31 March 2009

German delicious alert.

Today was a good day. I won't bore you with why I've had a case of the crankies, BUT... you know. Anyway, today was just nice. I got my work done quickly this morning, got out of the house for a while to do some volunteer work, my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking came in at the library, and, finally, some REALLY GOOD news... My friend Amy got a job today!! That makes me so happy. :) AND, for the first time since January, I've been willing and able to have... a glass of wine! Ha! So I write to you while I sip a delicious Muscato (thanks, LZ!), my belly full of a very very very delicious dinner.

I could rave all night about my latest recipe find -- one I actually found in 2006 and just got around to trying out. German potato pie. Omg. I followed the recipe, but I did not add caraway seeds (ew) and I only used six slices of bacon. It seemed really liquidy when I put it in the oven, so I was a little nervous. It wasn't until the last 10 minutes or so that it seemed to really thicken up, but all was eventually well.

Gooey, but it's ok!

The finished product.

I cooked up a few simple chicken breasts (I splurged and got us organic.... sigh... I feel so much better about myself -- ha!) with salt, pepper, sage, and some spicy brown mustard, poured us some wine, and it was time to eat!

Messy but delish!

Seriously, this recipe gets FIVE STEPH STARS! (ha!) I don't know if it's the sauerkraut that I used, but it is very mild in this recipe (in case you aren't crazy about sauerkraut [but don't hate it, of course; you can still taste it]). It's not overly rich (although Brad seemed to think it was more filling than I did... Hmm...) and just has a very subtle, nice taste. The potato is the dominant flavor, but the bacon adds a nice smoky touch in the background (I even broke down and bought real bacon, which ended up not having any more fat than turkey bacon). I could easily eat this as a meal, but figured it would be more figure friendly to serve it as a side dish (in which case it serves up probably six to seven servings). Have I convinced you yet?

Off to have a piece of peanut butter bread for dessert!

29 March 2009

Do not open until Monday.

First things first...

My dear Jessica turns THIRTY-ONE tomorrow (Monday)!!! Lots of love to you, Jessie Poo. I wish I could be there to celebrate with you and make you treats and cakes and stuff. I so would!! So here's my big fat virtual hug, and I promise, no matter how much I tease you, you will always be the same 14-year-old girl, giggling over, well, EVERYTHING, with me. :) Old's got nothin on you, foxy lady.

On to the boring stuff.... :)

I think Sundays have officially become "Make Brad & Steph Fat Day." Ha! I've consistently been spending the bulk of my Sunday afternoons in the kitchen, baking something and making a big(ger) dinner. Dinner was Brad's choice, lasagna, and I decided to bake up another recipe from the Glory of Southern Cooking.

So dinner, lasagna, I decided to revisit the
skillet lasagna recipe from Cook's Illustrated I posted about a while back. I stuck with the Italian sausage variation, but not really intentionally used sweet Italian turkey sausage (still plenty of flavor despite being turkey). It did not disappoint. If you haven't tried this yet, trust me, you want to. It's so simple, so quick, and seriously one of the best meals I've made. We both ate two huge helpings.

For "dessert" (random use of quotations to illustrate it's not really a dessert -- more a breakfast treat, really), I decided on peanut butter bread. Hello? YUM! Super easy recipe, too:

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk (I used skim)
1 large egg
1 cup smooth peanut butter

1. Combine flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt -- stir until well blended.
2. In another bowl, whisk together milk and egg.
3. Add egg mixture to dry mixture and stir until just moistened.
4. Gradually stir in the peanut butter until well blended.
5. Scrape mixture into 9 by 5 by 3 in loaf pan (my meatloaf/bread pan has slightly different dimensions)
6. Bake about an hour; until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Mixing the batter, I felt like world's weakest person! It's super thick and I could hardly get a grip on the bowl to actually mix it with the spoon. I kind of just smooshed it all around...



Another success! I might just get the hang of this baking thing after all.... Anyway, based on a recommendation in GofSC, I drizzled some honey on the still-warm bread and topped it off with a few banana slices.

This. Is. Delicious. It's nothing earth shattering... it tastes like a peanut butter muffin, or a peanut butter cookie... But who doesn't love peanut butter in yet another tasty form? Mmmm. Perhaps this delicious southern cookbook should be MY Julie/Julia project!

26 March 2009

Very corny.

