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.