Monday, December 28, 2009

Parmesan Chicken a la The Barefoot Contessa

In the days that follow the Christmas feast, after rolling from party to party sampling everything that is rich, and luxurious, the dinner I am in search for is something light.  I am still rebelling against the need to diet after packing on the holiday pounds, but my system is yearning for something that is refreshing and new.  Doing away with recipes that may call for leftovers, I turned to my goddess, the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten).  In her Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook, I found her Parmesan Chicken (printable recipe).
Although this recipe calls for the chicken to be fried in butter, I chose to fry the breasts in a mixture of olive oil and butter, and I fried them until they were lightly golden on each side.  The cooking process continued in the oven set at 360F for 20 more minutes.  Served with banana squash roasted with brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter, and a side of steamed asparagus spears, this was a light, satisfying meal.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dinner with Friends at 82 Queen

Yesterday, I actually ventured out beyond the two-block perimeter that I had set for myself and joined my new friends for dinner at 82 Queen.  Located on King and Queen street in the very snazzy end of Charleston, it's a beautiful restaurant with a courtyard tucked away, off the street.  The weather was gorgeous, warm with a light breeze, so the hostess guided us outdoors.  We stepped into a courtyard with white wrought iron furniture, a brick floor, creeping ivy and a sprinkling of fairly lights and poinsetta flowers, everywhere.  It was just magical.

Our server explained the basics of the menu and the night's specials, simple, great low country ingredients that were turned into such mouthwatering dishes.  Since we were looking for variety, we decided to order off the appetizer menu...this would also allow us to have dessert, and not push us off the scales.  I chose a bowl of the She-Crab Soup with Sherry, Scallops with a Bacon Risotto and Pepper Coulis, and ofcourse, Creme Brulee.  However, to start us on the right path, our server brought over a basket of cheddar and garlic biscuits, fresh out of the oven - served with a honey butter, this was a nice start to our meal.  Served steaming hot, it a large bowl, the She-Crab soup was epicurean delight.  It was lighter than other ones I have had, and did contain the roe whose flavor was brought out by the sherry.  My scallop dish was indicative of the treasures that the Charlestonian shore has to offer.  The scallops were perfectly seared, succulent, and flavorful...more than anything, they were fresh!  Two large scallops sat on a bed of bacon risotto and the plate was drizzled with a red pepper coulis.  To sweeten an already perfect meal was the creme brulee - the custard was light and the glassy sugar topping was just burned enough.  Served with strawberries and homemade whipped cream, it was a great finale to a magical night with friends.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Caviar and Bananas and Sparkling Christmas Trees

Yesterday, it rained in Charleston.  It was the end of my first training session, so class let out early; however, being new in the city, and not wanting to wander in the rain, I retraced my steps from the day before, through streets I was familiar with.  On my wanderings the night before, I came upon Caviar and Banans, it looked like a great place for gourment take-away, so I walked over and took a better look. 

 The food counter at Caviar and Bananas

Located at 51 George Street, Caviar and Bananas boasts a modern interior, an eclectic menu of organic food, a coffee and dessert bar, a great selection of wine and cheese, and flavor aides for both the amateur and professional cook. The staff are very friendly and very helpful and when I asked if I could take pictures for my blog, they were very accomodating.  Everything on their menu looked delectable, so choosing dinner was a quite a task.  I finally settled on two (thick) medallions of spice-rubbed seared beef tenderloin, grilled asparagus, braised collard greens, and a large crab cake...the walk and the cold left me famished!

The tenderloin was cooked to perfection - pink, soft, and moist in the middle, with a seared, spicy crust.  Grilled asparagus is not something too difficult to cook, but these spears were flavored and grilled just right.  Since collared greens are my new favorite vegetable I have discovered that there is more than one way to cook them - these were cooked with tasso ham.  My last item of choice was the crab cake.  Made with fresh lump crab meat, this one was a bit different because the crab was not entirely shredded.  I tasted a hint of wasabi which made this crab cake one for my books.

