably smell it:)

The final step is to toss the wings in hot pepper sauce and melted butter before serving with bleu cheese dressing and celery.

I'm sure you can tell how this story will end. We enjoyed some delicious hot wings while watching, in Johnnycakes case, hours of endless football. I'm glad I was able to make a play for the traditional hot wings opposed to the honey mustard wings. Sometimes you can't mess with tradition.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Trimmings

Well, after a frenzied trip to the grocery store and a three hour cooking marathon, I am finally ready for Thanksgiving. This is the first year I can remember in a while where I was actually finished all my cooking the night before the big holiday. Here's what I whipped up!

Mashed Potatoes! The King of all Thanksgiving side dishes! At least in my mind. I've been making this staple the past three years ever since my mother and grandmother said they didn't want to take on the task anymore. I whipped them up by adding 2% milk, a whole stick of butter, 8 0z. sour cream and some chicken broth. The key is using a hand mixer to make sure all the lumps are out.

I also make a corn bread every year. I usually make corn muffins but I need new muffin tins so I went the old fashioned loaf pan route. My family is always indifferent when I bring this to Thanksgiving dinner but, I love it so much, I make it for myself.

Nothing says Thanksgiving like chocolate. Well maybe not, but I was craving some brownies. Check out this saucepan brownie recipe from the Hershey website. They were super easy to bake and Johnnycakes loved licking the bowl! I substituted walnuts for the macadamia nuts.

Finally, one of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers! It seems like there are never enough which is why I prepared this squash casserole to serve with leftovers over the weekend. I petitioned to have this casserole, which is my sister's recipe, served at Thanksgiving dinner but I was overruled. It's so good that I made a mini one for Johnnycakes and I's personal consumption. It's already to pull out of the fridge and bake on Friday.

I know these items are sort of an eclectic mix of Thanksgiving side items but I love everyone of them dearly.

Happy Turkey Day everyone! I hope you enjoy your feasts as much as I know we will. Thanks for reading!

Waiting Till the Last Minute

I still haven't gone to the grocery store for Thanksgiving items! Am I alone? Are there others that have waited till the last minute? I probably won' t get to the store before 7 p.m. tonight. I'm only preparing a few sides for our family feast but there is still a lot of prep to do. Here are a few items I need off the top of my head:
5lbs potatoes
sour cream
chix broth
squash, yellow and green
cheddar cheese
stove top stuffing
creamed corn
canned corn

That's enough for now but I'm sure I'm forgetting a few items. I hope I'm not in over my head. Is anyone else out there in the same boat?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lemon Chicken and Other Non-Holiday Related Foods

It's always tough to prepare dinner the final days leading up to Thanksgiving. You're craving all those traditional Thanksgiving items but you don't want to spoil the big day by eating something too similar. Come to think of it, that's probably why I've been craving lasagna but I digress. We also need to go to the grocery store for our big Thanksgiving shopping trip so our food selection is pretty sparse. Since Johnnycakes has been preparing so many magnificent feasts lately, I really wanted to pull my own weight and let him relax.

I scoured the fridge for ideas on flavoring the chicken. I thought there wasn't too much about Lemon Chicken that reminded me of Thanksgiving.

I marinated the chicken breasts for 30 minutes with the following items:

1/2 lemon, squeezed
1 TBSP. Lemon Pepper Seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt

I tried to keep Johnnycakes involvement to a minimum but, being the barbecue king that he is, he grilled the chicken out back while I tended to the side dishes.

I picked up some Rice-A-Roni Savory Whole Grain Rice packs a few weeks ago when they were on sale . I thought the Chicken and Herbs Classico flavor would complement the chicken. I rounded out the meal with brussell sprouts and acorn squash. I know the acorn squash was kind of pushing the non-Thanksgiving theme but we've had it in the house for a while and I don't want to waste it. I contemplated cooking the acorn squash on the grill but I went the easy route and microwaved the quartered squash topped with butter, pumpkin pie spice and honey.

