Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lettuce Enjoy Spring

Yesterday felt like the first day of spring. Suddenly the chill in the air was gone, the sun was bright and the winds blew warm. It was the kind of day that made me yearn to put the top down on the car and travel up the California Coast. Absent one convertible, I opened the moon roof and sang along as the radio played a late sixties music mix. As I ran the usual weekly errands I thought about dinner. What could I prepare that would represent the freshness of this perfect spring day. I decided on lettuce wraps knowing that the spicy Asian filling would contrast perfectly against the cool crispness of the lettuce. I didn’t have a few of my lettuce wrap staples on hand but, I decided to use what I did have and it turned out very well.
The mix is just about ready

1/3 head of cabbage (shredded)
½ onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small carrot
3 mushrooms (I used baby portabellas)
6 oz roasted chicken
1 tsp Asian chili paste
1 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne
1/2 head of romaine lettuce 
(washed & chilled)

In a large frying pan
Cook the onion till almost soft
Add cabbage, mushrooms, carrot, and garlic
Cook together till soft about 7 minutes
Add chili paste, salt, pepper to taste
spoon into the lettuce and enjoy.
Experiment with ingredients. This one was delicious
(One could add Hoisin sauce and water chestnuts at this point but I was out so I omitted them this time)

Total: Under $7.00 for this spicy and cool spring treat

TIP OF THE DAY: If you are missing some of the ingredients for a regular recipe improvise. It is fun to  play with flavors and develop new ways to prepare old favorites   

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Faith and Begorrah ~There's a pint in my stew !

“May God grant you always...A sunbeam to warm you, a moonbeam to charm you, a sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you. Laughter to cheer you. Faithful friends near you. And whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you.” ~Irish Blessing
The Irish soda bread turned out very well

Normally on St. Patrick’s Day I’d be fixing corned beef and cabbage but, this year I thought I’d try something different. I’ve always wanted  to prepare Beef and Guinness stew and what better day to try it than St. Patrick’s Day?

I pride my self on my stew making ability but this is a version I have not tried yet. I’ve been researching many recipes and I’ve come up with a plan. Normally I put red wine in my stew but today it’s Guinness all the way.I’ve adapted the classic recipe by adding potato and green beans to the stew pot. I’ve also cut up the vegetables in large size pieces because I want this to be a really chunky stew.
The  star of the stew
1 ½ lbs stew meat cut in 1-2 inch cubes
1 onion roughly chopped
2 red potatoes 
3 carrots
1 bottle Guinness
¼ cup flour (to the flour add ¼ tsp salt & ¼ tsp pepper ¼ tsp cayenne)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
pinch allspice  (optional)
1 bay leaf (remove the bay leaf before eating stew)
String beans (small handful)

I browned the meat and onion in a fry pan
with a bit of cooking oil
when browned
I added enough flour S&P mixture to coat the meat
I cooked it a few minutes longer (to cook the flour)

I moved the meat & onion to a waiting stockpot

I deglazed my fry pan with some of the Guinness
then I put the contents from the fry pan in to the stock pot

I added
The rest of the Guinness
3-4 cups of stock
The rest of the cut up veggies
1 bay leaf
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

let it all stew on low for about 1 ½ -2 hours
Happy St. Patrick's Day

Total for this salute to Ireland under $10.00
A Happy and blessed St. Patrick's Day to you all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gruyere and bacon for everyone: Macaroni and Cheese night

Some dinners just beg for cheese
It’s been a long time since we enjoyed the decadent goodness of macaroni and cheese. Between TV and Twitter it’s been mentioned a lot lately and today seemed like a good day to jump on the bandwagon.
Use a macaroni that is ribbed to hold the cheese sauce
½ Lb pasta (I used whole-wheat fuisili pasta that has ribs to hold the cheese sauce)
4 Tbs Butter (3 for the roux and 1 for the breadcrumbs)
3 Tbs Flour
1 cup 1% milk
Pinch or 2 of nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste (I use cayenne for this dish)
1 slice bacon (Cooked and minced)
 ½ cup breadcrumbs

