Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Kitchen is Closed

Johnnycakes and I were pretty worn out tonight and didn't feel like cooking too much. We still haven't made it to the grocery store and we don't have any meat in the freezer for a full scale dinner. I'm sure others can relate to a desire to just put a hassle free dinner on the table without ordering takeout or going to a restaurant. We had a "Palermo's" frozen pepperoni pizza in the freezer for just such an occasion. Shoppers Food Warehouse sells Palermos Pizzas for $2.50 for a 12-inch pie! You just can't beat that. We did doctor up the pizza a bit. We topped the pizza with fresh tomato, chopped onion, chopped broccoli, grated Parmesan cheese and garlic powder. After about twelve minutes in the oven at 450 degrees, we dug in! I honestly have to say the pizza tasted great. The tomato and freshly grated cheese really added a lot of flavor.

I know that tonight's dinner is not exactly a culinary achievement. In fact, it's kind of pathetic but it's reality. It also didn't quite meet the third Couple of Cooks criteria (1. convenience 2. economical and 3. healthily) of being healthy but I estimate that two slices of the pizza was about 550 calories which is definitely reasonable.

I know it's nothing fancy but I hope others can relate to this dinner of convenience!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tacos Pescados

Johnnycakes and I have been quite the land rovers lately and have not been eating much fresh seafood. Tonight was a perfect evening for one of our favorite meals; fish tacos. Johnnycakes speaks Spanish so I often like to practice my Spanish with him, hence the Tacos Pescados translation. I realize there should probably be a "de" or a "del" between the Taco and Pescados but I like the way just "Tacos Pescados" sounds.

Our Wal-Mart trip produced two new additions to our kitchen gadgetry that played a role in tonight's dinner. Since we are new to the grilling world, we have been humoring our desire for nifty grilling accessories. Last night we picked up a fish basket. We also happened to pick up some new oven mitts out of pure necessity. We've been really scrounging. Though we didn't think about it at the time, the yellow oven mitt (I'm not sure what these little ones are actually called) was a perfect fit! It really came in handy on the hot grill.

Since we haven't been to the "real" grocery store since returning from the beach, I popped in the Cross Street Market tonight on my way home and visited my local fish monger. I will have to snap some shots the next time I go. I purchased about 3/4 lb of Tilapia for the tacos for about $3.00. I read that Tilapia's mild flavor is good for fish tacos. Mahi Mahi is good as well. I also picked up a fresh tomato and some limes for extra flavoring.

I sprinkled the fish with salt, pepper, cumin and 1/2 a lime and let it sit for about 30 minutes. After the fish soaked up the flavors, Johnnycakes grilled the fish in the fish basket for about 20 minutes. We also grilled some red onion in foil on the upper rack and toasted some corn tortillas for the taco shells.

As for the toppings, I prepared the chopped tomato, chopped lettuce, grated some reduced fat cheddar cheese, picked some fresh cilantro and mixed some taco seasoning with reduced fat sour cream. I also chopped some more lime for additional flavor. For a side item, I heated some vegetarian refried beans on the stove top. I spiced it up a bit with some taco seasoning and garlic.

We each topped our crispy taco shells with grilled fish and toppings to our liking. Mine is featured at the top and Johnnycakes creation is below.

Once again, team work was the key to our healthy and delicious dinner! Oh, and there is enough leftover for my lunch tomorrow. YUM!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pantry Pride

Today's meals weren't noteworthy. Mainly leftovers from the beach (Grottos is still good the second day) and whatever else we could scrounge up. Johnnycakes and I did have an interesting food shopping experience, however.

You may find this hard to believe, but I generally hate to go food shopping. I don't know why that is. I think because I am always pressed for time and I hate loading the groceries into the car and then dragging them all the way back to the kitchen. We live in a 130+ year old, 100 foot long rowhome and the kitchen is all the way in the back of the house. Depending on what time I shop, I usually have to double park to be near the house and then go move the car to a legal spot after bringing in the groceries since parking is at a premium in our neck of the woods. This is why my grocery shopping tends to be a mix of shopping at the mini Superfresh near my work and hitting the Cross Street Market on my way home, both of which are walkable. I have invested in two sturdy reusable grocery bags so I can have one at home and one at the office. I supplement these trips with a big grocery store mission to the Shoppers Food Warehouse (the only game in town) every two weeks or so and weekly stops at the City Farmers Market in season. I have experimented with online shopping using Giant Peapod and Safeway but I find that you have to be pretty organized to utilize this option because you have to know exactly when you'll be home to receive the groceries, etc. I do find them convenient during busy times such as the Holidays when you just don't feel like making one more trip.