We both enjoyed this pre-Thanksgiving meal without spoiling our appetite for the big day!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Dinner

I am one lucky lady. My dear husband has gotten into the habit of preparing a marvelous feast for my consumption every Sunday. While I run around town tending to errands and visiting friends and family, he is in his glory watching football and grilling in the backyard. When I arrive home, a home cooked meal awaits.

He even takes orders! I've been in the mood for honey mustard chicken wings for months. I think I was reliving my old college days. My craving was finally satisfied today. Johnnycakes looked up a honey mustard chicken wing recipe on the Internet and made the best honey mustard wings I've ever eaten. They were sweet, sticky and smokey thanks to a smoking technique he applied using the backyard grill.

For a more traditional Sunday meal, he also prepared a delicious pork tenderloin on the grill which we topped with the sticky honey mustard glaze. Broccoli and a baked potato rounded out the delicious Sunday meal.

I know that I am completely spoiled by my grill master husband. In fact, I told him his meals have been so impressive that I feel like I'm being robbed of my womanhood. He shows me up with some regularity. I do try to pull my own weight a bit. I did make him a simple fried egg for breakfast with toast. I also had dish duty. It's all about teamwork!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chicken Crack

I admit it. I'm a crack addict. A chicken crack addict! I love this buffalo chicken dip recipe so much that I affectionately call it "chicken crack". This recipe is courtesy of a dear friend who knows I can't get enough of this stuff, especially at a party.

Buffalo Chicken Dip (aka "Chicken Crack")

Boil and shred 2-4 boneless chicken breasts (depending on their size)
Place shredded chicken in a 13x9 baking dish
Pour a bottle of Frank's hot sauce over chicken and completely cover

Combine (2) 8 ounce packages of cream cheese and a 16 ounce bottle of ranch dressing or blue cheese or a mixture of both in a sauce pan. Stir constantly over medium heat. After heated pour mixture over chicken.Bake uncovered @ 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle 8 ounces of cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese over chicken and bake another 10 minutes until cheese is melted.Serve with scoop tortilla chips.

Tell me what you think! Tell me I'm not alone in my addiction.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nice and Easy: Slow Cooker Pork Roast with Cranberry Sauce

Nothing too fancy to report from our kitchen today. We opted for an easy slow cooker meal which guaranteed minimal effort and plenty of leftovers. Fortunately, this is just the right time of year for a hearty and warm meal.

Crock pot cooking is so easy!
We tossed the following into the crock pot and cooked on low for about 10 hours:

- medium sized pork shoulder roast,
- 4 chopped carrots
- 2 chopped yellow onions
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 5 new potatoes, halved
- 1 cup of homemade beef broth
- 2 cloves garlic
- salt and pepper

The meat and vegetables were super tender and flavorful straight out of the slow cooker but I had to have some cranberry sauce on the side since Thanksgiving is fast approaching. What I love about cranberry sauce is that it is both sweet and tart at the same time. The canned sauce was the perfect accompaniment to this hearty and savory meal!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

All Gravy

Despite our lack of new materials on the blog and our "house guest hiatus", Johnnycakes and I have returned to our little kitchen with a quite a vengeance. We hope to make it up to any readers we may still have left!

One of our favorite dishes is roast chicken thanks to Nigella Lawson on the Food Network. We prepared a large bird over the weekend on the backyard grill. One of the highlights of this meal was the gravy we made to accompany the chicken, veggies and homemade mashed potatoes. As they say, the rest was definitely gravy!

Chicken Gravy

2 cups water
Giblets from chest cavity bird (typically heart, gizzard and liver)
2 Tbsp. herb butter
2 Tbsp. flour
salt and pepper

Add chicken giblets to the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. After water takes on a brown color, add flour and butter one tablespoon at a time, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This gravy was excellent. It seemed to thicken a bit more after cooling down a bit. It was excellent on top of the mashed potatoes and chicken breast. This gravy was the perfect teaser right before Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Houseguest Hiatus

Johnnycakes and I have had a houseguest for the past 7 days or so which has not been conducive to blogging. I have been lamenting about the sad state of our blog:( I had been looking forward to November and putting the blog back into full gear after a crazy September and first part of October. Here it is the 11th of November and not a single post! We'll start again once we are back to our old routine. In the meantime, I'm watching the Food Network for inspiration and I'm taking notes!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What's In Your Cauldren?

