Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weeknight Kitchen: Potato Cakes with Over Easy Eggs

I made this dish several weeks ago, and as I was looking through pictures tonight, I realized I hadn't posted it.  This is another wonderful recipe from Splendid Table's Weeknight Kitchen newsletter.  If you're not getting the newsletter, you should.  This recipe below was super fast and easy, but it's something I wouldn't have thought about doing.  I have potatoes and eggs frequently, but the addition of lemon and dill made these seem really special.  I also liked the fact that I could put most of the ingredients in the food processor and quickly prep.  This was supposed to have mushrooms, but I forgot to buy them.  The portabellas would have been a nice addition, but the dish didn't need it.  I don't think I'll make potatoes and eggs without dill and lemon again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spinach, Sausage, and Mushroom Frittata

I made this frittata a few weeks ago.  It was from a cookbook called Celebrate Chicago that I've been cooking from quite often lately.  I don't know why I don't make frittatas more often, especially when I have company.  This frittata had bold flavors and reheated easily.  It was excellent served with toast and a side of fruit.  I'm sure it could be made ahead and baked when needed.  This particular meal included Italian sausage, mushrooms, onion, spinach, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese.  Next time I know I'm having someone over for breakfast I must remember to make this frittata.  

Above: before going into the oven.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hearty Hooters at The Burger King in Mattoon

That's right, I said hearty Hooters.  What, you may ask, is a Hooter?  A Hooter is a quarter pound cheeseburger at The Burger King in Mattoon, Il.  The Burger King has been around for 59 years.  They existed before the chain, and a federal lawsuit actually resulted.  I've been wanting to check out this place for awhile.  When you first walk in the door, you get a small town, burger place feel.  One counter is used for ordering burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings, and soda, while the other side is an ice cream parlor.  The first thing I noticed on the menu was a Hooter.  I've done a little research, and the people who started the restaurant had a last name of Hoots, hence the burger name.  The Hooter was a good burger.  It was large in diameter, and served with a generous amount of toppings.  The bun was very pillowy, and covered in a perfect amount of sesame seeds.     Another thing I enjoyed about The Burger King was the soda serving size.  My husband got a 32 oz. SuperCoke.  I ordered a small, which was about 10 ounces.  This was exciting for me because so many times a small soda is huge, and much more than I could drink, so I actually enjoyed the range of sizes available.  

While waiting for our burgers, I noticed a diversity in the customers.  A few groups were in their late 50's to early 70's.  These people would come in and get ice cream and chat with each other.  It seemed like everyone knew everyone else.  These people have probably been coming here for a long time.  I also noticed several groups of young couples in their early twenties probably starting off their weekend dates.  Then groups of young teenagers came in.  It seemed like everyone felt at home at The Burger King.  If you're in Mattoon stop in, and you'll feel at home too.

The sign.  I wish the sky didn't look so ominous.  
 My Hooter
 The first bite
 My husband's ice cream.  They put eyes on it!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Breakfast Parfaits

I had made oatmeal muffins (see yesterday's post), and I had a little leftover crumble.  Okay, so I had a lot of leftover crumble, but I couldn't stop eating it, so eventually I only had a little leftover crumble.  I also had some plain yogurt and blueberries in the refrigerator that weren't getting any fresher.  I needed breakfast, and I needed it fast.  I decided to whip out the wine glasses and make parfaits.  These were fast, filling, delicious, and pretty.  Because the yogurt was plain, I drizzled each layer with dark Karo syrup.  I will probably make these next time I need to feed company for breakfast.  These could also be served in smaller portions for dessert, and any fruit could be used.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Cake Stand and Oatmeal Muffins

The weekend I moved my husband, in-laws, and I decided to go to a few antique stores in the area.  I saw a beautiful cake stand.  I've never had a cake holder, and quite honestly, I don't make that many cakes, so I wasn't sure I needed a cake stand.  Then I went back home and made muffins.  (See what happened with those muffins here.)  I made muffins again the next week, and I plan on making them again as they are an extremely easy breakfast.  Finally, I had a need for a cake stand!  I could use them to display my muffins.  My husband and I went back to the store on Saturday, and I bought the cake stand.  It is very heavy and detailed on the bottom.  I love it, and I intend on keeping it full.

