Monday, December 24, 2007

Crab Risotto

I wanted to make something special and comforting, but also something that would be light-tasting, since we've been eating so much heavy, fattening food (you know how it is around the holidays). I came up with this crab risotto, and it was the perfect thing for Mr Wonderful and I.

Crab Risotto
2 Tbsp EVOO
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 c diced onion
1 c arborio rice
1 c dry white wine
4 c simmering chicken stock
10 oz fresh crab meat (Dungeness is in season here in the bay area)
Zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
salt & pepper

Melt the butter with the EVOO in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Seasoning with salt & pepper is a good idea at this point. Add the rice and stir to coat all the grains, and let them toast for a minute or two while you open the wine. Add the wine and let it bubble until the alcohol is all cooked out. and the rice has absorbed some of the liquid. Add 1/2-3/4 c of hot chicken stock. Stir frequently, letting the rice absorb the stock until it's almost gone. The rice should not get dry on top, but when you drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan, it should leave a track for a moment or two. That's when you know it's time to add more stock. Keep adding stock and letting the rice absorb it, stirring very frequently, until the stock is all gone and the rice is al dente. Be patient, it takes about half an hour to do this right!

At this point you can add just about anything you want to the risotto. For this meal, I used crab, lemon zest, and parsley. As soon as the crab is heated through, check the seasonings and add more salt or pepper, if necessary. Makes 3-4 servings.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Chicken Noodle Soup


Chicken Noodle Soup
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
Good lord, it's been forever since I updated. I've been cooking, but it's mostly been stuff like chicken nuggets for the kids and re-runs of things I've already blogged about. I mean, who wants to see another blog about roast chicken? I did make a Beef Barley Soup the other day, but my camera batteries had died and I didn't have anymore AA's, so there wasn't a picture for the post. It was pretty simple anyway - just the usual soup starter veggies (onion, celery, carrot), 2 boxes of beef broth, some barley grains, salt & pepper and a bay leaf.

This soup recipe is pretty much the same, with a little variation. I love basic soups - you can pull them together in half an hour and you've got a comforting meal for 4-6 people that's perfect for wintertime.

Chicken Noodle Soup
2 Tbsp EVOO
1/2 yellow onion, diced small
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large chicken breast, diced
8 cups (2 boxes) chicken stock
2 tsp poultry seasoning
salt & pepper to taste

Heat up the EVOO over medium heat in your big, heavy soup pot. Throw in the veggies, season with salt & pepper, and saute for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent (about 5 min). Throw in the diced chicken, season with salt & pepper and poultry seasoning. Cook for a couple of minutes, until there's not much pink showing anymore. Add all the chicken stock, and raise the heat to high until it comes to a boil. Throw in the dried pasta of your choice (Rugrat's favorite is the "honeycombs" - AKA fiori, or "flower" shaped pasta), reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until the pasta is al dente (stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn't stick). That's it! The chicken will be cooked through by the time the pasta is done.

A sleeve is done!

Finally! I finally finished one sleeve. Rugrat saw a kid wearing a sweater that had little holes for the kid's thumbs to poke through, and of course he had to have that for HIS sweater, so I made a buttonhole after carefully marking where his thumb would be.

So now all I have to do is one more sleeve, the collar, and weave in all those pesky yarn ends...and we'll have a sweater!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dyeing wool yarn

Last weekend we made a trip to Michael's, to get some glitter and food coloring for the kids (they were making snow globes). I figured since I was there I'd pick up a skein of cheap white wool yarn and try dyeing some myself, since I'd read up on it earlier in the week and it seemed pretty simple. I grabbed some Wilton's paste food coloring in forest green, brown, burgundy and teal, and a skein of Patons Classic Wool Merino in winter white.

When we got home, I pulled out some Pyrex dishes - casserole-type things - and preheated the oven to about 225. All my regular pots & pans are hard-anodized aluminum, and I wasn't willing to possibly ruin my expensive cookware on a test ball of yarn (you can't use aluminum because it is "reactive" - and I'm not sure what exactly happens, but I wasn't about to find out). I don't have any stainless still pots, so I figured I'd do it in the glass dishes in the oven instead of on the stove. I transferred the ball of yarn into a hank by wrapping it around the back of two dining room chairs (back to back) and then tied it in four places with some acrylic crap yarn to keep it in one big hank. I soaked the hank in plain hot water for about half an hour, until the yarn was fully soaked, then I drained the water from the sink and kind of pushed/squeezed the excess water out. I put 1/4 cup of white vinegar in each of the three casserole dishes, then filled each one with 4 cups (1 quart) of hot water. Then came the fun part - adding the dye. It's kind of a trial-and-error sort of thing; the more dye you add, the more saturated the color will be. I just scooped some out of the little jar with a wooden chopstick and swirled it around in the water/vinegar until it dissolved completely. I used the green, brown and burgundy for this trial (Rugrat wanted me to use the teal but I figured three colors was PLENTY to start out with). I carefully put the dishes in the oven (not real easy to make all three fit on one shelf, let me tell you!) and draped the damp skein of white yarn in the dishes, with brown on one end, burgundy on the other, and the green in the middle. I checked it often, poking it with chopsticks to make sure it was submerged all the way, and turned it over once to make sure the color saturated the top as well as the bottom of the yarn.

Finally I removed the yarn and let it cool in the sink, dumped out the remaining dye water, and rinsed the yarn. And rinsed, and rinsed, and rinsed. The burgundy bled like crazy. When it finally let up some, I took a long, critical look at the skein and decided the colors were too bright and unharmonious, so I ended up re-dyeing the entire skein in brown dye. When I rinsed it out after overdyeing with brown, there was no bleeding, and the colors were much more muted - as I had originally intended. I ended up with a lovely autumn-y variegated skein, with coppery brown, camel, olive green, and cranberry colors. As you can see from the picture above, I'm turning it into My So Called Scarf, and the pattern shows off the color gradations beautifully.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Holiday meme

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Mostly paper, but gift bags if they're a funky shape

2. Tree--Real or Artificial? Artificial, but only because real trees are so darned expensive now. You can get a nice fake tree for about the same price as a nice REAL tree, but the fake tree lasts forever.

3. When do you put the Christmas tree up? The day after Thanksgiving

4. When do you take the tree down? Shortly after New Year's

5. Like eggnog? I've got to have it at least once during the season

6. Do you have a nativity scene? No

7. Favorite gift received as a child? Cabbage Patch Kid

8. Hardest person to buy for? Step-dad

9. Worst Christmas gift received? I can't think of anything particularly heinous, although I was sorely disappointed the year that I got a FAKE Cabbage Patch Kid.

10. Mail or email a Christmas card? Mail ...and I am horrendously late this year, I know...

12. Favorite Christmas movie? So hard to choose! Love Actually (not really a Christmas movie, but it's set in London at Christmastime), A Christmas Story ("You'll put your eye out, kid!"), It's a Wonderful Life (of course), and most of the old-skool kids' Christmas specials, like Year Without a Santa Claus (Heat Miser!!) and Rudolph and Charlie Brown Christmas. I really love Christmas shows.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Usually just before Thanksgiving, but this year I didn't start until last Friday. But I got it almost all done that day, so I'm doing pretty good. ;-)

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, bath stuff and bottles of wine

15. Favorite food to eat on Christmas? Oh boy. Slow-roasted prime rib with gravy and mashed potatoes - I think that's what we'll be having for Christmas dinner this year. Homemade fudge. Hot chocolate with whipped cream. Maple sugar candy (in my stocking every year!). Almond Roca. Tangerines. A big brunch, like pancakes or scrambled eggs and bacon. Coffee (but that's nothing new, I have that every morning).

16. Colored or clear lights? Colored, definitely. The tackier, the better, when it comes to my Christmas tree.

17. Favorite Christmas song? The Charlie Brown Christmas album (Vince Guaraldi). Brian Setzer Orchestra's version of The Nutcracker Suite. God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen, by Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan. All I Want for Christmas, by Olivia Olson. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, by Andy Williams. Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, by Frank Sinatra. The Christmas Song, by Nat King Cole. What? I LIKE Christmas music!

