Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Flapjacks, pancakes, big plates of deliciousness.

Cold weather demands warm breakfasts.  It's a simple as that.  And seeing how we've been living in a world of snow, I've been heating up the frying pan.  Pancakes are a favorite around here. Warm and fluffy, dripping with syrup and a pat of butter melting on top.  Yuuuuum.

I grew up with eating my mom's basic pancake recipe, and I'm still surprised that anyone feels the need to buy pancake mix when making them from scratch is so easy.  Here's the simple form:

Diana's Basic Pancake Goodness
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
2 eggs
2 cups milk or buttermilk

Mix it all together and fry up some golden brown goodness on a lightly oiled pan.

Most days, that's the recipe I use, but I frequently embellish it with blueberries or toasted pecans.  I like to add a teaspoon of vanilla and a bit of nutmeg.  Mr. Dog likes to add orange extract.  It's a forgiving recipe.

Today I took it one step further, and the result was outstanding.  Since we'd just had pancakes a day or two ago, I decided we needed some variation.  I looked in the fridge and pantry and concocted this:

Laura's Apple Pie Pancakes
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup cake flour
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp apple pie spice (if you don't have this use 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cloves)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups milk

Mix it all together and fry up a batch of spicy apple-y breakfast cakes.  Top with syrup and butter and watch as your kids devour them.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gimme a big pot o' pie.

Cold weather makes me want to make baked dinners. Things submerged under bubbling cheese. Things wrapped in filo. Things sealed up in pie crusts. Yum. Thing is, while I've got the bubbling cheese and the filo down, the pie crust, well I pretty much suck at them. Can't make a pie crust to save my life. And yet, I manage. For example, on Monday night, I made the tastiest veggie pot pie. Sure I cheated. I used a premade crust, but whatever. It was gooooooood.

Big Pot o' Pie:
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper cut into strips
4 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cup cut green beans (feel free to use frozen)
1 large carrot, sliced into thin rounds
1 medium cauliflower cut into chunks
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp dry thyme
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups veggie broth (I like Better Than Bullion, 1 tsp per cup of water)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 9 inch roll out pie crusts. (not the kind in the pan, the flat kind)

Preheat your oven to 350.
Put one pie crust into a pie plate (N0! I did not use that pie plate!) and set it aside.
In a medium sized sauce pan, melt your butter and saute the onion chunks until they are transparent. Add the bell pepper and cook until slightly soft. Add the flour to the butter onion and bell pepper and cook for about one minute. Add the green beans, carrot, thyme, parsley and cauliflower. Continue to cook until slightly soft. Add the broth and stir until the gravy starts to thicken. Taste it, then add salt and pepper to taste. (If you really want, you can add extra Better than Bullion instead, which I have been known to do.)
Dump this mixture into your pie crust and top with the other flat pie crust. Crimp the edges and slash the top in about 5 places to let the steam out.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until you can't stand to wait any longer.

Next time I make this, I'm going to try the same combo, but top it with puff pastry instead of putting it in a pie crust. Yep, I'm a rebel.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spaghetti-Oh-my-god-this-is-tasty. (Get it? Like spaghetti-os)

Ok, that probably isn't a great name for a new product. But seriously, I whipped up a little dinner last night by scrounging in the fridge and it got the complete child and husband seal of approval. Big Dog demanded I put it in his lunch for the next day and specified "in the big container" of his Laptop Lunchbox. Mr. Dog had seconds and Little Dog, well, he had eaten about 4 pumpkin muffins by dinner time, so the fact that he ate any of the meal was more or less a ringing endorsement. Want to hear the best part? It was so damn easy.

1 package of Anelli or Anellini pasta (little rings, like spaghetti-0s) I got mine at Trader Joe's, but I'm sure you can find them other places, or substitute other small pasta, like Alphabet or Stelle or something kids will adore.
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup of oil preserved sun dried tomatoes, drained. (I used the julienne cut sundried tomatoes from Trader Joe's)
2 Tbsp butter.
1/2 pasta water
flat leaf parsley.

Boil your pasta according to package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, combine the goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and butter. Puree them until they are smooth and they take on a pretty pale pink color. I used a stick blender to do the job, but a food processor or blender would work too. Add the pasta water to thin the sauce. Toss the sauce with your cooked and drained pasta. Top with chopped parsley. Sit back and wait for the praise of your family.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tasty pie full of fish. Yum.

I know, it's been a while. And I'm sorry. Really I am. But when it comes right down to it, I haven't been doing much cooking lately. Doing a lot of travel, but not much cooking. So I'm back and ready to buckle down on the care and feeding of my family. Tonight, for example, I tried something new. Jamie Oliver's Fish Pie. And wow is it ever good.

Try to divorce yourself from the idea of pie crust and think more along the lines of a Shepard's pie. Now you have the picture. Granted, I made a few modifications, changed some ingredients and had to convert grams to cooking measurements I understand (which I'll include below) but the end result is so good, I can't stop wanting more.

Jamie Oliver's Fish Pie (with my modifications)
You can find the original recipe here if you want to compare, or just find a ton of other awesome recipes.
Serves 4 - 6

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2.5 lbs potatoes (I used Yukon gold, and they rocked)
3 carrots
2 stalks of celery
6 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
1 lemon
1/2 chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
11 ounces cod fillets, skin off and bones removed
1 lb smoked salmon fillets, skin off
olive oil (which Jamie measures in "lugs", so I'm not going to measure it either)

Heat your oven to 400°F.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cube your potatoes, I don't bother peeling them.
Once your water is boiling, dump the potatoes in and cook until tender.
In a baking pan, shred your carrot, celery and cheese. Add the zest of your lemon and the chopped parsley. Cut your fish into bite sized pieces and put them in the pan. Squeeze the lemon juice over the mixture, add a good drizzle of olive oil, a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix it all together.

Drain your cooked potatoes and return them to the pan. Add a good "lugs" of olive oil, some salt and pepper and mash until they are nice and smooth.
Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the veggie and fish mixture. I added little fork ruts in mine and drizzled a bit of butter on top, which made it all golden and crispy, so I highly recommend it.
Bake for about 40 minutes. Eat and enjoy.

Jamie recommends serving it with a salad, or katsup and baked beans. I just ate it straight, but that was mostly because I was wiped out today. Next time, I promise, there will be something green on the plate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My blog just got tagged. Really!

My new best friend (who doesn't know she's my best friend yet) Astrogirl, from Notes from the Bunker tagged me. The deal is, I get to tell you 6 random things about me, and since this is my cooking blog, I'm going to make them all food related. How's that for an awesome twist?

So here we go:

1. I took my first cooking class when I was in 1st grade (mom correct me if I'm wrong on this). The big fancy main course was an apricot glazed roasted chicken that basically involved roasting a chicken slathered in apricot jam. I get queasy just thinking about it.

2. I used to hate tuna in all shapes and forms. No tuna sandwiches, no sushi, no seared ahi. Couldn't stand the stuff. Then I got pregnant with Big Dog, and I craved it non-stop. His favorite sandwich now? Tuna. I also used to hate peanut butter. Got pregnant with Little Dog and couldn't get enough. His favorite sandwich? Peanut butter.

3. While I like peanut butter now, I don't like peanut butter with sweet stuff like jam or chocolate. I like it salty. My favorite peanut butter sandwich is peanut butter and siracha on whole wheat. Yum.