What are you handing out to the Trick-or-Treaters this Halloween? Johnnycakes and I must get a million trick-or-treaters since we live in the city, so we have to be conscious of what kind of candy we buy. Otherwise, we would end up spending a small fortune and we would run out of candy early, leaving many little witches, fairy princesses and warrior ninjas without candy.
I bought the candy last minute this year so I was subject to highway robbery-type prices downtown. I set my budget at $20 since all I had in my wallet was a $20 bill. I basically bought whatever I thought gave me the biggest bang for my buck. This meant that all the goodies, such as Kit Kat, Snickers, Twix and Baby Ruths ,were out of the equation.
We did, however, end up with Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, giant Tootsie Rolls, Dum Dum lollipops, Whoppers, fun size Hershey bars and Almond Joys and Starburst. I felt that these selections were the most economical compared to the other candy available at the store.
I think it's a pretty well-rounded offering. Johnnycakes said I should be embarrassed of the cheap candy I am giving away. What do you think? Are we the boring or cheap house on the block?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Plenty of Pumpkin, Part 1...

I think I have carved a jack-o-lantern just about every year of my life. Somewhere in my teenage years, I started to save the pumpkin seeds and flesh for cooking. After all, it's a lot of work so you might as well reap some benefits.

Most people will agree that roasting the pumpkin seeds is one of the best parts and best rewards about carving a pumpkin. After rinsing some of the stringy pumpkin that invariably comes out with the seeds, I toss the seeds in a bit of olive oil before spreading them out evenly on a baking sheet. We coated the seeds in salt and pepper and Old Bay, this being Baltimore and all. We baked the seeds for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees but we made sure to check them frequently and toss them so they wouldn't burn.
After all the seeds were out of the pumpkin, the scraping commenced. It's a lot of work to scrape the inside of a pumpkin. We had a rather large pumpkin and it only yielded about 2 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree when it was all said and done. I use a handy dandy pumpkin scraper that I got in a carving kit a few years back but I've also used a regular old tablespoon a few times. Both will work. I think I could have scraped a little longer and gotten some more meat from the giant gourd but Johnnycakes was rushing me.

After scraping the meat from inside the pumpkin, I boiled the meat for about 15 minutes and then strained it in a colander. Believe it or not, but in the old days I don't think I knew you were supposed to boil the pumpkin and I would prepare pies and other goodies with raw pumpkin! It must not have been too bad because I always ate it.

Once the pumpkin cooled a bit, I pureed it in a food processor to create a smooth texture for the final product. As I stated above, after all that work, I only got about 2 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree.

Now for the fun part. After all that work, it was finally time to start making the pumpkin pie and anything else I could make with what ever pumpkin puree I had left...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bleu Cheese Mushroom Flank Steak

Johnnycakes has gone "all Raichlen", as in grill master Steve Raichlen, on me. He received the book "How to Grill" by Steve Raichlen for his birthday and has been his own grill master ever since. He's always been a fan of Steve's public television show Barbecue University, but the cookbook has really ignited his passion for grilling. While I don't think the steak came right out of the cookbook, it was certainly the inspiration. On a side note, I think Steve Raichlen is from Baltimore. Can anyone confirm this factoid?

The preparation for the Bleu Cheese Mushroom Flank Steak really began last night when he decided to show me up, as usual, in the kitchen. I was busy carving a pumpkin for homemade pumpkin pie filling, which is no small feat (a future post), while he decided to begin preparing tonight's dinner.

