31 March 2011

Woe Unto You, Tartar Sauce ...

Last week, I tried cooking catfish for the very first time after I impulsively purchased some from Peapod. It was on sale, I'm trying to make ethical fish purchases, and Peapod claimed it was "sustainable seafood." Apparently, Peapod's been teamed up with the New England Aquarium since 2000 to help customers make smart and sustainable seafood choices:
The New England Aquarium works with some of the largest seafood retailers and suppliers to encourage the sustainable development of farmed and wild-caught seafood resources. As the founding partner of the New England Aquarium’s seafood advisory services program, Stop & Shop was one of the first companies in the seafood industry to seek out a non-governmental organization with expertise in the oceans to help improve the sustainability of the seafood products we sell. The best quality products, and the safest, are sourced from suppliers who share our commitment to freshness, quality, and food safety.
What is that worth, exactly? Buggered if I know, but the catfish turned out all right.

"Baked Catfish with Lemon Aioli"

Ingredients: catfish fillets, thyme, smoked paprika, black pepper, canola mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, pressed garlic.

Recipe was adapted from The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook. I didn't have any cayenne so I rubbed the catfish fillets with smoked paprika and was generous with the black pepper. The lemon aioli was very garlicky and vastly superior to my favorite mayonnaise-based condiment, tartar sauce.

Woe unto you, tartar sauce, for you have been supplanted!

28 March 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 28 March

This week's menu plan came out of a shoebox. Really. I store all the recipes I tear out of magazines, photocopy from library books, and print off the internetz in a purple shoebox. Every once in while, when the box gets too full and doesn't want to stay closed, I weed out the recipes I'm probably never going to make (maple bacon chocolate chip cookies, I'm looking at you). While I was doing a little of that this weekend, it occurred to me that I should probably try out a few of the "keepers."

  • Pillsbury's "Italian Bean and Tuna Salad" on salad greens. Ingredients: frozen green beans, low-sodium cannellini beans, tuna in water, orange bell pepper, chives, parsley, light Italian dressing, oregano, salad greens.
  • Taste of Home's "Tarragon Crusted Chicken" with roasted garlicky green beans and brown rice. Ingredients: boneless skinless organic chicken breasts, whole wheat bread crumbs, parsley, tarragon, lemon juice, lemon peel, salt-free lemon-pepper blend, garlic powder, green beans, garlic, olive oil.
  • Salad greens topped with leftover tarragon chicken, roasted beets, shallots, and Trader Joe's goat cheese with honey.
  • Slow cooker pot roast with barley pilaf. Ingredients: organic beef roast (from freezer), petite diced fire roasted garlic tomatoes, dehydrated onion, parsley, black pepper, quick-cooking barley, onion, garlic, low-sodium chicken broth, lemon juice, oregano.

26 March 2011

Cooking My Way to Happy

Friday, came home from work feeling a trifle irritable and in no mood to make supper. Of course, being the end of the week, the fridge was full of things that needed to be eaten or binned. Even more irritated (why did I make a menu plan if I wasn't going to stick to it??), I started throwing supper together.

Cookin' Angry

Looks pretty good, doesn't it? And, by the time I brought our plates to the table, all my irritation was gone!

I cooked sliced crimini mushrooms with thyme, black pepper, and crushed garlic in a little olive oil until they were yummy and then set them aside while I made the turkey cutlets -- just rubbed cutlets with thyme, salt and pepper, and sauteed them until cooked through. While the mushrooms and turkey cooked, I also roasted asparagus tossed with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and crushed garlic. Just before serving, I squeezed a bit of lemon juice over the cutlets and asparagus and microwaved some rice. Altogether, supper took no more than 30 minutes to make!

23 March 2011

Quick & Easy Lentil Stew

While shopping at Trader Joe's a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to pick up a packet of refrigerated steamed ready-to-eat lentils since I love lentils but almost never think about cooking with them since I lapsed from vegetarianism all those years ago.

Of course, you know what happened once I got the lentils home. Yes, I stuffed them in the fridge and would probably have never thought about them again except they (eventually) started being in the way. It seemed as if every time I reached for something, the lentils were there in its place. It was obvious I need to use the lentils and, happily, the Internetz was full of good ideas for soups and salads. When I found "Easy Trader Joe’s Recipe: Lentil Stew" over at Rookie Moms I simply knew I had found the dish for me.

Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew

Because I didn't want to do any extra shopping, I made a few changes to Rookie Moms' recipe based on the ingredients I had on hand -- basically, I swapped Campbell's V8 Tomato Herb Soup in for Trader Joe's Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup and added file powder with the cumin. Using file powder might sound a bit weird, but it's a traditional stew thickener and I quite like the flavor.

To make this stew I combined the following in a soup pot and brought it to a low simmer for about ten minutes or so:
  • 1 18.3 oz carton Campbell's V8 Tomato Herb Soup
  • 1 package pre-cooked steamed lentils
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp file powder
  • 1 baked sweet potato, cut into small chunks
Of course, if you want to be fancy, you could saute chopped onion, celery, carrots, and garlic in a little olive oil before adding the other ingredients to the pot. Also, if you'd like a thinner stew, simply dilute it with a little broth.

21 March 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 21 March

Another week, another menu plan. A lot of South Beach Diet recipes/"healthier" eating this week as the past weekend of celebratory birthday yumminess has left me kind-of wanting to subsist on nothing but melon and gallons of water. I'm not saying Krispy Kremes are Teh Evil or gave me Death Fatz, but that my body, having satisfied one craving, now swings in another direction. Unfortunately, I've currently sworn off melon (and most raw fruits/vegetables) as my poor digestive system just can't handle it.

It's very frustrating for me when I hear that all I need to do to become "healthy" is eat more whole foods -- particularly fruits, vegetables, and grains -- when my body simply cannot handle many whole foods. For a long time, I feel I've played chicken with my digestive system -- daring it to send me to the emergency room for eating almonds or raw baby carrots -- but that's a stupid game and I don't need to play it.

I eats what I eats and anyone who doesn't like it can swap digestive systems with me.

  • "Baked Catfish with Lemon Aioli" from The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook with steamed green beans. Ingredients: catfish fillets, cayenne, thyme, light mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, black pepper, green beans.
  • Betty Crocker's "Cannellini Bean and Tuna Salad" (half recipe). Ingredients: thawed organic broccoli cuts, tuna, low-sodium cannellini, shredded carrot, dressing.
  • "Pork Scaloppine with Herbs" from The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook with roasted asparagus. Ingredients: turkey cutlets (from freezer), basil, thyme, olive oil, lemon juice, capers, black pepper.
  • Chopped leftover turkey and asparagus tossed with salad greens in light Italian vinaigrette.
  • Broiled lamb loin chops with "Sauteed Mushrooms with Thyme" and "Stuffed Baked Tomatoes" (half recipe) from The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook. Ingredients: lamb loin chops (from freezer), dijon mustard, plum tomatoes, shredded mozzarella, basil, Parmesan, garlic, black pepper, red onion, cremini mushrooms.
  • "Oven Fried Chicken with Almonds" from The South Beach Diet Cookbook with thyme-ed carrots and brown rice pilaf. Ingredients: whole wheat bread crumbs, crushed almonds, boneless skinless organic chicken breasts (from freezer), thyme, black pepper.

I know I said I wasn't eating almonds, anymore. Well, the ones in the fried chicken recipe are crushed and there's not much of them so I'm not worried. Just not going to chaw down on a handful of whole ones ...

Yes, still playing chicken.

20 March 2011

It's Not a Birthday Without Cake

Today was The Husband's birthday (and the first day of Spring -- how great is that?) and while we ate out a bunch of times over the weekend and partaken of many sweet Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a birthday just isn't properly a birthday without cake.

Birthday Cake

I made this cake using Betty Crocker's recipe for Chocolate-Strawberry Cake with Fluffy Frosting. I had seen a fabulous photo for it in Berry Crocker's flickr photostream a few weeks ago and just knew I had to make it for The Husband as he loves strawberries and chocolate.

Chocolate-Strawberry Cake with Fluffy Frosting Recipe

While my cake did not turn out as pretty as Betty Crocker's -- I ended up smooshing leftover morsels to the side of the cake to hide my lacklustre frosting job -- it came out pretty darn yummy and I look forward to making it again. I'm pretty sure this recipe could be modified to use different SuperMoist® cake mixes and I'm thinking I might make it with French vanilla cake mix and raspberries ...

Captain Obvious, That's Me

Easy Sliced Strawberries

So. I finally figured out I could slice strawberries with my egg slicer ...

