31 August 2011

Swiss Chard Scramble

I had meant to make a frittata with the Swiss Chard I harvested ahead of Hurricane Irene, but was feeling lazy and did a quick scramble instead.

Swiss Chard Scramble

I took a handful of stemmed Swiss Chard leaves and cut them into thin ribbons, then I stirred them around a hot skillet with a little olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes until the leaves were wilted. Feeling daring, I then drizzled them with a bit of red wine vinegar and tossed everything around until the vinegar had evaporated. Finally, I plopped in two eggs and scrambled until the eggs were cooked. A quick grind of salt and pepper and breakfast was ready to go!

This was pretty tasty for a first attempt, but there was much more chard than egg and the vinegar was a little sharp for breakfast.  Omit the vinegar next time (but add hot sauce?) and use more egg/less chard.

28 August 2011

Hurricane Harvest Soup

I harvested everything I could from my garden before Hurricane Irene struck as I wasn't sure my garden would survive the storm. Well, it turns out I needn't have worried as my garden, while extremely waterlogged and a bit battered, is doing just fine. So now I have a whole lot of ripe or mostly ripe squash, chard, tomatoes, and tomatillos that need eating up as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this is going to be a hectic week as we prepare to go on holiday and I won't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. So ... what to do? Soup, of course!

Pre-hurricane Harvest

Chop & Dump Hurricane Harvest Soup

1 red onion, chopped small
3 garlic cloves, pressed
3 medium carrots, chopped small
3 cups small fruit tomatoes, halved if necessary

Heat a little olive oil in a French/Dutch oven. Add the above and cook until carrot is tender. Add:

4 (5.4 oz) cans low-sodium vegetable juice
2 (14.5 oz) cans turkey broth
1 (4 oz) can mushroom pieces, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can low-sodium cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
⅓ cup quick-cooking barley
1 small zucchini, sliced
10 Swiss chard leaves, cut into thin ribbons
1 Tbsp thyme
salt & pepper to taste

Simmer for about 20 minutes.
I reckon this soup made about six servings -- feeding me for most of the week.

27 August 2011

Pork & Salsa Verde

Monday, I made "Tomatillo Pork with Mushrooms" from Beth Hensperger's Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes For Two -- a recipe that's been on my "to try" list for months now. The recipe used both green enchilada sauce and salsa verde and I just so happened to finally have both ingredients in my kitchen at the same time. Granted, I had them in the wrong amounts (10 oz enchilada sauce and 16 oz salsa verde instead of 28 oz enchilada sauce and 7 oz salsa verde), but I figured it was close enough!

Pork & Salsa Verde

Ingredients: cubed pork loin, red onion, mushrooms, garlic, green enchilada sauce, salsa verde, black pepper, cilantro.

How was it? Okay, but not as flavorful as I'd expected. The pork seemed a little dry which I take to indicate it was overcooked. I cooked the stew for six hours on LOW as indicated in the instructions, but then it sat for another two hours on WARM while I faffed about making rice and complaining about work. Probably, it would have been better without those two hours. As for the blandness, doubling the amount of garlic and browning the vegetables with the pork might help. Or not.

26 August 2011

Chicken with Artichoke Cream Sauce

Earlier this week, I made "Chicken with Artichoke Cream Sauce" from Beth Hensperger's Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes For Two and served it over parsleyed rice. It was a very fast slow cooker dish (3 hours on HIGH) with minimal ingredients combined in a very tasty way. The recipe comes with several other variations and I look forward to trying "Chicken with Chipotle Cream Sauce" as soon as I can get my hot little hands on a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.

Chicken w/ Creamy Artichoke Sauce

Ingredients: boneless skinless chicken breast halves, low-fat refrigerated Alfredo sauce, diced canned artichoke hearts, Marsala wine, salt, pepper, dried parsley.

Just place your chicken breast halves at the bottom of your slow cooker, season with salt and pepper (might want to add some garlic powder, too). Mix the wine, alfredo sauce, and diced artichokes together. Pour over the chicken. Sprinkle with parsley. Cook 3 hours on HIGH. Serve over parsley rice or noodles.

