general tso's chicken, spicy mushrooms, peppers and onions, steamed green beans

***in which i learn that i enjoy Chinese food much more when i make it myself, because it gets rid of the small pieces of mystery meat that often seem to float inside a shell of deep-fried breading***


Did you know that Rachael Ray now makes a dog food? It's called "Nutrish", which I'm guessing is some sort of a play on "Delish", which she always exclaims in glee after tasting just about everything. There must be some dishes she tries that really make her want to spit her food out in disgust, but every single one is accompanied by a moan of pleasure and "OMFG, that's DELISH!". I guess she's an actress, too. That woman does everything!

Anyway, Siri really seems to like the dog food. She inhaled a bowl of it last night in about three seconds flat, which is big news for a dog the size of my shoe. And why am I talking about Rachael Ray's dog food? Well, my mind tends to jump easily from one topic to another, and when I decided to post this recipe I immediately thought of how Rachael Ray refers to meals like this as MYOTO (Make Your Own Take-Out), and then my eyes drifted to the bag of Rachael Ray dog food. Whew.

Anywho, this recipe comes to me thanks to my lovely friend Jenna, which is why I like to call it "Jennaral Tso's Chicken". Get it? Punny, right? But this was really a good interpretation of the beloved deep-fried, 180 Weight Watchers point version of that dish that shows up at your door in a white styrofoam box with little red words on it. It had the flavor of the sauce down pat, and once you overcome the disappointment at the fact that the chicken hasn't been submerged in a vat of (probably dirty) boiling oil, I think you'll like it too. So, without further ado:


Homemade General Tso's Chicken



1/2 tsp ginger, ground
1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp peanut oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into 2" pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp lite soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1. In a small bowl, combine chicken broth, cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, and vinegar; whisk together. Set aside.

2. Heat oil in wok or non-stick skillet. Add scallions, garlic, and pepper, and heat for 2 minutes.

3. Add chicken, and brown for about 5 minutes. Then add liquid mixture, stir until thickened and chicken is cooked through.

The cornstarch helps thicken the sace into that slightly gluey (in a good way, if that's possible) consistency that takeout Chinese food is famous for. I doused this liberally in red pepper flakes, and served with a side of steamed green beans and sauteed mushrooms, red peppers and onions (cooked, naturally, in hot chili garlic sauce and soy sauce).

Thanks, Jenna! This helps satisfy my almost-constant cravings for unhealthy Chinese food.

roasted vegetable pasta with grilled chicken. and an apology.

***in which i learn that people actually read this blog! and that i'm really craving this recipe now***


Well, it's officially been (exactly) three months since I last posted here. And hey, I'm nothing if not precise! I have no excuses, other than the fact that I'm quite lazy and my camera battery was dead for a while and I got sent into the eye of a hurricane for a few days in September.

But I have still been cooking. Pretty much every night, as a matter of fact, although I will admit that things like Steak-Umms and (gasp!) fish sticks have been sneaking into my repertoire a bit more frequently than I care to admit. Isn't it awful how pesky things like work, sleep, school and laundry impede one's culinary prowess?

(I must confess, I faced a choice about 5 minutes ago: fold a load of laundry, or update this blog. I chose the more sedentary action, as I am wont to do, and I'm glad for it!)

So as a bonus for taking a three-month hiatus (from a one-month-old blog, no less), I have decided to include a picture of the kitchen where all the magic happens! This pic was taken during the one 15-minute interval this year when there were no dirty dishes piled by the sink, and no crusty stuff on the cooktop. Behold, my domain:

Of note:
- the shiny glinting chrome apparatus in the corner, my beloved DeLonghi Magnifica espresso/cappuccino machine, otherwise known as The-Coffee-Maker-That-Cost-More-Than-A-Mortgage-Payment. But I'll tell ya, when I stumble bleary-eyed down the stairs at 3 a.m. to head to work and that baby's lit up like a beacon of energy-giving life, I would gladly give my left thumb in exchange for its well-being. 
- the paper towels, which sit upon our counter without the benefit of a paper-towel holder, since the day Scott decided he simply didn't like the one we had and threw it out. Just like that. Threw it out. Who does something like that? And I'm far too lazy to find a new one. 
- the light fixture, which I dislike but am also too lazy to do anything about, as I'm hoping that Clive guy from HGTV will come into my home before I sell it and make changes at no cost to me.
- and before you judge me on the kitschy "Cookies" sign from Ross Dress For Less, let the record show that the sign says "Aunt Kate's Cookies", which has special meaning for me since I'm now an aunt, having inherited a great nephew after my wedding. Feel bad now, don't you?

So, let's get to a recipe. Even though my posting has slackened, I'm still taking pictures of all (cough* only the pretty *cough) food I make. So I've got quite the arsenal. However, there are some pictures that I've been squinting at trying to figure out what the HELL is on the plate.


Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Grilled Chicken

On our anniversary, August 31, we ate at a little avant-garde Italian place nearby and I consumed with great gusto a bowl of red pepper pasta with roasted veggies. It was so fantastic that I made my own interpretation of it just days later. Oh so easy, and extremely delish.

Feel free to choose your own vegetables, or whatever happens to be in season, for this pasta. I think I'll attempt a more wintery version of it soon, with things like carrots and maybe rutabaga (oh, who am I kidding? I've never eaten rutabaga in my life).

One red bell pepper, cut into one-inch pieces
One small Chinese eggplant, sliced into medallions and quartered
Six shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
One red onion, cut into one-inch pieces
Ten asparagus spears, cut into one-inch pieces
One baby zucchini, cut into one-inch pieces
1 Tbsp crushed garlic
Olive oil
Sea Salt
Crushed Red Pepper

Two boneless skinless chicken breasts, marinated if you like in Caesar or Italian dressing
One box of spaghetti (I've been using Ronzoni SmartTaste and liking it)
Parmesan cheese for grating

1. Preheat oven to something pretty high. Like 450.
2. Place veggies on cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with a good dose of olive oil, add the crushed garlic and douse with sea salt and crushed red pepper. With your fingers, toss the veggies until they are completely coated in the olive oil and the spices are mixed around well. Place in oven.
3. While veggies are roasting, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, and then drain well.
4. While veggies are a-roasting away and pasta is boiling, place the chicken on a hot grill and cook through.
5. I really have no idea how long to tell you to roast the veggies for. I'm going to say it was about 20-25 minutes, but keep checking them. They will char nicely in spots and turn extremely fragrant. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Remove from oven.
6. Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks when it is cool enough to handle.
7. Toss together the grilled chicken, roasted veggies and pasta. Grate some fresh parmesan over the top and voila! Dinner's done.

I served this with sliced tomatoes in a garlic vinaigrette and some crusty Italian bread. This would also make a fabulous vegetarian meal if you omit the chicken.

sriracha-glazed chicken thighs, homemade vegetable potstickers

***in which i learn that i still don't really like chicken thighs. but that sriracha and peach make a lovely, unexpected combination, and that potstickers are a real bitch to make.***


I am so tired of serving rice as a side dish to virtually everything I make. It's really worn out it's welcome on my table, but at the same time I can't seem to find a viable carbo-rific substitute that everyone (read: Scott) likes. I've tried couscous, polenta, rice noodles, egg noodles - and I've also tried leaving the starch off the plate which is met by gasps of incredulity and a rush to the cereal box before nine o'clock. I have accepted that my husband is a protein-and-starch kind of guy - and more meat-and-potatoes than salmon-and-quinoa, at that.