Tonight we were running errands and needed to stop by Wal-Mart to pick up a few items for our backyard. We had planned to hit one of the more "exotic" grocery stores while we were out in the 'burbs but ran out of time as usual. Since we were in dire need for a few grocery staples after our mini out-of-town excursion, we decided to just grab what we needed for the next day or so. I realized that this is the second time in two weeks that I have purchased grocery items at Wal-Mart. Of course you can't get fresh produce at the run-of-the mill Wal-Mart but I think we did pretty good and ended up getting a bunch of things we will use and saved a few bucks in the process!

I realize there are folks out there that are anti-Wal-Mart for a variety of reasons and I can concur with many of these valid arguments, but sometimes time and convenience just win-out. As a city-dweller, I do most of my shopping on foot and love to frequent my local shops. In fact, Johnnycakes loves to tease me how I'll find any excuse I can to visit the little neighborhood shops. It's funny but sometimes you have to leave the City to get your supplies. Wow, you would think we lived in some remote village!

Here are some of the highlights of our trip:

ACT Popcorn - 100 calorie mini bags - 12 for $2.50! That's around $.21 each.

Quaker Weight Control Oatmeal - Maple Brown Sugar - My grocery store hasn't carried this flavor in months. Plus, I saved almost a dollar.

24 pack Diet Pepsi - $5.00

Planters Mixed Nuts - $3.57 - These are over a $4.00 at my grocery store.

Barilla Plus Multigrain Pasta - I usually don't buy this brand because it is more expensive than the San Georgio whole wheat pasta but it was comparable at Wal-Mart . $1.36 each for the Angel Hair and Penne.

What do you think of these prices? I got all of the items in the photo above for $44.59. Do you think we got a good deal? Do others use Wal-Mart to grocery shop for convenience or because of the prices?

Monday, May 28, 2007


Johnnycakes and I just got back from being "down the ocean" as every good Baltimoron would say. We had a great time at the ocean! I feel like I gained five lbs. in the three short days we were gone. I will do my best to highlight some of our start of summer treats.

I had been hanging on to a gift card to Buddy's Crabs and Ribs at the City Dock in Annapolis, MD since Christmas. Since Annapolis is on the way to OC we finally decided to use the gift card since it seems impossible for us to get down there any other time. As a rule, I generally don't do buffets or "AYCE" all-you-can-eats because I always seem to push it a little too hard and I usually feel like you are sacrificing quantity for quality. I had this notion when I got to Buddy's but one look at the snow crab legs and steamed shrimp on the buffet and I was sold. I ate about three plates of crab legs, shrimp, and supplemented with crab balls and coconut shrimp. They also had some super creamy mashed potatoes. Johnnycakes was a bit more sensible and ordered a chicken sandwich that was a lot like a chicken cheesesteak. It was huge! He only ate about half and we took the rest home. We also "cheated" and he enjoyed some crab legs, seafood gumbo and shrimp with me from the buffet. Does anyone else do that?
Saturday started sensibly with blueberry pancakes and real (!) pork bacon prepared by my sister. I had forgotten what a happy homemaker my sister is and she was anxious to cook us breakfast our first morning. She also whipped up a bountiful fruit salad for a snack and ham and cheese sandwiches for us to enjoy on the beach. Johhnycakes and I made a beeline to Seacrets around 3 p.m. to enjoy some adult beverages while floating in the bay on the rafts. I have been waiting since last summer to get a Seacret Sunset which is made with guava juice and rum. It was worth the wait because it was delicious and not too strong. We also had a couple of the Pain in De Ass, which is their signature drink. A thunderstorm on the horizon got us out of their with most of our wits in tact. We ended Saturday with a bang by "hitting the boards". We piled in the minivan with the kids and headed to the Boardwalk and munched down a large Trashers french fry. I think most people that have tried them will attest that Trashers French Fries are some of the best out there. They are fresh cut and fried in peanut oil. They also don't serve any ketchup so you better like plenty of apple cider vinegar and salt. We also scarfed two large pizzas at Peisanos (formerly Ponzettis) and finished the evening with ice cream cones at the legendary Dumsers Dairyland.

