July 28, 2007

Thanksgiving in July!

Yesterday, as I bought the fixings for a turkey dinner, the Publix cashier winked at me and said "It's not important what day you eat it, it's the 'thanks' that matters." I am very thankful to have my partner back from a trip to Pittsburgh, thankful for the beautiful weather today and especially thankful I'm not a vegetarian.

The stuffing was made from a loaf of cubed wheat bread and was simple with sauteed onions and celery, tarragon, sage, salt and pepper. I stuffed the turkey - which makes it take about 15-20 minutes longer to cook, but it's worth it. Keep basting it so that the breast meat doesn't become dry during the extra cooking time. I took the turkey out of the oven when the stuffing in the cavity reached 165 degrees.

My partner made the gravy using her mother's recipe (thank you, Marilyn, it was perfect). I also made fresh green beans and sweet potatoes. I readied the turkey for the oven in minutes by rubbing some vegetable oil into it with tarragon, sage, salt and pepper. I also tented it with foil for all but the last 1/4 of cooking time.

You might notice that it's almost 9 pm, and we had this meal at around 3 pm. After eating, we lapsed into a tryptophan induced sleep for a few hours, only waking when Hedwig luckily decided to practice whistling- otherwise we might have slept away the entire evening. I think I hear the leftovers calling my name now, but I'll resist and look forward to turkey sandwiches for the next couple of days. I love turkey on wheat toast with avocado! I encourage you to make this special meal, no matter what time of year it is- and give a little thanks along the way...and the eggs.

July 25, 2007

Working Late (Meatloaf for One)

I was planning to have left over skirt steak, but I had ground beef that I needed to use. My sister gave me the meatloaf recipe I always use- but I didn't have the ingredients, so I really improvised on this one. It turned out flavorful and was surprisingly delicious. I had about a pound of ground beef which I put in a bowl. I mixed in an egg, breadcrumbs (made with wheat flour), a few spoonfuls of hot picante sauce, half of a chopped onion and some Texas Pete's Hot Sauce. I formed it into a loaf and cooked it at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.

During the meatloaf's last few minutes of cooking, I wrapped one leftover artichoke in plastic wrap and microwaved it on half power for 3 minutes. It was warm but didn't get overcooked. I also used the microwave to heat up the hollandaise, stirring after every 10 seconds until it was warm. This method generally does not work- it doesn't take much abuse for hollandaise to separate. Mine did, so it wasn't pretty-- but it still tasted good.

Tomorrow I will have a long day, and plan to work into the night, so I'm taking leftover meatloaf. I can make a sandwich for a late lunch (I bought whole grain hamburger buns!) and it will be hearty enough to carry me through the night, until I can get home and get to that leftover skirt steak...and the eggs.

July 24, 2007

Skirt Steak, Steamed Artichokes and Tomato Salad (for one!)

I had a couple of artichokes I kept meaning to cook, and tonight was the night. Trim the pointy leaves with kitchen shears and cut the stem to 1". Wash thoroughly. In a few inches (just enough for the artichokes to stand up) of boiling water, toss in artichokes. Cover tightly for 35 minutes. Take off heat and drain. For super easy hollandaise, place three egg yolks in a small bowl. Add a heaping teaspoon of yellow mustard and some fresh ground black pepper.

In a measuring cup, melt a stick of butter until boiling and completely melted. With a hand mixer or in a blender, blend the egg yolk and mustard and then add the boiling butter very slowly while blending. Squeeze in the juice of 1/4 a lemon and keep blending. The sauce is done when it thickens.

Marinate a skirt steak in any Italian dressing for at least 3 hours. These are really tasty grilled, but it was raining, so I used my panini press.

I made a quick cherry tomato salad by halving the tomatoes and adding olive oil, seasoned rice wine vineger, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Everything was wonderful- the artichoke was cooked perfectly, and the hollandaise was buttery and lemony. This was so good, I'll be eating the leftovers tomorrow night...and the eggs.

Cooking for One

I have only been alone for 5 hours and already feel the effects of empty nest syndrome. Is that possible? The girls have flown back to Pittsburgh. My partner accompanied them to attend a family funeral. I'll go home to Millie Mae, Kirin and Hedwig (the angry finch). The idea of peace and quiet is a nice one, but I have never needed much alone time. Just as I started to miss the sounds of text message alerts, AIM dings, MTV all day and teenage drama, a light bulb went off in my head. My theme for ...and the eggs this week will be Cooking for One. I'm going to base recipes on what I have in my fridge and on what will be good left over, tonight I'll start with what's in the fridge...and the eggs.