So I thought about potstickers. They have a starchy, side-dish kinda vibe going on, at least in my head, and I thought it would be an interesting way to hide some vegetables on his plate. The idea was sparked by a beautiful head of local purple cabbage in the produce section, and I used my new trusty iPhone to call up an Alton Brown recipe RIGHT THERE IN THE STORE and I'll be damned if I didn't bump into like eight people but I actually GOT ALL THE INGREDIENTS. Which is worth the dirty looks.

Someone online posted this recipe for Sriracha-Glazed Chicken Thighs the other day, and since all it takes is a mention of sriracha or chili-garlic sauce to set my mouth watering, I knew I had to make it. Disclaimer: it IS spicy. Too spicy for the husbland, who chose to have his thighs coated with Sweet Baby Ray's Honey BBQ sauce instead. His CHICKEN thighs, people! Get the heads out of that gutter (unless it's my gutter and you're in the process of cleaning it out. In which case, proceed with all due haste).

Sriracha Glazed Chicken Thighs

2/3 cup mango jam (I used peach preserves)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (12-ounce) bone-in skinless chicken leg-thigh quarters
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat grill, leaving one burner off.
2. Combine preserves, chives, vinegar, and Sriracha, stirring until smooth. Reserve 1/4 cup mango/peach mixture; set aside.
3. Brush oil evenly over chicken. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
4. Place chicken on grill rack over unheated part. Brush chicken with about 2 tablespoons remaining sriracha glaze.
5. Plate chicken, and top with a few spoonfuls of the glaze.


Now for the veggie potstickers. Alton's recipe called for cubes of tofu, which I really didn't feel like wrangling with. Tofu is one of those things that I'll eat outside the house (especially if it's tempura-battered and crispy), but I'm not all for making it at home. So I left it out. I also left out the hoisin sauce, as we all know how I feel about that product.


Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings

1/2 pound firm tofu
1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots
1/2 cup shredded Napa cabbage
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bowl of water, plus additional water for steamer
35 to 40 small wonton wrappers
Non-stick vegetable spray, for the steamer

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

2. Cut the tofu in half horizontally and lay between layers of paper towels. Place on a plate, top with another plate, and place a weight on top (a 14-ounce can of vegetables works well). Let stand 20 minutes.

3. After 20 minutes, cut the tofu into 1/4-inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the carrots, cabbage, red pepper, scallions, ginger, cilantro, soy sauce, hoisin, sesame oil, egg, salt, and pepper. Lightly stir to combine.

4. To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place 1/2 rounded teaspoon of the tofu mixture in the center of the wrapper. Shape as desired. Set on a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone.

5. Using a steaming apparatus of your choice, bring 1/4 to 1/2-inch of water to a simmer over medium heat. Spray the steamer's surface lightly with the non-stick vegetable spray to prevent sticking. Place as many dumplings as will fit into a steamer, without touching each other. Cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes over medium heat. Remove the dumplings from the steamer to a heatproof platter and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.


So yeah, this recipe was kind of a pain in the you-know-what. The dumplings turned out okay, but even halving the filling recipe I had a ton leftover and I really only wanted to make a few dumplings. They were yummy, especially dipped in a soy and scallion dipping sauce, but I don't know that I'll attempt them again - unless of course they are filled with ground pork and fried, in which case, SIGN ME UP.

grilled mahi-mahi, tropical salsa, thai-style rice noodles

***in which i learn that my noodles tasted like crap. but that tropical salsa is amazing, and can be used for a multitude of things. i think you could put that stuff on a bumper and it would taste good***


I have been (slooooowly) trying to incorporate more fish into our weekly repertoire. Scott is, to put it mildly, not a huge fan of fish, although his horizons have been gradually expanding to include things beyond shrimp and scallops. He's a huge fan of lobster and crab, and after being served lots of freshly-caught, grilled mahi-mahi in Costa Rica, he developed a bit of a liking for that fish as well.

(It would be better for us all here to not mention our Turkish fish experience, which included lots of bones and a couple of eyeballs - on my plate. Scott managed to get away with a nice fillet of bonito - tuna - which he seemed to actually enjoy! I still don't know what kind of fish I had, but I bet you anything he was swimming about three hours before I ate him)

So Wegman's has recently (I think) begun selling these great two-packs of different fish fillets - they have mahi-mahi, Alaskan halibut, sockeye salmon, Chilean sea bass and orange roughy, which is fantastic because they are not only manageable portions but they are Frozen At Sea (FAS), which is a designation that you should always look for when purchasing frozen fish. I like buying fish like this because we don't have a real fishmonger (oh, I love that word) in our town and this lets me keep it on ice until we're bold enough to use it.

Oh, and BONUS! This recipe is easy peasy. And the whole thing (with the salsa) is approx. 5 Points.

Mahi Mahi Kebabs with Tropical Salsa
Serves 4

For the salsa:
2 cups diced mango
1 cup diced pineapple
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 to 1 jalapeƱo, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

For the fish:
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 pounds mahi mahi steaks, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

1. Combine all salsa ingredients in a bowl; cover and chill.
2. Stir together soy sauce, honey and ginger in a shallow bowl. Add mahi mahi chunks; cover and chill at least 30 minutes.
3. Thread fish on soaked bamboo skewers. Grill, covered with lid, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) 5 minutes on each side or until done. Serve with salsa mixture.

I served this with some super-thin rice noodles that I mixed with sweet Thai chili sauce. But for some reason, the noodles were a soggy mass of goo that wasn't appetizing at all. Maybe I'll cook them for less time on the next go-round? And the green beans weren't working for me either. That's what you get for rushing dinner to try and get to poker night, only to get a flat tire on the way there. (Bonus - I tied for first and won $70!)

I highly recommend making this salsa and serving it with just about anything - it's sweet, but the jalapeno and the lime give it enough of a kick that the sweetness doesn't overwhelm. Fish, chicken, tacos, even just some tortilla chips - hell, I was eating it with a fork out of the container. I bought pre-cut mango chunks from the grocery store and then put the salsa back in that container, which worked out wonderfully because a) it stayed fresh for quite a while, and b) it gave me dreams about packaging and selling "Kate's Famous Mango Salsa".


Oh, and I cut this recipe in half and cut the salsa mix in something like a quarter, and it was fine. Just eyeball it and taste along the way.

simple dinners: go-ahead-and-make-it risotto, healthy (!) buffalo chicken salad

I haven't been around much in the past week or so. The kitchen hasn't been churning out much of note, thanks to an incredibly busy work schedule, a weekend trip, and some disgusting weather that has me just wanting to curl into a ball on the couch and not think about cooking. And trying to grill in the rain is just no fun. Believe me, I tried it last night.

Sometimes we just get busy and life takes over, and one of the first things to go out the window is dinner. So I'm going to throw out a few suggestions for simple dinners that can be made even when you don't have much of anything in the house and just do not have the time or energy to hit up the grocery store.

One of my favorites is risotto. And I know what you're thinking. Um, risotto? An easy, I-don't-want-to-cook meal? Well, truth is it might take a little longer than tossing a Lean Cuisine into the microwave, but it can usually be made with things you have in the pantry and it's certainly comfort food. Risotto, to me, is like the dinner equivalent of Cream of Wheat cereal. Filling, stick-to-your-ribs, and just really freaking good.

Ever since I've stopped being so anal about my risotto, it's tasted better! I read in Everyday Food that, contrary to popular belief, you DON'T have to stir the damn thing until your arm falls off, and that miraculously enough, the addition of your salty tears to the thickening rice is not a required ingredient. Who knew?