4. I hate eating leftovers. I always cook so we have them, but I hate to eat them. I get freaky about food that has been in the fridge for more than a few days too.

5. I love chex mix. Even the prepackaged junk. Especially if it is the extra bold recipe.

6. On our honeymoon in Belize, we fell in love with Marie Sharp's hot sauce. One of our souvenirs from the trip was a case of the stuff. It took about 2 years to eat it all, then Mr. Dog found a source online and bought two more cases.

Now comes the tagging:


Cutie Booty Cakes

52 Faces

Green Yogurt

Robin from Around the Island

KD @ A Bit Squirrelly

House of Crazy

Feel free to crown me Queen of Split Pea Soup.

Sometimes I even amaze myself. Like today. A crappy overcast, windy Seattle day outside, I decided to make soup for dinner. Something hearty, something that really tastes like Autumn. Split Pea. I like split pea soup even though I loathe peas. Go figure. Or don't, either way, make this soup.

Split pea soup is one of those classic comfort soups for me. It is warm and filling, goes great with a nice slice of fresh bread, and is actually really simple to make.

Queen of Pea Soup
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped carrot
2 cups dried split peas
7 cups water
7 tsp Better than Bullion
1 tsp dry thyme
2 bay leaves

In a large soup pan, melt your butter and briefly saute the onions, celery and carrot. Once they are slightly soft, add your dried peas (wash and sort first, then just dump them in) add your water, Better Than Bullion, thyme and bay leaves. Turn heat down to medium low and cover your pan. Leave it alone. Sure go stir it once in a while, like every 20 minutes or so, but don't hover. It is completely unnecessary. The peas will cook down and dissolve, as will the onions and celery. The carrots never fully commit, but they end up partly cooked away, only flecking the soup with their beautiful autumn gold in the pot. If that offends you, or if you prefer a perfectly silky soup, use your stick blender to beat those carrots and other small chunks into submission.

When the soup is more or less soupy (about an hour), you can fish out the bay leaves, or if you're lazy like me, make up some kind of "If you get the bay leaf you have to kiss the chef" game and avoid dining with people you'd rather not kiss you.

I like to serve it with a nice hot slice of fresh bread, but you don't have to. Sure, people will talk, but do your own thing.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My take on Marie Anoinette. The cake part, not the choppy head part.

So I promised I'd post the new cake recipe if you left enough comments at From Stage Dives to Station Wagons. You did your part, so I guess I have to keep up my end of the deal.
This recipe is lifted from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess. If you don't already have it, I'd heartily recommend it. It makes a single layered dense almost brownie-like cake. She calls for marmalade in her recipe, but I've made it with both apricot and raspberry jam, and they both rock.

Nigella Lawson's Pantry-Shelf Chocolate-Orange Cake
1/2 cup butter
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (I probably use closer to 6 oz, but that's just how I roll)
1 1/3 cup good quality marmalade (I subbed Trader Joe's Organic Reduced Sugar Apricot Jam the first time, and TJ's Organic Reduced Sugar Raspberry Jam the second, both with excellent results, so feel free to experiment)
1/2 cup bakers sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self rising cake flour (yeah, I'll tell you how to whip that up)

Preheat your oven to 350. Butter and flour an 8 inch springform pan.
Over medium heat, melt your butter in a medium saucepan. When the butter is melted, lower your heat and add your chocolate. Melt until smooth and combined completely. Add the sugar, jam and eggs then beat in the flour. Pour into your prepared cake pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until the pick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

You can top it with a dusting of powdered sugar, or slap on some barely sweetened whipped cream, or just eat it. Your choice.

Self Rising Flour (so you don't have to try to buy it)
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

So what are you waiting for? Go eat some cake already!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Cauliflower He Called "Potatoes"

There is magic in oven roasting vegetables. Something about the caramelized edges and concentration of their flavor through the magic of dry heat transforms even the most commonplace vegetable. Even more impressive, if you oven roast cauliflower, it becomes potatoes. Or at least it does for Little Dog because that's how he asks for more. And I can live with that. So, here's how you make that magic happen.

Cauliflower Potatoes
1 large head of cauliflower
Olive oil
Kosher salt

Wash and trim your cauliflower leaving the head in tact. Cut the entire head in slices about 3/4 inches thick and put them in a large mixing bowl. Add about 1 Tbsp olive oil and toss the cauliflower slices to coat. If you need more oil, add it slowly, you don't want to drown the cauliflower, but you also want it evenly coated. Once it is coated with oil, add a couple heavy pinches of salt and toss again.

Spread sliced cauliflower on a baking sheet in a single layer. depending on the size of your cauliflower, you might need to use more than one baking sheet.

Put the baking sheet in your oven under the broiler. Let cook until the edges of the cauliflower are golden, then turn the slices (and bits that have fallen off the slices) and cook the other side until golden on the edges. In our crappy oven this takes about 15 minutes, sometimes more, sometimes less. You want the golden edges and you want the cauliflower to be nice and tender. If you don't get there in 15 minutes, keep on broiling. It is worth it.

In our house this is barely enough for 4 people. Especially once Little Dog gets going. "More potatoes, mama!"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Giving it a second go

And it will probably turn out just as badly as the first, but here is another attempt at Meal Planning Monday (yes, I know it is Tuesday. I told you I suck at this stuff.)

Yesterday we had pasta and meatballs (lovingly crafted by Mr. Dog).

Tuesday: Broiled Salmon and steamed veggies.

Wednesday: Do it yourself (or have mama do it for you) Sushi with Auntie Chihuahua

Thursday: Bean Soup and homemade bread

Friday: CityMama's Veggie Stir Fry with Soba (yes, we love this stuff)

Saturday: Leftovers

Sunday: Homemade Pizza.

If it sounds like a rut, it kind of is. But I'll cope with that.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Now, thinking outside the box

When I was growing up, my mom took care of dessert cravings in a couple of ways. She pretty regularly brought Pepperidge Farms Fruit Turnovers, boxes of chocolate pudding mix and jello. I haven't had a turnover in years (though after typing that, I'm thinking they sound pretty good). I don't eat jello, it's too, um, hoofy. But pudding, that's a different story. I eat it frequently. Only twist on that classic is that I make it from scratch. Guess what. It's easy.

Lately I've been making it several times a week, because those are the weeks I've been having. The boys and Mr. Dog all seem to like it too. Although if you ask Little Dog, he might tell you it's mud, not pudding. He's just strange that way.

Chocolate Pudding, from scratch, for reals.
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup Droste Cocoa Powder (my favorite brand, but Hershey's works as will any other)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups milk (I use skim milk because I have it on hand, but use whatever you like)
2 tbsp. butter

In a saucepan, whisk together your dry ingredients. Make sure you break up any lumps in your cornstarch, well, unless you like lumpy pudding, but I don't. Put saucepan over medium head and whisk in the milk, all at once. Heat over medium heat until the pudding thickens to a creamy, pudding-y consistency. Remove from the burner and stir in the vanilla and the butter.

At this point I start eating it right out of the pan. But if you have manners, or are serving others, feel free to put it into bowls and let it cool slightly.

Say you want a slightly more adult twist, omit the vanilla and add 2 Tbsp of brandy. Yum.

Trust me, you'll never go back to the box. Sorry Mr. Cosby.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'll see your Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup, and raise it.