Johnnycakes and I thought it would be a good idea to repay my sister and her husband for all the breakfasts and lunches they had been preparing for us by making them a standout steak dinner on my grandparents old grill. We headed to the little grocery store and picked out four filet Mignon, 4 enormous baking potatoes, fresh broccoli, corn on the cob, fresh veggies for a huge salad and some chicken breast for the kids. We marinated the huge steaks and chicken breast in Italian salad dressing and grilled them to near perfection. That's pretty good on our makeshift grill! The night was beautiful so we enjoyed our family dinner outside on the picnic table. We got to enjoy our Memorial Day cookout "down the ocean, hon"! We even went to Candy Kitchen for ice cream after a fun game of mini golf.

Today we made homemade french toasts and "dippy" eggs for breakfast. Johnnycakes and I were worn out from two days at the beach so we headed to the pool while my sister's family went to the beach. We packed some homemade chicken sandwiches on white bread and enjoyed them at the pool. After plenty of fun and the sun, we all piled in the mini and headed into Delaware for the legendary Grottos Pizza! It was worth it. There is just something about their pizza that keeps me coming back. I wasn't ready for the fun to end so I made Johnnycakes stop about half way home to Baltimore at Ritas for a chocolate Italian ice. Another feature of driving to OC is all the produce stands along Route 50. I hate to be unprepared for the week and not have any fruit in the house for breakfast or to pack in lunches. We stopped at Wrights Market and picked up some fresh local strawberries and asparagus. I have a hunch that the peaches aren't local because they aren't really in season yet but we snatched up some of those too. They had lots of other treats too, such as jams, peanuts, dried fruit, etc. but we were in a hurry to get home.

We are headed down again next month so we'll be sure to repeat most of these stops plus a few more. I haven't forgotten about the margaritas or guacamole at Tequila Mockingbird! We'll have to save that for next time.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Are We There Yet?

I don’t know about you but one of my favorite things about vacation is the food. In fact, I know it’s not just me because most people I talk to seem to have the same feeling. There is just something about traveling away from home and getting to try different dishes, culinary experiences and new places. Food and drink are a major part of the vacation experience.

This truth is one of the reasons why I am so excited to head to Ocean City, MD for Memorial Day weekend. The last time I checked, Ocean City was not world renowned for it’s pristine beaches, year round climate and exotic local flavor but it is home to some yummy treats that you can only find there! I have been going to Ocean City, MD every summer of my life and there are certain foods that keep me coming back. Honestly, I am more excited about eating Thrashers French Fries, Grotto Pizza, Kohrs Ice Cream and enjoying a Seacret Sunset than I am about the sun and surf. My childhood, teen and college years are filled with memories of eating candy apples and cotton candy on the boardwalk, visiting the Olive Tree restaurant on 17th Street with my family and hitting Layton’s Restaurant after a long night partying at Senior Week or on a girls weekends.

Johnnycakes shares my passion for vacation and trying new foods. Our entire honeymoon was one big southern home cooking feast! We have plenty of pictures to prove it. There was even the time, on our first Ocean City trip, we spent the entire weekend traveling to our favorite pizza joints up and down Coastal Highway and the Boardwalk. The winner? A tie between Grotto Pizza (only in Delaware) and Piezanos (formerly Ponzettis) on the Boardwalk.

Don’t worry though. We wouldn’t be a Couple of Cooks if we didn’t plan to prepare a few meals at home. We’ll be sure to fire up my grandparent’s rickety old grill and cook some steaks and make some healthy breakfasts to start our day. I’ll be sure to report back on our dining deliriums!