Simple Weeknight Risotto for Two

1 cup Arborio rice (don't try this with Uncle Ben's Steam-in-Bag. It won't work. I promise you.)
1 carton chicken stock (You'll want at least 3-4 cups, although you may not use it all.)
1/2 a medium yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Butter
Salt and Pepper

1. Coat the bottom of a medium saucepan with olive oil, and saute the chopped onion until tender. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat your chicken stock.
2. Add the rice to the onion and oil, stirring until rice begins to look translucent, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the wine to the rice and onion mixture, and stir until wine is absorbed (if you don't have wine, just use a little stock).
3. Add roughly 1 cup of warmed chicken stock. Stir into rice over medium-low heat, and then let sit until most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir occasionally.
4. When the first cup of liquid is absorbed, add another and repeat Step 3. Continue doing this until rice is at desired consistency - it should be soft and tender, but still retain it's shape and a bit of a bite.
5. Stir in most of the parmesan cheese and about a tablespoon of butter.

At this point, you can pretty much throw in whatever you like. I like to caramelize some zucchini, add some baby peas, and then stir that all in at the end. For some protein, add chopped cooked chicken or some sliced prosciutto. Or, toss in a few different types of mushroom (I like maitake). It takes a little bit of time, but it's a simple recipe and it's so worth the effort.

I made this Monday, and simply heated some frozen baby peas to add to the mixture. Simple, easy, and filling. Also, a terrible picture, but you get the idea.


Another favorite, and a go-to lunch meal for me, is Healthy Buffalo Chicken Salad. I know, I know, this sounds like an oxymoron. And if you've ever been the lucky recipient of a Buffalo Chicken Salad (which, irritatingly and incomprehensibly, is often labeled on menus as a "Buffalo Chix Salad"), you've no doubt been confronted by strips of crunchy, deep-fried chicken, in a salad heaped with shredded cheese, creamy and chunky blue cheese dressing, and enough fat grams to even make Paula Deen surrender in agony.

My version, friends, is much much better. And I find it to be a good cure for the "I want chicken wings!" blues. These strike me frequently. MUCH too frequently.

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Salad for Two

8 oz. raw chicken strips, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 oz. block Maytag blue cheese
2-3 cups greenleaf romaine lettuce
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup carrot matchsticks (which I buy precut, 'cause I'm lazy, but you can feel free to chop up a carrot or two yourself. Overacheiver.)
Frank's RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce

1. Coat a small saute pan with olive oil or cooking spray and saute the chicken over medium-high heat. When chicken is almost cooked through, add about 2 tbsp of Wing Sauce and toss to coat. Let chicken cook in sauce until cooked through.
2. Meanwhile, chop your romaine into bite-size pieces. Place in bowl with carrot matchsticks and sliced onion.
3. Drizzle wing sauce over the veggies as your dressing.
4. Crumble the blue cheese and scatter liberally over the salad. Top with cooked chicken.


Because you're not using "dressing", this salad wins lots of points for healthfulness. And because you've got the creamy hunks of Maytag blue, you won't miss it at all. If you must, add a little bit of olive oil or red wine vinegar to make the salad feel less naked, but I confess to being the biggest dressing freak in the world and I don't think you need it. I just don't!

This salad clocks in at 4 Weight Watchers Points, meaning you can enjoy it with a nice hunk of bread, some soup, or even a glass of wine. Why not?

smothered buttermilk chicken over brown rice

***in which i tell you to MAKE THIS TONIGHT because it was so easy and so delicious, and it's one of those healthy meals that tastes like the most unhealthy, comfortified (new word!) food there is.***


So as I've mentioned before, Wednesday night is Bowling Night for us, and I like to have something easy and ready to go, something that doesn't take a whole lot of time to prepare in the evenings. Slow-cooker meals are perfect for this, because you toss some stuff in the pot in the morning, forget about it for like 6 hours, and then voila! You have dinner!

I was craving some comfort food, but I also wanted to keep it figure-friendly. I stumbled across this recipe on a WeightWatchers message board, and everyone was raving about how much they loved it, and almost as importantly, how much their non-dieting husbands loved it. So I decided to give it a go.

Wow, were they right on the money. This tasted like the incredible filling of a chicken pot pie, without the pie. And you could easily serve it over some biscuits and get the full pot pie effect. I know, it's not the best picture, but I promise, it was great.

Smothered Buttermilk Chicken (5 points)

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into halves
3 medium carrots -- sliced (I used a half-cup of baby carrots and chopped them)
1/3 cup onion -- chopped
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1 package roasted chicken gravy mix, like McCormick's.
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup frozen peas

1. In a 4 to 6 quart crock pot, combine chicken, carrots, onion, water, butter, salt, pepper and bay leaf; mix well.
2. Cover; cook on low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high setting for 3 to 4 hours.
3. About 20 minutes before serving, stir gravy mix into crock pot. Remove and discard bay leaf.
4. In a measuring cup, blend buttermilk and flour until smooth. Stir flour mixture and peas into chicken; mix well.
5. Cover, increase heat to high; cover and cook an additional 25-20 minutes or until peas are cooked.
6. Serve with rice or biscuits (don't forget to add the points!).


I used a wooden spoon to pull the chicken apart and shred it a little bit before serving, which I thought worked out wonderfully and made it like a chicken stew. I did add a little bit of water at the end to thin it out a little bit, because it was really thick. This is some stick-to-your-ribs comfort food.

I had a few ears of corn left over from yesterday, so I made the corn and shallot dish again - see yesterday's post for the recipe.

grilled pork chops with peach-tomato barbeuce sauce, fresh corn with shallots, roasted haricot vert

***in which i learn that shaving corn kernels from the cob and cooking them is really the way to go, period. and that i really like saying the phrase "haricot vert", like Lisa from Next Food Network Star. "no, we didn't have GREEN BEANS. what are we, plebians? we had 'aaaar-ee-coh vehr'."***


This is a recipe I found on the Martha Stewart website while trolling for more things to grill. I had been toying with the idea of grilling up a pork tenderloin, maybe with some pineapple, when I found this menu, which also featured pork and fruit and sounded really yummy.

I have to say, it was just okay. I'm not sure if it was the sweetness of the sauce that I wasn't crazy about, or maybe the consistency, but it reminded me of peach baby food. There wasn't enough bite or acidity to it, and I think if I make this again, I'll try to tweak the sauce recipe a bit. I also decided to baste the pork in the sauce while it was grilling, which made a mess of my beautiful grill grates. Mistake!

Grilled Pork Chops with Peach-Tomato Barbecue Sauce (6 points)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 one-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 cups canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup peach jam, preferably homemade (hahahaha, gotta love that Martha! homemade!)
2 ripe peaches, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 tablespoons to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 pork chops, 6 to 8 ounces each, trimmed of excess fat

(Note: I halved this recipe and it turned out just fine.)


1. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the minced garlic and the ginger; cook about 2 minutes more.
2. Stir in tomato sauce, peach jam, and peaches. Reduce heat to low; simmer until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Stir in vinegar to taste. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; let cool.
3. Pour half the barbecue sauce into a shallow baking dish; add the pork chops, turning to coat both sides. Reserve remaining sauce.
4. Grill pork chops on a medium-hot grill or grill pan until chops are well marked and cooked through, at least 5 minutes per side. Baste chops with barbecue sauce; rotate during cooking. Remove from grill. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with remaining sauce.


Fresh Corn with Shallots (2 points)

I decided to tweak Martha's recipe for Summer Rice and Corn Pilaf, and just do the corn part. It turned out fantastic, which is probably owing in part to the fact that the corn, sweet white local corn, was fantastic. So, uh, I guess results may vary?