Last weekend I picked up the loveliest cookbook from the library: The Glory of Southern Cooking. While there is a lot of stuff I wouldn't even consider attempting (I also am NOT saving up bacon grease in a can under my sink to actually USE -- gross), it's a beautiful book, with interesting recipes and tons of stories and information about the south and southern cooking. I need to have a party soon so I can make Kentucky beer cheese and basil-avocado spread! Mmmmm.

Anyway, the first recipe I tried out was for buttermilk Parmesan cornbread. This isn't THE recipe, but it's exactly the same (other than the skillet part -- the recipe just said to put it in a baking dish, and that's what I did). And it turned out perfectly (never a certainty when it comes to me and baking).

While it turned out just right, I wasn't a big fan. My tastebuds are still a little off kilter and a lot of things taste a little weird, so that could have been it. It also tasted better then next night(s). If I make it again, I'd either use cheddar instead of parm or cut down on the parm -- maybe just use half a cup instead of a full cup. But Brad liked it, and Aunt Sandy and Uncle Danny say they enjoyed it, so I guess that means the recipe deserves my endorsement!

Here it is looking delicious alongside a horrible-looking piece of pan fried buttermilk chicken -- HA! (the chicken actually tasted pretty good, despite looking like a wreck)

That's all the cookin' news, BUT I was the recipient of another AWESOME book from Auntie Sandy! Behold... The Party Planner, from 1957!

Technically in the kids' section, but hello?! Hilarious.
Who DOESN'T "adore dressing up like mama"?

Um... Yum! HA!

What is NOT funny about this? That IS a good excuse.

While totally inappropriate given the times... This is also PERFECTLY appropriate given the times. I just might have to host this one!!!!!

Sigh. Thanks for all the great ideas, Bernice!

And finally.... In case you ever wondered what my days look like... I bring you "I spend my days getting stared at and barked at by Heidi":

22 March 2009


For the first time in two months... I went to Plum Market today. I was grumbling about grocery shopping this morning -- what was once one of my favorite parts of the week -- and Brad said, "just go!" So I gave it some thought and finagled myself a good enough reason to need to go. I went to Target first and picked up everything I could get there cheap: milk, juice, cereal, cheese. But since it is so beautiful today, and brother-in-law was coming over to watch basketball, Brad suggested we have a BBQ. No meat at Target, and definitely no delicious pre-made feta and sundried tomato turkey burgers at Target. So after Target, I headed over to Plum. Sigh. :)

Despite the most annoying checkout experience (having to switch lanes because someone had to "run out to her car to get more money" and ending up behind an old lady writing a check that wouldn't go through), it was nice to be back. But it was also a reality check that it is WAY more expensive than Meijer and it wasn't THAT much more exciting, so that was good food for thought (har har food....).

When I got home, I got a Sunday Martha Stewart bug up my butt and hopped into the kitchen to make some chocolate peanut butter cookies. I swear, I must be the slowest baker. It takes me forever to make cookies -- AND I totally mixed my hands. Ow! Stupid thing turned on when my fingers were right in the way. (The dogs enjoyed the peanut butter that went a-flying.) I also whipped up some pasta salad to cool before BBQ -- 2 cups orzo, ~2 tbs evoo, ~2 tbs red wine vinegar, a handful of diced tomatoes, 1 diced cucumber, crumbled feta, salt, pepper, and a palmful or so of dried basil.... Delish. It made a huge bowl, and I'm looking forward to chowing on this all week.

Oh... and the delicious turkey burgers did NOT disappoint. I'll have to remember to treat myself to one of these now and then. I picked up "Brooklyn burgers" for the boys -- green onions and some sort of steak sauce mixed in -- and they seemed to enjoy those as well. Hooray for the first BBQ of the year!

21 March 2009

Ice cream and cake is great.

What's that you say? It's Lisaberry Zawackicake's birthday? Holy crap! This calls for a Mexican fiesta!

Happy birthday, lady!


16 March 2009

Spring break woot woot!

We're home! No kidnapping by Mexican drug cartel, no ending up in a Mexican hospital... We've all returned sunned, relaxed, and with happy bellies (it didn't start out quite so well for Doug and me!). And luckily the beautiful weather of the past few days even softened the blow of post-vacation brain!

