Archive for January, 2011

Shake ‘n Bake style

Posted in Pork on January 30th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

Sad but true, the best pork chops I’ve ever been able to make were with a box of Shake ‘n Bake growing up. Since I’ve been trying to ban processed foods from my diet as much as possible, I haven’t had any luck making a decent pork chop that didn’t come pre-seasoned from the grocery store. I was about to give in and pull out that box of Shake ‘n Bake I remembered seeing in the back of the cupboard but, oops, it was for chicken. (Now I remember it was used in an early experiment at homemade chicken nuggets.)

So I figured there must be a rip-off recipe or twenty out there and did a little cheating instead.

I went looking for our box of panko bread crumbs but found an old abandoned box of Caesar style croutons and had a better idea!

  • 1/4 tsp. onion salt
  • 1/4 tsp. celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • In a separate bowl I mixed up the spices, using onion powder in place of onion salt, celery seed in place of celery salt (since I had neither) and threw in a bit of freeze-dried parsley.

    I put the spices in a plastic sandwich bag with a handful of bread crumbs (much less than the cup and a half the recipe says) and did the shake-and-bake thing.

    Looks authentic so far.

    I baked at 350 for… I think 20 minutes.

    So I must have done something right – these were hands down the juiciest pork chops I have ever made. Flavor however… there were hints of flavor. Tiny, tiny hints of real flavor, of something amazing that could be but just wasn’t there. What did I do wrong? Was it because I avoided the salt? More spices?

    So I’m putting out an official call for help. How do I make a good breaded pork chop that doesn’t start with a box?

    AeroGarden update

    Posted in Garden on January 27th, 2011 by admin – 2 Comments

    That’s enough basil to pesto a whole noodle!

    Cheese cheese bread

    Posted in Bread on January 26th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

    Worked extremely late tonight, not leaving me enough time to cook anything more extravagant for dinner than a bowl of cereal. But my wonderful husband made me perfect cheese cheese bread when I came home.

    Ingredients:

    • Cheese bread loaf
    • Fresh shredded Italian cheese
    • Garlic powder
    • Butter or margarine

    Directions:

    • Butter (or margarine) slices of cheese bread.
    • Sprinkle with garlic powder and cheese
    • Cook under broiler until perfect

    Andrew’s a margarine and 3-cheese Italian blend person. I’m a butter and Parmesan type myself, but food always tastes better when someone else makes it, no matter how many or few cheeses they use.

    White wine and salmon

    Posted in Fish, Salmon on January 23rd, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

    I tried skinning salmon again. I didn’t take any pictures, but you can trust me, it wasn’t pretty.

    So I cheated and used this recipe because it doesn’t expect the fish to stay in one piece for some reason. I’m really not sure what that adds to the presentation but I guess Martha Stewart has her own way of doing things.

    (I’m a little bit embarrassed to be cooking from marthastewart.com, the site that offered to show me pets in costumes when I’m done, but here goes…)

    Ingredients:

    • 1 large skinless salmon fillet (1 1/2 pounds)
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup dry white wine
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

    As usual I cut everything in half.

    Directions:
    Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place salmon on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Roast until opaque throughout, about 15 minutes.

    I don’t know why but that makes “rimmed baking sheet” sound like some specialized piece of bakeware. I substituted “wrap in foil and throw on that old cookie sheet you use for everything”.

    Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter over medium. Add flour, and cook, whisking, 1 minute.

    I interpenetrated “whisking” as “stir rapidly with a narrow rubber spatula so it won’t scratch the pot”. I feel like I’m still on probation after nearly ruining one of our good pans.

    Add wine, and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook until liquid is reduced by half, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in chives; season with salt and pepper. With a fork, gently break salmon into large chunks, and serve topped with white-wine sauce.

    Honestly this recipe was nothing special. I could have done just as well sticking with my version of lazy salmon – bake until done in a pool of butter, lemon juice, and a splash of white wine.