2 ears corn, kernels shaved off
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pinch of sugar
1 Tbsp butter

1. Melt butter in a large saute pan.
2. Add corn kernels and shallots, along with salt and sugar. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.
3. Saute about five minutes on medium-high heat until corn is cooked and slightly softened, but with a bit of a bite.

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What are haricot vert? They are simply a very thin type of green bean that happens to have a fancy French name. So instead of chefs having to put the humble "garlicky green beans" on their menu, they can say "haricot vert with whole garlic cloves roasted with olive oil and sea salt". Voila! Instant marketing.

I simply made a little pouch out of heavy-duty tinfoil, and tossed about 30 beans with a few whole garlic cloves, some olive oil and some sea salt, sealed the packet and put it on the grill for about 15 minutes. The beans were overcooked - they had lost their pretty bright green color - but tasted phenomenal. This would be great with squeeze of lemon.

chicken souvlaki with tzatziki, greek chopped salad, angel-food cake with strawberries

***in which i learn that i will eat tzatziki by the spoonful. also, that (ahem) i love naan bread.***


This will be known as The Meal that Saved My Husband's Life. Or, at least he says it was. Scott is one of those people who I'll never understand - the kind of person who can "forget" to eat for an entire day. Since I'm always thinking about where my next meal is coming from, even as I'm eating the current one, this is incomprehensible to me. But Monday was a rough day at work for him, and he came home a little shell-shocked and shaky after not having eaten all day (and, if I know him, having drunk 6 shots of espresso).

Luckily I, the wife, the domestic goddess, had dinner all ready to go on the grill when he walked in the door, and fifteen minutes later, we were eating. According to Scott, if dinner had come a minute later, he might have died. And he was hungry enough to actually REQUEST extra grilled veggies on his pita. Hold the phone!

This was fabulous, by the way. FA-BUE-LESS. I highly recommend you make it. Tonight. Go ahead! It's easy.

Chicken Souvlaki on Naan (7 points)

2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 a large zucchini, cut into chunks
1/2 a large red onion, cut into chunks
2 servings naan bread (1 round)

1. Preheat the grill to high. Mix together lemon juice, soy sauce and honey, and pour over chicken cubes. Let marinate for 1/2 hour. In the meantime, if you're using bamboo skewers, soak them in water so they don't burn on the grill.
2. Make your skewers. Thread the zucchini and onion on two skewers, and then make two skewers of the marinated chicken. Place on grill.
3. Transfer leftover marinade to a small saute pan and bring to a rapid boil. Boil for at least 1 minute to kill any bacteria from the raw chicken.
4. Baste kebabs with cooked marinade, turning on the grill. Grill until chicken is cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
5. Sprinkle naan lightly with water, and grill about 1 minute on each side, or until heated through. Cut into two halves.

Serve chicken with homemade tzatziki and greek chopped salad - recipes below. I like to spread the bread with tzatziki, top with pieces of chicken and grilled veggies, and add a little bit of the tomato salad on top. Delish!

Tzatziki (Cuumber-Yogurt Sauce)

1/4 cup Greek yogurt, such as Fage
1/4 cup finely chopped or shredded cucumber
1 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
Splash of red wine vinegar
Kosher salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Consistency will be thick, almost like sour cream. It will also be freaking delicious.

Chopped Greek Salad

1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped red onion
10 pitted Kalamata olives, halved
2 Tbsp crumbled Feta cheese
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Toss all ingredients with oil and vinegar, and add salt and pepper to taste.

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For dessert, the lazy person's special. Store-bought angel-food cake, topped with sliced fresh strawberries and a huge dollop of (gasp!) Cool Whip Lite. I can't be bothered to make fresh whipped cream on a weeknight, and plus, think of the points!

But this is a fantastic and quick summer dessert, and only 2 points for the cake - if you're trying to be healthy, like I am.


Seriously, I hope to illustrate that following a diet plan, whether it's WeightWatchers or something else, doesn't mean you have to deprive yourself of good food. We're not eating diet food and low-fat nonsense over here in the E. household, we're just eating fresh, healthy meals in manageable portions. That's the way to slim down.

grilled marinated chicken, egg-white omelette, grilled naan pizza, a tired dog

***in which i learn that you can grill just about anything. and that i really forget most of the details of the weekend***


No, we didn't eat the tired dog. What is this, Beijing? I did read some article saying that a lot of the restaurants in Beijing have been asked to remove the dog dishes from the menus with all the foreigners coming in for the Olympics. The whole idea is just awful, at least for someone who loves their dog like an actual child. My dog sleeps with it's head on a pillow. Just sayin'.

So anyway, I've been grilling every single night since we got the new grill. I'm totally stoked about it, and the way it gets so hot it could singe your eyebrows off if you happen to get too close. It's now Thursday, so here's an abbreviated breakdown of the weekend.

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Saturday.


After the pancakes, I felt like crap. That was a lot of dough and maple syrup to stick in a stomach that early in the morning. So the rest of the day we ate light, and because I didn't want to think too much, dinner was simple.

I threw some marinated chicken breasts on the grill (marinated in Ken's Light Caesar dressing), and also cut up a large red onion and tossed that on the grill. Side dish (what a cheater I am) was a bag of BirdsEye SteamFresh Rice and Veggies, which is actually pretty decent for something from the frozen section, I must admit.

And I did a quick saute of broccoli, grilled onion, soy sauce and chili garlic sauce. A simple summery meal.

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Sunday.


Ah, the delights of egg whites when one is confined to counting points all day long. Egg whites are so much healthier and lower in calories and cholesterol than whole eggs, and if you stuff 'em with enough deliciousness, you won't even notice the difference. At least, I don't.

I've been buying these little cups of egg whites that I believe have the equivalent of three whites in them. I hate wasting the yolks and since I don't make many custards, it's easier to just toss 'em than to try and save them in ridiculous manners like freezing them into ice cube trays and then throwing them out during my next freezer clean-out.


Tex-Mex Egg-White and Veggie Omelette (3 points)


1/8 cup chopped red onion
1/8 cup diced mushrooms
1/8 cup diced red bell pepper
1/8 cup sliced scallions
2 Tbsp sliced jalapenos
Hot sauce or chili-garlic sauce
3 egg whites
Nonstick cooking spray
Shredded cheddar cheese (1-2 Tbsp)

1. Heat broiler to high. In small saute pan, saute veggies, peppers and hot sauce with non-stick cooking spray, reserving some of the scallions for serving.
2. When veggies are softened, add egg whites. Use a rubber spatula to push the omelette gently to the center, allowing the uncooked portion to fill in the sides.
3. Place under the broiler in pan until firm on top. I like to finish in the broiler so I don't make a mess when I try to flip the thing.
4. Remove from broiler (careful, that handle's hot!), and top half the omelette with shredded cheese, then fold the other half over the cheese.
5. Serve garnished with sliced scallions.

Points: 3.


I must, yet again, extol the virtues of store-bought naan bread as a pizza crust. I used this in my Taco Pizza a few weeks back, and on Sunday night I also decided to toss a pizza on the grill. I can't recommend the grill enough for cooking pizza - that charred flavor makes it taste like it's from your favorite neighborhood pizza place.

Grilled Naan Pizza (8 Points)


1 round Tandoori Naan bread
1 recipe Homemade* tomato sauce (below)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, or 3 bocconcini of fresh mozzarella (preferred)
3 leaves basil, torn
Your favorite toppings - I used sliced red onion and mushroom.