A rack full of goodies...spices, sauces, pasta, dips, herbs 
Food her in Charleston is relatively cheap.  My dinner at Caviar and Bananas cost me under $15 which makes it a great place for the population that it serves - college students. 
What a great selection of cheeses from around the world

After perusing the shelves and sampling some cheese, I had to leave, or else I would have sat there and eaten until I couldn't move.  What a super little find!  After my dinner adventure, I was off to the Francis Marion Park to see the sparkling Christmas Trees.

Christmas wonderland at the Francis Marion Park

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Getting My Bearings and Revisiting the Swamp Fox

St. Matthew's Lutheran Church on King Street (taken on my morning walk, as the sun is rising)
Yesterday, was a bit of a difficult day.  The training was great - long, but great, but more than that, I was feeling the effects of a sleepless night and terribly missing Brad and Maya.  After my training, I got back to the hotel and decided to go out and get some fresh air.  Located on King Street, the Francis Marion Hotel is right next to Charleston College; it is a great, safe spot surrounded by churches, student housing, great restaurants, the Francis Marion Park, and great little shops.  The city of Charleston is decorated for Christmas with poinsettas in every shop, twinkling lights and tinsel, and the mood is further set by the sound of Christmas music floating through the night air.

The lobby at the Francis Marion Hotel

I walked a few blocks to the nearby CVS and stocked up on my girlie supplies (face masks, special shampoo, and of course, a cheap bottle of Arbor Mist).  On my travels, I stumbled upon Caviar and Bananas, a great little gourmet store.  Besides having a great menu with organic gourmet fare, and a great selection of wine, they also have every foodies dream of bottled marinades, spices, sauces, and recipe books.  Along King Street, I also came upon another gem called Handmade.  From the outside, it looked like a very high end jewelry store, but when I stepped inside, the welcoming southern tone of the shop assistant and the price tags brought me to realize that I had found a little bit of shopping heaven.  Hammered gold, sterling silver, turquoise, and beaded jewelry grace the shelves, were calling out my name and tempting me to buy, and buy lots.

Saw this guy on my walk last night...couldn't resist.

Whether or not I did remains to be told... The fresh air did me good, but I was still exhausted.  Dinner was on my agenda, but traveling alone keeps me from wanting to sit in a restaurant, especially, when I all I want to do is curl up in my freshly turned down king sized bed.  I have promised to live on local fare while I am here and that usually means seafood.  The Swamp Fox was my restaurant of choice.  Quiet, in the Francis Marion's Lobby, and with a good track record on its seafood, I decided on a quiet corner  ordered the dinner special - a pecan crusted catfish with two sides, collared greens and southern-cooked vegetables.  Dinner was absolutely delicious - the fish was soft, flaky and fully marinated and the crust was crispy.

I am now, officially, addicted to collared greens, especially the ones from the Swamp Fox that are cooked with bacon.  The chef was true to his word - he promised me comfort food and he delivered.  Suffice to say, I had a restful nigt.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Determined Cook Visits Charleston

Mirrored view of my hotel room in the heart of Charleston.

The Determined Cook will not be cooking in her kitchen this week. In fact, she will not be cooking at all. I am in Charleston, South Carolina, working, missing my family, but also looking forward to the culinary adventure that awaits me. I will blog my travels this week, as all my meals will be cooked by someone else. My goal is to survey the locals, and find the hidden treasures that make Charleston the food gem that it is.

It is 11:20 p.m. I just got off the plane and made my way to Charleston proper, after getting lost in some gorgeous, Christmas fairyland suburb. As you can see, my professionally made bed awaits me, and only me tonight...I missed storytime with Maya, hugs with Brad, but am looking forward to myself.

Hotel couch, southern opulence at it's best.

Making sure that I don't get left out of the pictures.

Aaaahh!  Much better...G'nite world.

Friday, December 4, 2009

No Fuss Pulled Pork and Coleslaw Thursday Dinner

Pulled pork is a dish that I have always wanted to make, but just never got down to it.  Not having much time to watch it cook, I decided to use my trusty crock pot.  Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is the way that it is listed on the internet, and most of them call for a bottle of one's favorite BBQ sauce poured over a shoulder of pork and just left alone.  Well, I poked through my pantry and found another packet of McCormick's Slow Cookers BBQ Pulled Pork packet of spices.  I buy packets of spices when they are on sale so that I can used them during the week to jazz up my dishes.  This packet of spices requires a 1/2 cup of ketcup, a 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar.  Mixing the ingredients together, I carefully painted the shoulder of pork with the marinade and left it to marinate (in the fridge) overnight.  On Thursday morning, the pork went into the crock pot (low for 8 hours) and I went to work.  
On the way home, I picked up some hot rolls from Jon's market and a head of cabbage.  Grammy Betty was kind enough to make her coleslaw.  I don't have a recipe for this, but as soon as I do, I will post it; however, I saw her add evaporated milk, apple cider vinegar, and a bit of pepper.  Dinner was tasty, quick, and comforting - what I look for on a Thursday night.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Roasted Striped Bass

