Cooking Notes – March

There’s no point in torturing you with the meals from the last week of February and the first few days of March. I was sick and the food was boring. Picking up after I finally made it to the grocery store, March’s cooking notes are below. As usual, this list will be updated throughout the month with new meals. You can view previous months’ menus by clicking on the “Cooking Notes” link in the righthand column.

Baking and Desserts

  • CornbreadIf I could’ve eaten cornbread every day of my childhood I would have. Not much has changed.
  • Texas Sheet Cake – Someday when we have a houseful kids, I will bake this often. From personal experience, the house with the best baked goods lures the most teenagers. And yes, it does contain four sticks of butter. On second thought, I will teach our teenagers how to bake it themselves and then steal it when they take it out of the oven. This was so good the first time, I made it again for a church event and went home with an empty pan.
  • Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookie BarsThese were tasty and fast to whip up. The oatmeal gave them a hearty “whole grain” flavor. I skipped the glaze.

Main Dishes and Sides

  • Spinach, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Quesadillas – What a tasty new discovery! When I first saw this recipe I balked. Wine…in a quesadilla? I’m glad I gave it a try after all. This isn’t Mexican food, but it is completely delicious and a must try item. In retrospect, I realized these have the same filling as a crepe I bought from a street vendor on my first day in Paris – no wonder they’re good. As with the mushroom and lentil recipe down below, some substitutions were necessary. Our local grocery stores are suspicious of anything more exotic than cheddar, so I had to substitute Monterey Jack and Feta for Fontina and specialty goat cheese. Some of the recipe steps are extraneous – I don’t pre-butter the tortillas. You can just toss them in the pan with already-melted butter. Also, rather than emptying mushrooms out of the pan and re-prepping it for the spinach I just tossed a handful of spinach in to wilt when the mushrooms were almost done. Finally, nobody likes a reheated quesadilla. These only take ten minutes to prepare, so I only cut/shred enough veggies and cheese for one meal at a time.
  • Cashew Chicken – This wasn’t remotely “authentic” Chinese (in fact, better to not think of it as Chinese at all 🙂 ) but it sure was good. Ingredients were similar for most recipes I saw, so I started with this basic ingredient list. I prefer stir-fry to crockpot cooking because crockpots boil meat rather than searing it. However, stir-frying chicken makes me nervous because I under-do it. Instead, I baked some chicken thighs (toss in pan, 30 minutes at 400 deg.), then shredded the meat in bite-sized chunks. Put a little oil in a frying pan (anything but olive oil) and heat it screaming hot. Quickly saute the mushrooms (I doubled the amount) and gingerroot sprinkled with a little pepper and salt and a drizzle of soy sauce towards the end. Toss in the green onions (again, doubled) at the last minute, then scrape the vegetables into a side dish, wipe the pan, and pour in a little more oil. Heat the pan again, toss the chicken chunks briefly to sear, then re-add the vegetables, plus the soy sauce, chicken broth (slightly reduced), a quarter cup of wine (my addition – authentic dishes would use sherry but I didn’t have any) and a little salt and pepper. Mix cornstarch into water in a cup, then pour bit by bit into the dish and simmer gently for a couple of minutes until sauce thickens. In a side pan, heat a little more oil screaming hot and quickly toss the cashews until browned. Serve chicken over rice with cashews sprinkled on top (I skipped the pineapple – not my thing in this sort of dish). As I found out in a restaurant in Asheville, NC this fall, the contrast between the warm savory meat dish and the crisp hot earthy nuts really makes the dish.
  • Baked Apple Pancake – I got the recipe off of Epicurious and probably won’t use it again.
  • Broiled Italian Sub SandwichesWe like the Italian-style sub sandwiches at Quiznos and Subway, and sometimes split one when we’re on a road trip or stuck in an airport. This tastes similar – salami, pepperoni, and provolone cheese, briefly broiled and topped off with tomatoes, kosher dill pickle slices, olives, and a squirt of Italian dressing.
  • Pesto PastaAlso known as “I need to go to the grocery store and there’s nothing left in the cupboard but pasta and pesto mix and I have a migraine so that’s it.”
  • Steak with Sweet Potato Fries and Seasoned Tomatoes – This was my first “real” meal after two weeks of toast, tea, fruit, and similar blah meals. Next time I’ll spread the sliced potatoes out more so they crisp up better. Other than that, delicious.
  • Steak Salad – One of my favorite uses for leftover steak. Thinly sliced beef with whatever greens and vegetables we have on hand. 
  • Lentils with Mushrooms and Kielbasa – Tasty and filling. The original recipe is probably delicious as is, but I made some substitutions based on availability: kielbasa instead of bacon, dried parsley instead of fresh, and regular mushrooms instead of cremini/oyster mushrooms because we heeyuh in the rayud-neck South do not stock such fancy-fixin’s in the produce section. Okra, though…if you want okra we’ve got you covered. One note – don’t overcook the lentils, or they’ll mush together in brown clumps when you scoop them out and look like…something else. Enough said.
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