Sunday, February 28, 2010

What I Baked for Purim: February 28, 2010


These are really very tasty little cookies. Eli said he would help me, but then he noticed the open bag of chocolate chips on the table where I was rolling out the dough. He sidled over to the bag and clambered up in the chair next to it and said, "No, Mommy, I'll just sit here and watch you make the cookies."

Hamentaschen (makes 4-5 dozen)

5 c. flour (I used 4 cups white AP flour and 1 cup whole wheat), plus more for rolling out dough
2 T baking powder
1 t salt
1 c. vegetable oil
1 ½ c. sugar
3 eggs
¼ c. orange juice
1T. lemon juice
1 T. vanilla

Filling of your choice—a total of about a cup of filling for the whole batch. I'd suggest chocolate chips and the best fruit preserves you can find.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In an electric mixer, beat together oil, sugar, eggs, juices, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients at slow speed until combined, then at higher speed until the dough is pliable. The dough will be quite sticky. Wrap it in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into three or four pieces to make it easier to roll out. While rolling out one piece, keep the others refrigerated.

Roll out the dough about ¼ inch thick. Cut out 3-inch circles with a biscuit cutter (or a drinking glass). In the center of each circle, place about 1 t. filling. Pinch the cookie into a triangle shape so that only a little of the filling shows. Place on the lined cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until light golden.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 27, 2010

Chili con carne with guacamole and garlic bread.

I burned the hell out of the garlic bread. Flames and everything. Stupid broiler.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 24, 2010

Bagel egg sandwiches and fruit salad.

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that Bruegger's has finally opened a bagel shop in the metro area.  It's not anywhere near my house, and it's a really small shop, but!  Finally, we can buy decent New York style water bagels.  No one else in town makes them.  I made a special trip yesterday for a dozen assorted and I just had to use them for dinner.  Bagel happiness at long last.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 23, 2010

Roast turkey breast; baked pears and cranberries.

Last September, when the weather started to cool off, my friend Ally gave me a great idea for what to do with the herbs still growing in our garden. She suggested making compound butters: Cut the herbs up very fine, mash them into softened butter, mold the herb-butter mass into a log, and freeze it for future use.

When Ally gives me advice, I usually listen. Detailed instructions and beautiful pictures (not mine, obviously) are here. It's really fast and easy. I made single-herb butters instead of combining flavors. When you soften the compound butter, the herbs inside it look fresh-picked.

So tonight, the turkey breast (why turkey? Because it was on sale at Hy-Vee) was infused with last summer's sage and thyme, the skin crisped deep brown under the butter, and a little bit of tangerine juice squeezed over to brighten it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 22, 2009

Spaghetti with cheese and black pepper.

Years ago, I went to New York to visit my friend Jenna, and together we went to Lupa for dinner.  The meal was fantastic, largely because I was there with Jenna, but also because the restaurant served the simplest, tastiest dishes--nothing fussy or overdone.  It was June, so early summer vegetables were on showcase.  We had snap peas with sea salt and grilled radicchio with balsamic vinegar.  And, I mean, this meal happened nearly eight years ago, but I remember that food.

For my dinner at Lupa, I ordered bavette cacio e pepe, which I think now has become pretty famous.  When I read Smitten Kitchen's version last week, I remembered again how delicious it was.  And it is so, so simple to make. 

I served it with a large mixed green salad and a smile, because it looks like just plain spaghetti.  Nothing to worry about, kids!  Nothing challenging or unusual tonight!  And they ate it up.

What I Made for Dinner: February 21, 2010

Lime-marinated chicken, saffron rice with peas.

My kids don't like rice.  How is it even possible?  What is it, like 90% of the world's people depend on rice for a staple for every single meal?  Well, not 90% of the people in this house.  Sigh.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 17, 2010

Pork tacos and guacamole.

In a monumental rush to get dinner served and Josh out the door to basketball practice.  Very late getting home because of slow traffic.  Children ravenous, cranky.  Managed it, just barely, thanks to leftover roast pork from Chuck's birthday.  This is why we always, always have tortillas and avocados on hand.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 16, 2010

Stuffed artichokes and pasta with tomato sauce.

I have tried many times and failed, miserably, to make stuffed artichokes.  This recipe actually worked.  Finally!  (And, by the way, who knew there was an Artichoke Advisory Board?  It offers some excellent artichoke advice, if you're looking for any.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 15, 2010

Broccoli-rice casserole.

Where did casseroles come from?  Are they uniquely American/Canadian?  Did some magazine editor invent the idea in the '50s?  Or do they have origins in Medieval Europe?  Did some pioneer woman come west and, owning only one pot but plenty of food, figure: well, I have soup and potatoes and meat and aw, hell, all this food's gonna end up in the same place anyhow.  I wonder. 

This particular one's very good, reasonably healthy, and without potato chips anywhere in the recipe.

Broccoli-rice casserole
2 cups cooked rice (I like to use one cup of brown and one cup of white)
2-3 cups broccoli florets, very lightly steamed until just barely tender
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2% works just fine but I wouldn't use fat free)
2 t. vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 t. minced garlic
3 T. flour
2 cups milk
3 T. yogurt or mayonnaise, optional for extra creaminess
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and saute the onion until tender but not browned.  Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes more.  Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is golden brown and fragrant.  Add the milk and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture is thickened and bubbly.