25 August 2011

A Little Taste of Autumn

Earlier this week I modified Beth Hensperger's recipe for "Turkey Pot Roast" from her Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two. The dish came out so well with tender, savory turkey and flavorful vegetables that hadn't gone to mush even though they were in the slow cooker for nearly ten hours. I think the trick there was to leave the potatoes and carrots on top of the turkey thighs so they were out of the juices and sort-of steam/roasted in the hot, moist air.

Slow Cooked Turkey Thighs & Vegetables

Ingredients: skinned & well trimmed turkey thighs, thyme, basil, dehydrated onion, turkey broth, salt, black pepper.

The Hensperger's recipe said to brown the turkey thighs well before adding them to the slow cooker, but at 8 am, I was not up to browning anything. Also, I worried that the crisped skin would just go soggy and gross after a few hours in the slow cooker. Therefore, I removed the skin from my turkey thighs, trimmed all the fat I could see and laid them at the bottom of my greased slow cooker insert. I seasoned them and sprinkled them with a  handful of crushed dehydrated onion slices. Then I poured a cup of turkey broth over them, arranged the chopped carrots and potatoes around the edge of the cooker, and let everything cook for nine hours on LOW.  They then sat for about an hour on WARM while I faffed reading the mail and, eventually, made gravy.

This was a tremendously easy and delicious supper and I look forward to making it again when I manage to buy more thighs. I have a hard time finding turkey thighs in my area and this recipe used the last pack in our freezer.

22 August 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 22 August

Decided it might be a good idea to trot out my slow cooker and plan some meals that will be ready to eat when I come home from work as a lot of last week's not-sticking-to-plan had to do with the deep, wretched bone weariness that would set in a soon as I left work. By the time I got home and opened the fridge I was just too tired and apathetic to cook any of the things I had planned. This week, if I can just get my slow cooker prepped before work, then it won't matter how tired I am when I come home!

All the slow cooker recipes I'm using are from Beth Hensperger's Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes For Two which is one of my favorite slow cooker cookbooks.

"Tomatillo Pork with Mushrooms" over parsleyed rice. Ingredients: cubed pork loin, red onion, mushrooms, garlic, green enchilada sauce, salsa verde, black pepper, cilantro.

"Black Bean Soup with Sausage and Greens" with grapes, whole grain crackers, and low fat Greek yoghurt. Ingredients: cooked chicken sausages, garden chard, low-sodium chicken broth, fat-free refried black beans, low-sodium black beans.

"Turkey Pot Roast" with sauteed Swiss chard. Ingredients: turkey thighs, red onion, garden basil, garden thyme, low-sodium turkey broth, white potatoes, carrots, black pepper.

Barley-vegetable soup with cantaloupe, whole grain crackers, and low fat Greek yoghurt.

Tuna burgers with oven-roasted corn on the cob.

"Chicken with Artichoke Cream Sauce" over brown rice with green beans. Ingredients: Boneless chicken breasts, black pepper, low-fat Alfredo sauce, Marsala wine, chopped drained canned artichoke hearts.

21 August 2011

Tasty Chard & Bean Soup

For work this week, I made a black bean, Swiss chard, and sausage soup based on Beth Hensperger's recipe for "Black Bean Soup with Sausage and Greens" from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two. Hot soup in August may sound crazy to you, but my work's staff room is so cold in the summer that hot soup is just the ticket!

Soup Time

Ingredients: precooked organic spicy chicken sausage, Swiss chard from my garden, low-sodium organic chicken broth, organic fat-free refried black beans, red onion, garlic, low-sodium organic black beans.

To make this soup, I heated the sliced sausage with red onion and garlic until the sausage was a lovely brown and the onion was translucent. Then I dumped the chopped chard into the pan with the sausage and gave everything a good stir 'round until the chard started to wilt. Hensperger's recipe said to discard the stems and use only the leaves, but I used the stems and leaves -- just chopped the stems very finely as if I was chopping celery for tuna salad.

Once the chard was wilted, I dumped the broth, refried beans, and chard-sausage mixture into my slow cooker and cooked everything on HIGH for 2½ hours. At the end, I decided the soup was too thin and stirred in a can of mashed up black beans and let everything sit at WARM for thirty minutes or so. This helped somewhat, but I still feel the soup was not thick enough. Especially as Hensperger's recipe indicated this soup would come out so thick that I might want to thin it with a little boiling water!

Still, this soup turned out really quite tasty and I recommend you give it a try.