18. Travel during Christmas or stay home? Stay home!!

19. Can you name Santa's reindeer? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph

20. Star or angel on tree top? Angel, but only because I've never found a star I like as much as the one we had on the tree when I was growing up. (*sob!*)

21. Open presents on Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning. Usually Babydaddy comes over on Christmas Eve and spends the night so we can all open presents together Christmas morning, but I guess that won't be happening this year! LOL

22. The most annoying thing about this time of year? All the noise, noise, noise, noise! Just kidding. Actually, it's the shopping I hate most. And the traffic. And the people, but I generally hate people so that's nothing new. ;-)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Advice

Note to self: stop knitting while drinking.

I keep dropping stitches and fucking things up and having to rip back the poor sleeve I finally started on a few days ago. Every time I sit down with a beer and my knitting needles I screw the damn thing up. Like, when I decided to give the sleeve a little shaping, and so I (in my ultimate wisdom) decreased one stitch every other row, but only in one direction. So the sleeve decrease started to spiral.

Ah well, I guess this is just what happens when you knit your first sweater and decide to do modifications to the pattern. Before this, the most difficult thing I'd attempted was a scarf. A really easy garter-stitch scarf. Oh, and I did do that one two-color hat in the EZ book. But this is really my first big project, and quite frankly I'm so frustrated with it right now that I dream about frogging the whole damn thing. Literally. I had a dream I did that. It was kind of liberating but ultimately a depressing dream, so when I woke up I was glad I hadn't done it.

Anyhoo, I am plugging along. I found a local knitting group and finally made it to my first meeting last night. I'm hoping to make it on a regular basis, because I think it will help a lot to have experienced knitters that I can get help from, in person, when I screw up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Scalloped Croque Monsieur

Mr Wonderful's birthday was two days after Thanksgiving. His absolute favorite food is scalloped or au gratin potatoes, so I decided to make a variation by adding classic Croque Monsieur flavors: mustard and ham. In addition, we had a lovely salad with apples, candied pecans, bacon, caramelized balsamic onions, blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. And for dessert we had Tiramisu, another favorite of his.

Russet potatoes are an antioxidant-rich food, so this will be my submission for Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup. Click the link to see more great recipes from food bloggers!

Scalloped Croque Monsieur
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 c flour
2 c milk
1 Tbsp good grainy mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
1 1/2 c shredded Gruyere cheese (or other good swiss-type, like Emmenthal or Comte)
3 small russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1/4 lb thinly sliced deli ham
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble slightly, add the flour and cook for a minute or two. Add the milk slowly, stirring or whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Raise the heat to high, and continue stirring constantly, until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the mustard, nutmeg, salt & pepper (go easy on the salt; cheese is salty) and 1 cup of the shredded cheese.

In an 8" buttered baking dish, layer the potatoes, sauce and ham, starting with a little bit of sauce on the bottom, and ending with a bunch of sauce on top to make sure it's all covered. Sprinkle the casserole with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and the casserole is golden brown on top. Serves 2-3.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

I obviously didn't spend much time on plating, but maybe you'll forgive me if I tell you that I was halfway through a bottle of wine by the time it hit the table, since I spent ALL DAY cooking for only four people. Oh, and only two of those people actually appreciated the food and ate it without making nasty faces.

I skipped the apple crisp, figuring that Rugrat wouldn't eat it and I'd be plenty full from dinner anyway. But I did put out a crudite platter for everyone to snack on during the afternoon, and whipped up a quick batch of stuffed mushrooms for Mr Wonderful and I. The kids won't touch mushrooms with a ten foot pole, which was just fine with me, because stuffed mushrooms are one of my favorite things.

Mashed Maple-Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes
3 c baked, peeled & mashed sweet potatoes
1/3 c half and half
1/3 c good maple syrup
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix all ingredients together and spoon into an 8" buttered baking dish. Then, combine the following ingredients with a pastry cutter (or in a food processor or stand mixer, if you're lazy like me) until it gets crumbly and the butter bits are smaller than peas:

1/4 c lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 c flour
2 Tbsp cold butter

Sprinkle evenly on top of the mashed sweet potatoes, then bake for about 30 minutes. Serves 6-8.


Stuffed Mushrooms
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp EVOO
10 mushrooms, cleaned
1 Tbsp minced shallot
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1/2 c cracker crumbs (I usually use saltines; this time I had oyster crackers on hand, but you can use Ritz or whatever)
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop the stems finely. Place the caps, hole side up, on a cookie sheet. Melt the butter with the EVOO in a small saute pan, then add the chopped mushroom stems, shallot, parsley and lemon zest. Cook for about 3 minutes to soften the mushrooms and shallots, and to blend the flavors together. Add the cracker crumbs. At this point, you may need to adjust a little - if the stuffing looks too wet, add a little more cracker crumbs; if it's too dry, moisten with a bit more EVOO. Cook for another minute, to bind everything together and toast the crumbs a little, and season with salt & pepper to taste.

With a teaspoon, stuff each mushroom cap with the mixture. You should mound it up and kind of press it down a bit with the spoon, making sure it's well packed. Top the mushroom caps with the shredded cheese and then pop them in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the mushrooms give up their liquid and start to brown a bit. Serve immediately. This recipe will only serve about 2 people, though, because they are really yummy and you'll be scarfing them down as fast as you can.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Menu

This year I had given my family over six months' notice that I would be doing Thanksgiving. Six months! And still, nobody is coming, as far as I know. I extended a last-minute invitation to my aunt & uncle, and my cousin & her son, but no word yet on whether they'll be attending. I guess the party jinx extends even to family parties now. :-(

In spite of that, though, I'll be making a FULL Thanksgiving dinner. Mr Wonderful and I and the kids will be here to enjoy it, and even if we're stuck having leftovers for a month, I won't skimp on Thanksgiving. So, the menu is:

Sage, Onion & Apple Cider-Roasted Turkey (a 12 pounder!)
Apple-Herb Stuffing
Green Bean Casserole
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon (will probably add some apple cider to this to sweeten it and tie it in to the turkey/stuffing)
Funeral Potatoes (I've been dying to make this - no pun intended)
Mashed Maple-Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes (recipe will be posted after Thanksgiving)
Cranberry Sauce
Rolls
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Crisp

I dislike Pumpkin Pie, but Mr Wonderful thinks it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it, so that's why we've got two desserts.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Spider-Man Logo


Spider-Man Sweater
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister.
The Spider-Man logo I used for Rugrat's "Weasley Sweater" in place of an initial.

Chart (Excel format) can be found here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Clam Chowder

So much fresher and healthier than the canned stuff!

Clam Chowder
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 c diced onion
1 c diced celery
1 c diced carrot
2 c diced potatoes
1/4 c flour
1 bottle clam juice
4 c chicken stock (one large box with a pour-spout)
1/2 c half and half
2 cans whole clams, drained (juice reserved) and checked over to ensure there are no little bits of shell
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper

Melt the butter with the EVOO in a large soup pot or a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots and potatoes, and salt & pepper to taste. Saute for about 10 minutes, until the veggies are tender and the onions are translucent. Add the flour and cook for a minute or two. Add the bottled clam juice slowly, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add in the chicken stock and bring the heat up to high, stirring often, until the soup begins to thicken. Reduce the heat back to medium. Add in the half and half, reserved clam juice and the clams. Cook just for a few minutes, until the clams are cooked through, then stir in the chopped parsley and serve.

Makes enough soup for 4-6 people.

Edited because I forgot about the potatoes! Whoops!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm on Ravelry!

Ravelry is like MySpace for knitters/crocheters. The site is still in beta, but I signed up for a beta account and finally, after nearly a month, got my invite. :) I'm "snarkmeister" on Ravelry, if you're a fellow Raveler.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Have I mentioned?

I am in love with Sriracha. It is the asian garlic-chili sauce that comes in a plastic squeeze bottle with a rooster on the front. And it turns out, as well-publicized on the show Top Chef, it really does go well with everything (except ice cream).

It adds a spicy, vinegary kick to just about anything. I love the way it brightened up the mac & cheese. It was indispensable in Mr Wonderful's Comfort Stew. It's fabulous to add to those bland, child-approved casseroles and pasta dishes. I am telling you, I would marry this stuff if I could, I love it that much.