Rainy weather always makes me crave the classic combo of a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. When I was a kid, my mom would serve this simple dinner when the days were dark and wet. So growing up in Portland, OR meant we ate this meal a lot.
To this day, it is one of my favorite kid friendly, easy meals. But being the over achiever I am, I can't stay contented with the basic cheese on bread, Campbell's Soup team. Noooo, I have to one up you.

The thing is, it doesn't take much effort to make this even better. For example, I'll bet you have no idea just how simple it is to make homemade tomato soup. And it tastes fantastic.

Basic Tomato Soup
1 can good quality tomatoes (chopped or whole, doesn't matter. I especially like to use Pomi chopped tomatoes in the box.)
1 - 2 cups veggie broth (I use Vegetable Better than Bullion and water, but make it extra strong)
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped into smallish pieces (sweet onions are especially nice for this)
one bay leaf
Salt and pepper.
1 cup milk

In a medium sized pan, melt the butter, add your flour and cook briefly.
Stir in the chopped onion and cook until onion is soft and transparent.
Add tomatoes, 1 cup of the broth and bay leaf. Simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes.
Remove bay leaf, and hit it with your stick blender until it is smooth.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Remove from the heat and stir in one cup of milk. Use a bit more broth if it is too thick for your tastes.
Yep, that's it.

Grilled cheese? That's another one to dress up. My favorite twist is to use extra sharp cheddar and add a bit of Major Grey's chutney. Too tame for you? How about using Gruyere and add thin slices of pears? No? Still not your thing? Ok, try using fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. How about cheddar and dried cherries or brie and sliced tart apples. Really, the options are endless. I tend to use a good quality whole wheat bread as a default, but switching that up can be another way to add interest. Don't stick to the basics either. Sure, sourdough is nice, but what about using that Raisin and Pecan bread? Try that with Cambozola and you'll never go back.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I'm a big fat liar.

So much for meal planning. I may be an organized and driven taskmaster at work, but when it comes to my home life, sticking to a plan is near impossible.

We didn't have curried eggs. Nope, had all of the ingredients, but I punted. Big Dog demanded Macaroni and Cheese, so I complied. Not with fancy macaroni and cheese, but with the basic, easy-as-pie-is-reported-to-be-but-really-isn't-since-I can't-master-pie-crust, recipe.

And then, tortellini and Parmesan with arugula salad, yeah, that didn't happen either.
We had Waffles of Insane Greatness with bacon and eggs. And veggie sasauges for those of us who don't feast on piggy flesh.

So in the spirit of full disclosure, I've added the actual dinner recipes.

Easy easy mac and cheesey.

Big dog is a macaroni and cheese junkie. He jonzes for his fix the same way I jonze for coffee, so I have a hard time denying him. Truth be told, I love macaroni and cheese too, it is easy, I usually have the ingredients in the house, and I love having leftovers for lunches. The added plus is that I get to be a superhero, the loving provider of macaroni and cheese. All I need is a cape.

I have posted other recipes for macaroni and cheese, but this is my fallback recipe. It is simple and tastes great.

Followthatdog's Basic, Unadorned Macaroni and Cheese (aka. Big Dog's fix)
4Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups milk (I use 1% or nonfat most times, because that's what we have, but any % works just fine)
12 oz shredded sharp cheddar (aka. 1 package of Trader Joe's Organic Shredded Sharp Cheddar)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
fresh grated nutmeg

I lb pasta of your choice. We like Trader Joe's Multigrain Fusili with flax, but use what you have on hand.

Cook your pasta according to the package instructions.
While your water is coming to a boil, melt your butter in a medium sized sauce pan. When the butter is melted and is no longer sizzling, whisk in your flour. Let it fully coat the flour and cook for about a minute,
Add your milk, whisking wildly to avoid clumps. Keep stirring over medium heat until the white sauce thickens to a good cheese sauce consistency. Remove from the heat and stir in your grated cheese one handful at a time, letting each handful melt before adding the next. Once the cheese is all melted, stir in the Worcestershire sauce and add 3 or 4 good gratings of fresh nutmeg (or a smallish shake of ground nutmeg if you don't)

Drain the pasta, add the cheese sauce and sit back and be lauded as a Macaroni and Cheese making god. Go on, do it. It feels great.

And what's so bad about waffling?

Seriously, they're delicious. I don't get the negativity. I mean, sure, maybe I wanted tortellini when I did my weekly meal plan, and then, on the way home, I decided "ya know what, I don't want tortellini, I want waffles!" Nothing wrong with that.

And part of the problem is that these waffles are just too damn delicious. Look at the name, it says it all. I originally found this recipe on the FoodTV website, and made one or two tweaks that make them our favorite waffles of all time. My only advice, make a double batch. You'll want more. And if you do end up with leftovers, freeze them, pop them in the toaster the next day and relive the glory.

Waffles of Insane Greatness

This link takes you to the original recipe, but if you want perfection, try them as they are made at our house.

1/4 cup corn starch
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Put your dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, use a whisk to mix them together. Add the wet ingredients and let sit for 15 minutes.

Make waffles according to your waffle iron manufacturer's instructions. And enjoy.

Top with butter and syrup. Real maple syrup, or what's the point. Or try jam. That's good too.

Thinking inside the box.

Mr. Dog thinks I'm nuts, but I really love making Big Dog beautiful bento style lunches. We have a couple of the Laptop Lunchboxes and I try to use them to their fullest. Not only does it encourage me to have more diversity in his lunch, it makes for less waste, and more crafty-mom fun when I pack them. Mr. Dog still thinks I'm nuts.

Is is sad or crazy that I love making roll up sandwiches and packing them like maki rolls? Is it bizarre that I strive to have them filled with wonderful colors so they visually pop when you open the box? Yes? Ok, then maybe Mr. Dog is right. Still, Big Dog loves them, so I'm going to continue making them.

Last night we pulled together a new fancy roll up. Smoked salmon cream cheese, shaved cucumber and shredded carrot all wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. And yeah, he eats that. If you have it handy, add some fresh spinach to the mix and it will be even prettier when cut into rolls.

Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Spread.
1 12 oz tub Light Spreadable cream cheese (Trader Joe's is what I use-are you sensing a theme?- but any light cream cheese would work.)
1 can smoked salmon, skin removed (again with the Trader Joe's, it's like I'm obsessed) If you can't get a canned smoked salmon, use a chunk of hot smoked salmon, not lox. about 6 oz. You can use more if you'd like. I have and it only gets better the more salmon you add.

Dump your two ingredients into your mixer and whip until it is all smooth and salmon-y. Sounds too easy right? It's one of those things that makes you feel like a kitchen rock star, but any slacker could do.

And is it good? After having a taste, Big Dog looked up at me and said "If I never have more of this, my life would be.....harder." So there you go, it makes life easier for a 4 year old, it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, makes a mean roll up and stores well in the fridge. What more could you want?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Curried Eggs, humor me.

It sounds super exotic, and it tastes great, but this is a weird little recipe I've pulled from Everyday Foods magazine (March 2008) and modified to make more enticing for our family.

I have this feeling you're going to read the recipe and think, "Holy crap, that sounds terrible! Why would she eat this?" and I assure you, it is actually really really good. Give it a try, you can thank me later.