We arrived at the Sun Palace all-inclusive resort just in time for lunch on Wednesday, and the resort was as beautiful as we expected. Part of a chain of all-inclusives, our resort was couples and adults only and thankfully free of any spring break idiocy. (We later checked out another of the resorts and it was a big thumbs down from us!) The grounds and pools were gorgeous, the beach was private and clean, and our rooms were simple, clean, and had beautiful ocean views from the balconies. (And yes, we broke the rules and slept with our door open every night.)

So what did we do all week, you ask? Absolutely nothing. And it was just what the doctor ordered. :) We'd start our day with room service breakfast or breakfast buffet (or both), hit the pool for a few hours, grab some lunch, then head down to the beach for the last few hours of sun.

Helpful tip: Don't lay on wet magazines with an SPFed-up back!

I'm a beach girl, so of course my favorite part was just relaxing on the beach and swimming in the waves--even though they kicked my booty and I'm pretty sure half of Cancun got flashed. Luckily, we didn't spot any sea life until the end of our ocean playtime on the last day. Sea snake? Barracuda? Whatever it was, it definitely wanted to eat me.

After our days in the sun, we'd retire to our rooms and nap, watch Mexican tv, order room service snacks, and ready ourselves for the evening. Then it was off to dinner, a few drinks, then back to the room for more sleeping. I was definitely meant to be a 30+ vacationer... Up with the sun, to bed by midnight. Ahhhhhh. Heaven.

So that's about it! Ha!

Oh yeah, the boys DID jet ski! And didn't even get eaten by sharks. Phew!

But seriously, it was exactly what I needed. (Update: I feel a million times better today than I did a week ago.) Would I go back? Hmmm... This is something we all discussed a lot. The resort was perfect -- beautiful, clean, and the staff was absolutely at your beck and call. Ordering room service anytime you want? Pretty cool. Two breakfasts? Awesome. Nonstop drink service at the pool, at the beach? Awesome. That being said... The food... Not so good. Feeling confined to the resort at dinner when potentially yummy food is just down the street? Kind of a bummer.

I thoroughly enjoyed breakfast -- bagels with cream cheese and lox from room service, plates of french toast at the buffet. I could eat that all day every day. Lunch buffet, eh, ok, fine enough. You're talking along the lines of Cedar Point grub: burgers, salty BLTs, nachos (with unfortunately untasty queso!). But it was fine. Come dinner, though, we were always ready for a good meal, and the best we got was sub par. The "steak house" was really just a grill and some low-quality steaks, the Mexican restaurant was just the lunch buffet, sit down-style. The Italian restaurant was the main traditional place, and it definitely had the best food, but it was far from delicious (although I was super excited to find a caprese salad, which I ordered two nights in a row!). So all in all, I'd consider another all-inclusive... but I'd also research other options. Partially all-inclusive? Can I make up my own meal plan? :)

My first Mexican meal (and the first meal I'd braved in a week -- man, was I hungry!): Swiss and mortadella, some chips and cheese, and a virgin pina colada. Goin' nuts!

...I discover room service! Was I hungry? Nope. But they had a smoked salmon plate. My favorite! I was all over it.

The WORST sushi on the face of the earth. Seriously, I never ever ever would have believed you could actually make sushi taste this disgusting. Now, I've had some not-so-amazing sushi. But it still at least tasted like sushi. This was so gross I couldn't even finish it, and I'd been looking forward to nonstop sushi at the Oriental Lounge for weeks. I ordered a California roll -- pretty basic, right? I thought it was strange that it said "cream cheese" but went for it. OMG. Brad took the first bite and tried to discourage me from trying it. I don't even know what they did -- the inside was mostly normal, with a slice of cucumber, avocado, and a little shrimp. I have to assume they rolled the rice WITH the cream cheese? Not only was it TOTALLY mushy, but the rice tasted of bad bad cream cheese. WHAT a bummer. And the craziest part -- we heard two people say they liked it! Ew.

On the other hand, mmmmmmm bagel with cream cheese and lox on the balcony. Seriously. Perfect.

Back to the weird... The desserts were ALL of the moussey variety. Now, I love a good chocolate mousse. But when you advertise "chocolate cake" you better give me chocolate cake! Creme brule? Crunchy top! Cheesecake? I want a crust! But no, EVERYTHING was just different layers of mousse. So weird. But we did find two very delicious sweet treats:

Cream puff swans at the "other" resort. We bogarted every last one of them. Yum.

Mini chocolate mousse pies! The mousse was even boozy laced. I had more than my fair share by far.

And the find of the week -- may I now present the Bob Marley.