Mr Wonderful's Comfort Stew

A cross between a stew and a chili...I wanted to pamper Mr Wonderful a little bit at the end of a long, busy weekend, so I set out some chips & salsa and a cold beer for him to snack on while I finished making this "comfort stew" - a rib-sticking Mexican-inspired dish. With the healthy beans, potatoes and tomatoes, this stew will be my contribution to Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup this week.

Mr Wonderful's Comfort Stew
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 diced onion
1 pkg kielbasa (four sausages), sliced lengthwise and then cut into 1/2" slices
2 russet potatoes, cut into about 1 1/2" dice
1 can black beans, drained
1 can white (navy or cannelini) beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 c pork broth (use chicken if you can't find pork)
1 Tbsp Sriracha
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 c thinly sliced green onion
salt & pepper
Shredded cheese, for serving (cheddar, jack, or similar) -- optional
Sour cream, for serving -- optional

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the kielbasa and saute until it gets a little golden brown. Add the diced potatoes, season liberally with salt & pepper, and saute for about 5 minutes, until they start to turn golden brown. Add the two cans of beans, the can of tomatoes, the cumin, garlic powder (or fresh garlic; I was just being lazy), the cup of broth and the Sriracha. Add enough water just to cover the stew, and raise the heat up to medium high. When the stew just starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the stew has thickened. Taste for seasonings & adjust as needed. Add the cilantro and green onion at the very end.

Ladle into bowls, topping each bowl with cheese and/or sour cream if you like (we added a little dollop of sour cream to each bowl and the cool creamy goodness was the perfect counterpoint to the spicy stew).

Mac & Cheese

Made from scratch, with four different kinds of cheese and a buttery breadcrumb topping...this was decadent and delicious.

Mac 'N' Cheese
1 pound cooked pasta (penne, macaroni, or similar)
6 Tbsp butter, divided
1/4 c flour
2 1/2 c milk
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 oz Gruyere, shredded
4 oz white Cheddar, shredded
4 oz Brie, diced (rind removed)
1 1/2 c fresh breadcrumbs
2 tsp Sriracha (optional)
2 Tbsp freshly shredded Parmesan
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt 4 Tbsp butter in a saucepot over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble slightly, add the flour and cook for a minute or two. Add a little salt and some pepper (go easy on the salt because the cheese is salty). Add the milk and stir immediately to blend everything without lumps. Raise the heat a little bit, and cook, stirring constantly, until the bechamel sauce thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Add the nutmeg. Take the sauce off the heat and add 3/4 of the Gruyere, Cheddar and Brie cheeses. Stir until cheeses are melted and completely incorporated. Add the cheese sauce to the pasta and pour into a large casserole dish. If you want, at this point you can drizzle some Sriracha on the mac 'n' cheese. It adds a tiny bit of kick and brightens up the dish. Top with the rest of the Gruyere, Cheddar and Brie.

In a saucepan, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp butter and add the breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring gently, for a couple of minutes, until the crumbs are pretty evenly coated with melted butter. Spread the breadcrumbs evenly on the casserole and sprinkle with the shredded Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the casserole is bubbly and the topping is golden brown.

Friday, October 26, 2007

New favorite show

Pushing Daisies. I love it. I love the bright colors, the narrator guy (the same guy who read the Harry Potter books in the audio versions!), the silliness and the characters spontaneously breaking into song (OK, maybe only Olive, but OMG awesome!). I love the dry humor and the plot point that will keep Ned & Chuck from ever getting jiggy. I love the flashbacks. I love Ned's partner, who has freaking AWESOME lines and who KNITS and has to get reward money to fuel his yarn habit. Totally, totally cool. I love Chuck's hair, and I covet her stylist, because I have curly/wavy hair that's very fine & prone to flyaways just like hers, but her hair looks GORGEOUS every week. And I love, love, love Olive. She dresses like a Brady Bunch tart, and throws herself at Ned every chance she gets, and did I mention the singing? Yeah, like when she started singing Hopelessly Devoted To You in the pie shop. Or this week, when she busted out with They Might Be Giants in the car. God, how can you resist? Throw in a bedazzled resurrected pigeon, and you've got comedy gold, folks.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole



The photo is a bit overexposed, but this dinner turned out really well, using frozen Trader Joe's brown rice, topped with cheese and some sliced green onions. But the best thing was when I added a little Sriracha to it. OMG, fantastic!

This is my submission to Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup this week, thanks to the mushrooms and onions and the uber-healthy brown rice (even if it's not technically an ARF).

Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced small
1 cup crimini (baby portobello) mushrooms, cut into quarters
Four thin-cut chicken breasts, sliced into 1" strips (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 can Cream of Celery soup (can use two cans of Cream of Mushroom instead, but I only had one can of that)
2 bags frozen Trader Joe's brown rice
1 cup shredded cheese - jack, cheddar, mexican mix, whatever you have on hand
2 green onions, white & green parts - sliced
2 Tbsp (or more) Sriracha sauce (optional) - this is an Asian hot garlic-chili sauce, it comes in a plastic squirt bottle with a rooster on the front
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Over medium heat, warm olive oil in a large saute pan. Sautee yellow onions and mushrooms until onions are translucent and mushrooms are golden brown, about five minutes. Salt & pepper the veggies. Raise the heat a little and add the chicken strips, throwing a little salt & pepper on them once they're in the pan. As soon as the chicken strips aren't showing any pink on the outside (they will still be undercooked inside), add the canned soup and decrease the heat to low.

Microwave the rice bags for three minutes (cut a little slit in each bag first). They might still be a little cold when you pull them out, but that's ok. Mix the rice into the soup/chicken mixture and add the Sriracha, if using. Pour everything into the prepared casserole dish. Top with shredded cheese and bake for about 30 minutes, until everything is bubbly. If the cheese isn't slightly browned after 30 minutes, broil it for a couple of minutes until it is. Top with sliced green onions and serve immediately.

When I made this, it was originally a dish for the whole family so I intentionally made it rather plain. About halfway through my dinner I looked at Mr Wonderful and said, "You know what this could use?" and he replied, "Yeah - jalepenos." My thoughts exactly. But then I thought, what about Sriracha? It is glorious on lots of stuff, and could easily be added to just the parents' servings after being dished out. So we tried it...and it was fabulous.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Beef Stew



A traditional beef stew with red wine, carrots, potatoes, celery, rosemary, garlic, etc.

Recipe coming soon.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Fettucine a la Jen



Fettucine with bacon, peas, and mushrooms, in a sort of chicken gravy. Mmmm...quick, easy and tasty - the kids liked this one too!

Fettucine a la Jen
1 box (1 lb) fettucine
4 slices bacon, chopped into 1/4 - 1/2 inch bits
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onions
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
3 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt & pepper

Boil a pot of water, throw in some salt, and add the fettucine to it. Cook according to package directions.

In the meantime, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp in a large saute pan. Remove bacon from pan, and remove all but 2 Tbsp of the rendered bacon fat. Add the olive oil, then add the onions and mushrooms, cooking over medium heat until onions are translucent and mushrooms are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the flour, and cook for another minute. Stir in chicken stock and raise the heat a little until the gravy bubbles and thickens a little. Add the red wine vinegar, the frozen peas and the chopped parsley. Stir until the peas are heated through, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the sauce with the cooked fettucine, top with the cooked bacon, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ewwww

I loved Sex and the City. LOVED it. I still watch reruns on TBS, even though they are chopped to bits and have all the cursing and references to dicks and blowjobs cut out. And I am very, very happy that they are finally making a full-length feature movie to sort of tie up the series (even though I thought they resolved everything quite nicely in the series finale).

But.

I just saw photos on TheSuperficial.com that are a huge spoiler. And while I am not surprised at what happens, I will say that I think it's kind of superfluous for Carrie. And also? The FEATHERS. Dear God, no. I know SJP is all about the wacky fashion hijinx, but seriously. It's just beyond fugly. I'm not going to spoil you here, but if you go to that link, you'll see what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Nothing to do with food...everything to do with awesome

Sars over at Tomato Nation is rocking the house with her Donors Choose Challenge. Over $27,000 raised in less than TWO DAYS. That is unbelievable.

The power of the blog...it is amazing.

Six months

Last night as I was laying in bed, chatting with Mr Wonderful, I realized that it was my six-month anniversary. Yes, it's really and truly been six months since I had a cigarette. I am so proud!