July 21, 2007

Bring It On!

Bring on the heat! July in Orlando, Florida? No problem! We made it despite my doubts. We even had some surprisingly delicious food. Finnegan's is located in the Universal Studio theme park, and is in the New York neighborhood. They have everything from shepherd's pie to wings and much in between. At our table alone there were bangers and mash, the aforementioned pie, corned beef sandwiches, fish and chips and beers. Everything was good, the portions were too big and it wasn't a budget breaker. Definitely a nice change of pace from the fried baskets and burgers at the other park restaurants. We did find a decent pizza for lunch- in the same neighborhood (NY- of course!).

We had a fun and exhausting few days, rode very scary roller coasters over at Islands of Adventure (congratulations to Emilie- you go girl!) and walked at least 50 miles, or so it seems. I wasn't too worried about watching what I was eating because I was sure I'd walked every bit of it off. It was hot and humid as was expected, but we made the most out of our time. My main recommendation for a trip to either of the Universal parks is to buy the Express passes. They are worth their weight in gold. As an alternative, pay the extra 50 bucks per night to stay in one of the hotels on the Universal property, and you can use your room key as an Express Pass. Considering they are $40 apiece on top of the price of admission, it's truly worth the price of the hotel.

Home safe and sound (and barely able to walk) tonight we're making our own pizzas. Looking forward to one more day of rest before returning to work...and the eggs.

July 18, 2007

Have You Seen This Woman?

It's my mother! If you see her today, wish her a happy birthday. My mom was the best baker I had ever known until I met my mother-in-law, Marilyn. It's a tie, but both have their specialties. My mom makes the most incredible white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies with dried cranberries. She also buys special chocolate and makes these brownies that words can't even describe, not to mention her snickerdoodles. I used to sneak her cream cheese brownies out of our basement freezer and eat them- they were delicious frozen solid! Marilyn makes ginger spice cookies which are out of this world, ladylocks to die for and tassies that you can't stop eating. Why am I doing this to myself? I was only trying to say Happy Birthday, Mom!

We are off to Orlando for a few days. We will have some food stories upon our return. While I'm out, if you have a chance to tell me about your favorite meal ever, see the July 14th post A Face Only A Mother Could Love. Be back next week...and the eggs!

July 15, 2007

Homestead, Florida. Sunday morning at the market. Only a few miles from our house-- we go monthly to buy produce and eat authentic Mexican food. There are many different sized restaurants scattered throughout, most with tables and chairs- all outdoors.

We walked around, looked at t-shirts and cowboy hats and then got down to business.

Beautiful, ripe produce- more variety than you will find at any local grocery store, and you can't beat the prices. I bought 2 eggplants, bags of poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers, three varieties of dried peppers and a cauliflower and it all cost under $6. We finished shopping just in time for lunch!

We ate at the spot pictured below, which was essentially a glorified lunch truck under a large tent with plastic tables and chairs underneath. On one side of the truck was the kitchen, and on the other side, women stood with huge bowls of dough, presses and a griddle making everything from corn taco shells to tostadas.

After we ordered, our waitress brought us a tray of garnishes and a bottle of hot sauce.

Our food came, and we dug in! We had pork tacos, a taco salad, enchiladas, chicken gorditas and a cheese quesadilla.

To say today was extremely hot would be an understatement, and our 15 year old guests weren't as enthusiastic about the experience as they would have been about South Beach or CocoWalk, but they were troopers (I'm just being nice, I had to remind them that they are young and resilient and finally had to tell one of them to "suck it up", they might never see anything like this again). At least I hope they were enriched by this unique cultural experience. I kept reminding them that we are going to Universal Studios in Orlando at the end of next week, and that it will be just as hot there so this is good practice!

Well, I scored with the produce and am planning to make stuffed poblano and jalapeno peppers tonight. I'll be the first to admit that I, too, was looking forward to coming home to jump in the pool, so I'd better get going. It looks like I was the "rotten egg"...and the eggs.

July 14, 2007

A Face Only A Mother Could Love

The best meal I have ever had was at the Coconut Grove restaurant French Kiss Terrasse. It was the most perfectly cooked grouper in a slightly creamy sauce with a hint of curry. Now, I usually remember what and where I ate before I remember who I was even with, but I couldn't tell you what the side dishes were for this meal. All I remember is the melt-in-your-mouth, unbelievably flavorful, rich-but-not-too-rich taste of the grouper. I never tried to recreate that dish, but I do make a mean fried grouper.