1. Preheat grill to high and turn one burner off, so pizza will cook without burning on the bottom. Sprinkle naan lightly with water, and grill about 2 minutes on one side.
2. Flip naan over, and top with sauce, cheese and toppings.
3. Close grill and let bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on how hot your grill is, or until cheese is melted and crust is browned.
4. Eat.


Homemade* Tomato Sauce

1 can petite diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1. In a small saucepan, saute the garlic in olive oil until fragrant but not browned.
2. Add the basil and quickly saute in the oil so it's infused with garlic and basil.
3. Add the tomatoes and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Cover, and let simmer on low.
4. I like to use a potato masher to reduce the chunks and smooth the sauce when it's finished simmering, so it makes a more pizza-like sauce.


We served the pizza with a simple tossed salad - spring greens with garlic vinaigrette and some sliced 'shrooms:

homemade strawberry pancakes, maple syrup

***in which i learn that not every pancake has to come from a plastic container which i shake vigorously after adding water***


Scott doesn't have many strong preferences when it comes to the foodstuffs we buy, barring one item: maple syrup. Apparently, he grew up in a household where good maple syrup was a crucial element in a weekend breakfast, and bad maple syrup (read: the supermarket variety, or anything proclaiming itself to be "lite") was maligned in the worst way.

So we've taken to buying this thick, honey-colored syrup that goes for something like $8 per bottle (I haven't yet mustered up the financial courage to try the $14.99 bottle that sits next to it, mocking me with it's obvious superiority). And this morning I thought, hell, if we're gonna spend the price of two Starbucks lattes on the syrup, why pair it with something as sub-par as Bisquik Shake-N-Pour pancakes?

So I attempted, for the very first time ever in my twenty-seven years on the planet, to make my own.

I used the Mark Bittman recipe, as I find he's good for teaching us amateurs how to make things without adding ridiculous things like the club soda and cream of tartar and lemon rinds and large-grain Malaysian sugar that other recipe writers insist are crucial.

Everyday Pancakes - recipe by Mark Bittman

Time: 20 minutes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
2 eggs
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter (optional), plus unmelted butter for cooking, or use neutral oil.

1. Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Beat eggs into 1 1/2 cups milk, then stir in 2 tablespoons melted cooled butter, if using it. Gently stir this mixture into dry ingredients, mixing only enough to moisten flour; don’t worry about a few lumps. If batter seems thick, add a little more milk.

2. Place a teaspoon or 2 of butter or oil on griddle or skillet. When butter foam subsides or oil shimmers, ladle batter onto griddle or skillet, making pancakes of any size you like. Adjust heat as necessary; usually, first batch will require higher heat than subsequent batches. Flip pancakes after bubbles rise to surface and bottoms brown, after 2 to 4 minutes.

3. Cook until second side is lightly browned. Serve, or hold on an ovenproof plate in a 200-degree oven for up to 15 minutes.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Since it is a summer morning, I decided to chop up some fresh strawberries and fold them into the batter just before cooking. I was going to add blueberries too, and make a sort of "mixed berry pancake", but my heart was with the strawberries alone this morning.

They turned out delish, soft and sweet - but not too sweet, so as to not overpower when paired with the maple syrup. Oh, and I went ahead and added both optional ingredients. I mean, come on - butter and sugar? How's a girl going to turn that down?

Of course, I just blew 8 of my 22 daily Points on breakfast. Time to play some tennis!

saturday morning, july 12, 2008

Welcome to a weekend morning at the E house!

9:20 a.m.

Scott and Siri passed out on the couch:


Evidence of online shopping and espresso drinking while husband is snoring on the couch:

seared flank steak, grilled summer vegetables, whole-wheat couscous, honey-drizzled pineapple

***in which i learn that i love my new grill! and also that one should not play tennis until 7:45 p.m. without having started dinner unless one plans to grill in the dark. and that, despite yet another attempt, i still don't love couscous like i feel i should. also, don't put your digital meat thermometer too close to a 500 degree grill, unless you would like a Dali-esque meat thermometer***


Warning: grandiose Biblical metaphor ahead.

So in the Bible, the first book, the beginning of it all, is Genesis. Everything else, all of civilization really, follows from that point. So is it any coincidence that my beloved new grill is named "Genesis"? Because although my metaphor may be trite, I feel like grilling on this amazing piece of equipment marks a whole new beginning in cooking and experimenting in my life.

I mean, seriously, the thing kicks ass. It has a temperature gauge, for Pete's sake! How have I survived so long without one? And this thing sears like nobody's business. Holy crap, does it sear!

Just look at the grill marks on that flank steak! Bobby Flay would be proud.


I did have seriously grand notions of grilling an amazing dinner, complete with grilled stone fruits for dessert. However, by the time we played some serious tennis, went to Wegmans to purchase corn and veggies, and got in the car to drive home, we were in a serious race against the clock. Scott, of course, spent about 7 hours READING THE MANUAL, which I really think is superfluous when there's a beautiful steak just waiting to be put on the grill, and by the time the steak actually GOT to the grill, it was 9:30. So we ended up with a Euro-style dinner last night - fine by me, except for the fact that my husband was falling asleep into his grilled vegetable couscous.



So, dinner. As some of you may know, I went back to Weight Watchers meetings yesterday, so I'm trying to eat healthy. I have 13 pounds until I reach my goal weight, and I'll be damned if I blow it again! But as you'll see, that doesn't preclude eating amazing food!


Grilled Flank Steak and Summer Vegetables


1 flank steak (about 1 lb. or whatever size you'd like), marinated in Go-To Asian-Style Marinade (recipe below)

Red, yellow and orange peppers, cut into random strips
Half of a large red onion
Half of a large zucchini
3 ears of corn (or however many you can eat)
Low-Sodium soy sauce
Fat-free Italian dressing

1. Heat grill to high (about 500-600 degrees).

2. For the corn, pull back the husks to remove the silks, and then pull the husks back over the corn ears. Soak in warm water about 15-20 minutes. This allows the husks to soften, so they don't burn as easily on the grill.


3. Meanwhile, cut the vegetables up into large chunks (I like to do about a 1-inch ring for the onion). In a medium bowl, toss the veggies with a little soy sauce and fat-free Italian dressing, and a dash of hot sauce, if you like.

4. Turn grill burners down to about medium, and place everything on the grill, keeping the corn in the husk. Allow to grill about 6-8 minutes, then lift lid and flip everything over. Continue grilling for another 6-8 minutes, or until steak is done to your liking and the veggies are softened.

5. Remove from heat and allow meat to rest for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place all the grilled veggies on a cutting board and coarsely chop them into manageable chunks. Remove the husks from the grilled corn (careful, this'll burn your fingers!).

6. Slice steak very thinly on the diagonal. Toss veggies back in the reserved cooking juices, and serve over couscous or rice pilaf.


Go-To Asian-Style Marinade (I actually marinated the flank steak last Saturday, making enough marinade for two steaks, and froze this one!)

1/2 cup Kikkoman Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
1/4 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced (or two spoonfuls of minced garlic in olive oil)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
3 drops sesame oil
1/4 cup mirin (sweet sake)
Dash sriracha (or other hot sauce, if desired)

I've also added a squeeze of lime juice, some chili-garlic sauce and a tablespoon of chopped cilantro to this in the past. (which I did)

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At lunch one day at our fabulous hotel in Costa Rica, for dessert we were served a simple dish of fresh, skewered pineapple chunks with a perfectly-sized scoop of vanilla ice cream. The whole thing was drizzled with sweet, fragrant honey. That dish has been in my head for weeks, and it's so easy to make!

I wanted to grill the pineapple, but I totally forgot and turned the grill off, and it was already after 10 o'clock so we kept it easy.