Oh, and I'm knitting a hat, with stranded two-color knitting. I wanted to test the stranded two-color knitting on a small project before I did it on Rugrat's Spider-man sweater, which is coming along so slowly (thanks to size 5 needles and teeny tiny yarn) that by the time I finish it he'll probably be too big to wear it. Heh. The big brown & orange sweater I started last year is still unfinished, because I goofed up one of the shoulders pretty badly and I'm not sure how to fix it. I may just rip it all back anyway, because the yarn is nice but the sweater is pretty much sized for a linebacker, and I could use that yarn for a much nicer project.

The custom furniture project with Babydaddy is coming along, albeit a bit more slowly than I'd hoped. I was sick all weekend, so I didn't get a chance to do any work on it (I have a few of the pieces here now and I need to putty, sand, prime & paint them). And this coming weekend we have the kids, so we're talking about a trip to San Francisco on Saturday, and then on Sunday I've got a book club meeting...although they haven't sent out details on where that's being held so maybe it's not still on. Things are getting even more hectic around here. In fact, I just looked at my calendar, and I think we have stuff going on every single weekend from Halloween to Christmas. Not necessarily meaning that we have events scheduled, but between holidays and vacation and weekends with the kids, the only weekend I've got "off" is Dec 8-9, and I'm hosting a holiday party for the book club on the 9th. So I guess I better get my Christmas shopping done soon, huh?

And one final note: Sars over at Tomato Nation is rocking the house with her Donors Choose Challenge. Over $27,000 raised in less than TWO DAYS. That is unbelievable.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mashed Potato Soup


I tried making a sort of soup for lunch with leftover mashed potatoes, chicken stock, and a little cream (topped with crispy bacon and shredded cheese) but it turned out pretty grainy so I don't think I'll do that again.

Mashed Potato Soup
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
1/4 - 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
salt & pepper to taste

In a small pot over medium heat, combine leftover mashed potatoes and 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Stir until heated through, and well combined. Add more stock if the soup seems too thick. Add in the cream or half and half, and season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve with shredded cheese on top and/or crispy crumbled bacon. Serves 1.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Roast Chicken and Mashed Potatoes with Gravy



A delicious old standby, made with lemon, rosemary and garlic.

Roast Chicken and Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs)
1 lemon
3-4 sprigs rosemary
4-5 cloves garlic
Olive oil
4 russet potatoes, cut into 2" cubes
2-4 Tbsp butter
1/2-1 cup milk, half and half, or cream, depending on how decadent you want to get
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken stock
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Remove neck & giblets from chicken cavity, and rinse and pat chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper, then quarter the lemon and put it inside. Peel the garlic cloves and put them inside. Tuck in the rosemary sprigs. Put the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and coat the skin with olive oil, then sprinkle the skin liberally with salt & pepper. Roast for about 1 1/2 hours, until the skin is crispy and golden brown, and the meat registers 170 on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the chicken from the oven and tent with foil for about ten minutes, to let it rest.

In the meantime, cover the potatoes with cold water and cook on high until the water boils, and then for about 15-20 minutes more, until the potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes and return them to the hot pot to cook off any excess liquid. Mash the potatoes with a masher or a ricer, and add the butter and milk/half and half/cream. Start with just a little butter and dairy, and add more if it seems too thick. Season liberally with salt and pepper. If the chicken isn't done yet, you can keep the potatoes warm by putting them in a bowl over simmering water (like a double boiler).

Once the chicken is done, pour the drippings into a fat separator (if you've got one, or a regular measuring cup, if you don't; skim off the fat from the top). Add two tablespoons of the chicken fat to a saute pan, and then add the flour. Cook the flour for a minute or so, and then add the skimmed chicken drippings and a cup of chicken stock. Whisk until smooth, and season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve the gravy over the chicken and mashed potatoes.

Serves 4, with leftovers if two of those people are kids.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chicken Potpie

I was all set to make roast chicken with mashed potatoes last night, when I discovered that Mr Wonderful and Tomboy had that EXACT thing for dinner on Saturday night. Dammit. So I figured I'd make the roast chicken another night, and instead we had chicken potpie. This will be my contribution to Sweetnicks' ARF/5-A-Day roundup on Tuesday, since it's full of gorgeous, bright veggies.

Chicken Potpie
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 c chopped carrots
1 c chopped celery
1/2 c onion, diced
1 lb chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
2 T flour
1 1/2 c chicken stock
1/4 c milk, half & half or heavy cream (I had cream left over from the mushroom soup, so I used that)
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1 c frozen peas
1 refrigerated can of croissants (can that makes 8, not 4)
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.

Heat the butter & oil in a large pan over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble a bit, add the onions, carrots and celery. Season the veggies up with salt & pepper, and let them cook for oh, about five minutes or so. You want the veggies to soften up a bit. Then push the veggies to the outside of the pan and add the chicken to the center. Salt & pepper the chicken, and cook until it's nearly done on all sides. Sprinkle the flour over everything and stir it up. Your pan will get really dry, and that's fine. Cook for another minute or so to remove the floury taste, then add the chicken stock and stir. Raise the heat a bit, and keep stirring until the flour is evenly dissolved in the stock and the liquid starts to thicken and bubble. Add the milk or cream, and cook for another minute or so. Finally, toss in the parsley and frozen peas.

Dump the whole thing in a rectangular casserole dish (mine was 11" x 7" and fit everything just perfectly). Open up the croissant can and drape the dough over the dish, covering the whole thing. Pop it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the croissant dough on top is golden brown and puffy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup


This is definitely not a diet-friendly soup, but if you're splurging and in the mood for something warm and filling and comforting, this will definitely fit the bill. Recipe is by Barefoot Contessa.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuna Puttanesca

This is a slightly spicy pasta dish that gets a protein boost with canned tuna (instead of the traditional anchovies). This is one of Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meal recipes. I followed it pretty much exactly, although I cut back the garlic a bit. (SIX cloves Rachael? Really??)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Crabcakes


One can of Trader Joe's refrigerated crab (real crab, not krab, and never frozen) made about eight of these HUGE crabcakes.

Crabcakes
1 can TJ's fresh refrigerated crab
1/2 c chopped red onion
1/2 c chopped celery
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
juice of one lemon
2 T Old Bay seasoning
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c mayonnaise (approx - you may need a little more or a little less)
1 c breadcrumbs (or so)
2 T butter
2 T olive oil

Dump the crab in a bowl and check it over to make sure there are no bits of shell in it (there weren't any in mine). Add the onion, celery, parsley, lemon juice, Old Bay, and the egg. Mix it all together, then add in the mayonnaise and breadcrumbs. The mixture should bind together fairly well and not be soggy. If it's too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If it's too dry, add more mayo. Shape into about eight big patties.

Put half the butter and olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Fry the crabcakes in batches, four at a time, for about 4-5 minutes per side (add the rest of the butter and olive oil before the second batch). You want the crab cakes to cook through without burning the outside, so you may need to adjust the heat a bit.

Serve over baby greens with a nice lemon vinaigrette.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Asian Chicken Salad


Loosely based on the Thai Chicken Salad recipe in the September 2007 issue of Bon Appetit, this salad has a super-yummy peanut butter-based dressing. It was pretty heavy on the garlic though, so I think I'd scale that back next time.

Asian Chicken Salad

2 roasted chicken breasts (I roast my chicken breasts - with skin & bone - at 400 with just some olive oil, salt & pepper, for about 40 minutes or so), shredded or diced into bite-size pieces
3 c coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage & carrot)
1/4 c chopped green onion
Thai Peanut Dressing (see below)
1/4 c chopped roasted, salted peanuts
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1/2 c crunchy fried asian noodles (the stuff you get in a can)

Toss together the chicken, coleslaw mix and green onion with enough of the dressing to get it moist (you'll probably have a ton of dressing left over). Top with peanuts and cilantro, and surround the salad with the crunchy asian noodles.