    The Aero Garden

    Posted in Garden on January 22nd, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    We got a good haul for Christmas this year. I feel like a little kid naming off their toys but for us it was kitchen toys, including a KitchenAid mixer and an immersion blender. It also included a very large Cuisinart food processor, while we already own a “regular sized” Cuisinart from from the wedding registry. This led to a dilemma of whether to keep it in storage (the spare room) until the day we own a house with a kitchen large enough to use it, or return it and use the money for something else. We decided on returning it to buy something that would still be in the spirit of the original gift.

    Over the summer I tried to start an indoor herb garden. Cilantro, parsley, and chives sprouted in cute little mini-pots on my windowsill, and then promptly died when they decided something was the slightest bit off. This continued over the summer until I felt too guilty for my death toll. In the end the only thing I grew successfully was cat grass.

    So one of the things we picked up with the exchange was a 7-pod AeroGarden. We saw these over the summer but it was way out of our budget. The starter set is a little heavy on the basil so I see homemade pesto in our future.

    One week later we have cute little sprouts from each of the pods. Wish me luck on not killing these – all I have to do is watch this time.

    Braised Eye of Round Steak

    Posted in Beef on January 19th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    Being exceptionally busy at work, and trying to keep up a daily exercise routine, I don’t have a lot of energy left for standing in the kitchen right now. So I’m trying to find easy, yet still creative and interesting new things to make for dinner. This Braized Eye Round Steak has a relatively simple preparation but the long simmering time had me eating a bowl of oatmeal while waiting and writing. I understand the point is to tenderize a cut of beef that that tends to be tough for the same reason it appeals to me – lack of “icky” fat.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 2 large onions, sliced
    • 12 (4 ounce) beef eye of round steaks

    Twelve!! Even at two per person, that’s feeding a family of six. I suppose people with large families complain about all of the “recipes for two” (or one) but I can’t imagine cooking in the quantities most give. I used my grocery store pack of two round steaks.

    • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour for coating
    • 1 cup beef consomme

    One commenter warned to make sure to use consomme, not bullion. Most of the other comments said they used bullion. I think I’m okay since I’m using Better than Bullion.

    • 1 cup Burgundy wine

    Red wine that’s in the fridge… I didn’t look at the label.

    • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

    This as well, I would love to use fresh parsley but it is not meant to be. Not for a last-minute ‘what can I do with this steak?’ plan.

    I was afraid I was going to get myself in trouble for using an Allrecipes recipe and substituting so many ingredients after making fun of people who do that, but it’s not people changing things that bothers me. It’s the rating down a recipe based off of their own changes and/or mistakes. If this one doesn’t come out I’ll take full credit for my lack of fancy liquids.

    Directions:

    • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

    Along with cutting back the quantities, I cut this back to a small skillet.

    • Add onions; cook and stir until lightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the onions from the skillet using a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.

    As I looked at my onions browning in the skillet, I realized something was wrong… There is no garlic in this recipe. I considered chopping some garlic on the spot and adding it to the onions, but decided for simplicity in the name of authenticity and tired feet.

    • Season the steaks with thyme and seasoned salt, then dust them lightly with flour.

    Sprinkling green onto raw beef doesn’t do anything to make it look more appealing… in fact quite the opposite.

    Adding flour didn’t help any either.

    • Fry the steaks in the skillet over medium-high heat until browned on each side, about 5 minutes per side.

    Knowing my tenancy to overcook beef I did a bit less, probably three minutes per side. It probably could have taken five for proper browning.

    • Pour the red wine and beef consomme in with the beef. Return the cooked onions to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the aroma of wine dissipates, 2 to 3 minutes.

    The recipe doesn’t scale down properly to have enough liquid in the pan so I guessed half a cup of each. This is also where I gave in and threw in some thin, whole cloves of garlic. Either they would cook or I could pick them out easily.

    • Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Serve steaks with the sauce and a garnish of fresh parsley.

    Since I was under the impression this is supposed to be a gravy-like sauce, I dissolved a couple teaspoons of corn starch in water and mixed it into the sauce when it was near done, then brought it back to a boil. It didn’t do much. At least not until I was halfway done eating and had gone back for more onions, to see that it had thickened nicely.

    The sprinkling of green isn’t helping much here either… (that’s dried parsley.)