What about you? Do you have any special dining or meal preparation plans for Memorial Day weekend or vacation memories to share? I’d love to hear some about them!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Clean House"

Tonight was a night to clean house or "clean fridge" in a manner of speaking before we hit the road for Memorial Day weekend. We pretty much tried to eat all of our fresh veggies and anything that might spoil while we are away for the long weekend. We also didn't want to end up with any leftovers in the fridge. The result? A potluck of fresh salad, grilled butternut squash and my favorite, Johnny Wontons served with store bought dumpling sauce.

Johnny Wontons are a Johnnycakes delicacy, or at least we like to think so. They are also a Couple of Cooks classic dish. We have quite a few "classic" Couple of Cooks original recipes in our arsenal that we have developed over the years. I won't describe how we prepared them tonight because (here is the best part!) we prepared them last month and froze them for a quick and delicious dinner in the future. They definitely fit the bill tonight. The next time we make them, I will detail their preparation but I will provide a quick description. Johnnycakes, with any help he can get from myself or our neighbor, assembles the dumplings or wontons using premade wonton wrappers and a ground pork mixture of scallions, ginger, garlic and sesame oil. We usually steam or fry them in sesame oil, though tonight Johnnycakes was feeling "grill happy" and cooked them in foil on the grill along side the butternut squash. It can be a rather lengthy process which is why we make a lot and freeze them. That way all we have to do is pull them out of the freezer and cook them up. Tonight was the third and final dinner from the most recent batch. While they might not be convenient on the front end, the Johnny Wontons pay dividends in later weeks which is why they fit our basic criteria that a meal must be... healthy, convenient and economical.

As I mentioned above, Johnnycakes and I are hitting the road for Memorial Day Weekend. We are headed to Ocean City, MD and plan to hit all our favorite pizza joints, boardwalk favorites and drink some damn good margaritas along the way. We'll be sure to detail all of our eating adventures.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Coconut and Lime" Chicken Veggie Curry

This post is inspired by a contest I saw on the Food Maven blog. Maven has created a contest in tribute to the three year anniversary of her blog "Coconut and Lime", where she posts a variety of yummy and diverse original recipes. Here is the link to her post., I recently discovered her insightful and fun blogs since becoming a fledgling Baltimore blogger myself.

What is the challenge? To post a recipe featuring the namesake ingredients coconut and lime. Since Johnnycakes and I are both fans of coconut and lime, we thought it would be fun to play along. We were a little stumped about what to prepare and traded some lofty ideas back and forth including coconut and lime bread pudding, rice pudding, french toast and even shrimp. Eventually our practical side won out when we needed to plan meals for the week and put dinner on the table.

Here is our creation:

"Coconut and Lime" Chicken Veggie Curry


1 lime
zest of 1/2 a lime
1 5.5 oz can of coconut milk
1/2 cup of water
1.25 lb. of skinless chicken breast, cooked (marinated in 2 TBSP. lime juice, 2 TBSP. chopped cilantro, salt and pepper)
2 TBSP. sesame oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, julienned
1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 TBSP garlic chili paste (less if you can't take the heat!)
1 TBSP. curry powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped cashews (optional)


Dice marinated chicken breast into bite size cubes. Heat medium pan with 1 TBSP. sesame oil. Cook over medium heat until cooked thoroughly. Set aside.

Heat deep pan with 1 TBSP. sesame oil. Add chopped celery, carrots, onions, red pepper and peas to heated pan. Cook until softened. Add 1 TBSP. garlic chili paste and stir for one minute. Add coconut milk, water, lime juice from 1/2 a lime and lime zest. Finally, add curry powder, ground cumin, fresh cilantro and chopped cashews. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add cooked chicken breast and simmer for five additional minutes.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with brown rice.

The result? A spicy, zesty chicken curry dish with lots of fresh vegetables and flavor. Plus, it meets the Couple of Cooks criteria that meals should be healthy, convenient and economical.

