Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: July 27, 2010

Crock pot French dip sandwiches and tomatoes stuffed with hazelnut breadcrumbs.

Summer swelters on and I continue to seek dinner recipes that won't heat the house too much when I prepare them.  Thank God for the crock pot because we can be at the pool while it cooks.  Just can't bring myself to serve cold cereal for dinner, as someone suggested in the comments.  Not that there's anything wrong with it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: July 26, 2010

BLTs on sourdough.

I spent a fantastic weekend at the lake with girlfriends.  What could be better?  We talked and talked and talked and swam and read magazines and shopped a little.  My current life is a little girlfriend-deprived; all my free time is spent with boys doing boy things.  Last weekend, no one shot me with an imaginary gun or practiced armpit-farting.  Not one person peed on the wall.  The break was--I would say refreshing, but really life-giving would probably be more accurate.

Because we are sensible, budget-minded women, we rented a condo and cooked for ourselves (other than one very expensive, not-very-good fiasco).  What did we cook?  Well, I would show you but I failed to take even a single picture.  Mostly, though, our meals involved unbelievably delicious, perfectly ripe tomatoes from an Amish farmstand, and bacon.  Lots of bacon.  Mmmmm bacon.

When I got back, I had some of those tomatoes left over.  And how could I deprive my family?  A BLT is the best way to showcase fresh summer tomatoes.  I still have a few left and I will be using them this week because I refuse to throw such gorgeous things away.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: July 22, 2010

Open-faced croque-madame sandwiches.

Hot and humid today.  Who wants to cook? Even more significantly:  Who wants to eat in this weather?  (Okay, okay; I'll concede that I usually want to eat even in this weather.)  But didn't everyone learn from last night that water balloon fights are better than dinner?  Didn't I take them out for ice cream at 4:30 for the express (if unstated) purpose of spoiling their appetites for dinner?

We did; I did.  None of it worked, none of it ever works, and they still expect food to be served at some point between 5 and 8 p.m.

This sandwich is a low-key, superfast, hot-weather version of a classic croque-madame.  The classic version involves a butter-rich sauce and requires three separate pans, the oven, and two separate cooking processes on the cooktop. Too heavy; too much heat; too much effort for this weather. 

My version is much lighter and takes like seven minutes, about the length of time it takes to fry an egg.  For each sandwich, toast a slice of sourdough bread.  While it's toasting, melt a little butter in a non-stick pan and start frying an egg in it.  While the egg is frying, top the toast with a couple of slices of good-quality smoked ham from the deli counter.  Top that with one or two slices of your preferred hard cheese--classic is Swiss or gruyere, but I used colby-jack because I am not French and it's 102 out and screw it.  Microwave it just until the cheese starts to melt, maybe 30 seconds--don't let the cheese get runny (again, with the microwave?  Not French, 102 out).  When the egg is done to your liking, put it on top of the sandwich, add salt and pepper to taste.

What I Made for Dinner: July 21, 2010

Chicken shwarma burgers with tzatziki, Greek salad.

My friend Nikki and her adorable family joined us for dinner, as well as swimming and water-balloon fights--dinner was a pale cousin to all the other activities.  They are visiting from California, which is so far away and it's really too bad because this morning Eli keeps asking when he can see his new friends again.  Hopefully it will be soon.

Max's Birthday Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes about 15 large cookies)

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup golden or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 T. vanilla
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 1/3 cup best-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add egg and yolk.  Beat well to make sure the egg is evenly distributed.  Stir in the dry ingredients.  Fold in the chocolate chips until incorporated.  Drop batter in scant 1/4 cup rounds onto a lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, just until the edges begin to turn golden. They'll seem underdone but they're ready.  Cool on a rack.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: July 15, 2010

Pulled pork tacos and broccoli slaw.

So yes, okay, I cooked something even though it was hot out. But! But! It cooked low and slow in the oven while the boys and I went to the pool, so it doesn't really count.

What I Made for Dinner: July 14, 2010

Hummus and pita, cucumber salad with yogurt-dill dressing, cherries.

It's getting into too-hot-to-cook territory.  Par for the course here in high summer on the Great Plains, and I am actually so ready for it after all the rain and unnaturally cool weather! 

It was funny to hear my east coast friends and family fuss about their recent extremely hot weather.  They're not really used to it, and they were pretty miserable, and I certainly can understand that.  It's all about expectations, though.  Here, there's not much to do when it rains. If it's hot and dry, though, well--we have a sprinkler system, access to two pools and a water playground, and the possibility of visiting two (very expensive) water amusement parks should things get desperate.  We get out early in the morning to play outside and do the gardening. I am fully equipped for hot and dry.  And I'm also ready to make dinners that require little or no heat to prepare.  Bring it on.

