Thursday, January 29, 2009

I promise

When my husband sees that I made chocolate chip cookies for him while he was away (again!), I am going to be the most popular girl in school! I just know it.

Chocolate chunk, orange, and pecan cookies, makes 18 3 inch cookies

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 3-ounce bars bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/3-inch chunks
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F Combine flour, baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Using electric mixer, beat brown sugar, unsalted butter, grated orange peel and vanilla extract in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Add flour mixture and mix just until combined. Mix in chocolate chunks and pecans.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto 2 baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until just firm to touch and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer to racks; cool.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Simple and tasty

My husband and I both really enjoy this meal. I think the recipe might be from Real Simple magazine originally, but I am not sure. Spinach is one possibility here -- escarole works or arugula would be tops, really. I served this was saffron risotto but I think next time I will add some little fingerling potatoes to the mix. Prosciutto would be good in there, too.

Spinach with Italian Sausage and White Beans

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs. of Italian sausages
2 small onions cut in wedges
2 cloves of minced garlic
5 cups of baby spinach leaves, washed with the stems removed
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 15-ounce cans Cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
1/2 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Brown sausage on each side and cook until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer sausage to bowl, leaving drippings in pot. Add onion to pot and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. Mix in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook 2 minutes. Add beans, stock and sausage and simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Add spinach and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Top with grated Parmesan, if desired.

I need to reorganize the categories on my blog. I guess I was being somewhat short sighted when I started. I don't think I trusted myself to really follow through for the long term on blogging but I really do enjoy blogging my recipes and pictures, even if no one else really reads it. Anyhoo, I want to be able to find each recipe more readily so I think I will start labeling the recipes by ingredient and meal time. So, this is recipes, sausage, beans, dinner. Yes? That might be rather too specific but I will forge ahead that way and see what happens.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


So, I have been sick lately and not cooking at all. Well, since I was sick to my stomach, I was cooking white rice and poached chicken breast cutlets. Which I must say, is not very exciting. I am feeling better, so I will make something good tonight.

I wanted to call my husband and say something nice to him this morning. It's just nice to call and say nice things to your spouse. I feel like it is my mission in life to make sure that my husband knows that I am his biggest fan. Only, all I could think of this morning was Bugs Bunny saying, "bricka bracka firecracker sis boom bah, Bugs Bunny, Bugs Bunny rah rah rah!" in the cartoon Super Rabbit. So, I called my husband and substituted a nickname of his for Bugs Bunny in that cheer. He laughed. Mission accomplished.

Here is Bugs Bunny saying it at 1:17 in this video.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

cream of potato soup

I have been on a big soup making kick lately. I made vegetable beef soup and split pea soup within the last two weeks. Last night I made this cream of potato and leek soup. I have a list on my refrigerator of meals to be prepared and that includes at least one more soup and chili. I do have to keep a list of dishes that I plan to make or else I will go to the store, buy all the ingredients, put them away and completely forget about it. Three days later I am wondering why I bought this particular combination of food items and I generally end up making something completely different from them than was originally intended. Funny that, no? Besides, I LOVE making lists. I could keep a list of where my lists are located!

I blame my soup, stew, and chili making binge on the cold weather. Indeed, we are expecting a high temperature of 20 tomorrow. Brr... that's cold for Maryland. I grew more accustomed to that kind of weather in Detroit but my blood has quickly thinned out in the two years we have lived here. Of course Detroit is expecting a high of like 3 degrees today, so I guess that is something I should think about, huh?

Anyway, this soup was a request from my husband. He said he wanted this soup to be creamy but also to have chunks of potatoes in it like a chowder. So, that is what I made for him. The most important thing for me when I make soup is that it really taste like what the star ingredient is. Chicken soup should taste like chicken, cream of mushroom like mushroom, and carrot soup like carrots, right? Right! This soup really tastes very potato-y (potato-ish?) with leek as a supporting role and I was very happy about that.

Cream of potato and leek soup that is creamy but has chunks in it like a chowder
Serves 6

5 thick slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon of cooking oil
1 leek, white and tender green part, sliced and washed really well
1 cloves of garlic, minced
3 celery ribs, chopped
1/4 cup of AP flour
4 large russet potatoes, washed, peeled, and cubed
1 cup of half and half
2 cups of chicken broth
fresh chopped parsley or chives would be good
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Heat oil in a large stock pot or sauce pan over medium high heat and add the bacon pieces. Cook until crispy and all the fat is rendered out about 5 minutes stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn. Remove the bacon, reserving all the rendered fat. Add the leeks, celery, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the leeks are tender. Add all the flour at once and stir until well combined. Add the chicken stock, 1/2 and 1/2, salt and about 3/4 of the potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a good simmer and simmer until the potatoes are very tender about 20 minutes depending on how small you cut them in the first place. If the soup gets too dry or thick, add more chicken stock or even some milk. Remove soup from the heat and with a hand held immersion blender, blend up the potatoes in the stock and cream. It should be smooth and thick. Return to the heat and add the 1/4 of potatoes reserved. Adjust heat to maintain a good simmer to cook the potatoes to fork tender, about 15 minutes. Add most of the bacon back in, reserving a little for the top when you serve it. Finally, adjust the seasoning. Depending on how salty your bacon was, you may need more salt. I served mine with cheese toast made with Italian break and a little Gruyere cheese. The Gruyere was really good with this since it it a smoky cheese.

Ok, so next soups up in my house are homemade chili and a Greek lemon and chicken soup that is thickened with eggs. Sounds awesome, right?