Thanks Maven for posting the contest. It was lots of fun to participate in. Now I can't wait to eat the leftovers for lunch!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Special Treat

Johnnycakes and I were treated to a special dinner tonight. Our neighbor Dave, who enjoys cooking as much as we do, made us delicious beef shish kabobs on our new grill. We're always swopping recipes and cooking together. Last night when we were christening the new Weber grill, Dave started to formulate a plan for tonight's dinner.

I didn't even make it in the house this evening with work before Dave and Johnnycakes greeted me out front with a bag of marinating beef cubes and chopped peppers and onions.

Dave explained that he soaked the skewers in water overnight to prevent them from burning. He marinated the beef cubes in an A-1 sauce. I'm not really sure what the flavor was but it was super peppery. He assembled the beef and vegetable cubes and he and Johnnycakes grilled them up in the backyard. I also made some brown rice in the rice cooker.

Since we don't have any lawn furniture yet, we made a makeshift table and chair set in true South Baltimore fashion. It didn't match but we were in paradise. The skewers were tender and delicious. Soy sauce was the perfect complement to the brown rice. It added a salty flavor to the plain rice.

It was simple but we were in pure paradise. Cheers Dave!

Monday, May 21, 2007

A New Era

It's difficult to express to you how excited Johnnycakes and I are about our brand new Weber grill. This is our fifth summer in our house and tonight was our first cookout! We jealously watched and listened as our friends and family enjoyed many a grilled dinner in the past but now it's our turn. Our reasons for not buying a grill sooner boils down to 1.) not being able to afford a gas grill and 2.) security reasons in our backyard. Once we were able to tackle those obstacles, we were full steam ahead!

So what did we make for our first dinner a la barbacoa (Spanish, I think and I can't stop saying it!)? Cheeseburgers, of course! Yummy. Johnnycakes made hamburger patties using cumin, ketchup and diced onions. I picked up some fresh wheat rolls, lettuce and a tomato at lunch time. I also bought some sweetpotatoes to make fries on the grill. We diced the sweetpotatoes using our Pampered Chef Crinkle Cutter so they looked like real "bowling alley" fries. That's what I like to call them anyway. We tossed the fries in olive oil, salt and pepper and wrapped in foil and baked for about 30 minutes. I even made a lemon garlic mayonaise (Miracle Whip) for dipping. Once the burgers were cooked thoroughly and the wheat buns were toasted on the grill. we topped them with reduced fat Cracker Barrel Cheddar cheese. We tried to make our burgers "whopper-style" which means using mayo (we used the lemon garlic mayo), ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles for "fixins".

This was a great traditional meal to make for our first cookout. I heard Johnnycakes and our neighbor scheming up some lofty dinner plans for tomorrow night. Don't worry, I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Quick Snack

Busy weekends for us usually mean lots of parties and people to visit and this weekend was no exception. We haven't had any real reason to cook since we have plenty of leftovers hanging around and were invited to a couple of parties where there were lots of goodies to eat, including steamed Maryland blue crabs!!!

The only real meal we prepared at home were tuna melts for lunch on Saturday afternoon. I had prepared tuna salad on Friday evening while I was chopping veggies, etc. when I was making the Manhattan Clam Chowder. So on Saturday, we had a big bowl of tuna salad ready to go. I had picked up the new whole wheat Thomas's Bagel Squares at Wal Mart on Friday. Johnnycakes topped the bagel squares with the tuna salad and cheddar cheese and toasted the sandwiches in the toaster oven for about 5 minutes and walah (sp?).... A quick, cheap and healthy lunch! They were delicious.

The week ahead.... Sunday's also mean meal planning for the week in our house. I am feeling lazy and don't feel like going to the grocery store today but I should be able to pick up any little items we might need on my lunch hour or on my walk home from work. A convenient full-service grocery store and traditional public market with a produce section are both within walking distance from my house and work. We got a new Weber grill (YEAH!) so we are planning an inaugural meal tomorrow night of cheeseburgers. Let the fun begin! We will also probably prepare turkey sausage reubens, chicken curry, leftover frozen pork potstickers (a couple of cooks classic) and we will use a gift card on Friday night to eat dinner out on our way to the beach for Memorial Day weekend.... A little planning is all it takes!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Friday Night Bites