Honey-Drizzled Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream


Fresh pineapple rings or chunks
Vanilla ice cream (I like Edy's Slow Churned)
Honey

1. Cut the pineapple into chunks. You can thread them on a skewer (especially if you plan to grill them), or just arrange them on the plate like I did.

2. On the side, place 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream.

3. Drizzle with honey.

Simple as that. But SO good. And don't skip the honey - it really adds a little something to the dish and brings all the flavors together beautifully.

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The best part, for anyone like me who is terrified of putting on a bathing suit this summer? The whole meal, dessert included, will run you 11 Weight Watchers points, or roughly 550-650 calories. Can't beat that!


By the way, Happy Birthday to my little brother John, who turns (gasp) 18 today! I really am in shock about that. Have a great day, Bird!

an amazing surprise!

You know how, in movies, when people are surprised by things, they actually audibly gasp out loud? And how this very rarely happens in real life? Usually, whether we admit it or not, we kind of halfway know things are on their way. Engagement rings, surprise parties, birthday presents - these are things we often expect.

It's when things happen out of the blue, on a random Friday morning - these are the things that elicit true, omigosh-i-can't-believe-it gasps.

Backing up a bit - you may have gathered, from this blog at least, that I do quite a bit of grilling. I am the only person in the neighborhood that stands out on my deck in the snow, yes, the icy, slushy really cold Central Pennsylvania SNOW, grilling steaks in the middle of January. You just can't beat the flavor of something grilled over direct heat - it conjures up summer from me and some days, sunk deeply into the Seasonal Affective Disorder that invades Happy Valley like a plague in those long, daylight-deprived winter months, I really need a little bit of summer. Consequently, I grill A LOT.

Scott and I have had our grill nearly as long as we've had each other. A gift from my amazing mother-in-law, the grill has served us beautifully for many years, but in recent months it's been, shall we say, on it's last legs. That top rack, so perfect for toasting hamburger buns and slowly grilling vegetables? Yeah, it's disintegrating into charred powder all over the deck. And the ignition button hasn't worked for about 2 years, meaning one of us must crawl on our hands and knees under the grill with a lighter, stick our entire arm up a little hole, and ignite it that way. I've nearly lost my eyebrows several times. And lastly, the grill in it's old age has turned fickle - most days it works fine. Others, it chooses to only emit the faintest glow of heat. Still others, it'll char a burger beyond recognition in three seconds flat.

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Alright, back to the surprise. Scott and I have been lusting over the Weber Genesis grill for several months now. Sure, it's pricey as all get-out, but it's a Weber, and those things last for hundreds of years (hey, wasn't Wall-E grilling on a Weber? I kid, I kid). I happened to mention this grill to my mom on the phone last week, in passing. Or so I thought.

I arrived home from work today, tired and bedraggled, and went to let the dog out the back door - and that's when I gasped. I'm talking a full-on, sharp intake of breath sort of gasp - because there sat the Weber Genesis, in all it's stainless-steel and black-enameled glory, right on MY DECK! How did this beautiful shiny piece of culinary machinery end up on MY TINY DECK?


My parents, who might be the most awesome parents in the history of parenting, decided to do something amazing for me "just because". My mom said I had sounded down in the dumps lately, and she wanted to lift my spirits. So she called the State College Lowe's, had them build and deliver the grill, and got my husband in on the act as well - all that so I could have an amazing surprise when I got home from work on a random Friday morning in July.

Pretty incredible, huh? A lesson to be learned today: do something for the people you love, "just because", this weekend. It will bring tears to their eyes.

Thanks, so so so much, Mom and Dad.



(off to grab some steaks and corn and veggies and anything else I can possibly think to grill tonight!)

chicken parmigiano over angel hair pasta, simple tossed salad

***in which i learn that using thinly-sliced chicken cutlets shaves my kitchen time in half. and that making one's own tomato sauce is better than anything from a jar, even if the tomatoes DO come from a can***


Monday was a bit of an unsettled day here in Central PA - overcast and muggy, with heavy thunderstorms that rolled in right about the time I started cooking dinner. It got me craving comfort food, which for me involves breaded chicken, cheese and tomato sauce.

Now, growing up, my mom always served Chicken Parmesan over white rice. I grew to love it that way - I would stir the tomato sauce and extra cheesy bits into the salty, buttery rice and it wsa heaven on a plate. Scott, on the other hand, has always eaten chicken parmesan over pasta, which I suppose makes sense as it is an Italian dish. I gave him the option on Monday night, and he went with the pasta - which is interesting, considering that Scott could live on a diet of white rice alone, if given the opportunity (as long as he had a few sticks of butter and a salt shaker to go with it).

Chicken Parmigiano with Homemade Tomato Sauce*

*Not sure if my sauce actually qualifies as homemade, since I used canned tomatoes. But for me, anything not Ragu is homemade.


For sauce:
1 can petite diced tomatoes (I used RedPack Diced Tomatoes with Sweet Onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 lb thinly sliced chicken cutlets
1/2 cup of flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese or 3 large bocconcini mozzarella balls
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

1. Preheat oven to 375. Make sauce - in a small saucepan, saute the garlic in olive oil until fragrant but not browned. Add the basil and quickly saute in the oil so it's infused with garlic and basil. Add the tomatoes and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Cover, and let simmer on low.

2. While sauce is simmering, prepare chicken. Set up a breading station with three shallow bowls or plates: one containing the flour, the second containing the beaten egg, the third containing a mixture of breadcrumbs and about half of the shredded parmesan. You can also add some seasoning to the third bowl - I added white pepper and a little bit of crushed red pepper.

3. For each chicken cutlet, coat it in the flour, dip it in the egg, and coat with bread crumbs.

4. In a large saute pan, heat a coating of olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the chicken in batches, if necessary - when oil is good and hot, place the cutlets in the pan and let them stay put until the bottom is nicely browned, and then flip over.

5. Back to the sauce - I like to crush the tomatoes with a fork after it has simmered, to reduce the chunkiness. Pour a little bit of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, and top with the chicken cutlets. Pour the remaining sauce equally over the top of the cutlets, and top with the shredded mozzarella and the remaining shredded parmesan.

6. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until cheese is bubbly. You can also crank up the broiler at the last minute or two to get the cheese nice and brown and caramely.

I served this with some angel-hair pasta. A good trick for pasta that you're serving alongside or under something else - when you take it off the heat and have it in the colander to drain, melt a tablespoon of butter in the pot where you boiled the pasta. Saute a minced clove of garlic in the butter, and then add pasta back to the pot, tossing to coat it in the butter/garlic mixture. Toss in a couple of tablespoons of parmesan cheese and toss, giving the pasta a garlicky, cheese, buttery flavor.


This was delish! The chicken had a nice crunchy coating, and the tomato sauce was sweet and chunky. I would have rather used fresh mozzarella for the top, but we were out and the shredded worked just fine. Serve this with a simple tossed salad - baby greens tossed with your favorite vinaigrette and topped with blue cheese crumbles. A beautiful weeknight meal!

pulled pork sandwiches, baby corn, tomato salad

***in which i learn that i freaking love pulled pork sandwiches***


Wow, I was a really good updater for a week or so there, and then life caught up with me and the wheels fell off! This week has been a bit of a cooking wasteland in my house, in which we've subsisted on leftovers and random items plucked from the freezer and thrown on the grill.

However, last Sunday, I has the presence of mind to whip out the crockpot at 9 a.m. for some amazing pulled-pork sandwiches. Really, is there anything better than a sloppy mound of sweet, shredded meat atop a soft white roll? What's that you say? Oh, topping it with cheese and slaw! There we go!