Curried Eggs

8 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
1 jar good quality marinara sauce (I use the Trader Joe's Organic Marinara)
2. tbsp olive oil
1 medium sweet onion cut in half and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger (I'll give you a tip on how to do this in the steps that follow)
2 tbsp good quality curry powder (don't cheap out on this, the good stuff is worth it)
Salt to taste
Low fat plain yogurt (about a cup for 4 people)

In a medium sized sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
Add the garlic and onion and fry until soft.
Add the ginger and heat for about a minute, then dump in the marinara sauce. I used a big piece of fresh ginger, washed and grated with my microplane. I don't peel it and I don't worry about the little chunks that fall in as I grate happily away. If I knew who developed the microplane for cooking, I'd probably kiss them. I love mine and use them all the time.
Add your curry powder. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, then add your whole peeled hard boiled eggs. Keep on the heat until the eggs are warm through, about 5 more minutes.

Serve over rice or not (we don't since Mr. Dog has some sick aversion to rice, but you probably don't live with a similarly afflicted individual, so go for it!) Top with about 1/4 cup yogurt.

Serves 4.

As with many spice-rich foods, this is even better as leftovers. I love the way the flavors mingle after a night in the fridge, and the fact that the eggs turn a sunny happy yellow from the curry powder doesn't hurt either. Who doesn't love bright yellow globes for lunch?

Meal Planning Monday

I'm starting to feel a little guilty about just how badly I neglect this blog. I'll be working hard to update at least weekly, hopefully more.

One way I can do that, that is mutually beneficial (to me and to my blog) is to do my weekly meal planning here. Awesome! Wish I'd stolen this idea much earlier on.

My weekly plans, when I make them, tend to allow for 5 cooked meals requiring actual ingredient shopping, one meal that is more or less off the pantry shelf and one wild card meal. The wild card can be take out, eating in an actual restaurant or eating up the left overs. This week I'm getting off light since I am going to away on business two days, and Mr. Dog will be challenged to figure the meals out on his own. And, since I'm already slacking, one of my listed meals will be last night's dinner, which was awesome, but clearly falls out of the normal scope of meal planning.

So with no further ado...
What we're eating at the Dog House, this week:

Pan fried sole with shallot butter
Steamed french green beans
Truffled mashed potatoes

Curried Eggs with yogurt
Steamed broccoli

Tortellini with garlic and Parmesan cheese
Arugula salad

Wednesday (aka cocktails dinner and the bitches)
cocktail-avocado daquri
CityMama's Very Green Vegggie Stir-fry with Soba noodles (with added baked savory tofu, just because we like it that way)

After this, it is up to Mr. Dog. See how badly I cop out. Really, not fair is it?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Cocktails for the more or less grown ups.

Wednesday night is for cocktails. Yes, Wednesday. Might not have been that way back before I had kids, but now that I'm a mother of two, my cocktail hour takes place right before I settle in to watch Project Runway with Auntie Chihuahua (not an actual chihuahua, but as close to it as you can get in human form-and no, that's not an insult). The adults have real cocktails and the kids get their own alcohol0-free variation on the theme.

I've been getting recipes and inspiration from Lucy Brennan's Hip Sips, but last night decided to branch out on my own and whip up my own concoction. A quick aside, if you ever are in Portland, I highly recommend you head over to 82o, the cocktails are fantastic, the bar food is amazing and the barstaff are good scenery. Thanks to my sister for introducing me to this fab place.

Now back to my cocktail. As you may know, I work in the software development field. We work under insane deadlines to make cool stuff. And as great as this job is most of the year, the insane deadline part is looming over my head right now. We had a deadline, and missed it. This is not good. No one is happy. I'm not happy, my co-managers are not happy, my manager is not happy, the VP is not happy. You get the picture. So imagine the stress of an already insane deadline compounded by the stress of being checked up on. Frequently checked up on. Checked up on with things like "Are we ever going to ship this thing?" and "How did we not know this was a problem before now?" Really really not good. So at the end of the day, especially cocktail Wednesday you need a drink.

And this is what I made.

Day for Day Slip
1 1/2 oz Pearl Pomegranate Vodka
1/2 oz Harlequin Orange liqueur
1 oz lemon/lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz Pomegranate juice
2 tbsp mandarin puree

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake briskly for 10 seconds, strain into a highball glass.

And for the kids.....

The Daily Check In
1 oz lemon lime juice
2 oz Pomegranate juice
2 Tbsp. Mandarin puree
1/2 oz simple syrup
club soda to fill the glass

Mix all ingredients in a child friendly glass and serve.

Simple Syrup
In a medium sized sauce pan, combine 2 cups bakers sugar and 2 cups water, heat until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear.

Lemon Lime Juice
1 bottle Santa Cruz Organic Lemon Juice
1 bottle Santa Cruz Organic Lime Juice
Mix together and store in your fridge. You can also squeeze fresh lemons and limes and combine equal parts lemon and lime juices, but I'm under enough stress and Lucy Brennan says the Santa Cruz Organic brand is good enough for her, so who am I to resist the easy way out?

Mandarin Puree
Use fresh Mandarin oranges
10 Peeled and seeded mandarin oranges
2 Tbsp sugar
5 Tbsp water

Puree in a blender until smooth, then strain and store in the freezer in an airtight container.

To answer a couple of questions you probably have after reading this recipe:

Yes, I do have simple syrup, mandarin puree and lemon lime juice in my home at all times.

Yes, I do take cocktails seriously

Yes, I am a bit overly serious about cocktails.

Yes, it is every bit as delicious as you think it sounds.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

This ain't no Chuck E Cheese

So our house may be over run by large playful animals. And we may have more than our fair share of toys and games strewn about, but that is where the similarities end. Sure we like pizza. But we like real pizza. Thin slightly crispy crust, lightly sauced, covered with a light layer of cheese. Personally I like all pizza, even the bad stuff. That's just who I am, but Mr. Dog is a bit of a pizza snob. He likes my pizza, and that's about it. I'll take it as a compliment, even if that compliment means I have to actually do a fair amount of work in order to enjoy my pizza addiction.

Pizza Dough:
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups cake flour (not self rising)
4 cups whole wheat flour
4 tsp salt

Mix together and let sit in a bowl coated with olive oil in a warm draft free place for at least 40 minutes. You can then punch it down and go for a second rise, or if you're impatient, like me, you can divide it into 4 balls and shape the dough for your crust. (I put two of them away in large freezer bags for later use. Just set them in the fridge the night before you want to make pizza and let them thaw. Shape them, top them and bake them. Easy!)

Preheat your oven to 500.

For toppings, you can use whatever you like.
What do we like? Aw, aren't you sweet for asking! Well last week we made two winners.
One was topped with Arugula Pesto and toasted Walnuts (yes my kids eat this, they scarf it right down!) and another with smoked salmon and capers.

Lemony Arugula Pesto
1 bag of arugula leaves (I'm real lazy so I get the prewashed kind at Trader Joe's, but if you're more into the labor of cooking, feel free to wash your own, just make sure it is dry before you get started with the pesto making)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp walnut oil (or you can just use more olive oil if you don't have it)
3 Tbsp Lemon juice
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup toasted walnuts (put walnuts in a pan on the stove over medium heat until you can smell their walnutty goodness. It's that easy)

Put all of the ingredients into your food processor, or if you're a poor bastard like me who still only has a blender, then drop all the ingredients in there. Pulse until it is all pesto-y. If you need more oil, add it. Season with a bit of kosher salt.

This goes great on pizza, just top with a mix of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, toss a few of your toasted walnuts on top and bake until it is browned and bubbly good.

