Pretty Ugly Food

Thanksgiving was full of beautiful food, flowers, and family. Other than my no-knead sweet potato rolls, this year Mom requested a signature cocktail. I think we really delivered using items she already had on hand.

The Thanksgiving Mimosa

The Thanksgiving Mimosa

The Thanksgiving Mimosa is champagne, pomegranate juice, and frozen cranberries. It couldn’t be easier, but feels super festive. You could make it with sparkling cider, or these cute cranberry skewers from Style Me Pretty.

Thanksgiving 2014

Sweet potato rolls. Acorn squash with pinto beans and chorizo.

These sweet potato dinner rolls are probably my family’s favorite thing I make all year. They are snapped up so fast that in almost 5 years of dating, E had never had one until this weekend. (I made him take the first one.) The recipe was first posted on The Kitchn back in 2008. They’re super easy to make, but do require a bit of time to rise.

The other recipe I brought to dinner a little something new. Did you know there’s a brand of chipotle peppers with adobo sauce that comes in a resealable jar now? I’m so happy. Normally I plan out a bunch of recipes before opening a chipotle can and still can’t work through it all before the peppers turn weird.  I first made this combo to celebrate my new jarred chipotle: Williams-Sonoma Roasted Acorn Squash with Chipotle and Food & Wine Spiced Pinto Beans with Chorizo using chipotle in adobo sauce instead of powder and skipping the pork rind garnish. Both recipes are great alone and they’re even better together. I’ve made is as stuffed squash with rice, as a casserole, and as this version that can be easily pulled apart by any picky eaters. We could also have kept squash separate if we have vegetarians present. This is by far the prettiest version.

And now for the ugly:

Pear Dutch Baby

I thought this was supposed to get crispy?

As my sister said, “That is Martha Stewart level“.

After spending a few days at my parents’ house, we returned to some over ripe pears and I thought I’d try my hand at a Dutch Baby. What better way to use up the remaining flour? I mostly followed the Bon Appetit recipe, adding a little bit of ground ginger and waaaay too much brown sugar on the pears. Cooking the pears and brown sugar made a syrup that the batter cooked in and it couldn’t crisp up like it was supposed to. Luckily it was still delicious, especially for breakfast with some maple sausage. That said, don’t fail like me. Go easy on the brown sugar.

First Thoughts on CSA Boxes

We’ve been testing out a CSA box this summer to mixed results.

Homemade home fries

Homefries with onion, bell pepper, and carrot

One one hand, it never seems like the correct amount of food. Our boxes are the second smallest size from Full Circle. We inevitably end up with lots of leftovers of some items & not enough of others. (I actually had a  dream where I was elated to find horses because they would eat our carrots.) It has been much better after I arranged it for very other week and learned how to opt-out of lettuce. We’re not big on salads. Extra oranges and broccoli are more our speed.

On the other hand, it’s like playing iron chef every week. It has really made a difference in how I approach our kitchen basics. Every time I go to cook,I try to clear out the fridge of everything fresh. My go-to easy pasta dishes now have a fun mix of veggies instead of lots of meat.

Simple pasta

Simple pasta. Mushrooms, tomato, spinach. Broccoli on the side.

Chinese pork tenderloin with noodles

I’ve been sick & asleep for most of this week. When I have been awake it’s been hard to do much of anything. I did make it back to work yesterday! & I made dinner two nights in a row! Granted, I left work early from exhaustion & the meal were low maintenance crock pot meals, but still. Small victories.

One of the dinners was Chinese pork tenderloin with garlic-sauced noodles from the Cooking Light slow cooker magazine. I used sriracha instead of the 1 tbs tomato sauce it asked for & added a few canned favorites, baby corn & water chestnuts. This recipe is so yummy. It is like a healthier version of chow mein.

This is the only picture I took. Feel free to blame the sickness.

This is the only picture I took. Feel free to blame the sickness.

Spicy & soft work so well when you can barely taste anything. The meals I didn’t cook were pho & our favorite Szechuan boiled fish. The Szechuan restaurant is mercifully located between work & home for days when you realize being upright is just not going to happen.

Edit to Add: It reheats perfectly for work lunches.

It reheats perfectly for work lunches.

Yummy.

Red Wine Cherry Reduction Sauce

Last night’s dinner was a winner. I don’t even care that we were eating at 11pm again. Let’s pretend it’s European and fashionably late.

We picked up some New York steaks at Costco on Saturday, leading to me looking up steak recipes at work on Monday. A coworker happened to be by my desk and noticed that the Food Network sauce recipe I was reading called for red wine. “You know, that event two weeks ago left us a bunch of half empty bottles of decent red wine. I’ll bring you some to cook with!” Free cooking wine? Yes, please.