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

1 pork shoulder roast (or any type of pork roast)
1 batch of my favorite Everyday Food BBQ sauce (recipe below)
Rolls of your choosing
Shredded cheddar or coleslaw for topping


Seriously, all you do is put the roast in your slow cooker, dump the sauce on top of it, and let it cook on low for 9 hours (or you could do medium for 6 hours, or even high for about 4 hours, if you're in a rush).

When the pork is done, you can shred it right in the crockpot - or, if you're like me and use crockpot liners so you don't have to WASH that ginormous basin, pull the pork roast out, shred it in a bowl, and then dump the remaining sauce and cooking juices on top of it.

Shredding is simplest with two forks - one to hold it in place, the other to pull the meat away in tiny strips.


Here's the recipe for the BBQ sauce:

Barbecue Sauce (adapted from Great Food Fast)

1/2 cup ketchup or chili sauce
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
3 minced garlic cloves (or a heaping spoonful of minced garlic in olive oil)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon sriracha (or any hot sauce)

Simmer all ingredients together in a small sauce pan until reduced to about 1 and 1/4 cups (about 5 to 7 minutes).

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Scott and I watched, riveted, as Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, and then got a hankering to play some tennis of our own. When we came back, sweaty and sore as it's the first time we've exercised in, oh, 8 months or so, the house was fragrant with the smell of slow-roasting pork.

I served it with some baby corn (I've been using the frozen steamer bags quite a bit, and the Super Sweet Corn is fantastic. Throw some butter and salt on that baby, and you're good to go).

I also whipped up a summer staple - the Tomato-Cucumber Salad. Just big chunks of tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion, tossed with crumbled gorgonzola cheese and topped with your favorite dressing - I usually use a little red wine vinegar and olive oil, but lately I've been obsessed with Garlic Expressions, so that usually goes in there.

glazed lemon-blueberry muffins, iced mocha latte, strawberry blue-cheese salad, ham and cheese panini

***in which i learn that cooking has taken over my life***


Our house on the weekends is a veritable smorgasbord. We eat. All weekend. And we eat well. No wonder following WeightWatchers during the week isn't doing my waistline any good! Although we do try to eat healthful foods, all made from scratch and using organic and local ingredients whenever physically (and fiscally) possible (ahem, except the Nathan's hot dogs. Hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do).

A bowl of lemons has resided on my kitchen table all week. They are very pretty and Tuscan-looking, but they are not being used. It doesn't help that my husband exhibits a gag reflex anytime he tastes lemon flavoring (see saturday, june 28 and the purple potatoes). I also am the proud owner of a nice little basket of local blueberries, which I purchased last week in a ridiculously overestimated quantity to make my blueberry cobbler, and which also have been sitting, waiting, just waiting to be coated in batter and sugar.

So I decided to make blueberry-lemon bread. Scott said "why not make blueberry muffins and eliminate the lemon?". We compromised. I made blueberry-lemon muffins (light on the lemon), and glazed half of them with additional sugary lemon goodness.

Here's the recipe I used, a Cooking Light recipe found on the "Oh Kitchen, What Won't You Do" blog via Google. Oh Internet, how I love thee.
Blueberry-Lemon Muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup blueberries
1 cup buttermilk (I used regular, it was fine)
3 tablespoons butter melted
1 tablespoon lemon zest (I used one lemon's worth)
1 large egg
Cooking Spray

Cooking Directions

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Lightly mix together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in blueberries.
3) Make a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well.
4) Grease/spray pan and spoon in batter. Cook for approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

I enjoyed this recipe, because I like corn muffins and lemon poppyseed muffins and blueberry muffins (in fact, the only muffin I don't like is chocolate), and this is like a combo of yumminess. The muffins turned our nicely - soft and crumbly, with bursts of blueberry and a very very very slight lemon flavor. Scott still grimaced, but I hold that if I hadn't revealed the addition of the lemon, he never would have known.


I also mixed together roughly equal amounts of lemon juice and superfine sugar, microwaved for 20 seconds, and poured the glaze over half the muffins, which gave them a sticky, gooey, tangy je ne se quois.

Served with an iced mocha latte, it made for a decadent and summery breakfast.

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At our wedding, we served a strawberry-poppyseed salad that still haunts my dreams. I make it at home quite often, and since poppyseed dressing is unfailingly packed with about 347 grams of fat, I've found that Ken's Lite Sweet Vidalia Onion is a perfect substitute.


Strawberry Blue-Cheese Salad

1 cup spring greens
2 large strawberries, sliced
1 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese
1 Tbsp caramelized walnuts
Ken's Lite Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing

One step: combine all ingredients and dress as you like. Eat. With Fork. Or Fingers.

And to complement the salad, a brown-sugar ham and cheddar panini, made with my fave sourdough bread.


I make this on my super-duper expensive, bells-and-whistles panini press... oh wait, no I don't. I make this on my $5-on-the-clearance-rack-at-Lowe's-miniature-George-Foreman-bright-red-grill. And it works BEAUTIFULLY!

porterhouse steak, bacon-wrapped scallops, parmesan and summer vegetable orzo, vanilla bean creme brulee

***in which i learn that no-stress meals are the best kind of meals, and that my custard-making skills need some work***


So after the debacle that was the 4th of July, Scott and I decided to go out to dinner on Saturday. Then, we thought about it and realized we could have a better meal at home for probably half the price of a restaurant. So we went for some of our standby favorites and boy, did I redeem myself or what?! I think I wanted so badly to make a fabulous holiday meal that I imploded and crumbled into myself, much like Richard Blaise on the Top Chef finale. Well, kind of like him. Not really.

Anyway, we picked up a lovely porterhouse big enough for the two of us, as well as some plump sea scallops wrapped in thick-cut bacon. And while we were at the patisserie counter about to order some creme brulee, the following conversation occurred:

Scott: "Why don't you ever make creme brulee?"
Me: "Erm, because it's hard."
Scott: "How do you know?"
Me: "I don't, really. I think it's just a lot of egg yolks and some cream."
Scott: "Don't we have a little torch at home?"

This began a Dessert Adventure which included a trip to Lowe's for some butane and (of course) propane. What's up with the E's and all the "anes"?

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I marinated the steak in my Go-To Asian Style Marinade:

1/2 cup Kikkoman Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
1/4 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced (or two spoonfuls of minced garlic in olive oil)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
3 drops sesame oil
1/4 cup mirin (sweet sake)
Dash sriracha (or other hot sauce, if desired)

I've also added a squeeze of lime juice, some chili-garlic sauce and a tablespoon of chopped cilantro to this in the past. (which I did)

And I topped it with my Standby Saute of baby bella mushrooms and red onions. Perfection!

Standby Spicy Saute Base

1 tsp butter
1 Tbsp minced garlic (I buy the minced garlic packed in olive oil from Wegmans and love it. Saves the hand-stench and the need to scrub your garlic crusher)
1 heaping Tbsp Vietnamese chili garlic sauce (you can also use sambal oelek if you prefer)
1/4 cup soy sauce
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And since we thought risotto would be a bit too heavy, especially with creme brulee for dessert, I devised a quick orzo dish.


Parmesan Orzo with Summer Vegetables

2 cups cooked orzo
1/2 cup zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/4 cup baby peas
1 scallion, sliced (separate white parts from green end parts)
2 Tbsp butter, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Saute the zucchini, peas and white part of scallion in 1 Tbsp of the butter until browned and sweet.
2. Stir the veggies into the orzo and add the other tablespoon of butter and the parmesan. Stir to combine.
3. Serve topped with additional grated parmesan.