He began by slicing the flank steak in half so the meat was very thin and flat and placed the beef on top of a sheet of aluminum foil. He then seasoned the beef with salt and pepper and crumbled blue cheese. As you can see in the photo, he smeared the bleu cheese into the meat for an even flavor. He followed that by thinly slicing white mushrooms using an egg slicer and spreading them on top of the meat. He then rolled the meat together in the foil, sort of like a jelly roll.

The meat sat in the refrigerator soaking in all the flavors all day before we put it on the grill after work. He grilled the meat in the foil for twenty minutes on each side until cooked.

In an attempt to be helpful, I steamed some frozen broccoli spears and sliced sweet potato fries using a crinkle cutter. After slicing the sweet potatoes, I tossed them in extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and baked them for 40 minutes at 350 degrees and 5 minutes at 500 degrees. Unfortunately, they got a little toasty since we were preoccupied with slicing the steak. I've been burning stuff lately!

I made a tasty dipping sauce for the sweet potatoes. I prefer to dip sweet potato fries in a mayonnaise based condiment as opposed to ketchup.

Garlic Lemon Mayo
1/4 cup of Kraft Light Mayonnaise
1/4 fresh lemon, squeezed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the above ingredients. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.

As you might suspect, the dinner was delicious. You could smell the blee cheese as soon as we brought the meat inside from the grill. Unfortunately, the roll fell apart a bit when we sliced it but it was tasty, all the same.

I know Johnnycake's is always outdoing me when it comes to kitchen creativity, but can I really complain? He can be my grill master any day!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Oktoberfest At Last!

Oktoberfest at last! Brews and brats! Freundes, as the Germans would say, and fun! With all the zeal that Johnnycakes and I pursued Oktoberfest festivities this year, one would think that we were of German ancestry. It all started in August really when we started talking about schnitzel, beer and the like with some friends. In the midst of the summer heat, we longed for cooler days filled with beer, friends and funny sounding food. As October approached, we resumed our talks and took some efforts to find or plan the appropriate activities. Several Internet searches, a drunken phone call to a friend, and the scanning of tons of neighborhood flyers and newsletters later, we had all but given up. As Halloween approached and threatened to overshadow any Oktoberfest events, we resigned ourselves to celebrate another year.

And then, out of the blue, we received an invitation to a cookout in endearing Ridgely's Delight. We weren't sure at first if it would be one last homage to summer cookouts, like we've been thinking about having, or something more seasonal. This party had all the makings of an Oktoberfest celebration.

What was on the menu? Brats, a curious veggie topping, grilled chicken, saurerkraut, potato salad and grilled corn on the cob. There was even a mixed cheese, cured meat and cracker platter that was all class, along with a crudite plate. As for beverages, there was plenty of "bier" to go around, as well as Dark and Stormy's, a rum and ginger beer cocktail worthy of a future post unto itself (perhaps the photos are a bit blurred because of the effects of all the alcoholic brews or maybe it was just the camera phone). I have to say that the feast lended itself a certain level of authenticity. I'm not sure to what extent our host intended it that way or not, but it certainly satisfied any demands I might have for an Oktoberfest party.
As for the preparation, I observed the brats, the exact kind I'm not sure but I will tell you that they were not the Johnsonville garden variety, being preboiled in an aromatic beer and onion mixture before being placed on the charcoal grill along side some chicken drumsticks. There was also a veggie topping, I would call it a relish, for the brats. It was a brew of beer, canned tomatoes, chopped green pepper and onions and a few seasonings. I don't think the sauerkraut was run-of the-mill either, as I observed some onions sauteing in butter for the additon to the kraut. Unfortunately, we had to leave as that fun was getting started. We would like to have stayed longer to enjoy all the offerings but, as I said before, Halloween loomed and threatened to overshadow our Oktoberfest efforts this year...
From a grilling standpoint, I even learned what a chimney starter was. I've never seen one of these devices before but apparently you stack the coals in the column to start the fire without the use of lighter fluid. A more natural approach, I am told:)

So after all that, I'm happy to report that we can put Oktoberfest to rest this year, and set our sights on Halloween related culinary pursuits. A round of thanks to our host for extending the invitation. Great party! Danke!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Can't Take the Heat?