The note left with the wine. Thanks jh!

I had never made a wine reduction sauce before, but that didn’t stop me from modifying the recipe to fit what we currently had in the fridge. It called for shallots & we only had onion. They’re basically the same thing, right?

What we used:

  • Oil to coat the pan
  • A small handful of minced onion
  • Half a bottle of red wine
  • Approximately 3 tbs of butter, cubed
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Dried cherries!
How to cook it:

Cook the onion in the oil over medium heat until they are translucent. Pour in the wine and bring it all to boil, stirring occasionally, until it reduces by half. Reduce heat to low. Slowly whisk in cubes of butter, enough to make it look glossy & taste right. The salt and pepper are added at this point, followed by the cherries. The sauce can stay heating on a low temperature while the meat is cooking.

The dried cherries are the main difference from the Food Network recipe, and a happy addition. The sauce was a bit sweeter than I wanted at the beginning. The butter and seasonings helped a bit, but then we remembered picking up those cherries this weekend. There’s no better way to fix accidental sweetness than making it intentional!

A steak dinner. Fries not pictured.

While I was busy with the sauce, E was manning the barbeque. Each steak was rubbed with salt, pepper,  and garlic powder before going on the grill. We actually worked together to do the dry rub with me sprinkling on the seasoning and him pressing it in. It made the whole thing a lot more fun & date-like. We also threw on some large mushroom caps after rubbing them with oil, and reheated Monday’s fries in foil over indirect heat. It was all served on a bed of fresh baby spinach.

With the cherries, and steak, and the working together, I would highly recommend this for a Valentine’s Dinner. You know, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

Prepping part of the leftovers.

Did I mention each of these steaks feeds 2 people? The Costco pack of them has four in it. We’re going to be eating delicious beef for days. E left two of the steaks a little rarer than the others so we can reheat them without over-doing it and having the steak get tough. He also chopped up the most seared end so I could take it to work the next day.

Almost has me wanting to make bento boxes.

I haven’t been this excited for lunch in a long time.

A Day in the Food: Cabinet Cleaning Cooking

Trying to make food happen when the ice storm hit was it’s own adventure. This is not a fridge you want to see while you’re hunkered down for a few days. This is especially true for those people, like myself, who cook when they’re bored.

We had these fresh things: 3 bananas, 1 braeburn apple that refuses to go bad, 1 grapefruit, 2 limes, 1 fennel bulb, garlic, and a small bunch of organic carrots.  We also had chicken thighs in the freezer. It definitely required some creativity with dry goods.

So what did we eat? Here’s a diary in the meals of one snow day.

Breakfast: Apple cinnamon oatmeal with brown sugar

Half of the apple, sliced up small, was added to the water while I brought it to a boil for the oatmeal. Neither of us are normally oatmeal people. Not even sure why we have a tube of it. This was really tasty though. It’s probably all of that brown sugar.

Lunch: Chili!

A few days of it and still going strong. Eating it with rice really helps stretch it out.

This is the part of the day where we broke down and trekked to the store. Why? Because I was getting the urge to bake, and we didn’t have vanilla extract. The embarrassing part of this is that I still haven’t made those cookies.

Did you know that there is a grocery store at 4 different Light Rail stops? Safeway at Othello, QFC at Mount Baker, Red Apple at Beacon Hill, and IGA at University Street. It’s great, especially considering that the Light Rail is probably the safest transport in Seattle during the storm.

Dinner: Roast Vegetables and Breaded Chicken

The only things from our trip to the store that I added to dinner were the fingerling potatoes and the wine.

With the oven pre-heating to 400, the fennel, carrots, and potatoes were boiled together for about 6 minutes, then drained and transferred to a glass casserole dish with some salt, pepper and oil. The garlic slices were thrown in on top of the veggies while they waited for the oven.

The chicken thighs were defrosted, deboned, deskinned (that’s not really the term, but we’re all having fun here), trimmed of fat, and then cut in half.  The chicken pieces were dunked in egg before being rolled in a coating of parmesan and italian spiced bread crumbs, and browned in a pan of heated oil. After a couple of minutes per side, the chicken was pulled out and placed in the casserole dish. It all went in to the oven for about 20 minutes.

The chicken was seriously delicious. The vegetables, however, could use some work. When I do this again, the potatoes will start boiling first to give them a little more time, and I’ll use a metal baking sheet so that the veggies can roast more. Those satisfying slightly crunchy browned parts of oven roasted veggies  just didn’t happen with the glass dish.