Image from
In addition to our delicious Thanksgiving turkey, our table was graced with the fruits of the sea, a dish of Roasted Sea Bass (see printable recipe).  I knew that I wanted to make a stuffed fish-dish that used ingredients that were citrusy, light, and delicious.  Not being the best fish buyer, I set my parents to the task of buying the fish.  For those of you who live in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles), the 99 Ranch Market (Sepulveda and Victory) is a little bit of food heaven.  Although mainly an Asian market, the produce, fish, meat, sauce, sweets, and dairy selection can greatly benefit any recipe.  My parents decided on striped bass, a fish that I had seen in various recipes, but never cooked.  The folks at the 99 Ranch Market are kind enough to take care of all the icky tasks related to cooking with fish.  They scaled, gutted, and washed each fish until they were ready to cook. 
The day before Thanksgiving, I salted the fish and rubbed them with oilve oil.  Then I stuffed them with my marinade and thick slices of lemon.  I poured the leftover marinade over the fish, sealed the dish and marinated it overnight.  On Thanksgiving Day, after the turkey was done, the fish were removed from the fresh and brought up to room temperature.  I baked them for one hour at 350 degrees F (covered for a half hour and uncovered for another half hour).  It was a great addition to our table and by the end of the meal, all that was left was a few bones...not a bad compliment to the cook.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Easy Peasy Weeknight Beef Stew

The past few nights have been rather chilly, so I decided that Beef Stew (click for printable recipe) would be a great choice for dinner tonight. With limited prep time, I opted for a little help from my "friends". (McCormicks makes a great beef stew seasoning packet, leftover chopped onions and celery from Thanksgiving, canned beef stock, and Charles Shaw Cabernet SauvignonThe method is time friendly and can be done as you are getting ready for work. Sautee the beef in hot oil then remove from the pan.  In the beef sauce, sautee the onions, celery, and a bit of crushed garlic.  Once that is nice and golden, remove from the pot, and deglaze with the red wine.  Once a sauce has been created add ingredients, with the remaining half packet of spice and beef broth back into the pot, and cook for a bit.  Transfer all ingredients into a waiting (heated) crock pot.  Set to low and cook for 8 hours.  When you get home, the aroma of a home cooked stew wafts through the house.  I served this with bread rolls.  Make lots because it tastes better in days that follow.


    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    My First,SUCCESSFUL, Roasted Turkey

    Thanksgiving turkey has to be the centerpiece, so having the pressure of being a first-time Thanksgiving hostess, the added pressure of the turkey coming out perfect make me super nervous.  My neighborhood Ralphs was where I was able to be "guaranteed" a fresh turkey (I think that I asked the butcher to bet his life that I would have a fresh bird the day before Thanksgiving).  My Dad was nice enough to come over the night before and help me inject the bird with a great salt marinade.  I am obsessed with marinating, so why would I not marinate a 23 lb bird.  On Thursday morning, I was up at 3:00 a.m. because I had read that the turkey had to come up to room temperature to assure that it roasted well.  Then, I was up at 6:00 a.m. and the race was on - rub the turkey, stuff the turkey, make sure the wings are foiled, tent the turkey, have all basting tools ready, set the temperature, and start...oh yes, and put turkey in the oven!  Mr. Turkey absorbed all the marinade and herb rub and stuffing flavors, and was juicy, flavorful, and minimal of leftovers.  Here's the recipe...enjoy.