The pesto goes great on sandwiches too, or is really nice just spread on a thick slice of country style bread. It keeps about 2 weeks in the fridge, just keep a little layer of oil over the top.

For the second pizza, I used a more traditional pizza sauce, tomato paste, olive oil, garlic and oregano. Topped it with cubes of wood-smoked local salmon and capers, covered that all over with mozzarella and baked it. Easy as, well, pizza.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I scream, you scream....settle down already!

So summer has finally hit Seattle. Phew. I was beginning to think I needed to escape the Northwest just to keep from getting frostbite! Now that I've thawed a bit, I get to start thinking about ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. I've dug out the ice cream maker and set to some serious work. I've already made a few batches, one vanilla with a dulce de leche swirl and one candied bacon. Yeah, I said candied bacon and yes I am more or less a vegetarian. I didn't eat that one, but eveyone who did went gaga for it. Essentially I am beginning to believe that David Lebovitz wants me and my family to become very very fat. And ya know what? I'm pretty much ok with it.

After making two very successful batches of his ice cream, I decided to branch out. I had just picked up some perfectly ripe raspberries and wanted something kind of tangy and less heavy to pair with them. Buttermilk sprung to mind. Perfect. Even more perfect, I have some local honey from the Farmer's Market to sweeten it with. The end result was a slightly sweet ice cream with a bit of a bite to it. Topped with my juicy raspberries it was a little bowl of summer goodness.

Does that make you hungry? Yeah, well here's the recipe.

Buttermilk and local honey ice cream:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups cultured buttermilk
1/2 cup whole milk
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup honey

In a sauce pan heat the honey and heavy cream until the honey is fully melted and the mixture is slightly warmed. In another bowl whisk the egg yolks until smooth and slightly thickened. Add 1/2 cup of the warmed cream and honey mixture to the egg yolks and mix thoroughly. Add this mixture back to the cream and honey mixture over medium/low heat. Continue to whisk until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Let the custard cool until it is lukewarm.
In a larger bowl, mix the whole milk and buttermilk. Add the cooled custard to the milk mixture. Let chill overnight then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Top with berries or drizzle with more honey, or oh, figs, figs would be really nice....Yeah, I think I need to make this one again.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mamikaze inspired mash up

Recently Mamikaze publicized this blog as part of her giveaways on her own blog, Life on the Run. As a thank you, I promised (or threatened) to make up a recipe in her honor. I asked her what a few of her favorite ingredients were then based off that list, my rusty brain cogs started to turn. What I came up with is the recipe below. Inspired by Mamikaze's list I thought of a meal I ate many times as an exchange student in the Netherlands. Essentially Dutch comfort food, boerenkool stamppot, is a delicious mix of mashed potatoes and kale usually served with sausage of some sort. It sounds odd, but it was tasty, hearty and just right for dinner after biking home on a cool Dutch evening. I've modified the recipe and included a few of my favorite flavors. I made it tonight for the first time, and it was wonderful.
So here we go, Mamikaze- a recipe in your honor!

Mamikaze's Mashup
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes
1 cup buttermilk
5 tbsp butter
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
10 oz bag of pre-washed baby spinach
6 oz shredded Gruyere cheese
Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper

Boil Yukon gold potatoes (peels and all) until tender, drain and mash. Add enough buttermilk to make a creamy, mashed potato consistency.

In another pan, melt butter and saute shallots until they are very soft and a little golden on the edges. Add spinach and cook until the spinach is softened, but not overcooked.

Stir the shallot, butter and spinach into the potato mixture then stir in the shredded cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with sausage for your meat eating types, or a vegetarian sausage for those who abstain.
I had a tasty Tofurkey sausage with mine, while the men in our house had chicken sausage.

Monday, April 28, 2008

And when I'm very very lazy

And I'm talking lazy beyond the bounds of making quiche with a ready-made crust, I have a few quick kid-pleasers in my repertoire. Since this weekend was filled with feverish toddlers and rash covered preschoolers, I didn't do much cooking. I did a lot of reheating leftovers and some ordering take out, but neither of those seem worthy of a blog post, do they?

Instead, I'm going to talk about Naked Burritos. No, no actual nudity here. They are completely family friendly and completely modest. My current recipe has evolved from a one pot recipe I used as a single woman way back when I had time for pedicures and massages and such. Sigh. I used to call it Beans and Rice and Corn. The ingredients were pretty much that, with a few additions. Recently our nanny dubbed it Naked Burritos and I think that has a nicer ring to it. The ingredients are things that I commonly have in my pantry. The only time sink in this one is the rice, but if you are like me, you can freeze precooked rice and just have it on hand, or buy the precooked rice at Trader Joe's. Once mixed, it makes a great lunch box lunch and is just as good at room temperature as it is heated. Even the picky eater who used to be in our nanny-share would jump on this one, so I think it has universal appeal.

Naked Burritos
1 can of beans (black beans or pinto- I use the organic ones, but you don't have to)
1 bag of frozen sweet corn (you can use canned, but I like the roasted corn from Trader Joe's)
2 cups of cooked brown rice (again, you can use white rice, but why would you. Brown rice is so much tastier)
1/2 jar or tub salsa of your choice (fresh salsa is the tastiest, but if I'm working from the pantry I'll use a jar of prepared salsa.)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or jack, or that Mexican blend of shredded cheese- really any cheese you like will work)

In a large pan heat the beans corn and rice, add the shredded cheese and salsa, stir and eat. Too lazy for the pan? Put it in a big bowl and microwave it! See why I love this recipe?

If you're looking for extras, you can top it with sour cream, or low-fat yogurt (my choice). If I have them on hand, I'll toss in a big handful of chopped cilantro and some sliced black olives Sometimes I'll toss in some roasted green chilies or ground soy-meat. Roasted zucchini cubes also go in nicely if you have it laying around. I've added chopped spinach and broccoli at other times, both went over well. I haven't tried it, but I'm sure cauliflower would work too.
If you're a meat-eating type, you could add chicken or ground beef. I'm sure Mr. Dog would love it if I added a bit of shredded pork, but that's not likely to happen at my house. You could probably even toss in your leftover turkey if you were so inclined. I guess my point is that this recipe is really flexible.

Well, that's all you're getting out of me today. I've got some slacking to get back to.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I need a tropical vacation

but since that isn't likely to happen any time soon, I guess I'll settle for some salsa. This week has been a killer and I am tired down to my core. The weather has been nuts, we've had everything from sunshine to snow. I kid you not, snow in late April? Just where am I living? Antarctica? No, Seattle. So odd.
I wish I could follow my sun-seeker instincts and fly off to some little island paradise. (Well, an island paradise where no one will see me in a bathing suit.) There is nothing I'd like better than to slap on some sunscreen and traipse along a deserted beach somewhere. I know that the likelihood of that happening now, or in the foreseeable future is about just about as likely as me looking great in a bikini in this lifetime. My solution? Mango salsa. Yes, salsa. Seriously, top a nice piece of fish with some of this sunshine in a bowl and I can almost imagine I'm warm. So here it is, my foolproof mango salsa recipe:

Beach Cabana in a Bowl:
1 large ripe mango, chopped into a smallish dice
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 lime
1 big handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
kosher salt

Here's the easy part, put all of the chopped items in a bowl, squeeze the juice of the lime over it, and mix. Add kosher salt to taste, yeah it sounds odd, but the sweet mango needs it to get the right bite. Let the salsa sit for about an hour before you use it. You can use it right away but letting it sit a while lets the flavors mingle a bit. I also like to squeeze the pulp left attached to the pit in my fist over the bowl of mango cubes just to get all of the $3-bucks-a-pop juicy goodness out of that bad boy, but you can omit that step if you want.

