Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Menu #47

Saving the Earth, one gum wrapper at a time!

Happy Earth Week!!!  Yesterday for Earth Day, Xavier & I hosted a small party at our local park.  We picnicked on the grass, decorated cookies on a stick to look like little earths, and then ended with a trash pick-up of the park.  The kids did an extraordinary job and I was so proud of them!  

Well, so far I’ve revised this week’s menu 3 times because I’m not really sure how this week is going to go.  I know what I’m making tonight & tomorrow, but that’s about it.  BDL (short for Big Daddy Laddie…funny, huh?  My friend, Lori, came up with that one.  J)  is going out of town for the week on business, so it’s going to be just me & the lil’ guy.  I also know what I’m making Saturday night because I invited the girls over to keep me company.  I’m making Spanish Tapas, complete with sangria…Woo Hoo!!! 

Now onto my tiny menu. . .

Tuesday:  Chipotle Tortilla Soup & Chicken Noodle Soup
I’m making a large batch of chicken broth today.  With some of it, I’m making a spicy & smoky tortilla soup garnished with avocados, Greek yogurt, lime wedges, & tortilla chips.  This soup is for the adults.  For X-man, I’m going to add pasta wheels & carrots to a small amount of stock because the other soup will be way too spicy for his little taste buds.  He can also have some yogurt & chips on the side.  J

Wednesday:  Whole-Wheat Penne w/ Marinara/salad w/ avocados & olives/garlic breadsticks
The boys are having the pasta & I’m having the salad, because right after dinner I’m heading to my friend, Trish’s, house for a fun movie & fondue night!  We’re watching Les Mis & dipping yummy little tidbits into cheese & chocolate…Yum!!!

Thursday:  Leftovers
Laddie will be off to Oregon, and lil’ man & I are on our own.

Friday:  Take-Out
We have a late baseball game, so we’ll just pick up take-out on the way home.

Saturday:  Girls Night!!!  Shrimp & Chorizo/Goat Cheese-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers/Tapenade/Whole Roasted Garlic Bulbs/Red Sangria/White Sangria
We also have cheese, chocolate, & more arriving with my lovely guests!  I can’t wait!!!

Sunday:  Dinner & Movie w/ X-man!  J 
I’m going on a fun dinner date with my lil’ man. . .not really sure of the movie or restaurant yet???

Monday:  Mac n Cheese/carrot sticks/salad & Homemade Ice Cream for dessert
This is Chef X’s favorite dish to prepare, so we’ll make it a whole day of food fun!  We’re also going to make ice cream on this day. . .flavor to be announced.  Last time, his creation was rainbow marshmallows, walnuts, & chocolate chunks.  J 

Now that I look back on my menu, my week looks pretty fun!  I’m looking forward to it!  Hope everyone has a fun-filled week too! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bacon-Caramelized Onion-Potato Quiche

Bacon-Caramelized Onion-Potato Quiche

Let’s talk quiche!  I’d have to say eggs are definitely one of my top favorite foods, and I think quiche may very well be one of my very favorite egg dishes.  It most definitely is a once-in-a-while food, though, because it’s so rich and decadent.  I made an overly rich & overly decadent bacon-caramelized onion-potato quiche for my private chef menu and it looked & smelled so totally scrumptious that I had to make one for us the very next night.  We had a much lighter version using half-n-half, caramelized onion, shitake mushrooms, and low-fat Swiss.  Although that quiche made me very happy, I must admit I was quite envious of the bacon-filled version! 

Caramelized Onion-Shitake Quiche

A basic quiche is made with eggs, cream, & cheese, and from there you add whatever your heart desires (or whatever you have in your kitchen at the time).  Here’s my recipe for bacon-caramelized onion-potato quiche. . .