17 March 2011

Repurposed Leftover Roast

I wanted to use up my leftover slow cooker roast, but wasn't in the mood for sandwiches, stew, or shepherd's pie. I needed something that could be cooked in hurry and would also use up all the wrinkly or limp vegetables in our crisper drawer. In the end, I just chopped everything into bits and stir-fried them with leftover gravy. Not a very elegant meal, but quick and tasty.

Repurposed Pot Roast

Sort-of Stir-fry

3 cups cubed leftover slow cooker roast
8 asparagus stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 orange bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
1½ cups grape tomatoes
3 ribs celery, sliced
3 scallions, sliced and whites separated from greens
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup leftover gravy
Low-sodium chicken broth, as needed

Heat olive oil in a large pot until hot, add all ingredients except scallion greens and quickly cook until meat is hot and asparagus is crisp-tender, add gravy and toss until everything is thoroughly coated and gravy is hot (add a little broth if the gravy seems too thick). Sprinkle with scallion greens and serve over brown rice or quinoa.

15 March 2011

Splendid Sunday Supper

The perfect supper for a slow, sleepy Sunday -- tender slow-cooked pot roast, buttery cabbage, and garlicky mashed potatoes bathed in rich gravy. While it looks beautiful and tasted so darn good, it took no real effort to make. Which was a good thing, because the time change had me all discombobulated for most of the day and I simply wasn't up for anything complicated.

Sunday Dinner, ftw

The slow-cooked pot roast is my own recipe and I'm pretty proud of how well it turned out considering I just opened the pantry and rounded up everything that looked combinable!

Sauce for Slow Cooker Roast

Tomato-Onion Slow Cooker Roast

1 can Muir Glen Organic fire-roasted roasted-garlic petite diced tomatoes
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 generous handful dried onions, crushed
1 generous handful dried mushrooms, crushed
½ cabernet sauvignon
1 three pound beef roast, well trimmed but with a thin layer of fat on top

Put roast in slow cooker fat side up. Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well blended. Pour over roast. Cook on Low for 8 hours.
Oh, it was everything I want a slow cooker roast to be -- tender, moist, and flavorful. I served the roast with a gravy I made by thickening the juices in a saucepan on the stove with a little cornstarch-juice slurry. The rich, tomato-y gravy complemented the creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes and I could almost have eaten a bowlful of them all on their own.

Not that the cabbage deserves a snubbing! The buttered cabbage was based on a recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine -- combine a head of shredded cabbage, low-sodium chicken broth, whole garlic cloves, whole cloves, and red pepper flakes in a large covered pot and simmer until tender, then season with butter and liberal amounts of salt and pepper. As the recipe suggested, I assembled everything ahead of time and then refrigerated it until I was ready to cook. I did throw a handful of parsley in at the end for color, but I think that did not harm. Overall, I very much enjoyed this dish and look forward to making it again.

As always, I was amused by how much the cabbage reduced down as it cooked!

Buttered Cabbage, Before CookingButtered Cabbage, Cooked Down

13 March 2011

Veal Scaloppini with Asparagus & Mushrooms

I made this meal last month, but never got around to blogging about it. I used the recipe for "Veal with Asparagus" from Betty Crocker's Low-Carb Lifestyle Cookbook -- one of those sad, neglected cookbooks no-one has borrowed from the library since the low-carb craze died down.

Veal w/ Asparagus & Mushrooms

Ingredients: veal scaloppini, asparagus, cremini mushrooms, garlic, shallots, thyme, white wine, olive oil.

I had high expectations for this dish as it combines some of my favorite ingredients, but we just found it "okay." While the vegetables were perfect, the veal seemed overcooked and the whole dish was a bit bland. If I were to make this again, I would cook the veal less, double the garlic, shallots, and thyme (or use fresh thyme) and include liberal amounts of fresh ground salt and pepper. I might also skip using veal and go with turkey or chicken cutlets as that's what I usually have in the freezer.

11 March 2011

Beautiful Beets

I've enjoyed cooking from Kitchen of Light: New Scandinavian Cooking with Andreas Viestad (Workman Publishing, 2003) that I went in search of other Nordic cookbooks when I had to return it to the library last week. I ended up borrowing Helene Henderson's The Swedish Table (University of Minnesota Press, 2005) which, while not as lavishly illustrated as Kitchen of Light, is just as full of tempting recipes. Seriously, my library copy is hedgehog-spiky with sticky notes.