Spray a large casserole dish (or 9 x 13 baking pan) with cooking spray.  In the sprayed dish, combine the rice, broccoli, cheese, milk mixture, and yogurt if using.  Stir well; smooth out the top.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top and spray them with cooking spray.  Bake in the oven 20-30 minutes, until the casserole bubbles.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 14, 2010

Pork roast and roasted root vegetables.

It's Chuck's birthday! Valentine's Day is still, and will ever be, lame, fake, a pseudo-holiday invented by the greeting cards industry. But Chuck's birthday gives us something real to celebrate--and anyway, this year was a major improvement over last.

I made him a chocolate-almond cake.

And for Valentine's Day, even though he didn't have to, he gave me this gorgeousness.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 9, 2010

Pasta with tomatoes and hazelnuts.

Last summer, Gourmet published a fantastic tomato recipe that called for baking sliced garden tomatoes with a topping of breadcrumbs and hazelnuts.  It was delicious

We're about as far from summer as you can get right now.  It's freezing cold prairie winter and snow blows across the yard and the street so you can't tell if it's coming from the sky or off the trees.  I am grateful that we are not in D.C. or New York tonight, and I am grateful that I had two pounds of cherry tomatoes sitting on my countertop courtesy of modern food shipping systems.

Not seasonal, not remotely local:  I couldn't care less at the moment.  I used the cherry tomatoes to make last summer's Gourmet recipe, then served them over whole-wheat farfalle instead of as a side dish.  Scrumptious.

Cherry tomato and hazelnut sauce for pasta

One cup hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed, coarsely chopped
Two cups fresh breadcrumbs
3 T butter
3 T olive oil
Two pounds cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 t dried thyme
1 t dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350.  Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and toast them until light golden, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and increase the heat to 450.

While the breadcrumbs are toasting, spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and spread the halved tomatoes in it. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano.

Melt the butter and olive oil together in a skillet.  Add the toasted breadcrumbs and the hazelnuts and cook, stirring frequently, until they are golden and fragrant.  Spoon them atop the tomatoes.  Bake until tomatoes are bubbly, about 25-30 minutes.  Serve over pasta, and dream of warmer days ahead.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 7, 2010

Paella and open-faced Cuban sandwiches.

I really hate football. I've tried to like it, I swear. I have watched countless games at all levels, from pee-wee flag up. I have worked at understanding its fussy rules and involved procedures. I have tried not to mind when night games make the evening news run an hour late because it takes forty-five minutes to run out ten on the game clock. It's just not my thing.

This does not comport with my family generally. My parents are proud Penn Staters who have personally witnessed Joe Paterno's entire career as head coach there. My husband and his parents are all double Jayhawks who have suffered through countless lousy football seasons while they wait for basketball to start. So for all of them, football is a big deal, and this feeling I do not share.

But I like Superbowl Sunday. Of course I do--it's for eating! This year I experimented with the new paella pan I got from my in-laws and that new Spanish cookbook I've been raving about. It was great!

And the sandwiches were really, surprisingly tasty for a recipe I got out of Parade magazine.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 3, 2010

Pasta with chicken and broccoli.

I used the chicken left over from Sunday night's dinner, so it only took as long to make dinner tonight as it took to boil the pasta.  Food Network should do a cooking show where all the recipes are based on leftovers from some other meal.  Not that I would watch it, because I hate Food Network. 

The newest offering from the brain trust over there is a debacle called Worst Cooks in America, which concluded earlier this week, I think.  It was a competition to see which of a number of terrible home cooks could improve the most over the course of the show.  I watched the first episode--I don't know why--and I was just appalled. 

One friend, who is much nicer than me, pointed out that the concept was pretty mean-spirited.  But the contestants were volunteer adults, so I didn't care about how mean it was.  It offended me that the show took these self-identified terrible cooks and measured their improvement by how well they learned to make gourmet, restaurant-quality meals.  In the very first episode, people who previously had "cooked" only by opening a can of soup were supposed to successfully make poached tiger prawns with bok choy and something called shrimp cacciucco, which I have never heard of and which has fourteen ingredients.  Other recipes showcased included homemade ravioli, chive pancakes, seared duck breast, and liquid-center chocolate torte.

Now, I like fussy, pretentious, time-consuming recipes as much as the next working mom with three small children.  But it annoys me that Food Network missed a chance to showcase non-cooks learning how to cook for real.  What is the point of teaching a non-cook to make restaurant food?  If the real worst cooks in America think that the only food worth making is fancy, expensive, and difficult, why will they bother to learn?  Why would anyone? 

The clueless home cooks on that show (and not on that show) need to learn how to roast a chicken and make a decent tomato sauce and saute vegetables into a basic stir-fry.  They need to know what to do if they accidentally burn the carrots (serve them anyway, call them "caramelized," dare people to complain).  Every home cook needs to know, for God's sake, how to use leftovers. But they're not gonna learn it on Food Network.

What I Made for Dinner: February 2, 2010

Roast pork with carrots.

The pork was delicious, and I was able to freeze half for another use that's coming up soon.  The carrots way over-caramelized, blackened, even.  Some might say burned, if they were uncharitable. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: February 1, 2010

White chili and cornbread.

I had been holding off on making chili, worrying we were having it too often and it was going to get old.  But then on Saturday, Chuck came home from Costco with a mega-bulk-pack of peppers:  "Maybe you could make chili this week?"

Here's a cutie patootie at dinnertime.

 ( He's eating something else.)