Bacon-Caramelized Onion-Potato Quiche

4 slices bacon
1/2 onion, chopped
1 small red potato, small diced
6 eggs
1-1/2 C heavy cream
2 T fresh parsley
1-1/2 C Colby cheese, shredded
1 deep dish pie crust

Preheat oven to 350.

In a small pan over medium heat, cook up bacon until crisp and transfer to a paper towel-lined dish to drain.  Remove all but 1 T of bacon fat from pan and add onion & cook until transparent, about 5 minutes.  Add potato & cook until onions are caramelized, about 10-12 more minutes.  

Meanwhile in a bowl, add eggs, cream, and parsley.  Use an immersion blender (or blender or food processor) to incorporate these ingredients well.  

Set your pie crust on a sheet pan first, and then begin layering ingredients starting w/ bacon, then onions & potatoes, then cheese, and lastly egg mixture.  Carefully place in oven and bake about 45 min-1 hr, until eggs are set.  

Note:  Your quiche will be darker than pic above.  I par-baked the pictured quiche since it was going to be re-cooked.  The pic of the sliced quiche is the shade of brown your looking for.  If your quiche is getting quite dark but still has some time to finish cooking, cover it so that it won't brown any more.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Menu #46

Blazei Shrooms

I’m feeling a bit under the weather today, so I’m going to get right to business.  This week’s menu. . .

Tuesday:  Chicken Noodle Soup/crusty bread

Wednesday:  Stuffed Artichokes/almond mushroom risotto
Didn’t get to this on Monday because I just wasn’t feeling too well, so I’m putting it off til this day in hopes that I’m feeling better.  I found these great almond mushrooms at the Farmer’s Market, and I can’t wait to use them.  They are also called Blazei mushrooms and have a great almond aroma & flavor.  This should work really well in a risotto. 

Thursday:  3-Bean & Beef Chili/cornbread

Friday:  Grilled Hot Dogs/leftover chili/grilled potato wedges

Sat-Sun:  ???
Laddie may be going out of town on business, so the weekend’s menu is up in the air.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sausage-Eggplant Stuffed Shells

I’ve been lagging on posting this recipe, just because I didn’t get an end-result picture.  I decided today to just go forth with the posting, and I’ll just post an end-result photo when I make them again in the future (which may be soon, because typing this recipe made me want them again).  J 

This is a great make-ahead meal because it freezes very well, and it’s just as easy to make a couple batches as it is to make 1 batch. 

Sausage-Eggplant Stuffed Shells

1 T olive oil
1 lb Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1/2 onion, chopped
1 large eggplant, cut into cubes
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
S&P, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1-10 oz box of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
1 C Parmesan cheese, grated
18-24 jumbo pasta shells
3 C marinara sauce (or just use a jar of your favorite sauce)
1 C mozzarella, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cook your shells in boiling, salted water for about 10-12 minutes.  You want them to still be pretty firm because you’re baking them with sauce.  Rinse them off with cold water when you remove them from the boiling water, so they stop cooking right away.  Also pat them dry or let them drain well before filling, so that you avoid the shells getting mushy. 

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook sausage about 5-7 minutes, breaking up the pieces so that they fit nicely into the shells. Add onions, bell pepper, and eggplant, season with S&P, and cook for another 7 minutes; the vegs should be starting to caramelize. Add garlic and cook another minute. Remove from the heat, transfer to a large mixing bowl, and allow to cool to almost room temp.  When it’s cooled adequately, stir in cream cheese, spinach, & 1/2 C Parmesan.

Spray your baking dish(es).  Fill the shells with the sausage-eggplant mixture & place into baking dish.  Top with marinara, then Parmesan, & lastly mozzarella.  Bake covered for 45 minutes & uncovered for 15 minutes.