Poor curry dish. This poor dish has been neglected all week! I prepared it on Tuesday, ate it several times and this is the first time I've gotten around to mentioning it. This is the beef version of the chicken curry dish we made over the Summer using the Saras flavoring pack from my friend's mom. It really came in handy for me tonight when I got home from work and wanted something quick to eat. There was just enough for one portion and Johnnycakes was eating last night's leftovers.

This dish was ultra spicy. Fortunately, that's how I like it. I served some to my neighbor and she couldn't eat it because it was so hot. Johnnycakes even commented on the heat. Maybe I'm weird but I like it that way. I did mix in some sour cream to cool things down a bit. I also originally served it with brown rice but that ran out a couple of days ago. Johnnycakes seemed to favor flour tortillas over rice. He made a sort of Indian burrito, if there's such thing. To mix things up a bit, I added peanuts. I think it was pretty healthy too because I added tons of veggies; potatoes, onions, celery, carrots and yellow peppers.

Not too shabby for a Friday night meal! Quick, convenient and tasty!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Insane Chix Parm

Johnnycakes and I are still blown away by the insane chicken parm I made for dinner on the fly tonight! It was damn good! I call this meal Insane Chicken Parm, because it was insane I even had the energy and stamina to whip this meal up solo on a weeknight and it was insanely delicious! I think I was possessed because I can't take much credit for it.
I had set out some chicken thighs to defrost while we were at work but I hadn't really thought much about what to make with them before 4:30 p.m. It's been cold and rainy here in Baltimore and I was struck with a desire for something warm and filling (i.e. comfort food). That's when chicken Parmesan popped into my head. The funny thing is, I would never order this meal at a restaurant because I find the dish to generally lack flavor.

I whipped this meal up like a mad woman in the kitchen in about 45 minutes after a trip to the gym. Johnnycakes had been to a work happy hour and wasn't hungry and was entertaining our neighbor while I cooked.

Insane Chicken Parm

4 medium chicken thighs

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup of oil ( I mixed olive oil and canola oil to conserve)

3/4 cup bread crumbs

2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning

Flour for dusting

1 16 oz. box of whole wheat penne pasta

Not So Insane Pasta Sauce

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 red pepper, chopped

6 medium white mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jar commercial pasta sauce

1/4 cup of water

1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat oil in a large, deep frying pan. Heat water until boiling for pasta. Prepare pasta as directed on the box.
Mix bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Coat the chicken thighs in egg and then dust the wet chicken thighs with flour. After coated with flour, dredge the chicken thighs in the bread crumb mixture until thoroughly covered. Lay the chicken thighs flat in the hot oil. Fry for about 15 minutes on each side until browned and crispy and thoroughly cooked. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Saute onion, red pepper and mushrooms until soft. Add garlic and stir. Add pasta sauce plus 1/4 cup of water (preferably starchy water from cooked pasta water) and mix all the ingredients together until fully incorporated. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add shredded mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese and mix until melted.

Plate and serve!

I could hardly wait to eat since it was 8 p.m. by this time and I'd already walked home from work and worked out. All that activity and cooking can build up an appetite. Johnnycakes, who was mysteriously absent and not hungry during the cooking phase, popped up just in time to eat! Our neighbor even gave us some props on the feast.

Johnnycakes and I parted ways when it came to our plating techniques. I chose to separate the items and garnish the plate as shown above. Johnnycakes went for a more combined approach.

All this cooking definitely trashed the kitchen, especially because of my super quick whirlwind technique. That's okay. It was well worth it for this tasty dinner. Plus, I have lunch for tomorrow, which promises to be another rainy day. The clean up wasn't so bad thanks to some good conversation...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Flour vs. Corn Tortillas?

