Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Crispy Chicken

Crispy Chicken
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
This is a simple oven "fried" chicken, made with a coating of fried onion strings (OMG, yum!) and romano cheese. Even our picky kids liked this!

Crispy Chicken
4 thin chicken breast cutlets
1 beaten egg
3/4 c crispy onion strings (I used French's French Fried Onions - you know, the stuff that comes in a can, and you put it on top of the green bean casserole at Thanksgiving)
1/4 c grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Crumble the crispy onion strings and combine with the cheese in a large shallow bowl, seasoning with a few fresh grinds of pepper. Dip each cutlet first in the beaten egg and then in the onion/cheese mixture, pressing the coating into the chicken to help it adhere better. Bake on a cookie sheet for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through to ensure both sides get crispy.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
Ribollita, for those of you unaware, is a lovely Tuscan veggie soup thickened with stale bread. Delicious and very healthy! The best part about ribollita is that it can be made with a wide variety of veggies; pretty much anything you've got wasting away in your crisper drawer can go in. Leafy greens like kale are a traditional addition to the soup, but they aren't required in the recipe below. The high veggie content means this will be my "get back on the horse" submission to Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup this week.

Ribollita (adapted from this Rachael Ray recipe)
3 Tbsp EVOO, divided
1 diced medium onion
2 diced carrots
2 diced celery stalks
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf (dried or fresh)
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary leaves
1 can (15 oz) tomatoes, diced or small diced or crushed; whatever you've got in the cupboard
2 cans small white beans (smaller than cannellini beans)
6 c chicken stock (use vegetable stock for a vegetarian soup)
3 c stale bread, without the crust, torn into small pieces (Italian or sourdough bread is best for this)
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
salt & pepper

Heat 2 Tbsp EVOO over medium heat in a large, heavy pot. Take a small handful of the diced onion, chop it very finely, and set it aside for later. Add the rest of the diced onion to the pot, along with the carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaf and rosemary. Season the veggies with salt & pepper, and saute for about 5 minutes, letting the veggies soften. Once the veggies are soft but not browned, add the tomatoes and beans (I drained one can of beans but put all the liquid from the second can in). Add the chicken stock, and raise the heat to medium-high. When it boils, add the torn bread. Simmer the soup (adjusting the heat as necessary) for 10 minutes or so, until the bread breaks down completely and thickens the soup. The soup can be as thick or thin as you like; add more bread for a thicker soup or more stock to thin it out. Just before serving, stir in the parsley and check your seasonings, adding more salt or pepper as desired.

To serve, put a couple of ladles of soup in a wide bowl, drizzle with the reserved EVOO, sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan cheese and the reserved finely chopped onion.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shuffly goodness

Mr Wonderful got me a fabulous new iPod shuffle for Christmas. One that holds a whole gigabyte of data, which translates to 238 songs, or over 15 hours. FIFTEEN HOURS of music, y'all. On this little bitty metallic green thing the size of a postage stamp! I really love technology. And also? The new shuffle works great because I haven't spilled any meat juice on it (yet). So it actually, you know, shuffles the songs instead of just playing the same ten over and over until I want to scream.

Note to self: do not set down the cutting board with meat fresh from the oven on top of the new shuffle. You will regret it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Review: Risotto

OK, I know it's been a while. I was sick right after New Year's and we had Rugrat's birthday to deal with. But honestly, I just haven't been cooking much, and what I have cooked has been pretty basic, run-of-the-mill stuff (or stuff I've already posted about; Mr Wonderful is asking about the Yum Yum Chicken Enchilada casserole again, so I'll have to throw that together one of these days). However, Mr Wonderful and I did go out to dinner at a "new" (to us, anyway) restaurant here in Antioch, called Risotto.

The restaurant has actually been around for about a year, and I was surprised to hear that because I would have thought they'd have improved after being in business for so long. From the top:

We both ordered the prix fixe meal, as we were there on a Thursday night at around 6:15 PM. It's four courses for about $22, if you're there Sun-Thurs before 7 PM. We both got different dishes for each course, so I think we got a pretty good overview of their menu.

First up was soup: I had butternut squash/apple soup and he had the roasted portobello mushroom soup. They were both fantastic; the only quibble we had is that the mushroom soup had no garnish whatsoever and it looked like a bowl of mud. It could have used a little swirl of creme fraiche or sour cream, and maybe a bit of parsley. But the flavor of both soups was outstanding.