Whole Roasted Cauliflower w/ honey-dijon dressing

I have never been a big cauliflower fan, but that hasn’t stopped me from cooking it.  I’ve tried eating it a gazillion different ways, but until now the only way I could handle eating cauliflower was if it was fried, wrapped in bacon, or baked in cheese sauce.  I know this is cheating though, because there really isn't any vegetable I wouldn't eat using these methods!  I’ve been seeking a healthy alternative that I actually could enjoy and, I’m happy to say, I’ve found it…roasted whole cauliflower w/ honey-dijon dressing!  It couldn’t be easier.  Now, I’m on the hunt for a fennel recipe I’ll actually enjoy. . .  : /

Whole Roasted Cauliflower w/ honey-dijon dressing

1 head of cauliflower
Olive oil
Honey-dijon dressing

Preheat oven to 350.

Set the cauliflower in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, season with S&P, & roast uncovered for 45 minutes.  Drizzle immediately with the dressing so that it has time to soak into the cauliflower before serving.  For the dressing, I just mixed together 2 T olive oil w/ 1/2 T honey & 1 T dijon.

Serve whole at the table.  It’s tender enough to cut into with a spoon…delish! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Menu #45

I mentioned last week that X-man had been begging to make ratatouille because he watched the movie, Ratatouille.  We went shopping for the ingredients & cooked the whole thing together, and he was absolutely thrilled!  He was so excited that he even tried every one of the raw vegs that went into the dish!  He not only surprised me but he surprised himself.  He said, “Who would have known?  I like eggplant & squash!”  Don’t get too excited though. . .when the final dish came out, he tried one bite and said it was a little too spicy for him (there wasn’t anything spicy!).  I think we’re heading in the right direction though, so I’ll take what I can get!  : /

Here’s our version of the movie’s classic dish. . .


Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
4 jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
S&P, tt
1 t Italian seasoings
1 bay leaf

Heat oil in a pan & saute the onion about 7 minutes.  Add garlic & peppers and cook another 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes & season with S&P, bay leaf and Italian seasonings.  Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes.  Remove bay leaf, remove pot from heat & puree. 

1 eggplant, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 yellow squash, thinly sliced
3 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 T chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 F.

On the bottom of pan ladle some roasted red pepper sauce, enough to coat the bottom.  Begin layering the vegs in a shingle fashion around the pan until you run out of vegs.  Drizzle the whole thing with olive oil, top with chopped parsley, & season w/ S&P.  Cover the pan & roast for 1 hour.  Remove the cover & roast another 15 minutes.  Serve with more roasted red pepper sauce & topped with parmesan cheese.

Now on to this week’s menu . . .

Tuesday:  Slow-Cooker Corned Beef, Potatoes, & Cabbage/horseradish yogurt sauce
This is a very simple crock pot recipe that creates a tender piece of meat with very flavorful veggies.  On the bottom of the crock pot, I drop 1 chopped-up celery, a handful of baby carrots, 4 wedged red potatoes, and 1 small quartered onion.  I then rinse the meat (2.5 lb) off and lay it in the crock pot on top of the vegs along with the pickling spices.  I top off the whole thing a Guinness and fill with water until the meat is covered.  I cook it on low for 8 hours.  When it’s done, I remove the meat & veg and cook a wedged cabbage head on high for about 20 minutes, while the meat is resting. 

Wednesday:  Corned Beef Sandwiches/baked fries/fruit salad
We have a late night baseball game, so it’s a no-cook night.

Thursday:  Kung Pao Chicken/steamed brown rice/mandarin oranges

Friday:  Turkey-BLT Wraps/Pirate’s Booty or pretzels/fruit salad
Another late night baseball game, so it’s another no-cook night.

Saturday:  Grilled Fish Tacos/cilantro-lime brown rice/pinto beans/mango salsa & avocado slices

Sunday:  Storm Game!  Hot dogs/popcorn/Crack Jacks  J 
This is “Day at the Diamond” for Xavier’s baseball league.  P.S.—X-man got the game ball last week…he was awfully proud! 