    Mediterranean Roasted Turkey (printable recipe)

    Friday, November 27, 2009


    My husband and I hosted Thanksgiving this year - a late lunch for thirty of our family and closest friends.  We decided upon a potluck so that we could experience the many specialties that our guests are known for.  Brad and I made the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, roasted striped bass and appetizers.    Both our families together create the United Nations and as a result, our dinner table was laden with a variety of dishes.  Since this was the first time we had hosted Thanksgiving Dinner, we were pretty nervous.  However, everything turned out well...we have a lot to be thankful for.  .

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    Persimmon Pudding Cake - Not!

    Photo from Wairere Online.
    My colleague at work was kind enough to share the ripe persimmons from her tree.  Not liking the fruit itself, but loving persimmon bread and persimmon pudding, I decided to make a persimmon cake.  There is a nice recipe that I found at that sounded delicious.  Getting the pulp out of the persimmons was pretty easy.  I strained the fruit through fine-meshed strainer and what came out was a beautiful, orange-gold pulp.  Here's the recipe.

    2 cups of persimmon pulp
    4 eggs
    ½ cup butter, melted
    ¾ cups milk
    1 tsp vanilla
    1½ cups flour
    ½ cup sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    ½ teaspoon nutmeg
    1 teaspoon ginger
    1 teaspoon allspice

     Preheat  oven to 400° F. In a large bowl, mix the persimmon pulp, eggs, butter, milk and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, sugar baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a third at a time.  Bake in a buttered glass pan at 400°F until done (about 50 minutes).

    However, after about 30 minutes of baking, I realized that I had forgotten to add the baking soda and the baking powder.  The cake rose in the oven, and when I inserted the knife into its center, it came out dry.  I let it cool for about a half hour and found the courage to cut into it.  It sliced up like a pie.  It did not sink, and it tasted pretty darn good!

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Roasted Chicken Breasts Marinated in a Green Tomato and Jalapeno Jam

    Photo from the Closet Cooking Blog.
    After scouring the produce section in various local markets, for the last few weeks, I finally found green tomatoes at my local Jon's market.  So I grabbed a couple of pounds and the necessary ingredients to make Kevin Lynch's (Closet Cooking) Green Tomato and Jalapeno Jam.  The hardest part for me was peeling the tomatoes, but the rest of the recipe (see below) was rather easy to follow.

    I bathed two large, butterflied, chicken breasts in the tomato and jalapeno jam and marinated them for 24 hours.  Then I baked the chicken in a casserole dish at 350F for an hour.  The jam liquified and created a great sauce.  Served with buttered brussel sprouts, this made for a great week-night dinner.  Enjoy!

    Green Tomato and Jalapeno Jam

    (makes 3 cups of jam)
    Printable Recipe

    4 jalapenos (sliced)
    1/2 cup herbs such as mint and cilantro (chopped)
    4 cloves garlic (chopped)
    1 inch piece ginger (chopped)
    1/2 cup cider vinegar
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 pound green tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
    3 cups sugar

    1. Puree the jalapenos, herbs, garlic, ginger vinegar and soy sauce in a food processor.
    2. Place the mixture into a sauce pan and add the tomatoes and sugar.
    3. Bring to a boil and simmer until it thickens, about 45 minutes.

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Grazing on Luxurious Tidbits - Lunch at Work

    Although leftovers are my absolute favorite for lunch, there are times when the dinner was so good that there are no leftovers.  There are many a time when I have resorted to sitting at my desk for lunch, but in recent days, I have forced myself to get up and just take a break. This week, my lunch bag  (heavily labeled and stored in the deepest recesses of our office fridge) is laden with goodies like pate soaked in port wine, melba toats, slivers of havarti cheese, a red pepper, snap peas, carrots, hummus, pita bread, salami, dehydrated papaya, and blackberry juice. With these ingredients, I am able to create a lunch that carries me out of the office and onto a sprawling green meadow where butterflies flit about, daffodils bloom, birds sing, and there are no signs of work.

