Thursday, October 29, 2009
Week 3, Thursday: Shrimp Pot Pie With Fennel
Yeah, my first thought was, what the heck is fennel bulb?! I asked the produce man, and I learned something new. In our stores it's called anise and it is a white bulb with hairy fern-like leaves that has a mild licorice taste to it. Which really freaked me out for this dinner: shrimp pot pie with licorice, yum! But I was very pleasantly surprised, you really couldn't taste the fennel (or the leeks, too much, anyway).
This dinner had several components to prepare (chopping and thawing), all very simple, but requiring more time than I had anticipated by looking at the prep time listed on the recipe. One thing I fell in love with: frozen puff pastry. Holy moley, I will totally use it again, it was so quick, easy, and divinely flaky. (Plus, I bought a package of two, so I have another one in my freezer right now!)
Here is the whole pot pie:
And here is the plate:
To sum it up:
Disclaimer: I once again substituted chicken broth for white wine. Despite the fact that Isaiah made gagging sounds and fell to the ground as if he were dying when he took his requisite two bites, this is a recipe I could totally get behind. The sauce was so creamy, the vegetables were mild, the crust was so flaky . . . the only thing I would do is reduce the amount of shrimp a bit or substitute chicken if the shrimp wasn't on sale or on hand.
I have never had lamb chops, ever. But they were so tender and juicy. Adam pointed out that the texture of the meat was denser, almost like liver (but good, I promise!). And though no one else in my home appreciates a good spaghetti squash, I was so excited to eat it as I was cooking. I couldn't stop tasting it. *blush* I was tickled that the recipe called for microwaving the squash to cook it--that's just the way my mom would make it!
This dinner would have been perfect if I could have omitted one ingredient: the mint. It was just too strong. And, as we've found with almost all these recipes, reducing the amount of onion is pretty much necessary. I almost always use half or at most three-quarters the amount stated, and it is still much too strong for us.
When I can find lamb chops for less that $5/lb I might cook them again. Or for a special occasion. Next summer when the spaghetti squash is at it's best I will try tossing it with olive oil again. Mmmm . . .
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Max, you're a whole year old! I love the little man you are turning into, full of spunk, independence and a sense of humor. This marks the end of the monthly journal I've been keeping for you, but I'll still try to keep up with everything you're learning and doing. I'm so proud of you!
Monday, October 26, 2009
Monkey cupcakes! So happy with them, and they were so easy!
Party Table (Before I put out the balloons, oops! Notice the cute handmade party hats on the left.) We played "Monkey in the Middle" (rolling the ball across a circle on the floor), "What Animal Am I?" (pictures of animals taped to backs), and we skipped "Monkey See, Monkey Do" (dancing to music as an animal would, Simon Says-style), although Max and Kamry and I played on our own.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Will make the rice again. If I choose to cook shrimp again, I may roast it. Will not make the full recipe with tomatoes.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
(Max is trying to use everything he can find as a push toy/walker so he can jet around faster. And today he took his first unassisted step for Adam!)
Here are some things I made for a Halloween party I went to tonight (Witches Night Out!):
Do you know how hard it is to find goat cheese in the St. George area?! I went to three stores before I found one of the last three packages of goat cheese at Albertson's. Luckily we had this meal late in the week, and I already had to go to the store every day for one reason or another (Max's birthday party is this weekend, there was a party tonight, and I have stuff tomorrow as well--just a busy week) so I just looked wherever I happened to be.
Another new adventure: arugula. I was forewarned that it is really bitter, but Adam and I liked it fine. It's also supposed to be a palate cleanser. That's our pretty salad on the left:
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Smelled yummy cooking, yet again not a favorite of the family. I had two helpings, though. Here's the picture:
Ever had hominy? I hadn't--until tonight!
My family are decidedly not tomato eaters, which I've always known. (I really enjoy a good tomato once in a while, usually when we have them growing in our garden, but I'm the only one.) For this reason, the recipe won't come back into our kitchen.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
The good thing was that I spent less on the groceries than last week, but it might not end up much less after I go back to the (other) store for the rotisserie chicken and goat cheese later in the week. It really did help that both the steak and the shrimp were on a good deal, though--I might actually go back for more frozen shrimp since I noticed tonight that I'll need shrimp again next week.
Now for our dinner recipe: Week 2, Monday: Pork Chops with Garlicky Broccoli
This meal was simple to prep (even for these easy dinners), but I didn't have a large enough oven-proof skillet for all the meat, so I came up with my own trick. I preheated the oven and put a large pan with a tablespoon of olive oil into the oven while I browned the pork chops on the stove. Then when I transferred the meat to the pan, it was already hot and ready to go. Unfortunately, the cuts of meat were a bit tough, and I overcooked them just enough for them to be a bit dry. I think I'll stick to boneless chops in the future--they usually do good for me.