I was halfway finished inhaling a homemade cheese and bean burrito with Johnnycakes when I realized I forgot to take a photo for the blog. I was starving after a trip to the gym and grocery store and I couldn't eat soon enough.
I did get to thinking about how I was loving the soft chewy flour tortilla and how I only recently began eating the flour variety after years of buying corn tortillas. I think I first got started on the corn kind when I heard they were a little healthier since they contained more fiber and less calories. I also liked their versatility for making taco shells and tortilla chips. They are also dirt cheap and last forever! The downside to corn tortillas is that they are usually small because they are not as pliable as a flour tortilla and tend to tear easily.
For a little while, I started buying some of the whole wheat tortillas because they were larger than the corn ones and some brands have very few calories. Despite those positives, the taste was usually lacking in the whole wheat varieties and that is strange coming from me because I usually love anything whole wheat.
Then one day recently, Johnnycakes bought good old fashioned flour tortillas. At first, I was resistant but once I tried one I was hooked! I realized that you just can't substitute that flavor, texture and taste. I was also happy to see that the rather large tortilla, probably around 8 inches in diameter, was only around 150 calories and contained a few grams of fiber. I was sold instantly. I even purchased some myself after we finished the first pack.
So which do you like? Flour or Corn? Or something else? I'm curious!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Cougar Pride! Fallston Meatloaf and Sides

Johhnycakes and I are both graduates of Fallston High School in Fallston, MD. In their infinite wisdom, the first group of students to attend the school in the late '70's chose the school colors orange, brown and gold (a cheer song just popped in my head) because it related to the "Fall" component of Fallston. Fortunately, this meal was definitely better than what the lunch ladies used to serve in the cafeteria lines.

As we served tonight's dinner, we were both struck by autumnal look to the meal. Since we are both boasting with pride for FHS, we both instantly thought of our old school colors. As you can see, this meal has a real Fall-like look to it. We both decided that Fall had officially arrived in our home. Until now the feeling had really been lacking. Perhaps the school colors are on our minds because my 10 year reunion is in a few weeks.

The cupboards are getting bare again but we were determined to eat at home tonight so we got a little imaginative.

Fallston Meatloaf

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 egg
1/2 cup apple butter
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup finely chopped white mushrooms
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix ingredients together until well blended. Fill a standard loaf pan with the mixture and bake for 45 minutes or until the meat reaches 180 degrees.

To round out the meal we baked a halved butternut squash for 45 minutes until soft and warmed some canned creamed corn.

I have to admit, Johnnycakes and I both went back for seconds which I usually try to avoid especially with a 10-year high school reunion fast approaching. Thanks to the seasonal and nostalgic feel to tonight's meal, I am now ready to start baking some pumpkin pies or something!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chix Teriyaki

This picture makes our dinner look rather spartan but tonight's meal was full of flavor! The menu consisted of chicken teriyaki, steamed cauliflower, brown rice with mushrooms and boiled edamame.

I marinated the chicken all day in a teriyaki and soy sauce concoction. When I got home, I chopped it into small pieces and pan fried it in sesame oil and lots of garlic until cooked. I cooked the rice in the rice cooker with chopped mushrooms. It turned out perfect. I steamed the fresh cauliflower in the microwave until soft. Unfortunately, I would call the texture closer to semi-soft. The veggies probably could have cooked for a few minutes longer. Finally, I boiled edamame in the shell according to the directions on the bag. I especially happy about the edamame since it's been tough to find on our local grocery store. I topped everything with a little soy sauce.

Johnnycakes was extra pleased with the meal, probably because he didn't have to lift a finger. He's been pitching in a lot in the kitchen lately so it was nice to serve him a meal he didn't have to prepare.

As I said in my last post, we're trying to get back on track with home cooking and being healthy. I'd say this meal fits those perimeters.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Starting Over

Truth be told, Johnnycakes and I haven't been cooking that much. Our schedules have been sort of nuts and I've been stressed out. We've been trying to eat remotely healthy but nothing worth writing about. I feel like I need to start over, so to speak.