    Yesterday, I dug into my lunch box and came up with the following lunch. I started out with carrots and snap peas dipped in a garlicky hummus, then was onto a second course of a grilled pita sandwich with salami and havarti.  For dessert, I feasted on dehydrated papaya.
    Who says a work lunch has to be boring.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Lunch From Around the World

    Yesterday was Veterans' Day, and I had the day off from school - what better reason than to host an intimate lunch with family. All guests were asked to bring a dish that was from a different country. I chose Spain and decided upon a couple of easy-to-make items. I started out with Elle's Chevre dip ( which has now become a request at every party of mine. Adding to the appetizer menu, I tore a page out of Nuria's blog ( and deconstructed her Aphrodisiac salad into an appetizer. My contribution to the main course menu was a potato and spinach fritata loaded with good flavor from sundried tomatoes and Serrano ham.  Here are the recipes...enjoy!

    Deconstructed Aphrodisiac Salad
    Potato Discs

    4 large russet potatoes
    1/4 lb Serrano Ham
    Olive oil
    Salt and Pepper to taste

    Accompanying Salsa
    1 avocado
    1 large red onion
    2 tomatoes on the vine
    3 tbsp good olive oil
    Juice of one lemon
    Salt and Pepper to taste

    Slice the potatoes into one inch discs and boil in salted water until medium tender.  Remove from boiling water and place on a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with good olive oil, salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes (turning them halfway).  Serve on a large platter, golden side up.  Place a generous piece of Serrano ham on each piece, then drizzle again with olive oil.  Serve with a mixture of tomatoes, red onion, avocado and mint that has marinated in olive oil and lemon juice.

    Spinach and Potato Frittata
    1 bag fresh baby spinach
    1 large russet potato 
    1 large yellow onion
    5 strips of bacon

    3 cloves of garlic

    10 large eggs
    2 tbsp sundried tomatoes
    Chevre goat cheese

    2 tbsp cream
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Peel and dice the potato and pop it into the microwave with a bit of water (covered) for 4 minutes.  In a oven-safe sautee pan, fry the bacon until medium-crisp.  To the renderings, add the onion and garlic and sautee until golden.  Next, add the cooked potatoes, stirring as they cook to ensure golden deliciousness on all sides. Add the spinach to the mix and cook until wilted (lower the fire if necessary) and then add the sundried tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Once all ingredients have been combined on the sautee pan, spread them around to cover the pan and add dollops of goat cheese and turn the fire off.

    In a separate bowl, beat the 10 eggs and incorporate the cream.  Season with pepper (no salt...makes the eggs runny and there is enough salt in the sauteed mixture).  Pour over sauteed ingredients and turn the stove on to medium, until eggs seem to set.  Finish the dish off by putting it in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.

    I served this with Harry and David's red onion and pepper reslish.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    My Hubby's Favorite Dish

    Teriyaki chicken is my husband's favorite dish.  He is perfectly happy with chicken breast marinated in a bottled teriyaki sauce, but when he tried this new concoction of mine, not only did he go for seconds, but there wasn't a crumb left on his plate.

    The sauce was based on the Honey Ginger Chicken Breast found on my new favorite blog For the Love of Cooking (  I decided to cube my chicken breasts and so that it would go well with my side of sticky rice and steamed peas.  Matched with a dry champagne (we weren't celebrating anything in particular, just that it was a Sunday), this dish hit the spot!

    Chicken Marinade (enough for two large chicken breasts)
    3 tbsp soy sauce
    2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    1 tsp sesame oil
    1/2 tsp chili paste
    1/4 cup honey
    1 tsp apple cider vinegar
    1/2 tsp crushed ginger
    1 tsp crushed garlic
    1/4 tsp ground black pepper
    1 tbsp orange juice

    Mix all the ingredients and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Pour over chicken cubes, mix, seal and marinate for at least three hours.  Remove chicken cubes from the marinade and sautee in hot peanut oil until browned.  Add marinade with 4 tbsp of chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, lower the fire to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Maya's 2nd Birthday

    Maya's 2nd Birthday Party was on Saturday.  We had lots of family and friends over, and that means lots of food.  Having worked all week, the menu had to be something super simple, with minimal prep time.  The menu combined both Maya's Indian and Caucasian heritage.  There was Chicken Curry with Potatoes, Lentil and Spinach Curry, Shepherd's Pie, and Betty's Famous Green Salad.  I served appetizers beforehand using Elle's New England Kitchen's ( recipe for her Chevre and Dried Fruit Spread.  The table was bare and after opening presents, everyone was ready for birthday cake and Auntie M's marshmallow salad.  Happy 2nd Birthday Maya Rosie!

