Cooking Notes – September 2010

Keeping up with the monthly cooking notes I started in July and continued in August, here’s the running September list. As before, newer meals go at the top of the list. There’s a big gap from mid-August to September where I just didn’t record what I was making. Jumping back in with what I can remember from this month:

Baking/Desserts

  • Baking Powder Biscuits (also called “Basic Rolled Biscuits” from Joy of Cooking – These are the biscuits my mom always made. They only take five minutes to whip up so they’re easy to add to any meal.
  • Raspberry Streusel Bars – Usually I make blueberry muffins for Carl’s birthday breakfast, but this year his birthday fell on an ICU call day. Since getting up at 4:30 in the morning to bake after a semi-sleepless night is not my idea of fun I made this in advance in stead. And boy are they good. Very, very good.  One thing that’s particularly nice is that the recipe calls for fresh raspberries instead of just jam like many recipes.
  • Chocolate-Raspberry-Whipped Cream Torte – A family tradition, and rightly so. This time I tossed some cocoa powder into the whipped cream for chocolate whipped cream, which made it even better than usual.
  • Granola using this recipe - It’s very tasty, but the man is not a fan. I like it, but think I’d like it even better if I could get it to clumb together more instead of being in such small particles. Maybe less dicing? I cut the oil by a third based on one of the comments, and threw in dried cranberries since we had an open bag sitting around. In the process, discovered that tiny ants had invaded the jar of honey we thought was tightly closed. That jar went in the trash.
  • Fresh Bread from my usual bread book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - Just the basic boule recipe, but this time I baked it in a loaf pan for easier slicing. Half the batch is still sitting in the fridge waiting to be baked up on another night. Love the five minutes a day method, which finally made it possible for someone who works full time to make fresh bread on a regular basis.
  • Hungarian Criss-Cross Tarts from Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters – these are delicious, definitely a keeper recipe. A citrusy, buttery pastry crust topped with jam, and then a layer of criss-crossed pastry, baked, and sprinkled lightly with powdered sugar. I actually made these two separate times, once with strawberry preserves, and once with Apricot. I foresee more variations on this recipe at Christmas.  
  • Cheating but tastes good: Reeses cookies from the frozen cookies sold us by the little beggars two posts back.
  • What I’m supposed to have already baked but haven’t yet: an almond cake that’s also from Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters.

Main Dishes

Overall this has been kind of a light meals month. I started work again at the beginning of the month, so we’re keeping things simple as we find a new routine.