I like to serve it over broiled salmon fillets, but it works just as well as a dip for tortilla chips or a topping for tacos. Go wild.

Now, can someone pass me the sunscreen?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mac and Cheese, two ways

What kid doesn't love Mac and Cheese, it is great stuff. Although in the Dog house, expect to be corrected if you call it Mac and Cheese. Around here is is Macaroni and Cheese, anything thing else will be immediately disputed by Big Dog. While most kids will scarf down the electric orange powder coating, our kids think of that as some other thing. Macaroni and Cheese is homemade, creamy and rich.

For most of Big Dog's Macaroni and Cheese eating career, I followed Martha Stewart's classic, Martharoni. Delicious. The first time I made it for Big Dog he out and out rejected the baked breadcrumb crust. Insane, yes, but as a good mom, I just omitted the final baking steps and served it from the saucepan right after mixing the pasta and sauce.

Recently a co-worker told me about Fine Cooking Magazine. She raved about it in fact. Not being currently subscribed to any cooking magazines I decided to sign up. The first issue I received contained a recipe for, yep, you guessed it Macaroni and Cheese. I decided to give it a whirl. It took a few steps off the beaten path, it has thyme, mustard and Worcestershire sauce in the cheese sauce which sounded really interesting. And when I gave it a try, it was an instant hit. It is a little bolder than the other recipe and for some reason it makes me think of something that should be paired with a nice hoppy beer. Well, maybe not for the kids, but the adults should feel free to imbibe.

Recently the boys went nuts over a lasagna I made that had a crusty cheese topping, so I've been baking the Macaroni and Cheese with the breadcrumb topping. If Big Dog remembers disliking it or even being a bit suspicious of it, that doesn't show as he and Little Dog fight over the biggest piece of baked crusty topping.

Either way, these two recipes rock. They make a nice enough dinner for guests and the leftovers are great to have on hand for weekend lunches.

One of these days I'm planning on inviting a few of their buddies over for a Macaroni and Cheese tasting. We'll serve both and have them vote for their favorite. Just looking for an excuse for a party really, but I'll take what I can get.

Sorry I'm crapping out by linking this one, but it is much easier than transcribing it, since they've already done all that work for me.

Fine Cooking's Beer Cravin' Macaroni and Cheese
(from memory, so it may vary from the published recipe)
8 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large sprig thyme plus 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf (I never use the bay leaf, I don't have any in the house)
1 quart milk
4 oz Monterey jack cheese, shredded
8 oz Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (use the sharpest cheese you can get, it is worth it.)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I personally use 2 Tbsp)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I used 1 tsp)
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb pasta of your chosen shape (I like penne, and I use whole wheat or Barilla's high protein pasta)

Preheat oven to 375 and butter a 9x13 oven safe pan.
In a large pan heat the butter until melted. Add the chopped onion and sweat until the onion is soft and translucent. When the onion is soft, add the flour, cooking until the flour loses the raw flavor and it sizzles slightly. Add the milk, whisking in about 1 cup at first to ensure the rue mixes well with the milk then adding the rest. Add the sprig of thyme and the bay leaf. Reduce the heat under the pan, but stir frequently until the sauce thickens. Let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes until the thyme and bay leaf have fully flavored the sauce, then remove the bay and thyme.
While the sauce is simmering, boil pasta and remove from pan about 1 minute before the pasta is cooked al dente. Drain and set aside.
Remove from the heat and add the cheese stirring until it has melted into the sauce and the sauce is smooth again. Add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
Mix the pasta and cheese sauce and pour into a buttered 9x13 pan.
In a smaller bowl mix the shredded Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and chopped thyme leaves. spread evenly over the cheese and pasta mixture in the pan.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the bread crumb topping is golden and the cheese sauce is bubbly.

I like to serve this with steamed broccoli or peas. (well, the boys like me to serve it with peas, I hate them) Tonight I also serve it with rocket tossed with olive oil, lemon juice and kosher salt. I much preferred this combination, but the boys still heaped on the peas.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Let me tell you about my MAD risotto skills.

I don't usually like to brag like this, but is it really bragging when you are stating a fact? I am the world's best risotto maker. Really. I could take on any of those personality-free Top Chef nutjobs any day. Hell, bring on short, bald Tom himself, he'd be weeping at the perfection on his plate.

Last night's dinner was my latest risotto creation. For simplicity sake, let's call it "Heaven on a Plate", I'll transcribe the recipe as best I can, but I am prone to inspiration in the kitchen that may have altered the recipe a bit in practice.

Heaven on a Plate:
5 medium zucchini, cut into a large dice
2 tbsp olive oil
French Sea Salt
Toss the diced zucchini in olive oil and sea salt and spread on a baking pan. Place under the broiler, tossing occasionally until the zucchini cubes have a slight golden brown color. Set aside

2 Tbsp Butter
2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup chopped shallots
1 tsp dried thyme (use fresh if you have it, I didn't)
5 cups veggie broth ( I used better than bullion, it was goooood)
1 cups white wine
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2-3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, melt the butter and sweat the shallots until they are soft and translucent. Add the rice and stir until the grains are all coated with butter and they become translucent (about 3 minutes). Add the dry thyme (wait until later if you have fresh)
One cup at a time, stir in the vegetable broth waiting until it is fully absorbed. Once the broth is all absorbed, add the wine, one cup at a time. Yeah, it seems like a lot of wine, but it gives it a really nice flavor. At the end of the additions, the risotto should be creamy and slightly fluid with all of the grains of rice fully cooked and tender.
Stir in the lemon zest and the Parmesan cheese.
Fold in the previously cooked zucchini and pat yourself on the back for making a delicious meal.

I like to serve this with baby romaine salad with a nice vinegar-y vinegarette. (a big splash of balsamic, a big spoonful of dijon, a smaller splash of olive oil, a couple grinds of pepper and a few pinches of kosher salt).
And it does a beautiful double duty in lunches. Mine in a tupperware, Big Dog's in a bento box, expertly shaped into bear heads with my spankin' new rice mold.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hippy Food 101

Our nanny likes to call me a hippy. She often refers to our food as hippy food. Tonight's dinner would fit that bill. Nothing says earthmuffin quite like Broccoli and Tofu over Bulgar with Peanut sauce, well, unless it is an actual "earthmuffin" and I don't have a recipe for that.

As 70s granola mom as this sounds, it is actually really good, and it was a real hit with one of the kids, the other was too obsessed with drinking water from Easter Bunny delivered rocket shipt cup to offer an opinion on the meal.

1 1/2 cups bulgar wheat
4 cups boiling water

Put bulgar in a heat proof bowl add boiling water and cover. Set aside.

1 Tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup peanut butter (unsweetend, natural style works best)
1 1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
Heat oil in a sauce pan and saute crushed garlic being careful not to let it burn. Add peanut butter, water rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. Stir until well mixed and heat until warm, if it is too thick, add additional water to thin. I also add a teaspoon of "Better than Bullion" to round out the flavor, but it is not necessary. You can also add a good squeeze of Sirachana if your children will eat spicy foods, mine don't so I have to do without.
2 packages Wild Wood Savory tofu
3 cups broccoli florets
Steam broccoli. Cut tofu into bite sized pieces and heat.