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Super-Duper Meatloaf

    Why super-duper?  Well, because my husband finished what was on his plate and because my Mum-in-Law took two helpings.  You see, she is the Meatloaf Queen.  A good meatloaf to me has been almost unnattainable - too dry, too soupy, doesn't stand on it's own...just to name a few of the comments I have received.  So, I decided to go to the source, and "barely" added my personal touch to this one. Here's the recipe.

    1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
    1 green bell pepper (chopped into tiny pieces)
    1 white onion (pureed)
    2 tsp crushed garlic
    1 pkt. Lipton Onion Soup Mix
    Juice of 1 lemon
    4 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce (save 1 tbsp for later)
    1 egg
    3 handfuls of Quaker rolled oats
    1 8oz can tomato puree
    1 8oz can of tomato sauce
    1 tsp dijon mustard

    Combine all ingredients except for the tomato sauce, 1tbsp Worcestershire Sauce, dijon mustard, egg, and oats.  Let the mixture marinate for a couple of hours.  Set oven to 360 degrees.  Combine oats and egg into the ground beef mixture.  Place into a casserole dish and mold into a loaf shape (keep away from sides of dish).  Mix the tomato sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, and dijon mustard, and pour over the meat loaf.  Bake for 1 hour.

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Monday Night Comfort Food

    Monday nights are usually busy as we try to clean up our "weekend mess".  Who likes to stay home on the weekends and clean house...that's what Monday nights are for. Without much time to cook an elaborate meal, I usually resort to the comfort of pot roast and mash.  My trusty recipe for pot roast is fool proof.  To feed about 5 people (with delicious leftovers) all you need is 2 1/2 lbs of  top round, 1 1/2 packets of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, 1 1/2 tbsp of good olive oil, and a crock pot. Mix the soup mix with the olive oil and rub it into the meat.  Marinate for 24 hours. Then comes the even-easier part.  Plot the marinated roast into a crockpot that has been pre-heating on the highest setting.  Add about 3tbsp of water to the crockpot.  Cover and reduce the cooking heat to medium.  The roast will be tender and tasty after about 6 hours.
    Combined with decadent (cream and garlic) mashed potatoes, this is the perfect comfort food!

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Roasted Curried Chicken Breasts with Roasted Fennel

    Over the weekend, I thought that I would prep an easy meal for Monday, that would allow me to spend some time with the fam, yet enjoy some comfort food. about a plan not quite working out.  Food was great, but the fam chose a chili bowl instead.  Here's my recipe anyway.

    Roasted Curried Chicken Breasts (the key to this is the simple marinade)
    2 large chicken breasts cut into three inch pieces
    3 tbsp Patak's curry paste
    Rice vinegar (to make the paste a bit liquidy)
    1 tsp salt

    Marinate for 24 hours.  Heat a large pan, and add some corn oil and fry the chicken pieces until they are golden brown.  Place in an oven-proof dish.  De-glaze the pan with 1/4 cup of chicken broth and use as basting liquid (or you could make a sauce by adding cream).  Bake at 360 degrees for 40 minutes.  Easy, peezy!

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Weekday Pork Roast Dinner for the Padres

    A good pork roast is something that I have been craving for the longest time, so over the weekend, I found a nice pork tenderloin and decided to pick it up, to be used during the week.  Searching online for ways to roast a pork tenderloin, I saw that it was a slow process which started with an oven temperature of 450 degrees and then was followed by about a hour and a half of slow roasting at 250 degrees.  That would be great on a weekend, but I needed my pork roast on a Wednesday evening. So, I defrosted the tenderloin and marinated it for 24 hours.

    Marinade (for a 2lb tenderloin)

    Patak's Curry Paste (2 tbsp)
    Apple Cider Vinegar (1/4 cup)
    Crushed Garlic (2 tsp)
    Crushed Ginger (1 tsp)
    Salt (1 tsp)
    Olive Oil (1 tbsp)
    Combine all ingredients in a bowl to make a "liquidy" marinade.  Once mixed, pour over the tenderloin and let it refrigerate for 24 hours.