The virgin drinks were just NOT very tasty. I was feeling pretty decent. And I spread my (very) few drinks out well enough to not cause any druggy problems. So I went nuts. I imbibed. :) Vodka, midori, grenadine, pineapple. Tasty tasty tasty.

But seriously, despite the picky food critique, good times, good friends, and lovely sunburns. Love to all my peeps for a perfect late-winter sunny retreat!

PS. Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! We were running around late into the evening, so we stayed in, but I decided to throw together a cheatie Irish dinner. Check out my very first homemade Reuben, served with a side of homemade oven fries:

Fresh bread, a few slices of deli corned beef, piles of sauerkraut, globs of thousand island dressing, all crusty and warm from the broiler... Perfectly tasty (and I'm so pleased because now that I know how easy and tasty this can be, I will make it again often).

05 March 2009

Groovy kind of love.

I am a very lucky girl to have an Aunt Sandy. Today I had a surprise in the mail -- a groovy gift from my groovy aunt, just to send me a little smile.

Behold, a deliciously retro Fabulous Fondue book -- authentic, circa 1970. Tips, recipes, games, and some fun and wacky illustrations.

This is so me. I have a handful of little books like this, and they provide me endless amusement. Aunt Sandy, you know me so well. I heart you. :)

PS. Heidi digs it, too!

04 March 2009

I don't think he's talking about lemons.

One of my most favoritest soups is Greek Avgolemono, although I've never actually mastered the pronunciation of it. Rather, "lemon rice soup" does the trick. A Coney Island staple, if you haven't at least tried the classic diner version, get on it you silly fool! (This is basically the same thing, in soup version, obviously, as the sauce you sometimes get on your tasty Greek treats. AA's Parthenon used to use lemon sauce but sadly switched over to a red sauce years ago. I'm still devastated. [I'm pretty sure they still use lemon at Pegasus downtown, though.])

For many years, this was mine and Brad's traditional post-Thanksgiving dinner -- I have an old Cooking Light recipe that uses leftover turkey. Super tasty, but the past year or two, we just haven't had enough leftovers to inspire me. For whatever reason, I got a craving Monday night and decided to whip up a batch.

No turkey, obviously, but I had some frozen chicken tenders. I found this simple recipe from Whole Foods and started right on it.

Ok, now, first of all, who knew it was so easy to produce pulled chicken??? The recipe called for me to cook the chicken (I used 1 lb tenders) in the broth. Ok, done. I pulled it all out of the pot... and it shredded right down! Perhaps this is obvious, but it never even occurred to me. I love pulled meat (he he he), and I will definitely remember this trick in the future. Mmm pulled chicken sandwiches!

Anyway, the soup takes some time -- an hour, not too too long, but I didn't start until going on 6:30. Many "how much longer?"s ensued. I was tempted to skip the straining step, seemed like an extra dirtied pot, but in the end I gave in and I'm glad I did. It looked much prettier minus random carrot chunks. I also was out of fresh lemons so I had to use fakie lemon juice, but I definitely couldn't taste the difference.

I think even old Ted found my soup quite tasty.

Here she is in all her soupy, lemony glory.

I really really really liked this recipe. I was worried it would be a little bland because I used all low-sodium broth, but it was plenty flavorful. Lots of rice, lots of chicken -- these make it more filling than your average soup (I did use a little more chicken than called for). And perfectly lemony. I don't know why it's been so long since I've made this, but I definitely will be making it again soon. I'm sad I finished off the last of the leftovers for lunch today. Sigh.

PS. I am currently obsessed with Gatorade fruit punch. Chalk it up to the "tartar sauce" category because I HATE Gatorade. Ugh. Seriously, just the thought.... The summer I turned 17, the day my parents moved into their house, there was nothing to drink (well water, ick) but Gatorade. I in turn spent the entire night vomiting -- however unrelated the two likely are, the association has never lifted. Anyway, during my "can't eat nuttin" phase a few weeks ago, I gave it ONE more try. I've tried the orange recently enough (Brad always gets it), and it was still yuck, so I wasn't hopeful. But I officially love the fruit punch and have been drinking it nonstop since. Mmm.

02 March 2009

Get that poor boy a sandwich.