I was at a loss as to what to have for dinner last night. It was a Friday night. Normally, I always want Tex-Mex and margaritas on Friday night but it didn't see to mesh well with my father-in-law's visit. In addition, it was on the cool side and cloudy yesterday. Perfect day for a hot bowl of soup. Johnnycakes, a major soup lover, and I had been discussing for some time making a clam chowder with some frozen clams we had picked up at the Asian grocery, H-Mart (a post unto itself!). He was leaning on a creamy New England Clam Chowder while I was favoring the Manhattan Clam Chowder for it's healthier appeal. Since Johnnycakes was fiddling with our new grill (summer cookouts await) last night with his dad and our neighbor, I won the debate.

Here is the yummy and delightful chowder I concocted:


16 oz. bag of frozen mini clams (not sure of the exact kind)

2 celery stalks, chopped

3 carrots, sliced

1 medium onion, chopped

3 medium potatoes, diced

1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 4 oz container of tomato paste ( I think that was size can)

12 oz. chicken stock (homemade)

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tsp. crushed bay leaves

1 tsp. Old Bay

1 TBSP. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Heat stockpot with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add celery, onion, carrots, and potatoes and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock and spices and let simmer for 40 minutes. Add thawed clams and simmer 10 more minutes.

This was a delicious! It was a little difficult to time the potatoes and carrots until they were soft. The clams were mostly thawed when I added them and they softened right up. I'm not the best soup maker but I'm trying to get better since Johnnycakes is such a big fan. We enjoyed the warm bowls of soup with hard white dinner rolls. Oh, and we grated some fresh Parmesan on top for a little extra kick. Not too shabby for a Friday night dinner at home!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Let Them Eat Steak!

Since we have an extra mouth to feed while Johnnycake's father is our houseguest, we've had to get a little creative in "stretching" our meals to feed three instead of two. We have an extra mouth to feed, so to speak. We also had a few fresh vegetables in the fridge who's days were numbered in the freshness department, namely mushrooms and cauliflower. Lot's of talk of Philly Cheesesteaks prompted Johnnycakes and I to make homemade cheesesteaks using the Lauras Lean brand NY Strip steaks we had in the freezer. I also thought tonight would be a good night for the $6.00 asparagus. It would be a shame to see that go to waste.

Cooking was mainly a solo effort for me tonight because Johnnycakes had some maintenence tasks to tend to around the house. First, I cubed the meat into smaller pieces and seasoned the steak with a steak blend of herbs and spices. I chopped yellow onion and sauteed them with presliced white mushrooms. I eventually added the steak peices to the heat and cooked until pink inside. I also chopped fresh cauliflower which I cooked in a pot with butter (smart balance in our household). In an effort to duplicate a creamed cauliflower recipe of Johnnycake's aunt, I added milk and flour to the cauliflower once it was soft. Unfortunately, I burnt the cauliflower a bit because I did not add enough butter to the pan initally. This resulted in a brownish appearance for the cauliflower but gave it a wonderful smoky flavor! I boiled the $6.00 asparagus but in retrospect I should of steamed it because it turned out too soft and mushy. We piled the meat mixture over yummy rye bread and topped it with reduced fat Alpine Lace Swiss Cheese and toasted until melted. I added some greek salad dressing to the sandwich for extra flavor.

The result of all this hard work was a delicious meal which we enjoyed at our dining room table. These makeshift cheesesteaks might just become a Couple of Cooks regular feature!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Presto Pesto

For a second night in a row, my lofty goal for a standout dinner fell by the wayside. At first, I got a little discouraged thinking that Johnnycakes and Butters "couple of cooks" blog has been a disappointing showcase of our cooking efforts. After a little thought, I realized that this is the true point of the blog. To provide a realistic look into the average weeknight kitchen of working adults. It's tough to put a balanced meal on the table when you are working all the time and trying to keep up with your other pursuits such as exercise, housework, etc. Hence, the key element to our success: TEAMWORK!