    On Wednesday morning, I started my crockpot on high and put in the tenderloin for about a half hour, turn it twice.  Then I reduced it to 3 and it cooked for 6 hours.  After that it was reduced to 2 until we were ready to eat.  The meat was tender and the tenderloin just fell apart.  There was a great sauce to it that worked as a curry. 
    Then, I called the folks over and asked them to make rice and dahl...a perfect accompaniment to the pork roast.

    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Healing the Sick with Yummies in the Tummy

    On Saturday, I was on sick duty with Brad and Maya.  A good, hearty soup would have been the way to go, but instead, I decided on ingredients like chicken, yams, fennel, and red onions...all infused with fall flavors.  I went straight to my One Pot Recipes book and came upon two recipes that looked good: Chicken and Fennel, and Roasted Yams.  The chicken recipe called for tarragon, tarragon mustard, and tarragon vinegar.  Not having either ingredient in my pantry, and having no luck finding them in my local grocery, I had to improvise.  As for the yams, the dish ended up being fall in a casserole dish.  The house smelled good, the sickies were curious, and after Brad getting up for seconds, I knew that I had done good.

    Chicken and Fennel
    3 chicken breasts
    Fresh rosemary sprigs (crushed)
    Juice of 1 lemon
    Olive oil (enough to coat chicken)
    1/4 cup of white wine
    Crushed garlic (4 cloves)
    Crushed fennel seeds (1tsp)
    Chicken broth ( 2tbsp)
    Fennel (2 heads)
    Wash and dry the chicken breasts, then cut them (on the diagonal) in thick strips.  Sprinkle a bit of salt on the chicken and coat in some olive oil.   In a separate bowl combine the rosemary, lemon, white wine, garlic, and fennel seeds.  Toss marinade onto the chicken and refrigerate for about 2-3 hours.
    Once marinated, put chicken on a hot pan and fry until golden brown.  Remove chicken and deglaze pan with the chicken broth.  Chop fennel into bite sized pieces and combine with browned chicken.  Put all ingredients in an casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes at 365 degrees.

    Roasted Yams
    Red Onions
    Olive Oil
    Chop up the yams into bite sized pieces and steam them until medium-tender.  Cut red onion into wedges; soak in salt water for 15 minutes.  Once yams have steamed, combine with the red onions, sprinkle with salt, cinnamon, and pepper, to taste.  Toss with olive oil and place in an casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes at 365 degrees.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    A Treasured Find at the Ventura Flea Market

    My Mother-in-Law always finds those gifts that make one's day, and on Sunday, she did just that.  Having been sick with the flu all weekend, she brought over a paper bag of goodies that she found at the Ventura Flea Market - it was a bag of recipe books.  What a way to perk me up.  Maya and I sat on the couch and went through the bag.  There were two William Sonoma cookbooks (Pasta and Brunch).  There was one on Indian cooking (a large picture book) and then, there was...Chocolate and Zucchini  by Chlotilde Dusoulier.  Chocolate and Zucchini is a blog that I have just fallen in love with.  It is fun, adventurous, and TASTY.  Finding that book in the brown paper bag was serendipitous - I feel invigorated to cook, and am not afraid to change recipes around to suit my tastes...after all, isnt' t the fun in cooking.

    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    Getting to Know Julia Child

    Ever since I saw Julie and Julia, I have become obsessed with Julia Child (from a distance) - after all, who am I to even familiarize myself with her.  It took my having the flu to have the time to sit down and read.  I started reading Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 1. and to my dismay, the recipes are doable.  Many pages have already been dogeared, with the promise that when my strength comes back I will attempt many of the recipes.  In addition to already having made the cabbage soup, my next try will be the infamous Boeuf Bourgignon.

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Cabbage Potato Soupy Goodness-For a Non Soup Person