Here's Isaiah's tip for eating this meal: "If you mix the broccoli into the rice with the pork, it's really good!" (This is a huge breakthrough, Isaiah hates vegetables, especially broccoli, but he ate a good helping!) I have to agree; cut up your pork, and mix it all together--voila! Yummy!
Look how beautiful it is!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Week 1, Friday (Wednesday): Spicy Orange-Glazed Drumsticks With Green Beans
Yeah, this was our best dinner of the week, hands down. But I'll get to that in a minute. This was also the longest dinner to prep, but it took a little pressure off me because I didn't feel like I was a super-slowpoke. And because the chicken was in the oven, I had enough time to wash some of the prep dishes before we ate! The novel thing in this meal for me was fresh green beans. It's really sad that I've never cooked fresh green beans before, but there you have it. And now I've learned to make them really tasty (even Katie liked them!).
One thing I have made, and many times, is cornbread. So when I saw that the shopping list called for buying cornbread muffins, I thought, "Psh! Store-bought cornbread? Pass!" Finally, something I knew I could make without thinking too hard! And they came out great! Here's my favorite cornbread recipe: Corn Bread Loaf. I just greased a 6-cup muffin tin, and spooned it into the muffin cups. It took approximately 15 minutes to cook.
The chicken was also really, really easy, and though I cooked it in the oven, it would be great on the grill, too, and would take even less time to cook.
Here's the complete meal:
And my conclusion for the week:
We will make this meal again, and maybe try it on the grill next time. Definitely a crowd-pleaser. As far as my challenge goes, I'm happy with how well it's gone so far. We sat down as a family and decided whether to keep going. I read the recipes for next week, and got a resounding, "Yes, let's keep going!" So despite mixed reviews on the majority of the meals, everyone is happy to keep trying. We'll see how next week goes.
Week 1, Thursday: Roasted Pork with Burssels Sprouts and Apricots
It was interesting trying to find a pork tenderloin. I'm not well-versed in my cuts of meat, but I eventually found the long, skinny tenderloin on the top shelf in the pork section of the meat. And, did you know that smaller brussels sprouts are less bitter? So if you're buying fresh brussels sprouts, pick the smaller ones.
This recipe says that it takes 25 minutes, but it took me a full hour. I don't know if I didn't brown the meat long enough or what, but it took a half an hour in the oven for the tenderloin to reach the proper temperature. As a consequence of that the brussels sprouts "salad" was waiting, getting cold:
But boy, was it worth the wait! The meat was so tender and so juicy, and everyone liked it (well, Katie only wanted a few bites, but she is sick).
I really liked the brussels sprouts, apricots, and almonds. What a great combination! Everyone else thought it was a little too bitter (and I suspect the stomach ache I had later in the evening was the fault of the large helping I had). The tenderloin was so delicious, we may have to try it again.
P.S. As I was cooking, Adam came in with the mail, including my November issue of Real Simple! We'll see what kind of adventures I'm cooking up next month!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I was under a lot of pressure as I was cooking last night because we had several things going on, and at the last minute my friend, Stephanie, who lives in Logan showed up unexpectedly at my doorstep. (What an awesome surprise!!) I had exactly 30 minutes to make dinner, and in the end I made Adam only a couple of minutes late for his first meeting. But the sweet potatoes were burned because I ran across the street to pick a rosemary sprig off the neighbor's bush (no joke--I forgot the rosemary while I was at the store, and I found fresh herbs in the neighbor's front yard while I had things in the pan!). It was definitely still edible, however, so in the end I think it was better for having the rosemary. Here it is:
Bottom line: It was still a bit bland, and there was a little too much ricotta (no one liked the ricotta but me), but with enough salt and pepper I actually liked it a lot. The thing I'm taking from this dinner is the method of cooking the sweet potatoes. I really liked how they tasted (despite the burning) and how quick and easy they were to make. On their own, they could be a really great side dish.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
As I looked at this recipe, I knew it was going to go over better than Monday's because we eat rice and stir fry all the time. Bok choy was something I had never cooked or eaten, but in general the picture didn't look any scarier than anything Adam and I tried in our Chinese cooking class 6 years ago.
It took me a few minutes to slice the flank steak correctly, but once I did we were in business. This recipe really was quick and easy, and the flavor was amazing! I think the fresh ginger really did it. I use dry ginger all the time, but there really is no comparison. The kids loved the meat, and we all loved the dish. I wasn't in love with the bok choy (it's bitter, imo), but Adam said it was pretty good if you chop it up small and just mix it in with the rice and beef.