It's been a funny kinda month. Well, I guess I should say it was a funny kinda month -- it's March now. Where does the time go? Today starts my sixth week of being laid off.... I can't even believe it. And I've got very little (ok, nothing) to show for it. I guess this means I'm a proven procrastinator! :)

The good news is that I'm feeling much better. Not perfect, but much much better -- and my brain doesn't feel like total mush, so I'm "feeling" like a real person again (I've even braved the treadmill twice!). Needless to say, February wasn't a good month for cooking, hence the lack of posts and probably the seemingly endless pounds the hubby keeps dropping. Thanks to him for enduring random meals of English muffin pizzas and chicken sausages with mashed potatoes.... We have managed to treat ourselves a few times, though, which is nice and helps things to feel somewhat normal.

We received a bunch of random coupons for Brad's birthday from Mancinos, so last Tuesday we had a grinder date night followed by yummy Frostys (Frosties?) for dessert. Saturday afternoon Brad tempted me with Zingerman's brunch, and, despite my better judgment, I simply had to give in. And what a treat it was -- I ordered the eggs benedict, which I've never technically had. I've had the salmon eggs benedict at Afternoon Delight, but w/o the sauce, so basically just poached eggs, right? Anyway, it was love at first bite. The Roadhouse plops the two poached eggs (seriously, to be able to poach an egg that perfectly) on thick crusty bread and slices of what tastes just like prosciutto -- the perfect little salty bite. I gobbled it up and probably could have eaten a second order. Now, I just need to convince Brad that breakfast for dinner is a good idea, then I'll give this a go on my own.

Anyway, sunday I went to the grocery store (one thing I canNOT get used to is shopping at Meijer... I know it's fine, I just grew up at Meijer -- my dad worked there most of my childhood and EVERYTHING was Meijer, I spent my Saturday mornings at Meijer... Meijer Meijer Meijer. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I miss my Plum Market.), and since I've been trying to work more fish into our diets, I hit the (pathetic) fish counter. The catfish looked least horrible, and I do love catfish, so I snagged a couple of fillets for us.

I got home, ate a banana, and realized I had two more bananas. Dammit, I wanted to bake! HA! I really wanted to make banana cornbread, but it turns out cornmeal does go bad. Oops. Back to the drawing board. I just wanted a simple and easy banana bread, and I found this recipe. Nothing special, and I'm sure most people just KNOW how to make banana bread, but I had all the ingredients for this one, so I went to town. Only adjustment -- I used one egg and 1/4 cup applesauce (instead of two eggs). While that was baking, I got to work on dinner.

I had the fish, but I'd also bought a few baguettes, and I do love me a sandwich. I decided to pan fry the catfish and make us some po boys. Yum! I found this recipe for a basic guideline, but I had to adjust for lack of ingredients. I basically threw 1/3 cup cornstarch, 1 cup flour, and a palmful or so of blackening seasoning into a bag along with a few drops of Tabasco sauce. Onto the skillet they went. (With a few more splashes of Tabasco directly on the fish for good measure!)

Funny story: I don't like pickles. Well, I do, but, well, you know the old story. Anyway, I definitely don't like relish. In fact, ew, yeah, I can't even begin to imagine thinking about eating relish. I also don't like mayonnaise. But something about the two.... combined into a delicious tartar sauce... Yeah, I know, I'm a silly girl. Luckily, I had relish and mayo on hand for just such an occasion, and I whipped up some of my own tartar sauce. 1/2 cup mayo, about 2 tablespoons of relish, salt and pepper, and a splash of lemon juice. Mix mix mix.

Time to assemble! If I'd of had it, some shredded lettuce would have been a nice addition, but overall I can't complain.

The fish turned out really well (always a crapshoot, as far as I'm concerned), and I actually guessed pretty well approximating the blackening seasoning and the Tabasco. Not too blackened, not too spicy, just perfect. And I didn't even set the fire alarm off again (there was a salmon incident a few weeks ago....). The fish, the tartar sauce, the baguette. I really enjoyed this meal. The only downside -- the baguette, while fresh, was probably a little tougher than ideal -- a softer bun would be the better way to go (half of Brad's sandwich ended up in his lap!). The best part -- leftover fish for a mini po boy today for lunch. Lucky me! Mmm.

Finally, for dessert.... the banana bread! Which turned out beautifully.

Looks loafy!

My only complaint is that I was probably just a few tablespoons short of the full banana requirement... and you can taste it a little bit. Nonetheless, it turned out moist and tasty, so I was pleased. It was yummy for dessert last night, and I had a warm, buttered slice for breakfast this morning.


Now.... what to make for dinner tonight?? :)