The muffins you see below are oatmeal muffins from the blog 101 Cookbooks.  These muffins are subtly sweet, and a little salty.  I plan on making them again next week and adding some peaches.  I didn't think my husband would like them because they weren't chocolate (see my shortbread post), but he said they were perfect muffins and that when muffins are too sweet they make him made because they should just be cupcakes.  Who knew he'd have such strong opinions about muffins?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lobster Bake

Last night my husband gave me my Christmas present from last Christmas.  Now, this isn't as bad as it sounds.  My present was to pick a dinner from Firefly in Effingham, Illinois.  Firefly is a wonderful restaurant serving upscale farm fresh and local foods.  They have a garden where much of their produce is gathered during this time of year. I knew that every year Firefly has a lobster bake, so I waited until it came around to claim my gift.  It was a fantastic present.  The food and atmosphere, as always, were great.
The view from our table on the patio
 My view from the patio
 The menu.  We had the wine pairings
 First course: Clams with cooking water on the left to wash off the grit and butter on the right.

 2nd course: Oyster stew.  This was amazing.  I wanted a vat.  It had raw oysters in it that must have been placed in right before serving.
 The main course, lobster.  I tore this thing apart in record time.  I think my husband was both horrified and impressed.
 Dessert: Strawberry and rhubarb pie with homemade ice cream.  I was so full by this point, but I managed to eat all but the crust (which my husband ate)
 Me after all the food.  I was covered in butter and lobster juices by this point; no wonder I'm so happy.
 The Firefly.  If you are in the area, I highly recommend stopping by.  You can find their website here

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Weeknight Kitchen: Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

This Weeknight Kitchen recipe really lived up to its name.  It was extremely simple to throw together.  The longest part was halving all of the grape tomatoes.  After the tomatoes were cut I threw them in a baking dish with bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  The tomatoes baked while I cooked the pasta, and then everything was thrown together before serving.  I didn't have any basil, so I left it out, but I'm sure the herb would have made the dish even better.This is such a simple recipe, but I would not have thought to go this without it.  I think this summer when tomatoes are fresh I will just bake them like this as a side dish without the pasta.  This made a lot and reheated really well.

I apologize for the less than stellar picture.  The lighting in my kitchen was weird that day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Yeasted Pizza Dough

My husband and I used to make a lot of pizza.  We'd have pizza at least once a week.  We got out of it for awhile, but now the pizza making bug has struck again.  I always used to buy a crust kit like Jiffy or the Hy-vee brand.  These kits made pretty good crusts, but I knew I could make something better.  Plus, it was a little annoying that I couldn't whip up pizza anytime I wanted just because I may not have a crust kit in the house.  I decided I was going to make my own crust.  I buy bulk yeast, so I always have it in the house.  The other ingredients are just flour, olive oil, water, sugar, and salt.  These items are also staples, so I can have pizza crust anytime I want.  I used the recipe from  Vegan with a Vengeance, which is a great book whether you're a vegan or not (I would recommend any of Isa's books.  She's a genius!)  It was a little time consuming, but I know I'm making pizza next week, so I will make the dough ahead of time and freeze it.  For my first attempt the dough came out great!  I kneaded it by hand for the full 10 minutes the recipe suggests, and I now know that women who work with dough must have extremely strong forearms.  I was amazing by how soft the dough became the longer I kneaded.  I really need to invest in a pizza stone to get a consistently better crust, but this was great.  

Next week when I make this crust I will add in a little chopped garlic and some herbs and/or lemon zest during the final knead.  The pizza you see below was packed with veggies and cheeses.  It had green onions, yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, black olives, cilantro, mushrooms, mozzarella, and goat cheese.  Go make your own crust.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spaghetti my Grandma's way

The spaghetti sauce I grew up on is by no means traditional.  It has a few very strange ingredients and is made with mostly packaged products, no fresh tomatoes or basil here.  Still, I love it, and I make it occasionally.  Give this a try, but don't expect anything like a traditional marinara.  Oh, and since we're not being traditional here, the pasta is always served on the side and mixed in at the table.

Grandma Mary's Spaghetti Sauce

1 lb. ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup onion
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can tomato soup
6oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
4 oz can mushrooms pieces, drained
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf

Cook hamburger with onion and garlic until brown.  Drain fat.  Mix 1/2 cup water and 6oz can of tomato paste in small bowl.  Add soups, tomato paste, mushrooms, Worcestershire, oregano, salt and bay leaf to hamburger.  Stir together.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I swear I wasn't going to cook tonight: Creamed Peas with Bell Pepper and Onion

I make a meal plan every week.  I just use a simple table and write down everything I will be making for lunch, breakfast, and supper.  Since I've moved, I've decided to start building a leftover night into that plan.  I tend to make very large portions when I cook.  I'm not sure why I do this because my immediate family is very small, but I always cook as if I'm feeding a family of at least six, so even though my husband and I take leftovers for lunch each day, there is still a lot of leftover food in the fridge.  Leftover night helps me clean out the fridge because really, there is always some lovely dish that gets shoved to the back, forgotten, and taken out months later when I clean and play a rousing game of "guess what that was."