I defrosted two large chicken breast this morning without a clear idea of what to make for dinner. I noticed a large amount of white mushrooms in the back of the fridge that would probably be headed south in a day or two and so I decided we would Chicken Marsala tonight w/ a side of creamed cauliflower. Unbeknownst to me, Johnnycakes had his own idea about dinner. His idea turned out to be a bit more practical and so we went with his plan: Pesto Chicken over whole wheat pasta.

We had made a large batch of pinenut basil pesto a month or so ago after finding an incredible deal on pinenuts. We also had a ton of basil leftover from another recipe. We made the pesto in the food processer following a Giada de Laurentiis recipe. We froze the pesto into individual ice cubes and we pull them out of the freezer when we need them. This is the third time they have come in handy and provided a tasty meal in a pinch. I made a side salad with romaine lettuce, cauliflower, shredded carrots and celery. We also had some hard dinner rolls leftover from Mothers Day. While I went to the gym, Johnnycakes chopped the chicken breast and panfried it with one of the pesto ice cubes. He also boiled whole wheat pasta and used some of the starchy water to mix in two extra ice cubes of pesto.

This meal definitely met the three main "couple of cooks" criteria: Healthy, Economical and Convenient. I might also add that it was damn tasty! Now what am I going to do with those mushrooms...

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Poor Showing

I thought tonight would be a good opportunity to "kick-off" the Couple of Cooks blog with our first home prepared dinner. In true couple of cooks fashion, we planned a team effort dinner. We planned to prepare a pork roast in the slow cooker with TBD sides. We thawed the pork roast during the day yesterday and Johnnycakes seasoned the meat with our new "Nicks"(see May 13) Carolina barbecue rub overnight. I set the slow cooker out before work and Johnnycakes put the meat in the slow cooker on low heat with about a quarter cup each of white cooking wine and vinegar. I also set out a can of collard greens we could open later. While at work, I daydreamed about preparing cauliflower for a double vegetable whammy. When I got home, things had changed a bit. We overcooked the meat so that it was dry and Johnnycakes was making oven roasted potatoes that he "crinkle cut". This is where our meal planning broke down. He was headed out the door for a softball doubleheader and hadn't timed the french fries correctly. He ended up scarfing down a pork bbq sandwich over the sink with a handful of half cooked fries and a bite of the collards. I realize this is not an ideal situation for our first feature dinner. To make matters more complicated, his father is our house guest this week. Johhnycakes Sr. is known for his love to eat. His father prepared himself a plate Mothers Day leftovers consisting of chicken wings and tortellini with a side of pork bbq and collard greens. In a moment of weakness prior to my workout, I munched a cold chicken wing and a few bites of the dried up pork bbq without the bbq. It wasn't until a strength workout and a few potted plants later I sat down to a lackluster dinner, as pictured. I share these frustrations with you because I'm sure this is not uncommon for many households to rush through cooking and eating after a long day at work. Despite our best intentions, the kitchen can be a peculiar place where things don't always go our way.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

$6.00 Asparagus

Well, for a blogger who is supposed to write about cooking, I think I fell a little short today. I didn't cook a thing! Wait! I did toast a bagel and heat up some left over spaghetti sauce to make a sort of pizza bite w/ freshly shredded parmesan. Too make up for my lack of cooking, I did plenty of eating. Our morning started out at the Baltimore City Farmers Market which is a rather large Farmers Market with a variety of local farm stands, craft stands and prepared food booths. Today being Mothers Day, it was packed! I think I now know where the saying "Everyone and their Mother" came from because that was certainly the case today. While at the Farmers Market, we indulged in a fresh pumpkin nut muffin from "the muffin lady" and a vegetable samosa and Sante Fe patty from the "Curry Shack" stand. They were out the West Indian patty, my favorite.
While at the market, we picked up a few items to assist in our culinary pursuits over the summer, including $6.00 asparagus. We saw plenty of stands with $3.00 asparagus but Johnnycakes was drawn to the organic stand. The asparagus stalks were bright green and thick and definitely looked more appetizing than some of the splindly bunches at nearby stands. The sign read that the asparagus was $4.25 per lb. We tried to pick a smaller bunch but the total still came to $6.00! I told Johnnycakes that we better enjoy that asparagus.
We also visited Nick, the local barbecue guy, to pick up some of his special "rub". This being our first visit to the market this spring, we were all out of his special seasonings for our barbecue. This time we opted for traditional "Carolina" instead of the southwest blend we tried last summer. We can't wait to try it.
In addition to these tasty items, we picked up some herbs to flavor our dishes. Johnnycakes picked thyme, while I picked basil, mint and cilantro. I've tried several times in the past to grow cilantro and it always dies. I am determined to make it grow this year! Johnnycakes also waited through a minor altercation between a farmer and a clueless patron over pepper plants and marigolds to score him self a banana pepper plant and a jalepeno plant for $.50 each. We also looked for cut flowers for our Moms and sisters but they didn't have much of a selection. It's a little early in the season and many of the booths aren't set up yet.
That pretty much sums up our first trip of the season to the Baltimore City Farmers Market.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Couple of Cooks

