28 February 2006

Pancake Day (Huzzah)

Today is Pancake Tuesday. Yes. I know. What kind-of made up holiday is that? An English one, that's what. According to The Husband, Shrove Tuesday is also Pancake Tuesday and good little English people make piles of delicious pancakes and eat them up, yum.

It makes more sense when you remember that Lent begins tomorrow (Ash Wednesday) and you might want to get all the tempting luxury foods (milk and eggs) out of your house before it begins. A bit, maybe, like collecting up all the chametz (leavened/fermented grain products) before Pesach. Or not.

One of the many things The Husband gave up when he married me was ready access to "proper English pancakes." Unlike the thick (almost chewy) discs of Bisquick-y joy I grew up on, The Husband desires a thin, almost crepe-like, pancake. Preferably, dusted with caster sugar and sprinkled with lemon from one of those lemon-shaped squeezy bottles.

This wasn't a problem when we had a local IHOP. We could just pop down the highway and get our very different pancake hankerings taken care of. But, alas, IHOP is no more (and the clone that sprang up in it's place didn't last long, either) and we must make our damn pancakes if we want any.

The horror.

Anyway, we're not that terrible at it. We use the "Melt-in-Your-Mouth" recipe found on the box of the Bisquick box which yields very light, fluffy and mildly lemony pancakes. Mmmm ... pancakes. We could have them for dinner, tonight, and be all "pip!pip!cheerio!" and whatnot.

23 February 2006

Frittering With Asparagus

Further proof I am frittering away my life: spent too much of this week reading up on asparagus. Seriously, not only do I now know all about growing and cooking the stuff, I also know why urine stinks after eating it. Yes, all very important stuff. Also, put a couple job applications together, but who cares about that? Asparagus is where it's at.

I saut├ęd the last bunch with a little salt and pepper, olive oil, and garlic. Came out pretty good, but I might add a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end next time. The dish just seemed to need a little zip. But, that's just me. The Husband thought the asparagus was very nice as it was.

We had the asparagus with steamed baby carrots and the "Meat-and-Potatoes Meatloaf" from AHA's One-Dish Meals (Clarkson Potter, 2003). The meatloaf was ... weird. Very low points (a quarter of the 9" pan was one 7 point serving), but ... weird ... and thus not repeatable. I think the blame lies with the potato shreddies. They stood out too much from the beef mixture and gave the whole dish an odd texture. Also, the meatloaf dish came out of the oven full of liquid which, I presume, came from the potato shreddies. The loaf was so moist that, when I scooped a wedge out of the pan, it just fell to pieces.

Not my idea of a proper meatloaf.

On the other hand, nothing will ever top the TSP loaf I made when we were first married. It was so bad I think we ate a forkful each and then we tossed the pan into the woods behind the house. (The loaf was strictly vegan and we expect it composted just fine. Certainly, we doubt any of the local wildlife were foolhardy enough to num it up).

20 February 2006

Aspiring Asparagus

I cooked asparagus for the first time ever this weekend and then, so taken with my cookery skills was I that I cooked some more today. The first recipe I used was for "Oven-Roasted Salmon, Asparagus and New Potatoes" (guesstimate 6 pts) and, like most of the recipes I've used from that site, it yielded phenomenal results. The second recipe was for "Lemon-Garlic Chicken, Asparagus, and Potatoes" (6 pts) and came from the American Heart Association's One-Dish Meals (Clarkson Potter, 2003). It, too, was very good.

As a child, I couldn't understand why my parents tried to force asparagus upon me as it seemed one of the most disgusting vegetables -- slimy, gray-green, and stinking like pee. Until one fateful night a few months ago, I'd quite happily spent the last decade asparagus-free. Yet, on that night, I ate a seasonal roast vegetable platter that included (among other vegetables) brussels sprouts and asparagus. They were delish. Completely changed my feelings toward those benighted vegetables. Perhaps it wasn't the asparagus (or the sprout) I ought to have been objecting to all these years, but rather their mode of preparation. Cooked properly, neither vegetable should end up slimy, gray-green, or stinking like pee. Yay!

There is a half pound of asparagus left soaking its feet in my fridge and I am having great fun deciding what to do with it. Shall I wrap them in prosciutto as my Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Roasting cookbook suggests? Roast them with parmesan and lemon as described in Weight Watchers Great Cooking Everyday? Or should I simply blanch them and eat them as crudites?

16 February 2006

Eat Healthy or Die

As part of my continuing effort to live a healthier life, I've been making a lot of recipes from the American Heart Association's cookbooks with pretty good results. Each recipe includes full nutritional values so it's easy to see how smart you're being and feel super smug.

I think my favorite AHA cookbook is the Low-Calorie Cookbook: More Than 200 Delicious Recipes for Healthy Eating (Clarkson Potter, 2003). I've prepared about half a dozen recipes from that volume and not only did they all come out well, but they were all worth repeating.

While One-Dish Meals (Clarkson Potter, 2003) also appears to have some good recipes, I haven't used it as much as Low-Calorie and so cannot judge it properly. I will say I've been doing a lot of meatless cooking and Low-Calorie seems better if you aren't all that into beans!