October 27, 2010 · Weekly Menus and Recipes · Comments Off on More visitors

Visitors can have an interesting impact on my cooking. I often feel a bit more pressure to produce not only good, but interesting food when we have guests. If visitors stay long enough, they experience both the good that can come from experimenting and the bad.

This week my mother-in-law was visiting from Ohio. It was wonderful to see her and give her and Dorothy time to reconnect. It also reduced my busyness around dinner time and eliminated quite a bit of the Charlie and Lola D. watches while I cook!

Thankfully this week’s very disappointing meal came before she arrived. Last week Ian, D. and I had all visited a nearby pumpkin farm to choose a Halloween pumpkin for carving. While there, I was tempted to buy as many kinds of squashes as I could but limited myself to one spaghetti squash. I cooked in up on Tuesday but served it with a jarred spaghetti sauce, and ended up with a bland, watery dish. The squash had very short strands and got lost among everything else.

While I had more successes than failures this week, two hits were a simple, healthy cauliflower soup (suggested by Ian’s cousin after we found a beautiful head of cauliflower at a local farm) and fantastic ravioli from the Saturday farmer’s market. I chose a seasonal pumpkin ravioli as well as a spinach and ricotta one for Ian, Diana and myself. I didn’t want to overwhelm the flavors of the ravioli so I made a brown butter sauce with shitake mushrooms. The earthiness of the mushrooms matched nicely with the sweetness of the pumpkin and the saltiness of the ricotta. It turned out to be an excellent dish (thanks to the pasta maker in the market!), and the three of us continually discussed which of the ravioli we preferred. After much going back and forth, Diana and I put the pumpkin at number one while Ian (without any wavering) when with the spinach-ricotta. A simple, but complete success of a meal!

Meals for the week included:

  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Pad Thai
  • Cauliflower Soup with Fig and Walnut Salad
  • Roast Chicken with Smashed Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts
  • Ravioli with Shitake Brown Butter Sauce and Salad
October 27, 2010 · Weekly Menus and Recipes · Comments Off on Deeply Toasted Cashews

After reflecting on last weeks dishes (and hearing a few complaints!), I realized I needed to step up a bit more this week. Ian is off of school and so I was able to take a wonderful morning to find some good recipes while he was taking D to the park. On Monday, I combined a few thoughts to make curry chicken with rice and raita. My idea was to use the three dishes burrito style to create wraps at the table. It was a huge hit.

I started looking for a curry recipe by typing 101 curries into Google. I had heard of a cookbook with that title and thought there might be a website as well. I did not find what I was looking for, but Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks blog popped up with a recipe for Cashew Curry. Her food always looks and sounds amazing so I thought I would give it a try with a few changes for the ingredients I had on hand. My changes to the recipe are linked here.

In addition to the curry, I wanted to make a spiced rice. After a bit of searching, I found this recipe for Spicy Rice Maharashtrian Style that was just what I was looking for. I didn’t have cloves or green chilis so I left those out, but the rice was fantastic.

For the final dish, I made a Cucumber Raita from Tyler Florence (another favorite).  No mint for this one but still delicious.

The end results was better than I could have expected, and Ian and I both loved it. For both of us, the best part was the “deeply toasted cashews” called for in the curry. I love cashews in anything, and took Heidi Swanson’s advice- toasting them until they were dark brown, almost black. Instead of using them in the curry, I tossed them in the rice. The deep toasting brought out a whole new flavor, and Ian claimed he had never enjoyed cashews as much as he did in that dish. Success!

Ian has the week of from school this week which is wonderful. He has been taking over quite a bit of the cooking and shopping which is wonderful. Midweek, he leaves for England for 5 days, and his cousins come to stay with Dot and I for the weekend.

Meals for the week:

October 14, 2010 · Recipe · Comments Off on Chicken Cashew Curry

Recipe based on Heidi Swanson’s Cashew Curry.

  • 1/2 large or 1 small red onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 C coconut milk
  • 2 T curry powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/3 C water
  • vegetables of choice (I used potatoes and peas)
  • deeply-toasted cashews- Yum!

Preparation:

  1. Slice the onion and chop the garlic.
  2. Cut the chicken into about 1 inch chunks.
  3. Cut the vegetables into pieces slightly smaller than the chicken.

Cooking:

  1. Pour a couple tablespoons of butter, ghee or oil in a large pot.
  2. Saute onions and garlic until just soft.
  3. Add chicken and lightly cook on all sides.
  4. Pour the coconut milk into a bowl. Add the curry powder and salt. Whisk until there are no clumps.
  5. Add coconut mixture to chicken.
  6. Turn heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
  7. Add vegetables (cooking time will vary based on type and cut of vegetables).
  8. When vegetables are fork tender, remove from heat and serve.
October 12, 2010 · Recipe, Weekly Menus and Recipes · Comments Off on Alton Brown Can Do No Wrong

When in the US, I love watching Food Network, and especially like Alton Brown’s Good Eats. In every show, he proves himself to be infinitely knowledgeable about both the science and art of food. When looking for recipes online, I consistently go to Food Network first, and always look at a recipe attached to his name. In the middle of a boring and lazy week of meals, I found this recipe for baked meatballs of his. It turned out to be simple and absolutely delicious. The meatballs were moist and flavorful, and stayed moist for a few days until we used the leftovers on pizza. This will my go to meatball recipe from now on.

I made a few modifications due to ingredients I could or didn’t want to use. A rough outline of my ingredients is:

  • ground pork and beef combination, 1 lb
  • chopped frozen spinach, about 1/3 C
  • grated fresh Parmesan, 1/2 C
  • 2 small eggs
  • dried basil, 1 t
  • fresh garlic, 1 clove
  • salt, 3/4 t
  • homemade bread crumbs (thick), about 1/2 C

Other meals included:

  • Fish Sticks, Tortellini and Peas
  • Homemade Tuna Casserole and Salad
  • Spaghetti and Baked Meatballs
  • Pizza
  • Spaghetti and Bolognese
October 12, 2010 · Recipe, Weekly Menus and Recipes · Comments Off on Bland Vietnamese Rolls

As a bit of a splurge, I bought some shrimp from the local store to use in Vietnamese Summer Rolls. I had a vision in my head of firm, crunchy shrimp, bright herbs and thick, salty peanut sauce. As a last minute decision, I decided to buy the peanut sauce instead of make my own- mostly because I was missing rice vinegar. With D.’s “help,” we assembled a couple plates of pretty good looking rolls (Ian even exclaimed when he saw them). To use up the remaining ingredients and bulk up the meal, I made an Asian salad/slaw. When we sat down to eat, both Ian and I found the rolls to be bland, and I found the peanut sauce unappetizing (it was loaded with coconut). However, we both thought the salad was great. While the rolls are not worth repeating, I am jotting down the ingredients for the salad in hopes of repeating it in the future.

Asian Slaw

  • Napa cabbage, shredded
  • Carrots, shredded
  • Cucumber, diced
  • Green onion, diced
  • Roasted peanuts
  • Ramen noodles, broken and uncooked
  • Dressing:
    • Sesame oil
    • Soy sauce
    • Canola oil
    • Table vinegar
    • Sugar
    • Ginger, finely diced

Other meals for the weekend included:

  • Vegetarian Cutlets, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans
  • Baked Citrus Salmon, Smashed Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts
  • Lemon Spaghetti with Chicken and Broccoli
  • Burritos
  • Lamb Mastava and Pumpkin Samsa (Yum!)
  • Spaghetti and Bolognese