We never eat at the kitchen table. Dad and I tend to take our meals in front of the TV. Or sometimes just one of us will eat at the table while the other watches TV. I'm thinking that we may have eaten dinner at the table together once this year.
Last night, Sparks came over and we not only ate at the table, all of the food was on it instead of sitting on the counters/stove. It was very nice.
I started making dad's chicken marsala, but he decided to elbow me out of the way and take over. He does that from time to time, I just laughed and went on. Besides, it freed me up to work on the rest of dinner. Mostly, it freed me up to get creative with my salad.
I didn't go to the store yesterday, everything that was in the fridge had been there since my grocery trip last weekend. I had a bag of mixed spinach and red leaf lettuce, but not much else in the way of salad veggies. I toasted up some pine nuts, which I always try to keep on hand, but what else to put in the salad? Hmmmm...
I opted to get a bit sweet with it. I'd bought a mango last week and it was at the peak of ripeness. Actually, it was probably closer to the "eat me now before I rot" stage, but whatever. So, I diced it up and threw it on top of the lettuce. What sort of dressing for a mango salad? I squeezed the pulp that was still sticking to the pit (seed?) and skin into a cup, added the juice from half a lime, and a few frozen raspberries. I put the whole thing in the microwave on defrost until I could mash the raspberries up, then added a little balsamic vinegar. I gave it a little salt, but the whole thing was still a bit too POW with the vinegar, so I poured in a bit of the reisling that I was drinking. Then whisked in some olive oil. A nice complement for the salad. Dad refused to touch the salad, too weird for him, but Sparks and I rather liked it. Perhaps, if I make it again, I'll add some more crunch with some carrots or something. Overall, I thought the salad was a good contrast to the heavy richness of the rest of the meal.
What have we learned here? Durn near anything can go in a salad, as long as you combine it with the right dressing.
I will admit to living my life in a quite ostrichlike fashion most of the time. I'm completely out of touch with world events, politics, and most trends. So, I have to ask this:
What exactly is a "trans fat" and why should I care? Is it the new "carb", to be shunned until fads change?
The other night, when I appeared with the nutella cake in hand, I thought that one friend was going to cry. It seems that nutella is just loaded with the trans fats (dur, very few things in life taste THAT good and aren't bad for you!) but he really wanted to try it.
I don't think that I am fat because I eat trans fats, or carbs for that matter. It's because I love food and eat too much of the stuff that is super tasty and super unhealthy. But, hey, you never know, maybe the trans fats are the things keeping me from discovering my super powers. Maybe I could fly without all those trans fats weighing me down.
A lovely creation, if I do say so myself...
Ever since I stumbled across this cake, I've known that I just had to make it. Add to that the fact that we've had a basket of hazelnuts sitting on the table for ages. Sadly, they taste a little old, and this bothers me, but I'm hoping that the whole package makes up for it. I'd never toffeed nuts before and wound up with something more like brittle, maybe I overcooked the sugar? So, pop ground them down a bit with the meat mallet, breaking them into small, not too jagged pieces.
Tomorrow night I am going to a birthday dinner for friends, and I won't have time to come home after work. This means that this cake must travel to work with me tomorrow. I might need a thermonuclear device to protect it from the snack vultures in my department.
I hope I don't wind up waking up at 4 am with the tummy ache from eating the cinnamon rolls and then tasting bits of this as I went along.
This morning my back hurt and I stayed home. Luckily, some aleve kicked that pain's ass by late this afternoon. I had some cinnamon rolls to bake and they couldn't wait, they were put together last night.
Soooooooooooo, tasty. They're a bit of a pain since they have to be put together the day before and have to rise and be rolled out and all of that, but completely worth it.
I thought they might last until morning, when I could take one to Sparks, but that's questionable at this point...
Hey! Come back with those!
To come later, pics of the Nutella cake that's baking in the oven right now.
In the past, I have always turned my nose up at fish. Except for the wiley stick fish, very rare in the wild. Yup, I'm an uncultured cretin when it comes to fish. Sometime in the last year or so, I've been trying to change that. I was always afraid to cook fish before, but not so much anymore. I am overcoming my fear and expanding my dinner possibilities. No longer does my fish come from Mrs. Paul (except for when I'm feeling really lazy and craving them), now I buy it either flash frozen or already defrosted for me from the seafood counter. I know that stuff was previously frozen, this state is way too far from the sea for it to be anything else.
Tonight's adventure into the unknown was tilapia. Never had it, had no clue what to expect, but it looked enough flounder-like to be ok in my book. I know that I like mild white fillets. So, I broiled those fillets with a little olive oil and old bay seasoning. Served it with some *gasp* instant mashed potatoes and gingered spaghetti squash.
The spaghetti squash was another new one on me. I'd tasted it once before at a restaurant, but never cooked it. While I was out this afternoon, I assigned dad the task of finding me a recipe for it. He went straight to the food network website. The recipe left a lot to be desired as far as methodology, and we wound up not following it exactly after researching some other sites. The recipe told me to split the squash, put it in a pan with 2 T of butter, 1 T of honey and 1.5 T of grated ginger, salt and pepper to taste and bake it for an hour at 375. What I did not expect was how rock hard the durned thing would be. After a little research we opted to add some water to the pan and to cover it. The original sauce had cooked in a bit and very lightly flavored the squash. It needed salt, but once it got it tasted delicious. That recipe was definitely a keeper.