    Today, I came home early with the flu...baaaaaah!  I was in the mood for something that would wrap me up in the comfort of my favorite blankie, yet give me the energy to not pass out.  Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking has been sitting by my bedside table, taunting me, intimidatingly for days.  I scoured through my fridge and then looked through the book.  The recipe that seemed most appetizing was Cabbage Soup.  However, I had a craving for a melange of cabbage and potatoes, so I took here recipe and altered it a bit.
    3 strips bacon
    1/2 a head of cabbage (chopped)
    2 potatoes (small cubes)
    1 small onion
    2 cloves garlic (smashed)
    1 cup white wine
    6 cups chicken broth
    2 cups water
    I fried the bacon and chopped it into little bits.  In the bacon fat, I sauteed the onions and garlic until caramelized.  Then I added the chopped cabbage and covered it all with the bacon goodness.  Once the cabbage had wilted a bit, I added the potatoes and cup of white wine.  Mixing it as it boiled, I added the chicken broth and water, brought it to a rapid boil, covered it and let it simmer for an hour.
    Soup is not my favorite food; however, today was different.  This soup hit a home run for me, and broke the ice between me and Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Easy Chicken Dinner( (for those rush nights)

    Strolling through the meat aisle at our local Jon's market, I set my eyes upon the freshest looking drumsticks.  Never having cooked this part of the chicken before, I was determined to try something new.  When I got home, I raided my recipe archives and found a recipe that Anika had shared with us at our summer party - the one where Anika an Jason's chicken drumsticks flew off our dining table.  As always, I prepped the chicken the night before and added my own touches.
    6 chicken drumsticks (rubbed with salt)
    2tsp of Chinese Five Spice
    1tsp of Garam Massala
    Minute Maid Orangeade (enough to make a spice paste)
    Lime Juice
    1/2 tsp of crushed ginger
    1/2 tsp of crushed garlic
    I coated the drumsticks with the spice paste and stored them in a zippy bag, overnight.  For dinner the next night, I spread them on sprayed cookie sheet and put them in a 400deg preheated oven for an hour.  At the half hour mark, I took them out of the oven and basted them with a concoction of sesame oil, ponzu sauce, sweet chili sauce, and a teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice.  We served these up with steamed broccolli, carrots, and cauliflower.

    Pine Mountain Brussel Sprouts

    Over the weekend we took a trip up to Pine Mountain and stayed at a friend's cabin.  On the menu for one of our dinners was the bag of frozen brussel sprouts that I had grabbed from our freezer to ensure that we had a vegetable component to our dinner menu.  Not sure what to do with them, I put them in the steamer attachment to my handy-dandy Rival rice cooker.  The brussel sprouts steamed while my rice cooked - when they were fork-tender, I looked and them and was not sure what to do next.  Poking around in the cabin's fridge, I found bacon and butter, and then reached for my trusted seasonings-salt and pepper. I fried the bacon (semi crisp) and chopped it up,tossed the brussel sprouts and bacon in some melted butter, sprinkled salt and pepper to taste and baked at 350degrees for 20 minutes.  They came out crisp, tender, and delicious...turning my Non Brussel Sprout Spouse into a Brussel Sprout Loving Man!

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Chicken Curry to Impress Great Aunt Maggie, Family Cooking Goddess

    Mum was having a family get together and asked if I would help her out with a simple curry dish. Immediately, I zipped through my mental cookbook to find something that would use my crockpot and that I could "accessorize" with the jars and cans in my pantry. Mid-thought, I stopped dead in my tracks. At this party would be my Great Aunt Maggie - Goan cook extraordinaire. What on earth could lowly me make that would impress this Chicken curry with potatoes was the answer. Cooked the day before to allow the rich curried sauce to infuse into plump pieces of chicken breast and yukon gold potato cubes I hoped this would be one for the books.
    My chicken curry journey began with my sauteing onion slices, crushed garlic and ginger, and half a green chili with some garam masala. Once the onions had caramelized and the kitchen air was thick with the aroma of curry, I added my chicken pieces. Nudging the chicken around in the pot until it was a rich golden brown, I then added my pantry accessories, half a can of chicken broth, and a Trader Joe's Massala Simmer Sauce. The pot was filled with golden pieces of chicken swimming in a rich, red, bubbling curry. I turned my stove off, let the pot cool, and put my pot-o-curry love in the fridge for a beauty rest.
    The next morning the curry was transferred to my trusty Rival crockpot andset on the 6 hour-medium setting. Four hours into the simmering, I added cubed Yukon gold potatoes. An at the six hour mark, everything was tender, saucy, and fully cooked.
    I personally served Great Aunt Maggie with some rice and curry, and later in the lunch, noticed her go for seconds. Lowly cook now has slightly inflated ego...gots to go...more recipes to try.