Thai Peanut Dressing (from Bon Appetit recipe)
4 large garlic cloves (I found the garlic to be a little overpowering, so you might want to scale back on this)
1/4 c soy sauce
1/3 c fresh lime juice
2 T sugar
1 T smooth peanut butter
2 t chopped fresh ginger (I used a microplane and grated mine)
1 1/4 t hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
1/4 c vegetable oil

Puree all ingredients in a blender. Mr Wonderful brought over his Magic Bullet, which is like a wee little blender, and I used that. It works great for prepping small amounts of food or making salad dressings.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Spring Rolls with Hoisin Dipping Sauce


Spring Rolls
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
My mom recently sent me a few Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines, and I thought this would be a great, light recipe to try. It's from the August 2007 Bon Appetit issue, and it turned out very well. It's low-fat, high in fiber, and full of incredible flavor. I poached the shrimp in plain old boiling salted water for a couple minutes, and they were perfectly cooked. It took a few tries to get the rolling technique perfected, but it's just a question of practice. I ended up adding green onions and a little bit of the dipping sauce to the spring rolls before rolling, and I think that improved the final product. Also, the hoisin sauce is pretty spicy, so you may want to cut back on the chili-garlic sauce if you're sensitive to that. It was fine for Mr Wonderful and I though; we like spicy stuff. :)

The recipe is available on epicurious.com.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Curry Chicken Salad

A little bit of a twist on the traditional chicken salad sandwich. Yummy, easy, and best of all, it doesn't require turning on the stove or oven (as long as you've already got a cooked chicken breast, that is).

Curry Chicken Salad
1 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, meat shredded (you can use a rotisserie one from the store if you don't have any chicken leftovers and just can't bear to turn on the oven and roast your own)
1/4 c chopped red onion
1/4 c chopped celery
1/8 c chopped roasted, salted cashews (maybe 10 whole cashews, chopped)
1/4 - 1/2 c mayonnaise (enough to moisten everything and bind it together)
1-2 tsp curry powder (depending on how curry-ish you want it; I used about 2 tsp)
salt & pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Makes enough for two or three big sandwiches. I used yummy seven-grain bread to boost the nutritional value. You can also throw some lettuce and sliced tomatoes on there if you like. Or just serve it with the lettuce and tomato on a plate to cut the carbs (which I would never, ever do, because I live for carbs).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hiatus


OK, I didn't really intend to take a one-month hiatus, but...I really haven't been cooking all that much. Some chicken chili here, a lot of panzanella and caprese salad there....I'm just doing a lot of assembling raw ingredients rather than cooking big meals from scratch.

But let me tell you, the heirloom tomatoes out here are stunning - gorgeous, multicolored, sweet as candy and perfectly ripe. Check out these ones that I had in my caprese salad last night!

Honestly, though, I've just been kind of swamped this summer. Between the Harry Potter book release (which I finished within 25 hours), going on vacation (camping, Monterey, Portland, etc), Rugrat's change in custody arrangements, and spending as much time as possible with Mr Wonderful....I just haven't had as much time as I'd like to do food blogging. I promise that when fall comes and school starts back up (and Mr Wonderful moves in), things will get into a more regular rhythm. Plus I just enjoy cooking more when the weather is colder. It's hard to get excited about turning on your stove or oven when it's 100 degrees outside.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Today's the day!

Or, rather, tonight's the night. Rugrat has decided that he wants to dress up this time...as a Death Eater. Heh. Yeah, that's pretty standard for him. I think we're going to have to hit a party store or something for some costume materials this afternoon/evening. He really needs a black hooded cloak to pull off the costume, and Mr Wonderful suggested that we get a mask and spray paint it silver (as opposed to just using the "mask" Rugrat made out of tinfoil taped to a pair of sunglasses).

The bookstore party starts at 7 PM, and Rugrat is so excited to be allowed to stay up until midnight (without being forced to take a nap in the afternoon). Whereas I am just excited to get my hands on the book I've been eagerly anticipating for several years now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Playing Catch Up


Chicken Caesar Salad
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
God, I know. It's been a while, right?

I made this yummy Chicken Caesar Salad for dinner last Thursday. Pretty standard - romaine, roasted chicken breast (boneless/skinless, roasted at 400 with olive oil, salt & pepper), cherry tomatoes, homemade croutons, and caesar dressing from scratch. Yes, with the anchovies. Mr Wonderful was hesitant about eating the anchovies, but he ultimately enjoyed it and said it was "right on the edge," meaning that the fishy taste was there, but not TOO strong. So that passed muster (or mustard, heh). I got the recipe from foodtv.com, from Barefoot Contessa's caesar salad with pancetta recipe.

I've made some other yummy stuff in the interim, but haven't taken pictures: a chicken wrap made with feta cheese, lettuce and cucumber strips, dressed with a mustard vinaigrette (we ate this on the way to Monterey), and an easier wrap with deli-sliced turkey, baby spinach, olives and Alouette garlic-herb cheese spread. Rugrat actually enjoyed this one, and it will probably go into the lunchbox rotation. I made some more fresh corn, since Raleys has the good local stuff at 4 ears for a dollar. And of course I've made tons of caprese salad, my summertime go-to meal.

I promise to get the camera out a little more often and document the meals better in the future. :-) This weekend I'm heading up to the mountains to go camping with Mr Wonderful, and I promise to take loads of pictures. I'm planning a white chicken chili for one night, and a campfire Bananas Foster dessert, so stay tuned!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Three things

Here's a meme I found on a random blog...

Three people/things that make me laugh: Mr Wonderful, Ren (from Ren & Stimpy), the episode of Coupling (BBCA) where Jeff shows up at the bar in the leather mask

Three things that scare me: heights, Rugrat's tendency to leap before he looks, random violence (because you just can't prepare for it)

Three things I love: family, friends, books

Three things I hate: cockroaches, scallops, traffic

Three things I don’t understand: why the country voted Bush into office for a second term, why anyone would want to keep homosexuals from having the legal right to get married, why so many people are ignorant and mean

Three things on my desk: computer, blood pressure machine, stack o' papers

Three things I want to do before I die:
take a cooking class in Tuscany, skydive (must conquer that fear of heights), write a bestselling novel

Three things I can do: cook, create a website content management system (CMS) from scratch, hula hoop with two hoops at the same time (for quite a while)

Three things I would like to learn: fluent Italian, string theory, how to design my own sweater knitting patterns

Three favorite foods: filet mignon (preferably swimming in butter, at Ruth's Chris Steak House), spicy hamachi roll, CHEEEEEEEESE

Three beverages I drink regularly: Dr Pepper, coffee, water

Three TV shows/Books I watched/read as a kid: Dukes of Hazzard, A Little Princess, the Nancy Drew series

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Blue belt!


Blue belt!
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister.
Rugrat got his blue belt in karate class yesterday. This is kind of a big deal; it's the last of the "beginner" belts. It's probably also the last belt he'll get for a while, as we haven't figured out if we're going to enroll him in karate out in WC yet or not, and if we are, where we'll take him.

Tequila-Lime Chicken


Tequila-lime chicken
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
Tequila-lime chicken topped with salsa fresca, and accompanied by fresh chili-lime corn (cut from the cob) and a tossed green salad with avocado vinaigrette. I used my brand-new George Foreman grill, and I have to say, I was pretty disappointed. The chicken was cooked perfectly, but there were NO grill marks. What the heck?

Tequila-Lime Chicken with Salsa Fresca
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c freshly squeezed lime juice, or limeade (I used a combination of both)
1 shot tequila
1 c chopped tomatoes
1/4 c diced onion
1/2 to 1 diced jalepeno (depending on how spicy you like it)
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
salt & pepper

Put the lime juice and tequila in a resealable bag. Season well with salt & pepper. Add the two chicken breasts and marinate for a couple of hours in the fridge (the longer, the better). Throw all the other ingredients together in a bowl, and season to taste with salt & pepper. Let it sit in the fridge while your chicken breasts marinate, so the flavors can blend.

Preheat your grill of choice to super-screaming-hot. Remove the breasts from marinade & discard the marinade. Grill just until the chicken is no longer pink in the center (time will depend on your grill - my new GF grill took about 10 minutes to grill three breasts; I had one plain one for Rugrat).


Fresh Chili-Lime Corn
2-3 ears of fresh sweet corn (depending on how big they are)
2 Tbsp butter
Juice of one lime
1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder

With a sharp knife, cut the kernels from the corn cob, and use the back of the knife to rub the milky juice from the cob (you'll see, there's a little bit of the kernels that gets left behind, and you can get some sweet yummy juice by scraping them). Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and throw all the corn in. Heat the corn through, maybe a couple of minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle with the chili powder and pour the lime juice over the corn. Just stir it up and enjoy! Best corn EVER.