Also in the works currently are a batch of Alton's overnight cinnamon rolls and a nutella cake. I'd been looking for any excuse to make the nutella cake from the first time that I saw its gorgeous self on some food blog or other. Tuesday night I am going to a birthday dinner for some friends and that sounds like the best excuse ever. Dad even volunteered to shell my hazelnuts while I was making dinner. Sometimes he's right handy.
Tonight's food experiment: tiramisu! I can't wait to try it, it is currently setting up.
On saturday, I made a pound cake to eat with my yummy fresh blackberries. As of last night, the berries were gone but half the cake remained, and it was quickly getting a bit dry. So, I started thinking about making a trifle. I've never made one, but the idea seemed straightforward enough - cake, custard, and some kind of fruit. So, I started looking through the "How To Cook Everything" (my favorite) for custard recipes. Lo and behold, just past the custards, a recipe for tiramisu calling for leftover sponge cake.
Sponge cake, pound cake, whatever! Tiramisu! So, this evening I assembled it, and dad is prancing back and forth impatiently awaiting it's hour of chill time to pass.
I hope it's tasty.
edited to add: MUST NOT GO FACE DOWN IN TIRAMISU, NO MATTER HOW GOOD IT TASTES!!!! *swoon*
Tonight was the night that I finally attempted beef burek, after talking about it for the past week or so. None of the recipes really looked like the thing that I saw on $40 a day that looked so tasty, so I improvised. I fried up a pound of lean hamburger with a diced onion and a little sliced shiitake mushroom (leftover, needed to use them up). I added salt and paprika but it still tasted very flat, so I threw in a splash of marsala and let it cook off. I layered this with phyllo dough, buttering each sheet lightly, and ricotta (dad doesn't like feta). I baked it at 350 for 30 minutes, until the crust was golden brown. I served it with a little salad and some leftover green beans.
It wasn't bad with the beans and salad, as the beans were rather too salty in the first place, but alone it was very blah. We experimented slightly with a horseradish sauce (dad's idea) and a dilled yogurt sauce (my idea) but neither gave it the ooomph it needed. It wasn't bad with ranch dressing on it, but everything is better with ranch.
It served its purpose, I'm not hungry anymore, but that definitely wasn't a keeper recipe. Next time I'll just grill out burgers, much tastier.
Tomorrow night's dinner will be a tried and true favorite which I can assign dad to cook before I get home - cinci style chili. I've got all of the stuff that I like to dress it up with and it'll be a simple dinner for a couple of nights, since this is looking like it might be another week filled with long days.
As a general rule, I don't like tomatoes. I like salsa, ketchup, spaghetti sauces, but not raw tomatoes. I've tried to make myself endure them, and occasionally I can endure, but I really don't like them. There is, of course, an exception to this. Margherita pizza sauce.
A couple of years ago, I was watching Tyler's Ultimate and saw some cute little italian mama make this concoction. I've adapted her sauce for my use. As always, there's no set recipe and no amounts for anything. However, the method is always the same.
For the sauce I mangle a couple of ripe tomatoes, sort of chopping, sort of mashing, being sure to squeeze the most of the juice/seeds out into the garbage. I crush a couple of cloves of garlic, chiffonade some basil, add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Then let it mingle for a little while, anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on how hungry I am.
This last time, I used prefab pizza crusts from Kroger, and I have to say that they were splendid! Much better than anything I've ever made, and didn't get nearly as mushy as the packet mixes I've used in the past. I fired the oven up to 450 and slid the pizza stone in there to warm with the oven.
While the oven was heating, I started to work on my toppings. I chopped up some green and black olives, shallot, roasted red pepper, shiitake mushrooms, and fresh basil. I started assembling the pizza, spreading the sauce and toppings around and then dropping a few dollops of ricotta cheese on it. Next I tore up small bits of fresh mozzerrella and spread them around, and sprinkled the whole thing with a little parmesan.
One nice thing about those prefab crusts is that my peelless self could just pick it up carefully and plop it on the hot pizza stone. 10-12 minutes in the oven and it was gorgeous. Even pop liked it, though he said "needs cayenne", however he says that about damned near everything so I refuse to take offense.
I am planning to experiment with beef burek this week. Hopefully it'll turn out well.
I am trying to find a coffee that I like. Even if I sugar a cup of coffee to the max, it won't have near the calories of a pepsi, but all of the caffeine kick which I need in the morning. I'd been eyeballing a bodum travel coffee press at kroger for a couple of weeks, and they put it on sale this week. I also picked up a sample size bag of millstone's foglifter coffee.
I have to say, the first drink was all "holy gawd, that's some kickass coffee" but once it cooled a little it also mellowed out. Or maybe that was due to the milk and sugar I put in it. Either way, it's tasting pretty good at this point. I'll have to keep experimenting with the sample size bags until I find a coffee that I love, I'm sure it's out there somewhere.