20 August 2011

Cookery Catch-Up or "Not Quite My Menu Plan"

I did cook this week -- just not anything from my menu plan! I know, I know. What is the point of drawing up a plan if I do not follow it? It makes me feel organized even if I am not?

Wednesday, I made pasta sauce from ground bison, mushrooms, garden tomatoes, red onion, garlic, garden parsley, and a jar of Stonewall Kitchen's Garden Vegetable Sauce. Served it over whole grain penne and called it good. And it was!

Bison & Penne

Friday, I marinated and grilled a rather nice beef steak and served it with a packet of butter and herb noodles and garlicky sauteed chard. (To make the chard, I removed the stems, sliced the leaves into thick ribbons, and sauteed them in a hot pan with olive oil, butter, garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes until wilted).

Friday Night Steak & Chard

I guess I used many of the ingredients I'd intended to use in my menu plan -- just not in the way I had planned!

15 August 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 14 August

Let's see ... two weeks of Taste of Hartford plus three days of Twelfth Anniversary Extravaganza equals ... a me that is actually pretty tired of eating out! Shocking, I know, but true. I just want to eat unfancy, homemade things for a while and catch up with some of the vegetable beds that went feral while I neglected them for other people's cooking!

Finishing off our Twelfth Anniversary Extravaganza with supper at Texas Roadhouse. (Ever since we ate there in early spring, The Husband keeps oh-so-casually coming up with reasons to go back to Manchester!)

Lentil soup with whole grain crackers, low fat cheese, and low fat Greek yoghurt.

Grilled marinated steak with Taste of Home's "Rigatoni Chard Toss." Ingredients: organic beef steak, red wine marinade, Swiss chard (from my garden!), whole grain penne, red onion, garlic, olive oil, low-sodium cannellini beans, garden tomatoes, garden basil, red pepper flakes, fennel seed, black pepper, Parmesan.

Leftover pasta with black bean soup and low fat Greek yoghurt.

Grilled tuna steaks with garlicky green beans and parsley rice. Ingredients: wild caught tuna steaks (from freezer), salt-free lemon pepper rub, organic green beans, crushed garlic, olive oil, black pepper, low-sodium vegetable broth, parsley, medium-grain rice.

Belated anniversary luncheon with my parents at Go Fish (always avoided it because it's a tourist spot, but what are we now if not tourists?).

Pillsbury's "Zucchini 'n Hamburger Casserole." Ingredients: medium-grain rice, lean ground organic turkey, red onion, garden zucchini, Muir Glen no-salt-added diced tomatoes, tomato basil soup, shredded low fat organic mozzarella, low-sodium vegetable broth. (Made this in July and it is so very worth repeating!)

13 August 2011

Squash Season: Swiss Chard Bean Soup

Despite this week's to-ing and fro-ing I did manage to do a little cooking. Namely, I made soup. And such soup! I made a pot of Taste of Home's "Swiss Chard Bean Soup" with Swiss chard, crookneck squash, and herbs from my garden and it was delicious -- light, yet flavorful and filling, and so easy.

Swiss Chard Vegetable Soup

Ingredients: one pint diced cherry tomatoes (instead of drained canned diced), Swiss chard, zucchini, crookneck squash, carrots, red onion, garlic, organic low-sodium vegetable broth (instead of chicken), low-sodium cannellini beans, quick-cooking pearl barley (to thicken), fresh thyme, fresh oregano, salt, fresh ground black pepper.

Since I was using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, I cooked the tomatoes with the zucchini, crookneck squash, and onion then prepared the rest of the soup as directed and the whole thing was still ready to eat in less than thirty minutes!  While I wasn't planning on eating it the same day I made it, it was still really nice to have made a big pot of soup in a jiffy. I portioned the soup out into one-cup containers and took it to work (or ate it for breakfast) all week.  Wasn't the least bit sick of it by Friday!

While I did think the soup was a little both-y, I just threw a handful of quick-cooking barley in with the beans and it thickened up quite nicely. Next time, I might just doubled up on the beans and give half of them a bit of a mash before adding them to the pot. I might also try substituting low-sodium vegetable juice for half of the broth.

Would I make this soup again? Of course! And probably sooner rather than later as the garden is going mad producing squash and chard.