Friday, June 8, 2007

This is MADE of awesome

Paris goes back to jail

Judge Sauer is a hero. A true bastion of logic and reason in the sea of insanity that is LA. Thank GOD someone is standing up to these stupid rich, spoiled brats who think they can get away with anything, any time it suits them.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Today's ringtones

"You sick little monkey!" and The Happy Happy Joy Joy Song, both from Ren & Stimpy (episode: Stimpy's Invention).

I am obviously having way too much fun with this.

Oops! My geek is showing.

This completely blows my mind. Awesome.

Even more awesome? The fact that Rugrat asked me this morning to explain the fourth dimension to him, and I showed him this website. (Yes, I already had it bookmarked. Because I am a total geek and this is the kind of shit that makes my cold little heart go pitter-pat.) WTF is an eight year old doing asking questions about the fourth dimension? Damn, my kid is smart.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Expand your horizons

Yesterday I discovered that there is something called a Foodie Blogroll, started by the lovely and talented Leftover Queen. The Foodie Blogroll is an ever-expanding list of food blogs: a great resource for new recipe ideas, and a nice way to drive a little more traffic to your own food blog. The blogroll is now on my site (see it in the lower-right). If you want to add your food blog to the list, pop on over to the LQ's Foodie Blogroll post and get the details.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Simple pleasures, geek style

I'm not a very complicated person. I generally like things simple and straightforward. But the last cell phone I got was the Razr, which at the time was pretty much top of the line. Generally I am of the opinion that, if it will make telephone calls, it's good enough for me. But in this case I made an exception. Why? Because I am smitten with the personalized ringtones. You know, where you set a different ringtone for each person in your address book so that you know the moment it rings who's calling.

But I wasn't content with the ringtones you can buy online. I absolutely had to have a ringtone with the Kim Possible theme song. Do you know how hard it is to find a Kim Possible ringtone? They don't exist. So I had to make one. I got an audio file - off a Disney soundtrack CD or something - and I downloaded some free software (Audacity) and cut the file down to the size I wanted, with the exact audio clip I wanted.

And then I went nuts. I was making ringtones for every person and occasion. And today, I made ringtones from the soundtrack of a DVD. Not the soundtrack like the music from the movie, the soundtrack meaning the actual WORDS SPOKEN during the film. I found this awesome software called DVD Audio Ripper, and after very little futzing around, I figured out how to get the audio track I wanted, and then I used Audacity to crop it. So now I have a couple of ringtones made from the Jimmy Neutron movie. (What? I LOVE cartoons. The best part about having a kid is that you get a fabulous excuse to watch cartoons.)

Technology is freaking awesome.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Maroon 5

On Sunday I bought the latest Maroon 5 CD, and I've got it on heavy rotation. I really like it, but it seems like most of the songs are heavily influenced by 80's pop. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I really like 80's pop. But some of the songs are SO obviously inspired by another song or just a very distinctive sound. One song sounds like Prince, one sounds like the Police, another one like John Waite, and a fourth one sounds like Jellyfish. Just about every song on the album gives me that niggling feeling like I've heard it before, or at least something really, really similar. The Police one has a certain spot in the song that sounds so much like Message in a Bottle that I swear it's practically plagiarism. It's so blatant (to me anyway) that I wonder if maybe they did it on purpose. Like they specifically made songs that sounded like various 80's pop groups so that they could tap into the nostalgia factor for people in my age range. Or maybe it just sounds like 80's pop because it's all so very slick; the whole album is produced within an inch of its life.

I also got the older Shins CD, the one with New Slang on it. This is totally my new favorite band.

Roasted Cherry Chicken


Cherry Roasted Chicken
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
Wow. This one was a winner - savory and sweet, all at the same time. I served it up with some blanched green beans (yay, farmer's market!) and panzanella, which D totally went nuts over. The unusual addition of cherries makes this a good choice for Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup this week!

Roasted Cherry Chicken
2 chicken breasts, bone in & skin on
1/2 c pitted fresh cherries
1 Tbsp rosemary
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
EVOO
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400°.

Chop up the cherries, rosemary, and garlic all together, kind of milling it with your knife until the cherry bits are pretty darn small (but still a wee bit chunky) and the garlic & rosemary goes all through it. Throw it in a small bowl, add a small amount of EVOO (maybe a teaspoon or so), the parsley and some kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper; mix well. Loosen the skin on the chicken and stuff the cherry mixture underneath the skin. Coat the skin with EVOO and sprinkle with more salt & pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes or until done. (I always use a thermometer that goes off when it reaches the desired temperature; this guarantees moist, juicy meat that is perfectly cooked. Every. Single. Time.)

Goat Cheese Toasts with Savory Cherry Jam

I got a bunch of cherries at the farmer's market ('tis the season), and I wanted to try something savory with them. Obviously there's loads of recipes for dessert with cherries, but I was looking for something a little different. So this is my first attempt at using the cherries in a savory dish, and it was OK, but a little heavy for the season. It needed something to lift it up a bit; when I made the chicken I threw some parsley in with the cherry mixture, and that brightened it up just enough. Although I just had an idea - orange juice! I'll bet that would be fabulous - next time I'll add a splash of OJ to the sauce during the cooking process. (I think the cherry jam/sauce would be fantastic over pork tenderloin as-is, especially in the fall -- but when are you going to find fresh cherries in the fall? Never, that's when.)

Goat Cheese Toasts with Savory Cherry Jam
Sourdough bread, sliced 1/2" thick
Chevre (fresh goat cheese)
1/2 c cherries, pitted & roughly chopped
1 tsp chopped rosemary
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt & pepper

Toast the bread slices in the oven or toaster oven until golden brown. While the bread is toasting up, throw the cherries, rosemary, vinegar and salt & pepper into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the cherries are soft. At this point I used a stick blender to smooth it out a little, but I wouldn't advise doing this unless you are cooking at lot more of it at one time; I wound up with cherry splattered all over my kitchen. Instead, you could either chop up the cherries very finely at the beginning of the process, or you could use an actual blender to get the consistency you want. I wanted mine a bit chunky.

Spread the toasts with the chevre, then top with the cherry mixture.

"Greek" Chicken Salad


"Greek" chicken salad
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
Light, healthy and very tasty. I'm not doing amounts for this one because you'll want to just adjust the amounts to your taste anyway.

"Greek" Chicken Salad
Romaine lettuce, torn or cut into bite-size pieces
Cherry tomatoes, quartered
Seedless (AKA European) cucumber, diced
Red onion, sliced or diced
Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
Feta cheese, crumbled or diced
Roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced into bite-size pieces (I used olive oil, salt & pepper, but you can use any herbs or seasonings you want on it - throw it in the oven at 400 until done, about 30 minutes)
Lemon vinaigrette (see below)

Toss it all together & eat! The chicken soaks up some of the vinaigrette if you throw it on the salad while it's still a little warm. That makes the chicken extra moist and tasty.

Lemon Vinaigrette
Juice of one lemon
EVOO
Salt & pepper

Put the lemon juice in a small bowl, and add salt & pepper. Use more than you think you need; the vinaigrette will be used to season the entire salad. Slowly stream in EVOO while whisking fast; when you've got about a quarter cup of vinaigrette, you should be done.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Review: Lone Tree Thai

D and I decided to try a new restaurant the other night: Lone Tree Thai Cuisine. Not a very exciting name, considering the street it's on is (you guessed it) Lone Tree. But I was hoping it would end up being a great hole-in-the-wall Thai place less than five minutes from my house. Unfortunately, it didn't exactly measure up.

We ordered a TON of food. Pad thai (the standard by which every Thai restaurant must be judged), mixed seafood green curry, laarb (a "salad" with beef in it) and, as an appetizer, "fish cake." Which was actually fish cakes, plural: there were five of them. The texture of the fish cakes was odd - kind of rubbery and flabby, but the flavor was decent, especially when you put the cucumber-relish stuff on top of it. Next the laarb arrived, and it was....kind of frightening, actually. A huge mound of ground beef with a little lettuce thrown in, a dab of mint, and (supposedly) some cilantro. But the oddest thing about it was the sauce or grease that they cooked it in; at one point, D said "Movie popcorn!" and then that was all we could think of. It was pretty awful. The pad thai was ok, except that they overcooked the prawns - WAY overcooked them. And the green curry was mild (we specified extra-spicy everything, because that's just how we roll) with - again - seriously overcooked seafood. The salmon was cooked well, but all of the shellfish was horribly overcooked.