The first recipe I made was for "Roasted Baby Beet Salad" (rödbetssallad) turned out so well I want to make it every week. It's just peeled roasted baby beets, chopped, and tossed with equal parts balsamic vinegar (I used white balsamic) and olive oil, minced red onion, chives, salt, pepper, and poppy seeds. I omitted the poppy seeds for dietary reasons, but didn't miss them as the salad was full of lots of other great flavors.

beete salat

While I thought the beets tasted pretty great eaten solo at room temperature, Henderson recommends serving this salad warm over baby beet greens with goat cheese and a sprinkling of walnuts. If I make these beets again next week, I will surely try them served that way.

09 March 2011

Cod Be Better

Cod w/ Artichokes

So I made "Cod with Artichokes and Basil" from The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook the other day. Cod loin rubbed with olive oil and basil, roasted with marinated artichoke hearts (and some chopped roasted peppers I threw in for color) until yummy ... except yummy never really arrived. Oh, it was okay, but you know what would have made it better? Feta cheese, grape tomatoes, some fresh basil, and smaller artichoke bits.

Seriously, next time I'd coarsely chop the quartered hearts, mix them with fresh basil and chopped grape tomatoes, and spread them over the cod. Then I'd sprinkle two or three tablespoons of marinade from the artichokes over the cheese. I'm pretty sure that will bake up yummy.

(Of course it would, because it's a variation on Jamie Oliver's recipe for "Roasted Cod with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella" that I already love so much).

07 March 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 7 March

Another week, another menu plan. Nothing special behind this week's plan -- just trying to free up a little freezer space!

  • "Cod with Artichokes and Basil" (half recipe) from The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook with tossed salad. Ingredients: cod (from freezer), olive oil, basil, marinated artichoke hearts.
  • Betty Crocker's "Cannellini Bean and Tuna Salad" with lime & aloes kefir (sounds weird, but is addictively drinkable). Ingredients: thawed organic broccoli cuts, tuna, low-sodium cannellini, shredded carrot, dressing.
  • Chopped leftover turkey patty and corn relish tossed with salad greens and light Italian vinaigrette.
  • Slow cooker pot roast with steamed green beans and mashed potatoes. Ingredients: organic beef roast (from freezer), jar roasted bell peppers, Muir Glen petite fire-roasted diced tomatoes, dehydrated onion, parsley, black pepper, low-sodium beef stock.
  • "Oven Fried Chicken with Almonds" from The South Beach Diet Cookbook with thyme-ed carrots and brown rice pilaf. Ingredients: whole wheat bread crumbs, crushed almonds, boneless skinless organic chicken breasts (from freezer), thyme, black pepper.

04 March 2011

Super-Cheesy Mac & Cheese Casserole

I've had a package of cocktail kielbasa kicking around in the freezer since Christmas, when I was going to make crescent roll mini weenies. I was getting sick of seeing them so started thinking about ways I could use them up. Eventually, I found a recipe on the Hillshire Farms website for "Lit'l Smokies® Macaroni and Cheese" and thought that, while the recipe showed promise, more cheese would make it better. And it did! Once I was done doctoring it, the macaroni and cheese was so cheesy and creamy I wanted to eat if for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I did, actually, as The Husband turned out not to like this casserole very much.

While he agreed the mac 'n' cheese was pretty okay, he disliked the cocktail kielbasa. He thought they tasted smokey and cheap and I had to agree with him there. They seemed much saltier, spongier, and more hellocornsyrupsweetness! than I remembered, but then when I ate them as a child they were wrapped in pastry dough and slathered with spicy mustard so who knows what I was actually tasting! I liked them so little now that I ended up picking them out of the leftovers before I reheated the mac 'n' cheese for breakfast and lunch.

So what does that mean? It means that, if I were to make this again, I would omit the cocktail kielbasa. If I were feeling meaty, I might replace kielbasa with ground turkey and a can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes.

Mac & Mini Sausages

Super-Cheesy Mac & Cheese Casserole
7.25 oz pkg Thick 'n Creamy Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, prepared according to package directions
½ cup 2% milk
1 10¾ oz can condensed cheddar cheese soup
2 Tbsp King Arthur Flour's Vermont Cheddar Cheese Powder
1 generous handful dried parsley
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp paprika
4 oz shredded mozzarella-cheddar cheese blend (leftover from the cheesy blaster adventure)
black pepper, to taste
14 oz pkg. Hillshire Farm® Lit’l Polskas® Cocktail Links (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Drain package of cocktail kielbasa, if using. Combine kielbasa and all other ingredients (except shredded cheese). Pour into a greased casserole and top with cheese. Broil until the cheese is a lovely golden brown and the edges of the casserole bubble.