Monday:  Stuffed Artichokes/mushroom risotto
This meal is inspired by my recent Farmer’s Markets visits.  The artichokes are absolutely beautiful and the mushrooms have been shouting my name!  J

Monday, April 8, 2013

Slow-Cooker Country Captain

Country Captain is an old Southern dish made up of chicken in a curry-spiced tomato sauce with onions, peppers, & raisins.  It’s a perfect dish for the crock pot.  The meat just falls off the bone and is great served over rice with garlic naan bread.

Country Captain

Serves 4

4 bone-in chicken thighs
S&P, to taste
1 T canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 T curry powder
1 t turmeric (if you don’t have this handy, just leave it out)
1 t paprika
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 14.5-oz can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 C chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Heaping 1/4 C raisins
Steamed rice for serving

Season the chicken thighs generously with S&P.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over med-high heat & cook chicken, skin side down 1st, for 5 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a plate & set aside. 

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from skillet & cook onions & peppers for 5 minutes.  Add curry powder, paprika, & cayenne, mix well, and cook another minute.  Add the undrained tomatoes & broth; bring to a boil.  Stir in the bay leaf & raisins.

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs & place skinless thighs in crock pot.  Pour the tomato sauce over the chicken, cover, & cook on high for 4 hours.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Menu #44

Hope everyone had a great Easter Sunday!  We had a fabulous time!  We started our day with an egg hunt in the backyard with our friends, then a delicious champagne brunch, followed by a relaxed outing to Wilson Creek Winery for a petting zoo & wine sipping.  Once again, I’m sad to say I have no pics of our deliciously gluttonous brunch buffet because I was just too busy eating, drinking, and having a great time!  J 

Today I had a menu tasting for a wedding I’m catering in May and, I’m happy to say, it turned out great!  She tried the pearl couscous pilaf w/ pine nuts & dates (to be posted at a later date…it’s delish!) as well as a couple of the appetizers, including the melon gazpacho w/ shrimp salad pictured up above.  The gazpacho is a very refreshing first course that is perfect for a warm day.  I’m happy to share the recipe. . .

Melon Gazpacho w/ shrimp salad

2 C watermelon, chopped
2 C honeydew, chopped
2 T seedless cucumber, finely chopped
2 T red onion, finely chopped
1 T fresh parsley, minced
1 T fresh mint, minced
1/4 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 orange bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 T red wine vinegar
1 lime, juiced
Pinch of salt
4 oz bay shrimp
Mint leaves for garnish

Puree the melon in a food processor until smooth; transfer to a medium bowl.  Mix together shrimp w/ a small teaspoonful of all the chopped vegs & minced herbs along with a splash of vinegar & a bit of lime juice; season with salt & set aside.  Add the remaining vegs, vinegar, lime juice to pureed melon and mix to incorporate.  Season with a pinch of salt, cover tightly, and allow to refrigerate for at least 1 hour & up to 1 day. 

Serve gazpacho as an appetizer in a small glass with a small spoonful of shrimp salad & mint leaves as garnish (& a nice glass of cold white wine!)  ;-) 

This week’s menu . . .

Tuesday:  Melon Gazpacho w/ shrimp salad/Crab Salad on cucumber slices/Pearl Couscous w/ pine nuts & dates
Menu tasting leftovers!  J

Wednesday:  Ham Bone Soup/Spring salad
Leftovers from Easter. . .

Thursday:  Ham & Brie Panini w/ asparagus soup
More leftovers from Easter . . .

Friday:  BBQ Turkey Burgers w/ onion, lettuce, red onion/baked onion rings/potato salad
Yay. . .no more leftovers!!!

Saturday:  Take-Out Pizza
We have a night baseball game, so we’ll just pick-up a pizza on the way home & chill out with a movie. 

Sunday:  Grilled Shrimp/polenta w/ kale/whole roasted cauliflower
I was supposed to do the cauliflower last week but wasn’t able to get around to it.  I’ll post all about it next week.

Monday:  Leftovers