The first leftover night went pretty well.  We did have a lot of leftover pasta to eat up, but I will keep that in mind when making my plan for next week.  When I was sizing up the leftovers I decided I needed to bulk them up a little with some leftover produce.  This started out innocently enough with my caramelizing a red onion, and 2 bell peppers.  Then I remembered the peas in the freezer.  I added those to the peppers and onions too.  I was going to deglaze the pan with some balsamic vinegar, but I thought that might be a little sweet with the peas, so I added some chicken broth.  Next, I added heavy cream, cream cheese, and a little fresh sage.  I loved this combination.  It was a very rich take on creamed peas.  Jason was indifferent to it.  He loved cream peas, but he said the cream with the peppers was "weird."  Oh well, more for me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Weeknight Kitchen: Gingered Cornmeal Shortbread

When I saw this recipe in my inbox I knew I just had to make it.  Look at the title: Gingered Cornmeal Shortbread.  These are three foods that I love dearly.  The second thing about the recipe that caught my eye was the fact that you cream the butter and sugar for at least 10 minutes.  It gets super white and creamy at this point, and I seriously considered just eating it out of the bowl with a spoon.  If you don't like ginger don't worry because the flavor is subtle, but adds a nice flavor.  The cornmeal adds a pleasant crunch, and the butter and sugar, well I mentioned that before.  These bake up easily and are a lightly sweet dessert that would be perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.  My husband isn't crazy about them because he likes overly sweet desserts, but these could be dipped in a chocolate ganche if you'd like.  I think they are perfect just as they are.

The super white butter and sugar.  Really, this should be a dessert on its own.
Another shot outside.  I was so impressed by how white this turn out.  Did I mention I wanted to eat this straight out of the bowl?
The shortbread rolled, scored, and ready for the oven.  Note: score after putting on the baking sheet.  I messed this up, and the shortbread was difficult to move.
The perfect accompaniment for tea. 
My tea cabinet.  I mentioned it in an earlier post, and I am super excited by it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When Mastiffs Mush Your Muffins

You know that saying "When life gives you lemons make lemonade?"  Well, today I didn't get lemons, but mushed muffins.  Sunday night I had made the Chocolate Raspberry muffins from Vegan Brunch.  Which, by the way, is an excellent cookbook whether you're vegan or not.  I've made several recipes from it, and everything has been great.  Anyway, I made these muffins which were fudgy, tart, rich, and just a wonderful way to wake up.  I placed all the leftover muffins in a zip top back and left it on the counter for easy grabbing in the morning.  There were about 8 muffins left.  When I came home from work the bag was on the floor and had been stepped on many times by Balthasar, my 150lb. English Mastiff.  The bag was still zipped, and the muffins inside were flat, but in no other way harmed.  I could not bring myself to throw them away, and I had an ingenious idea.  I put the muffins in a round pyrex pan and smushed them together to fill the pan.  Then, I whipped up some ganache (equal parts heavy cream and chocolate), and poured it on the muffins.  Finally, I topped the entire creation with whole raspberries.  My husband and I each had a piece of this with supper, and it was really good.  In fact, I might bake the muffin batter in the pan next time.  So, the moral of the story is when mastiffs mush your muffins, top them with ganache and fresh berries.  Everything will be okay.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Weeknight Kitchen: Farfalle with Salmon, Peas, and Sage

Okay, you got me. If you looked at the picture, you probably noticed that there is no farfalle on the plate, but I couldn't find that shape, so I thought this rotini would hold the sauce just as well.  Plus, I thought the colors were nice.