    Another trend I always see is to rate a recipe based on how much someone’s kids (especially their picky kids) liked it. So I think my imaginary kids (who magically have the same tastes as me) would say something like, “This was pretty good… but let’s have something different for dinner tomorrow.”

    I do have to say the sauce really grew on me though. I ended up mixing my vegetables and barley into it, and made sure to get every onion out of the pan.

    Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes

    Posted in Potatoes, Vegetables on January 17th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    I love mashed potatoes.

    Garlic mashed potatoes

    Wasabi mashed potatoes

    Pretty much any prefix you can add to mashed potatoes, even blue cheese mashed potatoes. And apparently I’m not the only one who had the thought, ‘I’m in the mood for blue cheese… and I have some potatoes to use up,’ since there was a recipe out there for me.

    I scaled it down to one serving so my proportions might look a little weird compared to the original:

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/4 red onion, diced

    I’ve never had red onion on hand but I’ve used both everyday yellow onion and shallots. Both came out great.

    • 2/3 garlic cloves, minced

    Definitely up that to a clove or two.

    • 1/4 cup vermouth or 1/4 cup white wine
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 pinch red pepper flakes
    • 1/8 teaspoon dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano or parsley)
    • 1/16 teaspoon grated nutmeg
    • 1/8 cup milk
    • 1/8 lb blue cheese
    • 1 cup mashed potatoes

    I’m not even sure how to convert 1/8 lb of cheese and that sounds like a lot so I just use an amount that looks right.

    Directions:

    • 1 In a large pan heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions, and garlic stirring all the while cooking about 4 minutes.
    • Deglaze the pan with vermouth.

    I used the white wine. There’s something very satisfying about pouring wine into a sizzling pan… it feels like real cooking.

    • Add salt, pepper flakes, herbs, and nutmeg.
    • Add milk and 1/2 pound blue cheese cook till melted.
    • Add potatoes and mix together.

    Yukon gold as always. Looks a little ugly, at least if you expect your mashed potatoes to be white and fluffy, but I’m hooked. I never would have thought of onions in mashed potatoes but I’m loving this combo.

    Frozen Chocolate-Covered Bananas

    Posted in Dessert on January 16th, 2011 by admin – 2 Comments

    I keep looking through eatingwell.com‘s slideshow recipe collections, bookmarking like crazy. It’s getting worse than my Netflix queue. This one had to have come from some kind of healthy dessert collection, frozen chocolate-covered bananas (with coconut).

    Ingredients:

    • 4 large ripe bananas, peeled and cut into thirds crosswise
    • 3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, melted
    • 1/4 cup shredded coconut

    I melted some Ghirardelli squares left over from the holiday baking spree.

    Directions:
    Peel 4 large ripe bananas, cut in thirds and insert a popsicle stick into the cut end of each piece.

    I skipped the popsicle sticks as well… too much trouble for a personal treat.

    Melt 3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips. Cover each piece of banana with melted chocolate and sprinkle with coconut. (Reheat chocolate, as needed, to keep it melted.) Place the bananas on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper and freeze until frozen, about 2 hours.

    Compare their picture to my picture… It was pointed out that theirs were dipped while I tried to spread the chocolate with a spoon, but it seems like you’d need a lot more chocolate than banana to be able to dip.

    The verdict: it’s a nice way to eat a banana, but not totally convincing as a dessert.

    Dirt-fish and shell-stuffed shells

    Posted in Pasta on January 14th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    I said I was done with tilapia but we found some coconut-crusted tilapia fillets at QFC. Andrew picked one up so I did too. He cooked his and liked it. I cooked mine the next day and… yep, still tastes like dirt.

    And this, again, is why there’s backup pasta.


    I got excited a while back over some giant shell-shaped pasta. Shells are my favorite pasta shape, and while I know these are meant for making stuffed shells, I figured I’d cook a couple and eat them like regular pasta just for fun. Better yet, stuff big shells with normal shell pasta for shell-stuffed-shells!

    That’s the kind of thing you only try once before it loses its novelty.