D and I agreed that we would not be returning.

Coming up soon: Greek(ish) salad. Gotta use up that seedless cucumber and the feta!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Balsamic Berries


Balsamic Berries
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
This is fantastic on its own, or over ice cream. Yum!

You don't even really need a recipe for this. Just throw together a few pints of cleaned, fresh berries (with strawberries, you'll want to hull them & maybe slice them to a uniform size) in a bowl. I used strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, which I found at my local farmer's market this weekend. Sprinkle a spoonful of sugar over the berries, and then drizzle everything with maybe a 1/4 c good balsamic vinegar. Let it stand for half an hour or so to let the berries soak up some of the vinegar and release some of their juices. That's all there is to it!

Shrimp & Orzo


Shrimp & Orzo Pasta Salad
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
Mmmm....summery and delicious! Quick to make and perfect for a BBQ or picnic, since it's at its best when it's room temperature. This is a variation on a Barefoot Contessa recipe, and it's my contribution to Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup this week.

Shrimp & Orzo
1/2 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled & deveined (tail off!)
1/2 lb orzo pasta
1 c chopped tomato (I used cherry tomatoes)
1 c diced seedless cucumber
1/4-1/2 c diced red onion (adjust amount depending on how much you like onion)
1/4 lb feta, diced
1/4 c basil, torn into small pieces or sliced into thin ribbons
2 lemons
EVOO, salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cook pasta according to package directions. While it's cooking, toss the shrimp with olive oil, salt & pepper, and spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet. When the oven is preheated, cook the shrimp for about 3-4 minutes, just until they're pink and opaque. Time will vary depending on the size of shrimp you're using.

In a large bowl, put the tomato, cucumber and onion. Zest one of the lemons and add the zest to the veggies. In a smaller bowl, put the juice of both the lemons, and a liberal amount of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper (this is going to season the entire salad). Add olive oil, whisking constantly, until you have about 1/2-3/4 c of dressing. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and add it to the bowl with the veggies. Immediately pour the vinaigrette over the pasta and veggies. Throw in the shrimp, and finally add the feta and basil. Stir gently to combine, and check your seasonings. Let it sit at room temperature for about half an hour or so, to let the flavors meld. Then dig in, and just try to keep yourself to one or two servings. ;-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Spinach-Mushroom Frittata


Spinach-Mushroom Frittata
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister.
D had a late shift at the hospital today, so he didn't have to leave until lunchtime. To celebrate, I whipped up this simple frittata (while I was on my staff meeting phone call! It's THAT easy) for brunch.

Spinach-Mushroom Frittata

1 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 c diced onions
1/2 c sliced mushrooms
1 c loosely packed fresh spinach
4 eggs
splash of milk or half-n-half
Few shakes of Tabasco (optional)
2 Tbsp Boursin cheese, crumbled
1/4 c shredded cheddar cheese
salt & pepper, various dried herbs/spices (I used a prepackaged grilling rub that I got via my wine club a while back; it's got rosemary, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and some other stuff)
1/4 c chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350°.

In an oven-proof 10" skillet, sautee the onions and mushrooms in the oil and butter over medium heat until the mushrooms are browned and the onions are soft & translucent. Add the spinach and let it wilt a bit. In the meantime, mix up the eggs with the milk (or half-n-half), Tabasco (if using), salt & pepper, and spices. Crumble in the Boursin cheese (a soft, spreadable garlic-herb cheese). Pour the egg mixture over the veggies, and top with the shredded cheddar cheese. Pop the whole thing in the oven for 10 minutes, then broil for another minute or two to puff it up and get the cheddar all golden brown and delicious. Cut into four wedges, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve immediately.

This was the perfect amount for two people, but if you're serving other stuff (like fruit, toast, etc.) you can probably stretch it to four people.

Caprese Pasta


Caprese Pasta
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister.
I picked up a couple of brown tomatoes (a new variety, not brown as in rotten) at the grocery store and wanted to try them in something simple that wouldn't overwhelm their flavor. So I just made a Caprese salad and threw in some cooked campanelle pasta. You don't even really need a recipe for this, people. Just chop up some tomatoes, some fresh mozzarella, and some basil. Toss with olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and some cooked pasta. Voila!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What is UP with the Season Finales this year?

They are all so damn depressing! First Ugly Betty: everyone was totally screwed at the end of that show. Betty & Henry torn apart by a scheming pregnant ex-girlfriend; Santos SHOT while Justin sang his heart out in the school musical; Daniel & Alexis in a car crash; Wili stuck with the world's UGLIEST engagement ring; Amanda learning that her whole life has been a lie and that her parents are really the late Fey Somers and (presumably) Bradford Meade! Jesus. Talk about soap opera.

Then Grey's Anatomy, where I just wanted to slap everyone silly. Y'all can read about my tirade on Grey's below.

Sunday, we got Desperate Housewives: Lynette not only has to deal with cancer, but also her husband's (righteous) anger over her near-infidelity and her raging bitch of a mother who's decided to insinuate herself into her estranged daughter's life at a time when the last thing Lynette needs is more stress. Gaby discovered that her fiance is a raging asshole who only married her for political reasons. Unfortunately, she didn't discover this until AFTER the wedding, and what does she do? She throws herself into a liplock with her drunk ex-husband, who just dumped Edie when he found out she was taking birth control pills while telling him she wanted to have his baby. Is it so horribly wrong of me to hope that Gaby and Carlos did more than kiss? I mean, yes, bad of her to cheat when she hasn't even gotten to the wedding night yet, but...she & Carlos are meant for each other. Bree comes back with a faux-pregnancy bump and a teenage daughter stashed in a convent awaiting the birth of her illegitimate child. How fucking 50's can you get? Snooze alert: Mike & Susan get married, finally. Yawn. But! At the very end...Edie hangs herself!! HOLY SHIT, y'all!

Brothers & Sisters: umm...pretty boring, actually. Senator McHottie's family comes for the engagement party, and they are all a bunch of white trash drunken freakjobs. Nothing much happens, except that the youngest boy gets shipped off to Iraq, and there is a tearful scene at the airport. Again, bringing the sad! What the HELL?

And last night: 24 season finale. It's been a pretty lame season. The beginning of the season rocked, with the nuclear bomb going off in LA, but the rest of it? Yawn. Total snooze-fest. So, at the end last night, we have Kiefer contemplating suicide. Jesus, what a downer.

AND! I just found out that Veronica Mars? It is no more. Tonight's season finale is the end for our plucky blonde mystery solver. Waaaaaah! Throw in last week's AI results, when Melinda got booted....and this is the suckiest spring finale season EVER.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Peach-Blueberry Crisp


Peach-Blueberry Crisp
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister.
I was having some serious fruit cravings when I visited the produce stands in nearby Brentwood yesterday. Both my dinner and dessert heavily featured fruit.

This is an adaptation of Barefoot Contessa's apple crisp recipe. I cut the recipe in half, and I substituted fresh peaches and frozen blueberries for the apples. I also didn't happen to have any lemons or oranges on hand, but I did have some organic strawberry lemonade, which is pretty tart, so I added a bit of that in place of the citrus juice and zest. It turned out beautifully, even if the peaches were a bit underripe (and boy, does that make it difficult to skin them!).

This is also my submission to Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup this week.

Risotto with Apples and Manchego Cheese

I had a similar risotto once at an Italian restaurant - it had the sauteed apples, but instead of Manchego, they used Asiago cheese. This dish turned out well, but I think it could be improved with a squeeze of lemon juice at the end to brighten things up a bit.