I am still really excited about the things I was excited about yesterday. Only now I am excited about eating the potato soup for lunch today instead of dinner yesterday and pitchers and catchers report for Spring training one day sooner.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

things I am excited about

Two posts in one day. Who am I??

I just wanted to share a couple of things that I am excited about right now.

1) Pitchers and catchers report for Spring training one month from today! (Go get 'em Tigers!)

2) The final season of Battlestar Galactica starts this Friday!

3) U2 has a new album coming out in March!

4) I am making potato soup for dinner tonight!

That's all.

chicken piccata

So, here is last night's dinner which was really delicious. I probably should have waited for the weekend to make this or a weeknight when I was feeling better since this was a lot of work to prepare and then a lot of clean up. I almost envy those people who don't have my obsessive cleaning disorder, you know? Maybe I could have just left the dishes and gone to bed last night but I would have laid in bed tortured by the thought of dirty dishes and the potential threat of mice moving in. I live in a drafty old farm house on a farm and in two years, I have not seen a mouse. I know the previous occupants had mice and that my neighbors have mice. So, I am either the best housekeeper in the world or I have good snakes living on the property. I am not sure which is true. I like to think it is the former.

When I was single and living in Ohio, a friend used to often invite me to dinner with her family. She was married with two kids. I quickly learned that an invitation to dinner meant that I was cooking dinner for them. Since she didn't clean up after each meal, cooking dinner for them meant I was cleaning up their breakfast and lunch mess before I could make dinner. I think she only washed the items that she needed to make the next meal when she needed them. I didn't mind too much, obviously since it happened more than once. She also put the pots and pans that dinner was cooked in right on the table to serve. (To which I say, Martha Who?) I don't say this about my friend to say that I am better than she is, we just had a very different approach to cooking and cleaning. Her approach mad me feel like I was going completely crazy. I felt a little like that last night making dinner. Since my husband was home sick yesterday (poor guy), I came home to a sink full of dirty dishes. My usual approach would be to clean all of that up and put it all away before even starting dinner but then we would have eaten dinner at like midnight and of course the sick husband was really hungry at 5:00 when I got home! So, I tried to work around it. Big mistake, you know? My kitchen is small and one thing is so depended on the other, you know? For instance, if there are dishes in the sink, where can I wash veggies or drain something? Wow, never again. I obviously have to start with a completely clean kitchen. Ok, rant over.

Anyway, back to the chicken piccata - I served it with polenta and spinach with goat's cheese and pine nuts. All of this was a big hit with my husband. Normally when I make polenta, I serve soft polenta which is creamy and spoon-able. My husband wanted firm polenta cut into shapes and then seared, which is also very good. I won't go into a lot of detail but for the soft polenta, I use a 8 to 1 ratio of liquid to corn meal and for the firm type that can be sliced, I use a 6 to 1 ratio. So, 1/2 cup of corn meal to 3 cups of liquid.

Chicken piccata
serves 4

8 chicken cutlets (so that's 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers, drained
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
8 thin fresh lemon slices

Gently pound cutlets to even thickness (somewhat less than 1/2 inch). Season with salt and pepper then dust with flour, shaking off excess flour.
Add oil to a sauté pan and heat over medium-high heat. Sauté cutlets 2-3 minutes on one side; flip the cutlets over and sauté the other side 1-2 minutes with the pan covered. Transfer cutlets to a warm plate; pour off fat from the pan.
Deglaze pan with wine and add minced garlic. Cook until garlic is slightly browned and liquid is nearly gone, about 2 minutes. Add broth, lemon juice, and capers. Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side 1 minute. Transfer cutlets to a warm plate. Remove the pan from the heat. Finish sauce with lemon slices and butter. Stir gently until butter melts. To serve, pour sauce over cutlets and lemon slices.

This is the spinach with pine nuts and goat's cheese. It is spinach, sauteed in a little olive oil with salt and pepper. When the spinach is wilted, I removed it from the heat and added pieces of goat's cheese and then the pine nuts. Easy-peesy-hot-and-cheesy. Literally.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

reality does indeed bite!

So, I have been off work since December 19 and I have been wonderfully lazy! Wow... what a fabulous two weeks I have had with my beloved husband and the beagles. Today it is back to work for me and Lenny is in Alexandria taking a very intense exam that is needful for ordination. He will be there for most of this week and I already miss him terribly. I always feel like life is in a bit of limbo when my husband is gone. That may sound extremely weird to some but in the 8 and 3/4 years we have been married our lives have been so tightly woven together that I feel incomplete without him. God speed to you, sweetie and come home safe and sound!

Anyway, Christmas was fabulous, my husband gave me LL Bean wicked good slippers and a fabulous new stock pot. Those were really the stand out gifts for me this year. Also, there was a really super trip to KMart that involved me getting a lot of new (well replacement really) kitchen gadgets... a new can opener, a meat thermometer, spatulas, a pepper mill, can tappers, pastry brushes, and I forget what else! How wonderful for me, right??

I did make my traditional English Christmas dinner complete with Yorkshire puddings and that was really tasty and worth all the work. Pictures to come maybe. Besides much cooking, I really super cleaned the house (who knew that a small city made of grime was behind my stove?), helped with the Christmas pageant at church, and read a couple of books.

Wednesday is Epiphany and I will start to take down all of the Christmas decorations tonight maybe and it's back to the reality of working for a living everyday. I guess the good news is that the days are getting longer and spring is just around the corner.

Happy New Year!