Serve bulgar topped with broccoli and tofu. Add a healthy dose of sauce on top. Sit back and wait for your two year old to ask for "more tofu, peese" like Little Dog, it'll melt your heart.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Dining with the whores

No, I am not in the same social circles as Gov. Spitzer. I am only a fan of prostitution in so much as it seems to have been the origins of one of my favorite pasta sauces. Pasta Puttanesca, in all of its salty, spicy deliciousness was a quick supper of the "working girls" way back when, or so rumor has it. As it turns out, it is an excellent dinner for the working mamas too, different line of work entirely, but still...busy people need speedy meals, right?

I make a rapid version that suits my family, but may be a bit salty for non-salt lovin' folks. I don't know many of them so I can't say for sure, but since it hits my salty cravings just right, it is a suspicion I hold. If you are a moderate salt lover, you might want to cut back on the capers and anchovies, but if you choose to go that route, really, what is the point?

Put water on to boil for your favorite pasta. I like whole wheat penne, or Barilla high protein penne, but really, any pasta that floats your boat will work just fine.

While the water is getting ready to boil, put a large saute pan on medium heat.
Once the pan is hot, add 1 tin of good quality anchovies in olive oil, including all of the oil.
Add 3-4 cloves of garlic, crush.
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
1/2 cup pitted kalamata, chopped into smaller bites, about 4-6 pieces per olive.
Once all of this has been heated, add a 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes. I like Pomi or Muir Glen Organic, but any good brand will work well.
If there are no children on the guest list, or those children love spicy foods, add a couple of good shakes of crushed pepper flakes,

By this point your water should be boiling, dump in your pound of pasta and cook until it is slightly underdone, probably a minute less than the directed time on the package.
While your pasta is cooking, let the sauce continue simmer until the sauce thickens slightly.

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and add to the sauce, cook in the sauce for a minute or two. And that's about it. I like to top it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. If you and your dinner companions are of drinking age, this is one of those meals that craves a big glass of bold red wine.

This goes over like gangbusters with my kids, but keep in mind, Big Dog was eating capers plain, by the fist-full as a toddler and they both go gaga for a good feta stuffed olive, so your results may vary.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Delicious enough for Dr. Evil

Nigella has been good to me lately. After staring the day with a batch of the best scones ever, I made her Spinach and Bulgar Pie for dinner. Despite my poor timing, which once again had me serving dinner after 9:00pm, the recipe is a winner. An added plus is the crust, a deliciously flaky pie type crust that I can prove is fool proof because I was successful in making it. I am a complete failure at pie crust, but this came out beautifully. I had to make a few substitutions because despite having planned to make this since Friday, I failed to have all of the required ingredients on hand. I replaced the green onions with a medium shallot, omitted the bread crumbs entirely and used 16 oz of frozen spinach in place of the 10 oz package in the recipe. It still was delicious and will be made again, possibly with the correct ingredients.

During dinner, Little Dog loved it, but seemed to prefer eating from Mr. Dog and my plates. He came to me and asked to "A taste" then kept on asking for "tastes" until my serving was gone. After he ate the last bite, he threw his head back, clasped his hands together and declared "Mine ALL mine! Ah hahahahaha!" (A line from the Backyardagins Super Secret Super Spy expertly applied to his own life). Having finished off my serving, he started in on Mr. Dog and gave us a repeat performance, evil laugh and all. I'd say that is a ringing endorsement from a 2 year old.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Even filo couldn't save it

My mom used to make a vegetarian entree, Vegetable Strudel, way back when I first became a vegetarian. I don't know where the recipe came from, but I do remember how much I liked it. A lot. I've asked for the recipe a few times over the years, but it has yet to be handed over. Considering that many of my mom's recipes are stored in a giant electric wok leads me to believe this is not out of malice or desire to keep me strudel-hungry, but from a lack of recipe organization. (she should get a blog!)

In my recent quest to cook outside of my old standards, I googled it and got a recipe. Unfortunately this recipe didn't quite work out as I remembered. The flavors were great, but the overall consistency was too wet. When I rolled the strudel, it made a big soggy log, not a compact roll. Even after it was baked, it was too runny. Not sure what went wrong, since I think this recipe is pretty close to what my mom used. I think I may need to cook off the moisture a bit more before I add the cheese. I thought of that at the time, but since the cheese was in the pot, that ship had sailed.

Here is the Vegetable Strudel recipe I used. I am going to try it again at some point and work to offset the extra moisture. I'll keep you posted.

Wrap it in Filo, Boys.

If there is any ingredient I enjoy more than filo, I can't think of it right this moment. Ok, maybe I can, but I won't admit it. I love filo, so if I exaggerate slightly, so be it.

My boys seem to agree. If I wrap ingredients into a flakey filo crust, they eat it. It is that simple.
For a long time, I was stuck on Spanikopita. I love the stuff, and they wolfed it down, so I assume they liked it too. Imagine my delight when I was perusing my new copy of Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess and came across a recipe for Courgette and Chick Pea Filo Pie. (For those of us who don't speak Stuffy British, that's Zucchini.) All of the ingredients were simple, easy to pull together and wrapped in deliciously crispy filo.

I made it once strictly following the recipe, but used brown basmanti rice instead of plain basmanti rice. It came out of the oven golden brown and beautiful, easily as perfect as the one pictured in the cookbook. It was a huge hit. Unfortunately it took nearly twice as long as I had expected so dinner was served past bedtime. On the upside, starving children will eat just about anything with gusto!

In my next attempt, I made one simple substitution. I used bulgar instead of rice. Mr. Dog hates rice (although he always eats it when I make it- go figure) and bulgar cooks faster than rice. I simply replaced the rice with an equal quantity of bulgar. I also added a hearty squeeze of lemon right before putting the filling into the filo lined pan.
Personally, I much preferred the bulgar version. The flavors just merged a bit more and the nutty flavor of the bulgar added to the overall toasty deliciousness.
And the kids ate it as though I had starved them, even though dinner was served right on time! This will be a new weeknight staple in our house.

Courgette and Chick Pea Filo Pie
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
3 plump courgettes/zucchini
1/2 cup basmati rice (or bulgar if you want to follow my wisdom)
3 cups veg stock
2 cans of chick peas, drained and rinsed
*big lemon (if you want to add it, it is not in the original recipe)
4 tbsp melted butter
8 oz filo pastry
9 inch springform pan
Preheat the oven to 200C and put in a baking sheet. Gently fry the cumin seeds and onion in the olive oil until the onion is soft. Add the turmeric and coriander. Dice the courgettes (unpeeled), add them to the onion mixture, and cook on a fairly high heat to prevent the courgettes becoming watery. When they are soft but still holding their shape, add the rice and stir well, letting the rice become well coated with the oil/liquid. Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring while you do so. When all the liquid has been absorbed the rice should be cooked, so take it off the heat, stir in the chick peas and check the seasoning. At this point I added a big squeeze of lemon juice and I highly recommend it.