I can't remember the last time I bought a boxed macaroni and cheese mix! College, certainly. But since then? Twice, maybe. Used to eat it often as a child, drowned in ketchup with a broiled pork chop or leftover meatloaf and green beans.

03 March 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Love

Last week, I was wandering through Betty Crocker's flickr sets when I saw this photo and thought they were just the most adorable cookies ever:

Chocolate Heart Peanut Butter Cookies Recipe

Since I had a whole bag of dark chocolate hearts leftover from Valentine's Day and was in the mood to bake something, I made a batch. Mine aren't as pretty as Betty's, but they still went over a treat with the other librarians and The Husband (being a good wife, I made his with milk chocolate squares).

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Love

Chocolate kiss peanut butter cookies were one of the cookies my mother always made at Christmas. When I was very little, she let me unwrap the kisses and press them into the warm cookies. Later, they were one of the first cookies I was allowed to make "all on my own." I still have a certain nostalgia for them even though I almost never think of baking them!

(Note to self: buy some coarse or sparkling sugar for prettier cookies)

02 March 2011

My Fish Paste Brings All the Cats to the Yard

Fish Paste, ftw

I know, you are looking at this photo and you are thinking "Am I wrong or does it look like she spread cat food on some foam board and plated it?" and you are right for that is what it looks like. But that isn't what I did. Not at all. I made fish paste!

Fish paste is exactly what it sounds like -- a paste of fish mixed with spices and butter meant to be spread on crackers or toast or used as sandwich filler. It seems very British to me and whenever I hear "fish paste" (admittedly, not very often), I envision an afternoon tea of cold tongue and potted meat sandwiches, plummy fruitcake thick with royal icing, and tiny glasses of sherry in a damp room heavy with antimacassars ...

Yes. Well. Anyway, after discovering two tins of mackerel fillets in the back of a cupboard, I found a recipe for "Mixed Fish Pate" and modified it to suit me. While I'm very pleased with my homemade fish paste, The Husband thinks it is too lemony!
Fish Paste

1 5 oz can tuna fish in oil
2 3.88 oz cans mackerel fillets in oil
1 oz unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt-free lemon-pepper herb blend
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Drain most of the oil from the tuna and mackerel (save oil for another use, if you're feeling thrifty). Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a smooth paste is formed. Refrigerate until needed.

01 March 2011

Almost Homemade is Good Enough

I brought Taste of Home's Almost Homemade: 374 Easy Home-Style Meals (Reiman Media Group, 2010) home from the library almost two weeks ago which means ... it's due back soon. I'd like to keep it out a bit longer, but have you seen the size of my "to be read pile?" It's ginormous and a good third of the pile is comprised of library cookbooks! Yes, it is time for Almost Homemade to go on to another kitchen.

Recipes in Almost Homemade use a combination of convenience and fresh ingredients to create easy, stress-free meals that taste close to scratch. While I like the idea of convenience cookery, many convenience cookbooks freak me out with their dependency on super-processed ingredients. I was pleased to see that most of the convenience ingredients called for in Almost Homemade are items I already buy -- prepared polenta, pasta and pesto sauces, cooked shrimp, packaged rice blends, etc -- or are easily substituted with homemade ingredients -- leftover cooked chicken for ready-to-use cooked seasoned chicken bits, etc -- so was happy to give this cookbook a whirl.

I've made four recipes from Almost Homemade and was mostly pleased with them:

Gnocchi Chicken Skillet

Fast Gnocchi

(I substituted ground turkey for ground chicken and added in some finely chopped zucchini)

Asparagus Beef Lo Mein

Asparagus Beef Lo Mein

(Next time, I would add mushrooms and onion)

Fiesta Chicken Chowder

Fiesta Chicken Chowder

(Next time I would just stir in quick-cooking barley instead of using instant brown rice as I'm just not keen on instant rice)

Penne Chicken With Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Creamy Penne Chicken

(My favorite recipe of the bunch! Blogged 25 Feb)

The recipes are pretty simple and straight forward -- a good thing if you've worked a long day and are too darn frazzled for fiddliness. While many of the recipes don't say it,  dishes like "Penne Chicken With Sun-Dried Tomatoes" can be assembled in advance and refrigerated until you are ready to cook them.