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Quick note on the scallops: we cheated and bought these already wrapped and packaged from Wegmans, but they are simple enough to make on your own - just wrap a slice of bacon around a sea scallop and secure with a toothpick.

The cooking directions on these said to bake for 12 minutes and then broil for 12 minutes, but since my creme brulee was hogging the oven, I just did it in a saute pan, browning and crisping the bacon on all sides, and using my meat thermometer to check the temperature of the scallops. Much easier and it didn't nearly set the oven on fire, like last time.

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So, dessert:

I used the simplest recipe I could find, and since I only had 1 cup of heavy cream, I cut it in half.

Creme Brulee

Full Recipe:

4 egg yolks
3 Tbsp sugar
Pinch salt
2 cups heavy cream (two little cartons)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Superfine sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, beat yolks until thickened slightly. Add sugar and salt slowly, and stir to combine.
2. In a saucepan, heat the heavy cream until just before it boils, then remove from heat.
3. Slowly add the cream to the yolk mixture. You'll want to temper it, meaning add a spoonful or two of the cream first, and stir, then add another spoonful and stir, etc. Adding the hot milk too quickly will give you scrambled eggs and a ruined dinner party. Add the vanilla at the end (I used my Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste).
4. Divide mixture into four ramekins, and place in baking dish. Fill the baking dish with water, about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
5. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the custard firms.
6. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Sprinkle superfine sugar on top, and caramelize with a small kitchen torch (alternatively, you can stick 'em under the broiler).

So, okay. Here they are before we caramelized:


And during caramelization:


and check out the video below - it was so cool the way the sugar bubbled after you hit it with the kitchen torch (bonus: if you listen closely you can hear my inspired commentary - "it looks like a swamp!" - and Scott and I discussing how else we can use our little friend the torch):

video


The topping came out perfectly hardened and made that little "clink" when you tapped it with a spoon. Unfortunately, the inside wasn't so great. It was way too liquidy and had a sort of lumpy consistency. Bummer! But it tasted delish! So my question to you, webbies, is what did I do wrong? Do I need to cook it longer? Let it cool longer? Refrigerate for a day? Did my halving the recipe do me in? Pray tell.

independence day! oven-roasted pork ribs, patriotic potatoes, green beans and corn

***in which i learn that some meals just aren't meant to be***


For my husband to request a meal that doesn't involve 1. cheese, 2. heavy cream, or 3. pasta, is incredible. So when we were discussing our Fourth of July meal and he said "why don't you make those ribs again?"(see saturday, june 28), I jumped at the chance. You'll remember my delight at how wonderfully the brining worked, how nicely the ribs grilled up, the interplay of the salty brine with my sweet, vinegary barbecue sauce.

Yeah, none of that happened this time.

For starters, thanks to a busy week in the E. household, we put off our grocery shopping to the holiday itself. Note to self, and to entire internet: never, never, never go to the State College Wegmans on a holiday or the day preceding or following a holiday unless you want to sloooooowly follow well-shod older couples through the parking lot in their Range Rovers (in your clanking old Honda Civic) and then through the aisles of the organic section whilst they stock their carts with free-range chicken broth and soy crisps. I just want to get to the butter!

Alas, I never did get to the butter.

We arrived at Wegmans at 12:52 p.m. to find a notice on the door saying "We will be closing at 1 p.m. on July 4th". And it was like a giant loudspeaker had been set up in the middle of the town announcing this fact, prompting everybody to toss down their hot dogs and make a frenzied dash to the grocery store. The corn bin was a madhouse; husks flying every which way, ladies elbowing each other to get to the front lines and pluck their butter-and-sugar cobs from the heaping pile.

Scott and I darted around the store like we were on an episode of Supermarket Sweet (OMG, best game show ever, bring it back bring it back!), and threw things in our basket at random. When we exited the premises 12 minutes later, blinking in the dim sunlight, our bags contained the following array of Independence Day-related goods: Nathan's hot dogs, pierogies, naan bread, watermelon ribs, white pepper, olive oil*, boneless ribs, 3 different types of potato, a single tomato, an english cucumber, and a $10.34 bag of cherries because the cherry display was too crowded for me to do my usual "dump some cherries out of the bag and put them in other ones".

Notice the lack of butter.

So we get home and I brine the ribs, increasing the salt content 'cause I'm feeling like a rebel. I make the barbecue sauce and I begin my Patriotic Potatoes. This is a recipe that cropped up in my head the other day, when I was attempting to come up with something achingly inventive to create for the holiday. Why are the patriotic, you ask? Just look at the delightfully American array of colors - red, white and purple (er, blue)! Of course, you could use this recipe with any singular type of potato, as well.


Patriotic Potatoes

6 small purple potatoes
6 small red-skin potatoes
6 small white potatoes
1/2 small red onion, cut into thin strips
2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1/4 lemon
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Dash cayenne pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400. Quarter the potatoes so they are roughly the same size and place in baking dish (I used disposable because who wants to scrub dishes on the Fourth of July?!).
2. Add the onion, garlic, parsley, salt and cayenne, and drizzle with olive oil (just eyeball it - I probably used about 1-2 Tbsp). Use your fingers to combine all ingredients and coat the potatoes with the olive oil - add more if needed.
3. Roast in oven for about 1 hour, tossing occasionally. Taste potatoes for tenderness - you may need to adjust cooking time by 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the chunks and your oven.
4. Serve topped with chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon, and a dollop of sour cream, if desired.


So the potatoes are roasting away, the house smells of garlic and sweet barbecue sauce, and everything is going swimmingly. I heat the grill (one side to high, the other side to v. v. low), and slap the ribs on to get a sear. I turn them once, and pop! pop! My grill burners shut off. Yep. Out of propane. AAAAHHHH!!!

Improvise - stick ribs in oven with potatoes, roast for 45 minutes, baste 10 minutes out. Sure, fine. But not the same. The brine is too salty for my liking, the sauce doesn't caramelize like it does on the grill, and I come down with a stomach ache right before dinner and can't even finish the ribs.

To top it all off, as the beautiful corn that I elbowed some old lady for is boiling away, I realize that we forgot to buy butter and Scott runs out to the gas station down the street because corn without butter is like, like, hot dogs without ketchup! Like movies without popcorn! It's just NOT DONE. Alas, all they have is margarine (see quote from July 3, 3008: "margarine tastes like ass.") So I refuse to eat it, Scott kicks some boxes, I almost cry and dump the green beans on the plates unseasoned, and then we chill out and have some cookies and lattes.

Happy Independence Day!




*Olive Oil Anecdote: What to do in this situation? I remembered I needed olive oil as we were handing the credit card over, so I told Scott to wait by the door while I grabbed it and ran through the express lane. I got to the olive oil line and SO MANY CHOICES! I tend to go for the pricier olive oils, the ones with some opacity and grassiness to them, and I had plucked a perfectly lovely bottle of first cold-press off the shelf when this sweet older man tapped me on the shoulder and said "dear, may I recommend this one? it has a delightful olive oil taste and i really like olive oil. a very good choice." Now, the bottle he recommended was a cheaper, huge bottle of grocery-store variety olive oil, which I probably never would have picked. But as he proceeded to watch me while I inspected the bottle, all the while extolling the virtues of this particular olive oil, I had no other choice but to select it. So we are now the proud owners of something like a gallon of olive oil which Scott will make me use up before I can buy a pretty, $25 bottle of Spanish oil from the cheese shop. Woe is me.