Brush the insides of the tin with some of the melted butter. Line the bottom and sides with about 3/4 of the filo, buttering each piece as you layer. Leave a little filo overhanging the sides and keep 3-4 sheets for the top. Carefully put in your slightly cooled filling, and then fold in the overlaps. Butter these down then scrunch up the remaining sheets as a topping. Brush with a final coat of butter and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the filo is golden and the filling is hot. Check this by inserting a metal knife which should feel hot when removed.
Serves 6 - 8

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Delicious PMS Survival Cookies

OK, so Cooks Illustrated calls them "Triple Chocolate Cookie" but that fails to sum up the rich, velvety chocolate blend that goes into these perfect treats to tide my inner bitch over her "time of the month". From now on, when I need chocolate, and I do mean NEED chocolate, I will make these.
Even Big Dog appreciated them. "They are just so perfect!" he says. "I can feeeeel the chocolate" as he rubs his chest, chocolate cookie residue forming a prefect ring around his mouth. his mouth. The kid knows his cookies. As he stands at the door to the playroom, our working oven in the house, he says "I neeed a cookie. Mine's all gone." Little Dog follows Mr. Dog yelling "Eat it all UP!" And just because I understand where he is coming from, I say yes.

PMS Survival Cookies

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

But what's IN it?

I made a delicious soup last night from Fine Cooking. Everyone in the family seemed to enjoy it. Paired with a slab of Limpa bread fresh from the oven and a few slices of good cheddar cheese, we had a simple yet filling meal.

The recipe itself is easy, relatively quick to prepare and as I said, considered tasty by an audience that ranges from a 2 year-old to a 41 year-old. My curious 4 year old liked it, but was suspicious that I had put some extra ingredient in without admitting it, so dinner was punctuated by frequent demands to know "But what else is in it?" He finally decided there must be beans in it (there are not), and I decided to let him believe that just to shut him up so I could eat in peace.

The recipe called for 1 Tbsp Pernod, but as I am not a fan of the stuff and the liquor store only had one size bottle, suitable for a French alcoholic, I omitted it. I also used a potato larger than the recommended "medium" in the recipe, but I think that is what made this recipe work a little better for me than my friend over at Pork Cracklins.

Tomato Soup with Fennel, Leek and Potato (Fine Cooking #91, March 2008, back cover)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tasty Loaves for Loafers

"What's that mama?" asked Big Dog.
"That's bread dough." I replied.
"Bread doesn't come from dough!" he laughed. Guess I've been slacking too much on my bread baking lately. Damn.

A friend of mine recently discovered that I am a fellow cook/baker and pointed me in the direction of a new bread cookbook. When she told me the name was "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" I laughed, thinking it was absurd, but she held her ground and convinced me to try it.

The idea behind the cookbook is making fresh bread with less than 5 minutes hands on time per day. The dough is quickly mixed, let to rest then refrigerated. Each batch of dough makes about 4 loaves, so you can bake on demand over the next 7-14 days. When you are ready for bread, you form your loaf, let it rest while you heat your oven and bake it. Sounds too simple to be true, but my few experiments from this book have been delicious.

My first loaf was the Master Dough recipe, although I had a few changes due to my supplies on hand, I ended up with a very tasty loaf with a delicious crispy crust. The crumb wasn't quite right, so I tried again and the second loaf was much better. After a mishap that left my bucket of dough out on the counter for many hours, I decided to ditch the dough and start fresh.

My next attempt was a Limpa bread, one of my favorite breads of all time. This light colored Swedish rye bread is flavored with orange peel, anise seed and cardamom. I baked my first loaf last night and had a thick slice this morning with my coffee. Delicious. Chewy crust, fragrant interior and a perfect bakery fresh texture. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Interested in learning more? Check out their website. The authors are very active answering questions, offering advice and troubleshooting the recipes. If they started a cult, this would be one I would be tempted to join.

But Real Boys DO Eat Quiche

And they love it. I think of it as one of my lazy mom meals and frequently make this when I am wiped out from a hard day at the office. A nice plus to this recipe is that it is tasty and "fancy" enough that I can serve it to guests and not look like a total slacker.
I can't make a pie crust to save my life, somehow I am missing that gene, but there are some damn good store bought options out there. My personal favorite is a Whole Wheat Organic pie crust I found in the freezer department at PCC, but any pie shell will work. In a pinch, I use the Marie Callender's pie shells since they don't contain lard, but they lack the nutty goodness and Alpha mom appeal of the whole wheat version. The kids don't seem to mind the difference, but nutritionally the whole grain version is better, and I prefer it.

My personal recipe couldn't be easier:
2 frozen pie shells (or home made crusts, unbaked- if you are an overachiever)
1 8 oz package shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 cage-free large eggs
4 cups milk (whole, low fat or even fat free)
3-4 cups chopped broccoli florettes or 1 package frozen broccoli

Preheat oven to 350.
In a mixing bowl, mix eggs and milk with a fork. Add salt and pepper if you like, or leave it and let people add it at the table.
Put half of the cheese in the bottom of each pie shell. Top cheese with the broccoli. Pour half of the egg/milk mixture in each shell.
Place both uncooked quiches on a baking sheet and place in on the middle rack of the oven. bake for about 40 minutes or until the top of the quiche is slightly domed and doesn't jiggle when the pan is wiggled. Start checking on this about 30 minutes, there is nothing less tasty than an overcooked quiche.
When the quiche is done cooking, let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

My boys love this recipe and ask for it regularly. Cold quiche makes a great lunch entree so I have taken to making two at a time. You can easily cut this recipe in half to make a single quiche, but you'll kick yourself after it is eaten up and you want one more slice for lunch so I don't recommend it.
I like to serve this with cut up fruit or a salad, but in a pinch, it can be a stand-alone meal.

Feeding the Tiny Dictators

I'm pretty lucky, my kids will eat most anything. But the challenge at our house hasn't really been getting food into they boys. For me it is getting food in front of the boys before 9pm.

I work full time and after getting home with Big Dog, relaxing for a beat then heading off to the kitchen, I am always struggling to get home made, healthy and tasty food on the table before bedtime. I like to cook, and I am no stranger to kitchen experimentation, so I've decided to keep track of the culinary successes and failures at our house here on this spankin' new blog.

The recipes I post will try to balance a few factors:
1. ease of preparation- while I am not adverse to complex recipes, most week night meals need to be easy for a nearly brain dead mama to prepare

2. general deliciousness- I try not to cater to the preconceptions about what kids like, but I also don't force the kids to eat anything they have tasted and rejected. I also require that food served in my house be tasty to adults. I won't eat processed dreck just because the kids like it. I like variety, not only in ingredients but in the resulting flavors.

3. nutritional soundness- Occasionally I will commit some other kind of sin against the wisdom of a balanced diet and let this one slide, but my general goal is to create meals that meet the nutritional demands of growing kids while managing the nutritional needs to keep my growing ass in check.

4. faceless- When my friend used to travel abroad, he had a hard time communicating his vegetarian preference. He finally simplified his questions to ask "Did it have a face?" when offered food. I use this term here to express my preference for vegetarian options. Generally my meals are vegetarian because I am a "Seattle Vegetarian". From what I've been told, this classification means I eat some fish, but no other farm friends. While the boys do eat meat, I don't usually cook it, so don't look for any fantastic beef recipes here, although you might find a good take on salmon from time to time.

5. shopping friendly- I like to buy fresh local produce, a variety of herbs and spices and explore new ingredients. What I don't like is to have to hit 5 specialty grocery stores just to get all of the required ingredients for one meal. That doesn't mean I won't do it from time to time, but those meals are not as high on my list of servables as those that don't require a day off and a tank of gas to prepare.

And with those goals in mind, I set forth to populate this blog with the tasty things we eat at the Dog house. Enjoy!