What I Made for Dinner: July 13, 2010

Crab cake with basil aioli; salmon fillets en papillote with citrus beurre blanc; salad of shaved asparagus, sweet corn and goat cheese; peppermint-chocolate cake.

Just an ordinary Tuesday night at chez Dinnertime.

Ha! No, it was my Mother-in-Law's birthday.  Since we really can't go anywhere nice for dinner (because one of us who shall remain nameless refuses to sit through a meal, ahem) I wanted to make her something special.  I served the crab cakes as a first course.

The best thing about this dinner is that although it looked fancy, it actually came together very quickly (and while I was refereeing grouchy, post-camp children).  I got the crab cake recipe off the back of the crabmeat jar; here's the fish recipe and the aioli recipe.  I made the fish packets (a total of about 15 minutes) and set them aside; made the crab mixture and started frying cakes (15 minutes to make the mixture, another 15 to fry them); while the cakes were frying I made the aioli (5 minutes).  Then I served the crab cakes and put the fish in the oven, where it baked while people were eating.  So, a pretty nice birthday dinner in about an hour!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: July 12, 2010

Chicken cutlets served over spinach; salad of chickpeas, artichokes, and avocado.

I made twice as much chicken as I thought we'd eat, hoping to freeze some for future use.  But Alex and Josh just kept eating!

They are attending this great day camp run by our school district, and every day they come home full of thingstheyhavetotellmeimmediately, and famished to boot. (For Alex's part, that might be because he spends his lunch period impressing his friends with armpit farts instead of eating.)  When they're this hungry, they're more likely to try new things--so they didn't even question the bed of spinach and we ran out of the chickpea salad, too.

What I Made for Dinner: July 11, 2010

Tomato-basil bruschetta.

I'm a little pessimistic about our tomato crop.  We've had a ton of rain, which means our tomato plants are delightfully big and green and happy--with no flowers.  The few tomatoes they've produced so far have all gotten blossom-end rot.  Such a bummer.  If the rest of July dries out, we might still have a chance, I guess.

The exception:

 Our grape tomatoes seem pretty happy. And the herb garden loves all the rain!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: July 8, 2010

Frozen chicken patty sandwiches, carrots and ranch dip.

What, I'm gonna cook?  Chuck and Josh went to Scout camp.  My eaters are gone. 

(To be fair, Alex is a pretty good eater--but he's also perfectly happy with this kind of thing.) 

(I ate leftover Indian food.)

(They come back on Saturday.)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: July 6, 2010

Orzo with chicken, corn, and poblano peppers.

I wanted to make a fried rice dish but I forgot to make the rice. 

I'm having an off week, I think.  Today the children and I had a lovely day walking around campus until after lunch, when I pushed my luck and took them to an art museum.  That was a mistake.  They liked the painting of Salome with the Head of John the Baptist but after that it was all way, way downhill.  I didn't even have the good sense to leave early.

Oh, well.  At least dinner was good; the orzo was even better than rice would have been.

What I Made for Dinner: July 5, 2010

Mushroom-ricotta quiche.

You know what's really not good for dinner?  Mushroom-ricotta quiche.

Friday, July 2, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: July 2, 2010

Pasta with grilled chicken, asparagus, and green onions.

So the conference was excellent, both the setting and the content. But the food? Not so much. First off, when this

is the view from your room, you should be able to guess without asking the ballpark figure for a nice on-site meal, say a salad followed by some poached grouper and roasted potatoes. FOUR MILLION DOLLARS, PLEASE. The fine-dining places at the resort were out of the question for us. (Even ordering a simple chicken sandwich with a side of fruit made me cringe a little.) The conference included a few meals, but they offered pretty unremarkable food.

(Second, I thought it interesting that the resort didn't feature local foods at any of its restaurants. The food was the same stuff you could get just about anywhere. Given that kind of generic menu-planning and the prices, I concluded that you don't go to Marco Island for the cuisine; you go for the manatees and beaches and dolphins and margaritas. And you really shouldn't be eating anyway, you in the swimsuit, but if you absolutely must, something fried is probably just around the corner.)

So it was nice, tonight, to be home with my grill and my inexpensive, readily-available groceries. Everything got tossed in olive oil and lemon juice, grilled, then tossed with pasta and more olive oil and lemon juice. It was delicious and nowhere near four million dollars. No manatees here in the Great Plains, though.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: July 1, 2010

Chicken quesadillas and watermelon.

It has been a full, delightful week since I last made dinner, and the reason is that we were here:

Marco Island, Florida

and I can't even believe my good fortune in getting to go to such a place for work.  For work!  Really!

We got back this afternoon and of course there's laundry galore to do, not to mention a week's worth of "Mom! Mom! Look at me, Mom!" to catch up on.  My parents, who (blessedly, graciously) stayed with the boys while I conferred and Chuck wave-ran, left the raw materials for me to make this nice, simple dinner, otherwise it would have been a Sonic night.