Next came the salad course. My salad was a wine country standard, with candied walnuts, bleu cheese crumbles, baby greens and a balsamic vinaigrette. Nice, but standard. Nothing to write home about. His salad was Greek-style, with olives, feta, tomatoes and a slightly lemony dressing (with maybe a little dill or oregano in it). Again, perfectly serviceable but nothing outstanding.

Third course was our pasta, and this is where things started to fall apart. My tortellini with prosciutto and peas was quite nice, except that the tortellini was overcooked a little. I did appreciate that they didn't drown the pasta in the alfredo sauce; there was just enough sauce without it being overwhelming. Mr Wonderful's pasta was pretty bad, though. His mostaccioli (large tube-shaped pasta) was undercooked, but the chicken in his dish was quite overcooked, to the point that it was dry and almost tough. The sauce was horribly underseasoned as well; it didn't taste like much of anything, which is pretty difficult to do with a tomato-based sauce. The sauce desperately needed salt, onions, garlic, sausage...something! It was completely bland. On the plus side, the dishes were nicely presented. We would have preferred that they grated the parmesan over our dishes at the table, instead of sprinkling pre-grated cheese with a spoon, but that was a minor quibble overall.

To wrap things up, I opted for the apple galette while he stuck with his favorite - tiramisu. My apple tart was nearly inedible. The apples were bland beyond measure, unpeeled and again, horribly underseasoned, with a nearly rubbery bit of pastry on top. Mr Wonderful's tiramisu was a disappointment as well: the plating was disastrous, with little chunks of the tiramisu scattered around the main portion, and the texture was all wrong; the ladyfingers were soggy and had no body whatsoever.

All in all, it was an uneven meal. We'll keep it in our rotation, but probably just order soup to go rather than risk another pasta dish. And the desserts should be taken off their menu altogether; if you can't do the pastry right, just serve ice cream.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Lazy days

We've had some stormy weather recently, with lots of rain and wind. Perfect weather for comfort food, so recently I've been making family favorites and haven't done a lot of experimenting. Some French onion soup one night, chicken and rice casserole another night. I did make lentil soup, but it wasn't super-photogenic so I decided to leave it off the food blog. Tasty and healthy, but definitely kind of boring-looking.

I'm looking forward to creating lots of lovely new dishes in 2008 though, so stay tuned!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Winds of change

Last night, after dropping Rugrat off at his dad's house & grabbing some dinner with Mr Wonderful, I turned back to my computer to find that Obama had won the Iowa democratic caucus.

I am so excited about this, y'all!

I truly believe that Obama is the candidate who can bring about a change in the direction of our country. I think he's incredibly intelligent, articulate, and inclusive.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Best of 2007

This year has been filled with ups and downs, just like any other year, but I think the highs far outweighed the lows, and for that I am truly thankful. Highlights from the year include:
  • Knitting. I've gotten pretty deep into knitting in the last year and it's brought me both joy and frustration (damn sleeves on the Spider-man sweater are STILL giving me grief!). I've also made huge strides in my skill level, though - I may have made a lot of mistakes, but I'm learning from them.
  • Quitting smoking. It's about damn time! It's been nine months now, without a single puff. Yay me!
  • My new car. I love, love, love my Highlander, even if it only gets 20 mpg instead of the 30 I used to get with the Accord.
  • Cooking & food blogging. I really started cooking a lot more this year, partly due to my Rachael Ray obsession and partly due to the fact that I have more than one other person to cook for now. Rugrat is a super-picky eater still, but it's a lot easier to insist that he eat the same thing as everyone else when there's more people eating it. Plus Mr Wonderful is always very appreciative of my cooking, and that makes me more willing to try new things in the kitchen.
  • And last but certainly not least: love. Love finally found me again after a hiatus of several years. I had pretty much given up on the idea that I would find someone; I'd certainly stopped looking. But when I found Mr Wonderful on myspace after not being in contact with him for ten years, I knew I had to see him. And the chemistry was still there, after all that time. I am profoundly grateful every day that I have him in my life, and that we are building our family together. He is not perfect, nor am I, but we have enough maturity, and enough love and respect for each other to work things out and to talk about the hard stuff.
How about you? What's on your personal "best of 2007" list?