This dinner came together really quickly.  In fact, my preparation was not what it should have been.  When I make this again, I will make sure all the ingredients are prepped and ready to go.  In the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta, the sauce is complete.  This will be an excellent meal for nights when I have class and need to get supper on the table quickly.  When I first read this recipe I thought there was a mistake because it didn't call for any cheese.  I then remembered the rule that in Italian food cheese and seafood should not be put together.  After trying the incredibly creamy but light sauce, I realized it didn't need any cheese.  I really like the technique of adding pasta water to loosen a sauce.  I've done this a few times before and will put it into my cooking more often.  If you don't like salmon, chicken could be substituted, but the salmon flavor was perfect for me.  This was another great meal from The Splendid Table's Weeknight Kitchen.  If you haven't signed up for the newsletter yet you should.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

First Meal Cooked in the House

All the boxes are in the house, but not put away yet.  My new kitchen was the first room entirely ready to go, and this happened within a few hours of being in the house (I have my priorities). I also had my menu plan completed on the second day in the house.  Despite my cooking ready kitchen, I didn't cook anything for the first few days.  I have plenty of dry goods, and everything in the deep freeze was moved, but the only thing in the refrigerator was bottled water.  After some of the moving craziness died down, and I decided I was sick of eating out, I decided to buy some food and cook.  Cooking made me feel more at home in the house.  I love my new kitchen, but I am still learning how to maneuver in it.  The electric stove is not as tricky as I had imagined, but I still miss my gas range.  I have tons of cabinet space, but I'm not sure where everything is yet, which results in longer prep times.  I wanted my first meal to be celebratory, so I decided on steak.  We had 2 t-bones in the deep freeze just begging to be used, so I rubbed those in a spicy Monterey seasoning and broiled them.  We had simple steamed broccoli on the side and my aunt's macaroni and cheese.  If I get permission from her I will share the recipe later (after I get the seasoning right).  We also had homemade lemonade with peach vodka. This was a great first meal in the new house, and I expect many more to come.

The food waiting to be eaten.
 Mac and Cheese
 A medium rare t-bone
 Moving is hard work

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Robbies and the LA Phatburger: so Good I Wish I was Hungover

I needed to go grocery shopping today to stock up my kitchen (all we had in the fridge was bottled water).  Decatur has the closest Krogers, so we decided to go there.  When in Decatur we have to stop at Robbies Grill.  Robbies is an upscale bar with seating for about 30 including the bar.  The menu changes daily, and is always fantastic.  The staff is very friendly, and the atmosphere is nice.  

First, Jason's lunch.  Seared tuna on flatbread.  The sauce was a kind of spicy wasabi honey mustard, so good.  
 My lunch, and the reason I stated that I wished I was hungover in the title.  The LA Phatburger is a burger served on toasted Italian bread, topped with cheddar cheese, fried egg, and chili.  This is the perfect hangover food.  It seems like it would be very greasy and heavy, but it's not.  The chili is light and flavorful and the burger is the best I've ever had.  I like my burger's rare, and Robbies gives me just what I want, juicy, rare beef.  I always want to order something else, but I always come back to this.  We were told these are only available on Saturdays, so if you're in the bar on a Saturday afternoon, do yourself a favor and order one.
 Jason looking rather surprised.  He didn't know I was taking his picture.  
 Jason's dessert Peanut Butter Pie: a layer of chocolate crust, silky peanut butter ice cream, and a chocolate ganache topping.  I'm not a fan of peanut butter desserts, but Jason said he could've eaten 3 of these even though they are very rich.  
 Me and my dessert: a spicy bloody Mary.  The bloody Mary comes with a sidecar of draft Blue Moon.  I didn't expect the little beer on the side, but I think I will start ordering all bloody Mary's this way.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Homemade Bologna in Amish Country

First off, let me apologize for being gone longer than a week.  I had intended on posting at least once a week during the move, but that didn't happen.  My husband and I are in our new house now (it's our first time living together), I'm in a new town, and about to start a new job (grad school starts in the fall, so expect a heavy use of the crock pot), but I need to eat, and I will not skimp on cooking or the quality of food I make.  I've already made a meal plan for the week and am intending on posting more regularly now.  I made a beautiful first meal in our house tonight, and I will post it tomorrow.  In the meantime, onto the sandwich in the picture.

The sandwich above may not look like much, but it's packed with flavor.  It's homemade bologna with farmer's cheese on homemade bread.  It's called the farmer's delight, and you can get it from Rosaline's in Arthur, Illinois.  Rosaline's in a small coffee/ice cream shop that sells sandwiches.  I recommend checking it out if you are in the area.

This was my first experience with homemade bologna, but when I saw it on the menu I new I had to give it a try.  Forget everything you know about the packaged bologna you had in school lunches.  This is more like an extremely flavorful sausage sliced thin and warmed with homemade bread.  Definitely worth checking out.