Tonight we made some turkey Italian sausage on the grill while enjoying the beautiful Autumnal evening. We also chopped some red onion and green pepper, wrapped it in foil and tossed it on the grill along side the turkey sausage. In an attempt to embrace the "Oktoberfest" spirit occurring right now, I warmed some canned sauerkraut to top the sausage with. I love the stuff! I don't want the season to pass us by without showing a little spirit! To round out the meal, I burned some fordhook lima beans. I didn't mean to but I guess I had the heat to high when I threw the frozen legumes into the hot pan. I coated them with melted Smart Balance but they still burned.
I know it doesn't look too pretty but it least it was healthy, cheap and tasty!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Oops... I Forgot to Blog

Johnnycakes and I had to fend for ourselves tonight since our schedules were kind of nuts. We each had a turkey sandwich on rye. I tried to recreate my favorite sandwich "The Rachel" from Beach Bums. The only problem is that I forgot to take a picture. I was pretty hungry so I scarfed it down.

The Rachel consists of:

2 slices of rye bread

1/4 cup of cole slaw

2 tbsp. 1000 island dressing

3 slices of turkey breast deli meat

The sandwich was pretty good but it definitely did not compare with the excellence of Beach Bums.

I did whip up my own 1,000 Island dressing in a flash without prior consultation of a recipe.

1,000 Island Dressing

1/4 cup of mayonnaise

2 tbsp. ketchup

1/4 finely cup diced onions

2 tbsp. finely diced dill pickles

I later found out that traditional 1,000 island has chopped hard boiled egg in it. I guess that makes my version more like a "special sauce" a la McDonald's. It also reminded me of tartar sauce, minus the lemon. I still liked it and I'll probably use it to top several sandwiches over the next few days.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Backyard BBQ - B-MORE Style

I have a secret desire to be a true Southern cook but I don't know how likely that is. First of all, I am from Baltimore. True, I do reside south of the Mason-Dixon but I don't think Baltimore conjures up that Southern imagery of Live Oak trees, southern style mansions, and fried chicken and biscuits. Secondly, a lot of southern fare takes a lot of time to make and I am short on time lately.

That being said, I still enjoy eating southern style cuisine and cooking it with Johnnycakes when we can. Tonight, we made delicious ribs! We are sort of on a kick now that football season has started of making something yummy to enjoy at game time. Last week, we made these insanely good hot wings thanks to an episode of BBQ University with Steve Raichlen.
Thanks to Nick's Backfire brand of Baltimore barbecue seasonings, sauces and side items, we whipped up some tasty spare ribs.

I bought a big slab (may 4 lbs.?) of pork spare ribs and brought them home for Johnnycakes to manhandle. The prep was pretty simple, really. We patted them down w/ Nick's "Da Rub" which is a blend of southwest bbq seasonings and olive oil. We let the ribs soak up the flavors for about an hour before putting them on the grill.

Johnnycakes used an "indirect" cooking method to use a Raichlen bbq term. This means that he didn't sit the ribs right on the flame. Instead he placed them in the back of the grill away from the flame. We let them cook for about three hours. We basted them with good old fashioned Kraft barbecue sauce the last half hour of cooking.

We served these juicy, extra fatty ribs up with some extra bbq sauce, homemade mashed potatoes and cabbage. This southern style meal was super fattening and super good!

Next week I want to make fried chicken! Let's see if that actually happens.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Simple Slaw

I love cole slaw. It's strange because I only discovered my love for cole slaw in the past year. I used to shy away from the stuff but now it seems like I can't get enough of the stuff. I especially love to pair it with potatoe chips. I had some leftover cabbage from another dinner and decided to whip up some cole slaw.

Here's what I put together:

Simple Slaw

1/2 head of green cabbage, chopped

2 carrots, julienned

1/4 cup of mayonaise

1 tbsp. vinegar

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. yellow mustard

1 tsp. salt

Mix together all the ingredients in a medium bowl and chill for 30 minutes before serving.