Food. We all need it to survive. It’s up to us to choose the quality and quantity we consume. I am hoping that this entry is the start of a committed effort on my part to share with the interested few my husband and I's fondness for cooking and eating in the form of this web log, or BLOG.

As the title of this blog indicates, this is really about the kitchen adventures of both my husband, Johnnycakes, and myself. Or as Johnnycakes fondly calls me, Butters. A Couple of Cooks is inspired by the fact that we share most of the kitchen responsibilities. Our busy schedules demand that we share the workload associated with cooking. Team work is the key to our kitchen success! Otherwise, we’d be eating out every evening! The division of labor usually means that one of us will do the prep work such as washing, chopping, shredding, the veggies, meat, etc., while the other one does the actual cooking (i.e. putting the food over a flame) and we usually split clean up duties such as the dishes and sweeping up. Or sometimes one of us is too tired to even think about cooking and the other one will pick up the slack. This ensures a home cooked meal 9 out of 10 times.

I tend to be more communicative than Johnnycakes, so I'll be the primary correspondent of our culinary whims. The desire to share the intimacies and intricacies, or lack thereof, of my palette springs from my lifelong love of eating and sometimes love of cooking. Food snobs beware! This is not meant to be a sophisticated commentary in any way. All content will be generated from our South Baltimore kitchen and communicated through that lens. I see this blog taking shape as a sort of diary or journal of the meals my husband, Johnnycakes, and Iprepare and consume. In short, I hope it is a celebration of food and a good showcase of the everyday cooking and preparation techniques of a young professional couple running a small household. Home economics, Health and Convenience are the themes of this blog.

Butters: What ever I am craving that day, which usually runs the gamut between Tex Mex, Italian, barbecue, southern cooking and Asian influence. I also like to bake on occasion but I’m not that great at it. I am also always trying to save a buck so my will to cook is driven by that desire much of the time. I also try to be somewhat health conscious and I feel that preparing meals at home helps to save on calories and fat . I try to make it to the gym or do some form of workout every evening. This is the main driver behind the convenience theme and the need for teamwork in the kitchen.

I think that Johnnycakes is more creative in the kitchen and I tend to be more practical and “let’s get dinner on the table” oriented. I like to think our styles meet somewhere in the middle.
If I were a food network star, who would I be: GIADA! I love her. Her show is a joy to watch and her food is excellent. As an Italian American, I feel that she has helped me reconnect with my heritage as an Italian. I have taken an active interest in Italian cooking thanks to her!
Training: Who needs Le Cordon Bleu when you’ve got the Food Network? Johnnycakes and I’s Saturday Morning ritual of watching the Food Network has really expanded my interest in cooking. I would definitely have to credit my mother. She is a stay-at-home Mom/Grandmom and was always making delicious and nutritious dinners. She is always making something for some party or event and always makes enough food for an army. I also took 3 years of Foods and Nutrition in the Home Economics department of my high school. I feel that helped me become familiar w/ the kitchen, cleaning up after myself and I learned the concepts of meal planning.

Dream: I would love to take cooking class vacation in Italy with Johnnycakes.

Johnnycakes: Johnnycakes mom is an excellent and traditional Colombian cook and so he spent a lot of time in the kitchen with his mom eating and helping out.