Monday, February 28, 2011

Game Feast: Quail and Pheasant

I'm no hunter, believe me.  I haven't taken hunter's safety.  I rarely fire a gun.  I don't like to wake up before the sun rises, and then go tromping through cold, wet fields.  I don't like to do this tromping for hours on end, as my boots get more and more heavily laden with mud.

But the men in my family really like this sport, for whatever reason, and they have honed their skills very carefully and by the acquisition of rather pricey equipment as well.

Ah well.  I'll enjoy the fruits of their labor, the spoils of their hunt, etc.

Tonight we pulled out some frozen pheasant breasts and a couple quail breasts, and we marinated them for a couple hours in a Chipotle Pepper marinade.  Then we grilled them for about fifteen, twenty minutes.

They would have been absolutely awesome if they had not been brined before freezing.  We ended up with really salty pieces of meat.  Yet they were still tender and succulent!  Not "gamey" at all.

I think quail is a bit of a delicacy in some circles, so I pointed this out to try to salvage our original excitement for the meal.  We chuckled about that as we mixed our plain brown rice and broccoli with pieces of meat, trying to douse the saltiness.

These are the quail.  Don't they look delicious?  We're begging more next time we go to my parents', and this time we'll make sure they aren't brined before we add more salt!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fruit and Chocolate Oat Bars

I strongly believe your body needs morning fuel to make it through the rest of the day successfully.  That being said, I will help you with ideas for this fuel!

This was a tasty, light breakfast that kept me full for a good four hours.

Nonfat Greek Yogurt (about half a cup)
Blueberries (about one fourth a cup)
Fruit and Chocolate Oat Bar

These oat bars are probably my husband's favorite concoction, of all the things I make.  If I ask him if he wants anything, he will invariably request oat bars.  Fortunately, they don't take long to whip up and they are not too unhealthy a treat to have sitting around the house.  Over the course of developing my own take on this recipe, I've subbed in and added some healthy additions, but I haven't even tried to touch the sugar content yet!

Fruit and Chocolate Oat Bars
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1 c unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
2 Tbsp nonfat milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c flax seeds
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 c oatmeal
1 c dried cranberries or golden raisins
1 c chocolate chips (semisweet or milk)

Heat oven to 350.  Spray a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray.
Beat together sugars and applesauce until well blended.  Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well.  Add flour, flax seeds, baking soda and cinnamon; mix dry ingredients on top of liquid then fold into liquid and mix well.  Stir in oats, cranberries and chocolate chips; mix well.
Press dough into baking dish.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool completely in pan.  Store in tightly covered container.

A word about Greek yogurt...  it's great!  Thicker than regular yogurt and much tangier.  I buy the plain kind because I feel so virtuous eating it.  But then I usually add a touch of honey...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Cookbook Cupboard

I love my cookbook cupboard.  Sometimes I'll open the doors wide and just stare at my collection of cookbooks.

To me, they represent hundreds of possibilities . . .
to find a new holiday favorite
for something special to take to friends who just had a baby
for that perfect appetizer to serve on game night
to find the next easy weekday classic
to find the best-ever way to grill ribs

I use my plain ol' Betty Crocker basic cookbook when I need to know how long and at what temperature to bake a potato (yes, true story; I do not know this information by heart).  Or when I want a simple muffin recipe.  Sure, I could call Mom every time.  But I often seem to call right at dinnertime, so I try to give them a break and an uninterrupted meal when I can...

What you can't see from the picture below are the prized recipes hiding inside my yellow striped and red binders.  Those are the recipes I've had for years - ones I've gotten from my mom or grandma or aunt - the kind of recipes that get passed down.  The tried and true.  They don't have fancy photographs or pretty font (unless you count the handwriting of loved ones as "pretty font" which is a nice, sentimental thought), but you know they're good.  Many of them have the stains, flour spots and crinkled edges to prove their lasting worth.

Can you just feel the excitement when you look at these?!  Inspiration and challenge, all shut behind these cupboard doors.

I'm going to go browse my collection now.  I need a fancy muffin recipe to take to a shower brunch next week.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ribeye, Crumb-Topped Broccoli & Potato Packets

I love having a dinner at home that rivals something I could get in a restaurant.  Or maybe it even beats the restaurant version, for a variety of reasons: no waiting in line, no tipping, I can wear stretchy yoga pants to eat...

This was one of those meals.

We fired up the grill and tossed a couple ribeyes on (rubbed with a beef rub, whatever that might include).  Well, I say "we."  I didn't do that.  I handed a platter to my hubby when he needed something to carry in the meat.

But I did make the crumb-topped broccoli and potato packets, which undeniably rounded out the meal!