07 August 2011

A Mix A Week: Stonewall Kitchen Vanilla Sandwich Cookies

I let The Husband pick this week's mix for my Mix A Week Challenge and, surprisingly, he went with Stonewall Kitchen's Vanilla Sandwich Cookie mix. Given his great appreciation of last week's red velvet whoopie pies, I thought for sure he'd pick a box of Stonewall Kitchen's Peppermint Whoopie Pie mix, but no, he wanted cookies.

And it was a good choice! This mix made some pretty great cookies -- but then when wouldn't sugar cookies sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream frosting taste good?

My cookies came out more domed than I would have liked, but that was probably because I mashed the dough scoops down to gingerly. The instructions said to press them down gently, and next time (with the chocolate sandwich cookie mix) I will just go all "Hulk smash!" on their doughy little heads to get later cookies.

Vanilla Sandwich Cookie Mix

Vanilla Sandwich Cookies

The mix says it makes twenty sandwich cookies, but I only managed to get fifteen out of it and The Husband has already nommed up three. I guess I will need to hide a few, if I want a share!

Five mixes down, twelve to go!

03 August 2011

Squash Season: Easy Squash Sauté

For Sunday supper, we had Trader Joe's Cabernet Beef Pot Roast with rice, gravy, and sauteed shredded zucchini. The slow cooker instructions for the roast said to brown it, then put it in a slow cooker with half a cup of water, and cook it on low for ten hours or so. Being lazy, I did not brown the roast, but just plonked it in my slow cooker with half a cup of wine and a handful of crushed dehydrated onion slices and parsley. The roast came quite tasty despite the lack of browning and I'd quite happily purchase it again. (I'm not sure I'm becoming a better cook, so much as a lazier one, but what the hell).

Sunday Supper

The sautéed zucchini I served was based on a recipe from Marian Morash's Victory Garden Cookbook (Knopf, 1982) and was dead easy to make. I just shredded a small zucchini, squeezed it out in a tea towel, and then sautéed it in butter with salt, fresh ground pepper, and basil from my garden for about ten minutes. The zucchini had tender, buttery, almost creamy texture and I nommed it up. The Husband was not so keen -- too much pepper, not enough butter. Bah.

The Victory Garden Cookbook offers several possible variations on this recipe including one in which the sautéed zucchini is cooked with heavy cream and curry powder! I love creamed spinach so I'd really like to try this variation next, but I'd better plan an alternative vegetable for The Husband ...

I know what he'd say! He'd say "More whoopie pies, woman, and less zucchini!" Hmm. Zucchini walnut whoopie pies with cinnamon cream filling? Too weird?

01 August 2011

UnMenu Plan Monday, 1 August

Why is it unMenu Plan Monday? Because I don't really have a menu plan, this week. Oh, I have an eating plan, but it doesn't involve cooking unless "cooking" means "making big bowls of salad." Taste of Hartford runs August 1 through August 14 and I mean to take advantage of all the great prix fixe menus available to me. Missed last year's TOH as bringing a wheelchair into restaurants can be a big pain in the butt no matter how handicapped accessible the law (and common freakin' sense) says they ought to be! And I had enough drama and pissiness in my life at that time without adding more, thankyouverymuch.

*deep breath*

So, yes, eating out a lot and subsisting on enormous salad between times in an effort to, I don't know, pretend I have a healthy lifestyle or something.

Dish Bar & Grille (TOH menu here). Looking forward to mussels, tomato pie, and chocolate cream pie. Haven't been to Dish Bar & Grill before, but enjoyed lunch at its sister restaurant, Dish 'n Dat, a few months ago.

Enormous salad with grilled chicken, diced roasted beets, sunflower seeds, goat cheese crumbles, and light red wine vinaigrette.

Feng Asian Bistro. TOH menu isn't up yet and I've never been to Feng, but keep meaning to so this seems like the perfect time!

Another enormous salad.

Haven't made reservations anywhere yet, but thinking about trying the USS Chowderpot IV (TOH menu here) -- RI clam chowder, salad, sweet
 tilapia, and cheesecake sound pretty good to me.

Late lunch/early supper at Black-Eyed Sally's BBQ & Blues (TOH menu on main page) or Agave Grill (TOH menu here).  Leaning toward Black-Eyed Sally's as The Husband insists we've eaten at Agave before, but I think I just talked about trying the (now defunct) Southington Agave that he just thinks we've been there.