July was not a stellar food month. We spent most non-working hours hunkered down at the table filling out forms, sitting in meetings, reviewing records, assembling documentation, and staring at computer screens until our eyes crossed. Our meals were homemade but basic and quick – lots of sausage, raw vegetables, omellettes, and the like. We’re finally settling back into a normal pace and returning to invention in the kitchen. These notes pick up in late July when the food finally started getting interesting. As usual, most meals have some kind of a vegetable as a side, even if it’s not listed.
BAKING AND DESSERTS
Mini Fruit Tarts I made these with nectarines and raspberries for a potluck supper at church, and they flew off the platter – lucky I saved two at home for us! Carl and I both thought this was a good base (easy to work with crust), but a few tweaks are in order next time. There was too much sugar, which distracted from the fruit flavors. It could use a little zing, too – lemon zest, perhaps? I found 1/2 cup of fruit was about right for each tart. I upped the recipe by 50% and got about 15 tarts of varying sizes out of it.
Chocolate Chip Cookies Nestle’s basic cookie recipe is my go-to favorite. Nestle itself, well…meh. I stopped buying their products when I found out they use aborted fetal cell lines to test food additives. Anyhow, a batch of cookies is more than the two of us can eat on a Sunday (our designated dessert day each week), but the extras freeze nicely.
MAIN DISHES AND SIDES
Pasta with Tomatoes and AsparagusFresh tomatoes from our garden, sauteed in olive oil with garlic, a shallot, asparagus, salt, and pepper. A splash of red wine, a splash of chicken bouillion, a couple of pats of butter, and simmered to thicken with an optional dabble of cornstarch. Mix with cooked pasta, and top with shredded parmesan.
Stir-Fried Spicy Mushroomsfrom At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, an Indian cookbook. Served on toasted bread, with a side salad of tomatoes and avocadoes in yogurt. I loved this flavorful dish. Carl hated it, the first time he’s had that reaction to anything I cooked. So much the better for me – I got the leftovers for lunch :).
Ham with Tomatoes and OnionsAn easy-as-pie one-pot dish I learned from my Mom as a kid – very satisfying on a busy night. Preheat the oven to 350. Lay a 1 to 2 pound ham steak in a pan. Thinly slice an onion and spread on top of the ham. Pour a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes into a bowl, and stir together with a few tbsp. dijon mustard, a little salt, onion, a little garlic powder, and, if you like, a splash of worcestershire. Pour over ham and bake for half an hour. Nice with potatoes as a side.
Thai Pork Kabobs with Peanut Sauce and Onion Cakes These were a huge hit – flavorful, rich, and juicy, yet quick and easy. I don’t stock Thai seasoning, but used these guidelines to make some. I substituted fresh lime zest for dried, ground red pepper for fresh, skipped the lemongrass, and rubbed the mix into the meat rather than sprinkling. I also reduced the water in the peanut sauce to 1/4 cup. The onion cakes were great as well – I sauteed a thinly-sliced regular onion and added it to the batter since we didn’t have any green onions. Four minutes on one side, five minutes on the other and the pork was done.
Curry Chicken Salad An old standby from my childhood. Cook two or three chicken breasts by boiling them (roasted is fine as well – your choice). Shred or chop. Stir together with some combination of sliced celery, grapes, dried apricots, raisins, walnuts, or similar foods. Stir up with mayonnaise, significant amounts of curry and cumin, and a little salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Adjust to taste, and enjoy on a hot summer day.
Indian Chicken Stew Better Homes & Gardens had a $5 sale on yearly subscriptions. When we signed up, they sent a 2012 favorite recipes collection as a bonus. Carl actually made this one up while I worked – his first encounter with a crockpot, and he came off victorious. It’s not exactly Indian food, but this is a flavorful stew (especially if you throw in extra spices) and made the house smell delicious all day as it simmered. Next time we might try adding cumin, a bit more salt, coconut milk, or cubed potatoes.