Risotto with Apples and Manchego Cheese

4 c chicken stock
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 c diced onion
1 apple, peeled, cored & diced (I used Fuji, which was maybe a little too sweet)
1 c arborio rice
1 c white wine
1/4 c grated Manchego cheese
salt & pepper

Bring the stock to a simmer in a pot, and leave it on medium-low heat to keep it warm but not boiling.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the onions and apples, and season with salt & pepper. Sautee gently until the onions are translucent. Remove the apples with a slotted spoon (try to leave the onions in the pan). Add the rice to the pan, stirring to coat it evenly with the oil and butter. Let the rice toast for a minute, then add the wine. Let the alcohol cook off for a minute; when the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, add a couple of ladles of stock to the rice pan. Stirring often, allow the rice to almost completely absorb all the stock before adding more to the pan. Continue in this manner, adding stock gradually and stirring frequently, until the stock is gone and the rice is cooked al dente, about 20 minutes. Add the apples back in to the rice, and allow it to cook for a few minutes more, to reheat the apples and soften them a bit. Add the cheese at the last minute, and serve immediately.

Makes two big servings, or two regular servings and a small portion for tomorrow's lunch.

Friday, May 18, 2007

McAssholes

I am so disappointed in the Grey's Anatomy season finale. What the HELL? Nobody is happy, everyone is screwed, and McAsshole has made a raging comeback. I mean, damn, Shepherd. WTF? You can't give Mere even the littlest fucking bit of of a break when she has a breakdown after her mother dies? Oh no, because everything must be as YOU want it, on YOUR timetable. Fucker. You can go back to your estranged wife and leave Meredith hanging in the wings, and call her a whore when she gets laid, but God forbid she should start actually dating someone seriously, because then you dump your wife like a hot potato and expect Mere to immediately come running back into your arms. And when she finally decides to trust you and get back with you, her bitch of a mother dies. So do you support her when she freaks the fuck out and passively attempts suicide? No. You have your own crisis and can't fucking stand the fact that she doesn't have a permanent goddamn zest for life when she has YOU, because obviously that should be enough to fulfill her and sustain a permanent pollyanna 'tude. And then her stepmother dies and her recently-reunited father blames her for it, and do you come to comfort her and give her a shoulder to cry on? No. No, you do not. Because you are too busy pushing her away since you think your relationship with her will jeopardize your chances of becoming chief of surgery. For all these reasons, I dub thee McAsshole. There is not a goddamn thing about your personality and behavior that makes you "dreamy."

Not that I think Mere is such a great catch. She's a whiny, pouty, manipulative bitch. So they probably deserve each other.

Cristina deserves much better though. And whether she knows it or not, the fact that Burke just left her is going to be the best thing that ever happened to her, because he's another self-absorbed asshole who wants it all on his terms. She definitely did NOT want to get married, and he really just did her a favor. Even if it sucks in the short term.

George needs to stop letting other peoples' wants and needs control his life. He needs to take a break and decide what HE wants and needs, and then make some decisions. I can't tell if he's actually supposed to be in love with Izzy or not. Izzy is just one of those people who "falls in love" at the drop of a hat (or at the drop of the underwear).

In fact, probably the only sane character on the show is Bailey. I love Bailey. But I don't know if she's going to be enough to sustain my interest in the show for another season. Do I really want to spend my Thursday nights spewing hate and bile for an hour while I watch? Yeah, not so much.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Oh FUCK NO!

I cannot believe it. I can't believe Melinda got voted off AI. I mean, I know every year there's a huge shakeup at this point, but...seriously? Melinda isn't going to be in the final? I am so fucking done with this show.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cranky

Stupid birth control pills. I was off them for about a year, so I totally forgot about this. I don't get pre-menstrual syndrome; I get post-menstrual syndrome. I become a bitch the week after my period. *sigh*

Yesterday Rugrat and I got. Into. It. And it was mostly because I was just being all on-edge and bitchy. He was pushing my buttons, sure. But that's par for the course. I was kind of overreacting, so then he started whining and bitching. And saying the same thing over and over and over in that freaking voice that drills into my brain and makes me insane. I kept telling him to stop it, and finally I just told him to shut up. And he HIT ME! (Not that hard, on the arm, but still.) Oh, hell no. That shit does NOT fly with me. So after I beat him to a pulp (just kidding. But I had very stern words with him) we came home and he pouted. And stomped around. And gave me stinkeye all evening, until I made him take a shower. As he was getting in, I was reminding him to clean all his "bits": "Don't forget to clean between your toes!" "I know." "Don't forget to clean your pits!" "I know, mom!" And then, in a burst of inspiration, I brought back the "No" game: "Doooooooon't smile at me." (Corners of his mouth twitch.) "Dooooooon't you do it! Don't you smile at me!" (He can't help himself now, the mouth is smiling all on its own, no matter how angry he still is at me.) "I don't want to see you smiling! No smiling, you hear me?" (Total full-on grin.)

Yeah, I still got it. ;-)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sleeeeeepy

I am going through my days in a Benadryl haze. The allergy season has hit full force and I am down for the count. I try to hold off on taking the pills for as long as possible each day, because I know they're going to knock me on my ass, but it's hard to live with the constant itchy-painful feeling in my sinuses, the sneezing, the irritated, watery eyes, and the sinus pressure headaches. My skin itches all over, regardless of how much lotion I put on (because it's the histamines, y'all, not dry skin). All I want to do is go into a Benadryl coma for the next couple of weeks, with a cold wet washcloth over my face. Wake me up when the pollen count dies down, mmkay?

Guacamole


Guacamole
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister.
The quintessential Cinco de Mayo dish...just a couple days late.

Guacamole

4 ripe avocados
juice of 1 lime
1/4 c diced onion
1/4 c diced tomato
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 chopped fresh cilantro
salt & pepper

Remove the flesh from the avocado skins, discarding the pits and scraping off any brown spots. Mash it gently with a fork, and then pour the lime juice over it. Add the onion, tomato, garlic, cilantro and salt & pepper to taste. Mix well, and serve with your favorite corn chips.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Yum Yum Chicken Enchilada Casserole


Dinner 05/01/07
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister.
I made the fabulous Yum Yum Chicken Enchilada Casserole again on Tuesday, and got a picture this time. It may not look like much, but let me tell you....D ate half the pan in one sitting (and this amount could easily serve 4-6 people), and polished off the leftovers the next day for lunch. This is GOOD STUFF, y'all.

But definitely not safe for dieters. ;-)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Lost: Mindfuck

What. The. Hell?!?!?

LOST is totally fucking with my head every week. This week was kind of the "calm before the storm"...sort of. I mean, there was the whole mindfuckery of Locke's dad being maybe actually dead, but somehow on the island and of course, because everyone's lives totally intersect, he's also Sawyer 1.0. Meaning, he's the con man who ruined Sawyer's childhood, because Sawyer 1.0 was fucking Sawyer 2.0's mom, and convinced her to give the family's life savings to him. So when dad found out he shot the mom, and then himself, leaving the orphan son to grow up and become ultrahot sweaty yummy Sawyer 2.0. Is this all clear yet? Anyway, supposedly Sawyer 1.0 (AKA Locke's Dad) got in a nasty car accident and the last thing he remembers is getting an IV in the ambulance...and then he woke up bound and gagged on the island.

And WTF with Benry trying to get Locke to kill his own father? Oh no, The Others aren't bad people. They don't kill people. They just try to get other people to become homicidal maniacs. And Locke, in his ultimate wisdom, decides to get Sawyer to do his dirty work (so he DOES fit in with The Others, I guess). First he lies to Sawyer, then he manipulates him, then he fucking locks him in a room with Sawyer 1.0 until Sawyer 2.0 discovers the connection and ends up killing the guy because he is a fucking evil unfeeling bastard who TAUNTS poor Sawyer (2.0) until he totally snaps.

So a big FUCK YOU to Locke this week. If you don't have the balls to kill someone off, don't go torture your friends until they do it for you.

And a slightly smaller FUCK YOU to Jack this week, for being a sanctimonious ass. Because that is just Jack. Because he and Juliet are keeping some secret which they reference in front of Kate and then he REFUSES to tell her about it. Ass. He's still being pissy because she shared the glittery hoo-ha with Sawyer when she thought he was about to die. Fucking get over it, you tool. You're getting your rocks off with the resident Other mole, and it's not like you ever staked your claim on Mt. Kate anyway.

But the big mindfuck? The really big whopper? Was how they're trying to tell us now that really everyone is dead. Because the plane was found -- FULL OF BODIES -- off the coast of Bali! WHAT THE FUCK????