    I’m still looking for a good stuffed shell recipe that doesn’t use marinara sauce (which may be a lost cause) but in the meantime I discovered ricotta cheese. I could pretty much eat the stuff out of the tub if I let myself, so instead I find myself making pasta just to be able to eat ricotta on it.

    The first recipe I found was “Ricotta and Pasta“…. does this even count as a recipe?

    • Make some kind of pasta.
    • Put some amount of ricotta cheese on it.

    If I had known that was allowed I would have posted my “put parmesan cheese on spaghetti” recipe on the internet years ago!

    This is what I’m cooking these days to get my ricotta fix. I’ll call it… Ricotta and Pasta and Spinach.

    Ingredients:

    • “Shaped” pasta (not “lines”)
    • Frozen spinach
    • Chopped garlic
    • Ricotta cheese
    • Parmesan cheese

    Instructions:

    Boil the pasta as per directions on the box. Drain and set aside.

    Thaw some frozen spinach in the microwave and drain the excess water. The recipe I was inspired by expected you to think ahead and have it already thawed but that turns out to not be necessary. Frozen spinach is great to have around and always available.


    For some reason when I took this picture I used a separate pan.

    In the same pot the pasta was cooked in I melt a small amount of butter and cook the garlic, then add the spinach. Put the pasta back in and add ricotta and mix all together until the cheese is warm. Top with parmesan, or mix it into the pot as well to get good and melty.

    By the way it’s a bad idea to use the same spoon that helped drain the spinach to scoop the ricotta, but I keep doing it anyway. Then I have to go back and carefully pick out any bits of spinach so I don’t freak out over the green specks in my cheese the next time I use it.

    Snowmageddon Stuffed Salmon

    Posted in Fish, Salmon on January 11th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

    The real name is Honey Soy Grilled Salmon with Edamame. I found this recipe buried in my bookmarks from before I began to separate them into “to try” and “worth keeping”.

    If I knew ahead of time I was making this I would have bought some black sesame seeds to take beautiful pictures. It’s easier to justify buying ingredients for aesthetics when someone is going to see the final product. As it is I was lucky I could salvage the still-green parts of some green onions I didn’t know were in the fridge so this didn’t begin to mimic my allrecipes.com review parody. “Well I didn’t have any…” The next Seattle Snowmageddon is beginning tonight so there will be no quick trips to the store.

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
    • 2 scallions
    • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
    • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 4 center cut skin-on wild salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each
    • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
    • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
    • 2 teaspoons honey
    • 1/4 teaspoon black sesame seeds

    I don’t like it when recipes start getting too specific on their ingredients. Is my salmon center cut? I have no idea.

    I asked Andrew, “In our kitchen, when a recipe calls for vegetable oil, does that mean olive oil or peanut oil?” Decided you can’t ever go wrong with olive oil.

    Directions:

    • Finely chop the cilantro and scallion and mix in the oil and ginger. Season with salt and pepper.

    Now that I’ve found a better way to chop shallots, I’m going to complain about chopping cilantro. That stuff isn’t easy… if a recipe says finely chopped best I’m going to do is chopped. If it calls for chopped I usually use whole leaves.

    • Cut two 3-inch long slits through the skin lengthwise on the bottom of the salmon fillets, going about halfway into the salmon. Evenly stuff the slits with the herb mixture. Season the fish with salt and pepper.

    This was a definite ‘I hope I’m doing this right…’ moment.

    Grill…

    And then I saw that it had broiler instructions too and made a happy noise! Andrew heard me make a happy noise and got out the mini broiler pan.

    Broil, basting 3 to 4 times with the sauce, until just cooked through, about 6 to 7 minutes.

    No that’s not edamame either.

    The funny thing is after I ran all over trying to find the right background for my photos, when I actually sat down to eat the salmon was still undercooked in the middle. I think that’s okay for salmon but I’m still paranoid about my food unless it’s cooked by a professional or is eat-me-raw sanctioned. So I put the fish back in the broiler, first topping it with the leftover herb mix.

    I’d like to say the story ends here but it actually took me three tries and it was still not cooked through. I think something about the stuffing makes the middle not want to cook. Interesting, but I don’t think this one makes it to the “worth keeping” pile.