The second best meal I have ever had was in Pittsburgh at the home of my in-laws. They made cabbage rolls, and we had fresh corn on the cob and tomatoes too. It was August, and the vegetables were in the peak of their season. At the time, I had lived in Florida without good corn or tomatoes for 2 years. That was one of those times that I ate too much- but I couldn't resist!

I'd like to hear about the best meals you have ever had, whether at home or in a restaurant. During these short periods of not cooking, I think about past meals I have loved and about new things I can make myself. Please share...and the eggs.

A Dad (again!)

My baby brother (pictured above--do you remember Silly Foam?) and his wife have a beautiful 5 year old daughter, Caroline. In four months, they'll be adding a new family member- a boy! We can hardly wait to meet him, we expect he will be at least as cute as his dad was at that age. Congratulations...and the eggs.

July 13, 2007

Painting Millie

Since learning that it is completely harmless to paint the dog with water colors, we haven't been doing much cooking. The funniest thing about this picture is that the girls really do appear to be unclothed, which was not the case! We were all in bathing suits. We have been running around so much, I haven't done any cooking since the shishies. Do you have any idea how much energy 15 year olds have once they wake up and get out of bed? I've learned about shops I never set foot in before- have you ever heard of Pac Sun or Hollister? I'll get my act together soon, but in the meantime, I thought you would all get a laugh out of our newest hobby.

Happy Friday...and the eggs.

July 10, 2007

Grilled Beef Shish-Ka-Bobs

For a fresh summer dinner, go to the market and get veggies that look fresh and pretty, and any meat you choose. I found red peppers, vidalia onions, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes. Cut them into smaller pieces and marinate them in a balsamic vinegar dressing for a couple of hours. This time I used sirloin steak, and I sliced and marinated it in the same dressing. Get the grill going!! Sort everything onto skewers (if you use wood skewers, soak them in water while you marinate the meat).

If you have a charcoal grill, let the coals get hot and then let them get a little past that. It cools them off just a tad and lets the meat and veggies cook more slowly together. If you have a gas grill, use medium-high heat. Put the skewers on the grill and close the cover. Let them cook for 8 minutes, lift lid and turn. Cook for 8 more minutes for medium. They're done- voila!

This couldn't be easier. You can use any meat and veggies you like which makes this extremely easy to tailor to your own family's taste. Have a few friends over, just a couple of sirloin steaks and the veggies you see pictured above easily made enough to feed six hungry adults.

Sangria goes perfectly with this dinner! Try it, you'll like it...and the eggs!

July 8, 2007

And the Winner is...

Scrumptious Camembert with Dried Fruit and Almonds won the first Royal Foodie Joust!!! Thank you for your votes and thank you to Jenn, the Leftover Queen, for running the contest. I get to pick the three ingredients for next month's competition. I have been thinking over it all day, and will arrive at a decision tomorrow. This has been fun, and I look forward to participating in many more...thank you again...and the eggs!

July 7, 2007

Finger Food

Belgian-style frites are easy to make and the kids love 'em. Once in awhile, they're a great treat. First, slice yukon gold potatoes into strips- I use a mandoline to make them uniform in shape- mine were approximately 1/4" thick. Next, soak them in cold water for at least an hour to de-starch the potatoes.
Next, dry well with paper towels because any water will create splatters. Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 340 degrees, fry them for 6 minutes. Remove and drain.
When the oil comes back up to temperature, fry them a second time for 2-3 minutes for maximum crispness- we like them crispy!! Our guests like them with salt and vinegar, but you can make a multitude of sauces - one of my favorites is an ancho chili aioli. I wish I had a photo of the finished frites, but they went so fast I didn't have a chance. I did, however, get a shot of the girls downing them!
My partner made braised baby back ribs (we had those on the side- ha!). The ribs are super tender and just falling off the bone. I don't have the exact recipe, maybe she'll do a guest post one of these days and tell you. She has won a cook-off with this rib recipe!

Tomorrow we are looking forward to snorkeling in the Keys, and a seafood dinner! I could get used to this- maybe the girls can stay here :) ...and the eggs.