For the cheese sauce:
3 Tbs Butter
3Tbs Flour
Make a roux of these two in a saucepan (stir or whisk constantly)
When the flour has cooked for a minute or two
In the melted butter
1 cup 1% milk
Bring to just a boil then lower temp
Sauce will thicken
Add a pinch or two of nutmeg and
1 cup grated cheese (I used Gruyere, Cheddar and a hint of Parmesan)
Stir till smooth
The cheese sauce is ready. See how it should look
Assemble the dish:
Strain the cooked pasta and put it into a baking dish 
Add the cheese sauce and incorporate well
Mix in the cooked minced slice of bacon

For the topping:
Melt 1Tbs butter add to
½ cup breadcrumbs
top the mac and cheese with mixture
I Love using my old school corning ware for this dish
bake at 375  till heated browned and bubbly (about 25 minutes)
Total Under $6.00 for this cheesy treat

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Memories of Seborga on Pizza Night

Tonight I'm reminded of our visit to Seborga Italy just over the border near Monaco.We stayed in this town founded in 954 AD and ate at this restaurant.
I thought of Italy today as I baked my fresh focaccia. How many cooks in how many kitchens have through the ages loving prepared this same bread for their families. How many children have listened carefully to their grandmas as traditions were shared and secret recipes exchanged. I can’t think of a better use for my foaccia than as a pizza. I baked the bread in a 9x13 pan and it became the perfect canvas for my culinary creation.

I roasted:
Three tomatoes (chopped)
1 onion (sliced)
½ head of garlic
Tossed in olive oil salt & pepper
on a sheet pan for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
I added herbs and cayenne to the dough. Look carefully and you can see it in this photo

Meanwhile I sautéed mushrooms and spinach in a touch of vermouth

When all the toppings are cooled I top the focaccia with the tomato onion and roasted garlic (no skin).
I then layer on the spinach and mushrooms
I top with a finely grated mixture of Parmesan and cheddar and broil till bubbly and warm.
This is a wonderful meal for the whole family to enjoy
It's as easy as that a yummy veggie pizza for under $6.00

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Loaves and Fishes

We enjoy so many gifts from out oceans
Tonight we are enjoying lovely breaded Dover sole paired with Swiss chard, onion and garlic from our local farmers market. We so enjoy our weekly Farmers market which is held every Friday night right outside our door. The vendors are dedicated to providing fresh, clean and natural food and they deserve our gratitude and our respect.

For the sole 
A simple egg wash and panko breading with herbs.
pan fry till golden brown

Small bunch chopped stemmed Swiss Chard  
½ onion and
2 cloves garlic
sauté and add
Leftover rotelle from last night’s dinner

Serving this with my fresh baked Honey oatmeal pain de mie 

Total under $7.oo for this light fresh dinner

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I Might Rethink Green Eggs and Ham ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ I Really Like Them Sam I Am

Today I created a dish that even Dr, Seuss might embrace. I don’t know who prepared his green eggs and ham in the past but today I’m serving A Seuss worthy feast that I think he'd be happy to enjoy on his birthday.

1 bunch Spinach  
½ Onion
2 cloves Garlic
5-6 cremini Mushroom
1/8 lb Gouda cheese
2 slices Prosciutto

Crepe batter ( this is where the eggs come into play)

Sauté the onion and mushrooms
When almost done add spinach (chopped) and cook it down
¼ tsp red pepper flake
¼ tsp salt

 In a pan crisp up the Prosciutto and crumble then set aside
I can think of dozen of uses for crumbled prosciutto

Make crepe batter
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour

Make crepes
fill with spinach mix
Crumble a little Prosciutto
Add some Gouda cheese
garnish the top with leftover filling
Total under $6.00 for this whimsical feast
TIP OF THE DAY: Buy just what you need. I purchased two slices of prosciutto. It is normally a costly item but, I paid under a dollar for the amount I needed to make this dish extra Seussworthy.