Tasted so good! And everyone ate at least a little, so it was a hit with the family. If I make it again, I might tenderize the meat, and serve it with a steak knife. And I'd add cornstarch to the sauce to thicken it up. This recipe is a keeper!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Here are my self-made rules/goals for this challenge:
-I will start with the first week only, no expectations beyond the first week, and cook all the meals as laid out. If all goes well, I'll continue for the rest of the month.
-I will follow the recipes as closely as is prudent. For instance, I will not make substitutions unless absolutely necessary (unable to find an ingredient in the store), but sometimes amounts will be adjusted. For instance, there is absolutely no point in putting two whole peppers in a meal when I know not a single person in our family will eat them (peppers will still be used so as not to change the flavor, just not as many as is called for).
-Once the meal is cooked it will be plated to look as much like the picture in the magazine as possible instead of being served family style. Presentation counts big time when you're serving new foods to picky eaters.
-I will take pictures of each completed, plated dish.
-I will taste every ingredient in each meal, and clear my plate (or at least eat until I'm full). The children are expected to taste everything at least once, and then they are allowed to make themselves something else if they really dislike everything being served. (This is breaking from our usual dinner rule, "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit!" Meaning, you eat what you're served or you don't eat.)
-I will blog about each new cooking experience, noting how I would change the recipe if I were to cook it again.
Okay, are you ready to begin? Because I already have!
Week 1, Monday: Tilapia with Peppers and Olives
(I'm linking the recipes because it would be so time-intensive to type them all out--be sure to click on the links so you can see the Real Simple picture to compare it to how mine came out!)
Okay, first thing I thought when I read the recipe: "Oh, no! Fish!" The second thing: "Green olives? You have got to be kidding me!"
I have never cooked fish. Actually, I think I tried to cook a salmon once, early in our marriage, and that is what solidified my resolution to never cook fish. You see, it makes your whole house smell fishy. And since both Adam and I having grown up in land-locked states, there has never been a great love of fish between us, beyond the occasional fried shrimp or fish sticks (we don't even eat canned tuna!). So, I took a deep breath and went timidly to the meat counter. Luckily the butcher was helpful (not only with the tilapia fillets, but some of the other meats I needed for the rest of the week's dinners), and it was pretty painless bringing it home. Cooking it was very simple, and it didn't really make the house smell as fishy as I anticipated. Tilapia is, after all, the least "fishy" of the fish, I've heard. Here I am cooking (yeah, I'm a little dressed up, I went to see Footloose last night):
Cooking went off without a hitch. Katie helped me with the prep, measuring out the olives and fetching and pouring. It took about twice as long as stated in the recipe, but 40 minutes is still a quick meal if you ask me, and I'll get faster as I get used to all the prep. Here's the final product:
And here are the reactions from the diners:
Which led to:
To sum it up: I really enjoyed the meal. I was pleased with the combination of tastes, and was surprised to find I don't mind green olives (I'd never tasted them before!). I told Adam that if I'd ordered it at a restaurant, I would be satisfied, and happy with the meal. And it was quick to make and not terrible to clean up. However, because it did not get resounding approval from the rest of the family this recipe will not be a keeper.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
It was a different kind of restaurant than we had been to before, the atmosphere of a hole-on-the-wall kind of place with really unique and fun decor, like this tailgate bench to sit on while you wait to order.
You can dine inside or outside, and right now the weather is perfect for outdoor dining! The food had unusual names like "yanked pork" or "dirty rice," which actually made it taste better, I think. Here's my plate, I mean basket:
I had the 2 meat combo, with yanked pork and bodacious brisket, leek rings and potato salad on the side. You can see our order of yanked pork nachos in the middle of the table. Adam had the 3 meat combo with the same meat choices as me plus the bbq chicken, with fries and dirty rice on the side. The kids each tried one of the two kids meal choices: Katie had bbq chicken and Isaiah had grilled cheese. (Max ate off our plates--he loved everything!)
What we'd recommend:
Our favorite meat was the brisket, but the pulled pork was good, too. The nachos were amazing, and the salsa was even better (so good, but pretty hot, beware). We didn't try all the dipping sauces, but we did like the liquid gold--kinda sweet and tangy, like honey mustard. If you go, be prepared to get a doggy bag. If your not a big eater, you might want to share a plate. The kids meals were pretty right-sized, though. The biggest surprise to me was the leek rings. They were really good, like a twist on onion rings. I'd definitely recommend them.
What we'd skip next time:
The chicken, and maybe the dirty rice. The dirty rice had a really different flavor, not bad, but not your everyday rice, so you should try it and make up your own mind.
Very yummy food, memorable atmosphere, a new favorite.
Friday, October 9, 2009