July 6, 2007

Family Chicken

Our family is composed of five for the next few weeks- my partner and I, her brother, his daughter and her friend (the "girls"), so we are making large yet good tasting dishes. The first homemade meal we had was braised chicken. I found this recipe on the internet a few months ago and tweaked it for my own use. It's easy- and comes out moist as can be. Even picky eaters will love it. First, cut a few slices of bacon into small strips and cook it.
Remove and drain it and brown a cut up chicken (salted and peppered) in the grease for 8 or 10 minutes, turning constantly.
Remove the chicken and pour off most of the grease. Toss in 2 thinly sliced medium onions and toss around for 10 minutes or so until it starts to brown. Add 1 cup of water and 8 cloves of cleaned garlic, salt and pepper. Boil for a few mintues.
Transfer chicken back in pan, cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes until chicken is just cooked through. Remove chicken to serving dish and add 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar to pan- boil for a few minutes until it is slightly thickened- as it boils, mash up the garlic with the back of a fork. Pour mixture over chicken. Sprinkle with previously cooked bacon slices and serve! We had brown rice and a romaine lettuce salad with the chicken- the girls loved it which was exactly what I was going for! :)

After dinner, we swam in the pool and lit a fire in the pit! A great time was had by all...and the eggs.

July 4, 2007

Have you voted??! See July 2nd Post!

July 4, 1971

That ice cream was pretty good, my family would visit these people and they had a freezer full of already-made ice cream sundaes. I don't look so happy but it's probably because I was already trying to figure out how I was going to get another sundae. That's my sister on the right, looking to me to see the proper way to use a spoon :)

Happy Independence Day, EVERYONE! Enjoy your cookouts, family visits, chill-out days or whatever you're up to...and the eggs.

July 3, 2007

Don't forget to VOTE by July 6th! See July 2nd Blog Entry *** 8 Random Facts

I have been tagged to post 8 random facts. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts: Each participant posts eight random facts about themselves. Tagees should write a blogpost of eight random facts about themselves. At the end of the post, eight more bloggers are tagged. Go to their blog and leave a comment telling them they're tagged.

I am sure I don't know eight other bloggers to pass this on to but I will think of something by the time I'm done writing 8 random facts about myself.

1. I was a competitive swimmer until college and was 15th in the U.S. in the 1650 yard freestyle when I was 17 years old.
2. I LOVE horse tracks and betting on races (I hit the exacta in the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday).
3. My favorite book as a child was My Father's Dragon.
4. In 1989, I (accidentally and completely inadvertently) smuggled drugs from an Israeli casino boat on the Red Sea through international waters to the shores of Egypt. (I thought I was picking up mayonnaise for the three types of sandwiches we sold to the gamblers).
5. I also (accidentally and completely inadvertently) led police to uncover the drug and "hookers as compensation for losing gamblers" operation by reporting the owners of the casino boat for forcing me to throw trash bags into the Red Sea.
6. In college, I was close friends with Glenn Souther, who turned out to be one of the most notorious Soviet spies in U.S. history.
7. My sister and I played Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, respectively, in my senior year of high school (her freshman year), in The Miracle Worker. (To rave reviews, of course!)
8. Last but not least, I secretly always wanted to learn how to tap dance.
I enjoy reading other food blogs, so I am going to tag 5 of the blogs I like to read:
http://ccallahan4.blogspot.com/ (Chronicles of a Fledgling Home Cook)

Roasted Cauliflower and Pork Tenderloin

Don't forget to vote for Scrumptious Camembert (see yesterday's entry below for explanation). You have until July 6th and can only vote once!!

I marinated last night's pork tenderloin in chopped garlic, seasoned rice wine vinegar, hot red pepper flakes, garlic powder, pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil for 24 hours. It was super easy to cook- I seared it for a couple of minutes in a shallow saucepan and threw it in a 400 degree oven until the internal temperature reached 150 degrees. After resting for 10 minutes, it was done perfectly. Full of flavor and the sear keeps it extra tender inside.

If you have never tried roasted cauliflower, even if you don't enjoy raw cauliflower, you have to try this- you won't believe how good it is. I discovered the recipe while on the South Beach diet a few years ago, but it became a regular dish in our house. Wash and separate the cauliflower into florets, dry well and toss it in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Put in oven preheated to 425 degrees and toss after 20 minutes - let it roast for 10 or 15 minutes more until it is browned and even crispy in a few spots. Sprinkle it with salt and enjoy- you'll never look back...and the eggs.