  • Curry Chicken Stew from The Silver Palate Cookbook – One of my favorite recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks. Chunks of chicken in a thick and filling curry-seasoned base of onions, rice, broth and seasonings, with half and half and peas added at the end. Served with thicks slices of bread the first night, and fresh biscuits the second.
  • Pot RoastI made my first pot roasts using general directions my Mom gave me over the phone three years ago. She makes an amazing pot roast to begin with, and since then I’ve tweaked the recipe repeatedly to suit my tastes and am pretty happy with what it’s developed into. Maybe I’ll type up the current way I make it and post it online one of these days. A few secrets to a good pot roast, some from my Mom and some from me: 1) Ditch the crock pot. Cook your pot roast in an oven at low heat for a very long time. Oven roasting makes a huge difference in the flavor and texture of the meat. 2) Make mashed potatoes on the side instead of cooking potatoes with the meat. They soak up too much of the juice during baking, leaving things dry. 3) Include Worcestershire Sauce, and (yes, really) brown mustard or mustard powder in your seasonings. They add a richness and bite to your sauce. A little leftover red wine if you have it around is nice, too. 4) Use pearl onions instead of regular onions. Pearl onions soak up much more flavor for delicious tender mouthfuls. 5) Pot Roast is even better as leftovers. The flavors marry and deepen the longer they sit.
  • Cauliflower Bleu Cheese Soup - This was a good one (note to self, remember to cook the cauliflower long enough next time). I served it with fresh bread. Like many soups (and spaghetti sauces) it’s even better the second day.
  • Chicken with Herbs and Garlic from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Everyone liked this except me. I found it a little too lemony. Served with fresh bread and a salad on the side.
  • Steak Tips au Poivre with Mashed PotatoesCooks Country once sent me a freebie issue that included this recipe. Steak, served up with a shallot-red wine-beef broth-thyme-butter sauce that is out of this world. The mashed potatoes are great for moping up any drips of sauce you missed with the meat. Since it was for a birthday, I shut my eyes tight and coughed up the cash for really good steaks – porterhouse – and enjoyed every bite. It’s a surprisingly simple recipe too – 8 minutes to cook the steak, 7 minutes for the sauce, minimal prep or cleanup.
  • Shredded Chicken Quesadillas – Fast on-call supper for a night when Carl didn’t escape from the hospital until after 9:00.
  • Potato-Leek Soup from Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Despite the fact that it’s French and Julia Childs, this has to be the easiest soup recipe ever. Five minutes of prep work, 40 minutes cooking, flavorful heaven in a bowl. We go back to this one again and again.
  • London Broil – The meat was on sale for $2/Lb at the grocery store (happy dance!). I marinated it overnight with lemon juice, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, a few seasonings, and a splash of worcestershire. We get a lot of mileage out of a cut like this. The first day is just meat with vegetables, and a sauce of the boiled down marinade. The next day, we cut up several slices of meat, toss them with a little mayo and a lot of seasoning and tomatoes and have steak sandwiches. The last day we have more of the meat cut up into a steak salad – I’m not much of a salad-as-a-satisfying-dinner person, but on a hot summer day eating steak tossed with Italian dressing, a little parmesan, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers is pretty tasty. On top of that, Carl got two lunches out of it as well.
  • Sicilian Meatballs from epicurious.com – I followed the recipe for the meatballs, but used my own recipe for sauce. These were pretty good, but not the amazing meal I’d hoped for from all the reviews.
  • Eggplant Involtini from Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano – Yes, we’re on a bit of an Italian kick, especially since I have Batali’s cookbook out of the library right now. In real life all these pasta meals weren’t cooked in a row, I just can’t remember the order I made things in. This dish is made up of eggplant sliced thin, fried, and rolled up with a ricotta cheese filling, then baked in a tomato sauce. The flavors are delicious. However, I’m not a huge fan of the texture of eggplant unless there’s something more solid mixed in with it. 
  • Pesto with green beans and potatoes, also from Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano – Amaaaazing pesto, the best I’ve ever made. I still don’t know if it’s because of the recipe (which seemed pretty standard) or the fact that I used fresh basil picked right off my basil plant instead of the pack of fresh basil from the grocery store. The potatoes and green beans mixed in with the pasta were a nice touch, and not something I’d have thought of on my own.
  • Indian Rice from The 60-Minute Gourmet – This is what happens when my meal planning falls through, and I fail to pick up a necessary ingredient for one dish and fail to start the other possible dish far enough in advance. In other words, I’m scrambling through the cupboards and fridge cobbling together something we can eat. I’d made Indian Rice before, and we both think it’s delicious. The base recipe calls for apples, onions, and a little garlic sauteed in butter, then cooked with rice, chicken broth, lots of curry powder, and a bay leaf.  I tossed in a few golden raisins and some slivered almonds as well.  The chicken broth and curry give this dish a rich savory flavor that makes it satisfying enough for a full meal for me. I heated up a couple extra Sicilian meatballs on the side to make sure the man’s stomach was full.
  • Broiled sandwiches – These were explained in a previous month’s notes. Still a favorite, still perfect for a Sunday lunch.
  • Omellettes – Also known as: another case where I did not plan well for dinner, and then realized we had a lot of things to use up in the fridge. How else was I going to use up the  last three strips of bacon, a quarter of an onion, three mushrooms, a tomato, and some odds and ends of swiss and cheddar cheese all in one dish? 
  • Julia Childs’ Simple Saute of Beef – Old favorite “special occasions” meal, made since we had family in town.
  • Homemade Pizza – Or at least, half homemade. I buy the 44 cent bags of pizza dough mix at the grocery store (my favorite to date is actually the generic Walmart brand) because I do not have the patience to work on my pizza dough for three hours.  Then just top with a homemade sauce (I don’t like pre-packaged sauces – too sweet for me), cheese, and whatever toppings you like. 
  • Carl’s Mom’s Salad – Yes, that’s the name in our house. Carl’s Mom made this for us when we were visiting once, and we’ve loved it ever since. Basically, you cut up a bunch of vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, broccolli, whatever you have on hand, toss them with a little cut up meat like shredded chicken or turkey, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, mix in a spoonful of mayo until lightly coated (a little goes a very long way – too much mayo will make this dish unpleasant), and just a splash of balsamic vinegar. Flavorful, meaty, and satisfying. It is also good with sliced up hard-boiled eggs. Unfortunately, since this is usually made as one of my fast “emergency” dishes, I never remember to boil the egg far enough in advance.
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