Crumb-Topped Broccoli
Steam a couple heads of broccoli until bright green and still slightly firm.  Meanwhile, toast 1/8 cup bread crumbs, 1/8 cup grated Parmesan, and 1/2 tsp garlic powder in a skillet over medium heat.  Drain the broccoli, stir in some melted butter (do it just this once, ok??), and sprinkle the crumb mixture on top.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

Potato Packets
Wash two baking potatoes and cut into uniform circle slices (about 1/4").  You can cut them horizontally in half if you need to so all pieces are about the same size.  Put them in a bowl.  Peel and slice one yellow onion into 1/4" slices.  Add to bowl.  Pour in about a tablespoon of olive oil - just enough to coat the potatoes and onions.  Sprinkle with Lawry's seasoning salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Toss together to mix well.  Cut four pieces of foil and top each with an equal amount of the mixture.  Fold the edges so it makes a tightly sealed packet.  Grill on medium for about 35 minutes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pepperoni Tortizza

"Tortizza" is my very-clever combination of the words tortilla and pizza.  Because I made a pepperoni pizza on a tortilla.  Necessity is the mother of invention.  I had no pizza crust - not even a box of Jiffy - and the turkey pepperoni was just calling to me from the fridge that day at noon.

It was delightful!  It had the best, light, crackery crunch.

All I did was spray both sides of the tortilla lightly with cooking spray and stick it in a 400 degree oven for a couple minutes.  Then I spread a generous layer of my healthy marinara sauce on it (mixed with a little basil), sprinkled shredded mozzarella on it, and topped it with turkey pepperoni.  I stuck it back in the oven for three or four minutes, and then I ate it. Oh wait - first I added some freshly grated Parmesan, and then I ate it all.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Beef and Bean Burritos with Black Olives and Cilantro

This is a Pioneer Woman recipe...  doctored up by yours truly (As the PW suggests.  Sigh.  I want more original reicpes!).  I'm hoping to use this meat-bean ratio as the basis of a burrito recipe that I can truly call my own.  I'll keep you posted on the various incarnations my burrito experiments take.

But anyway!  Tonight we had some tasty, semi-original burritos.

Here's what the inside looked like - and where the black olives and cilantro came into play.  I also added a swipe of sour cream inside the burrito, although we didn't think we could really taste it, so we topped our burritos with more!

I'll let you go to the Pioneer Woman's site for the actual recipe.  Just so you can plan ahead - using two pounds of meat and one can of beans, I was able to make 8 burritos.  Then I ran out of tortillas, so I mixed the meat and beans together and am saving it for a little evening treat with chips.

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Perfect Sandwich

I love sandwiches.  They are a mainstay of my diet in the summer, a regular on my lunch rotation, and my first suggestion on a "what shall we eat when the fridge is nearly empty" night.  I eat them cold, eat them toasted, eat them heated.  I eat them with salad, with carrots, with chips, with cottage cheese, with a brownie.  Oh so versatile!

The Perfect Sandwich, though, has a few characteristics that you can count on.

First, you need good bread.  This good bread can be anything from a deli roll or hoagie bun to a slice of rye or pumpernickel or good ol' wheat.  We have good ol' wheat.  We recently discovered Orowheat and their 100% Whole Wheat Bread.  It's a nutty, textural delight, and won't break your bank.

Next, you need a couple good spreads.  I used guacamole and coarse, grainy mustard.  I like the combination of creamy and savory.  Other good options are hummus, mayo, regular mustard, cream cheese, cranberry preserves, fig jam, artichoke dip, olive tapenade.  Just make sure it'll work with your toppings.

Quality meat and cheese.  Go with what you love.  Or what you have on hand.  For me, that was honey-roasted turkey and colby jack cheese.  If you're lucky, maybe you have cooked chicken breast, peppery turkey breast, juicy roast beef, fresh mozzarella, sliced gouda, half-melted brie... again, the list could go on and on.  Just make sure you have a meat and a cheese, ok folks?

Tasty extras.  Lettuce, spinach, avocado, red onion, basil, artichokes, parsley.  Something to give a little height to your sandwich, plus a little color.  You can see that my sandwich is sorely missing this.  So maybe I ought not to have titled this "The Perfect Sandwich."

Well, let me say this - you don't know what perfect looks like until you've seen imperfect.  Philosophy begins in the kitchen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grocery Budget: Afraid to Look

I just have to say, I am afraid to see where we're at with our grocery budget this month.

Isn't that ridiculous?  It's February!  Only 28 days!  And we're only a little over halfway through the month.

I'll tell you why I'm nervous...

We had a Super Bowl party early, early in the month, and I went all out making food for it.  And buying a few fun little giveaways.  I don't know where those fall in the budget.  Gifts?

But that party kind of set us up for a lean remaining grocery budget.

If you see a lot of posts about pasta, rice, beans, and ground hamburger (because I have tons in the freezer) for the remainder of February, you will know why.

Hummus: I Retract My Earlier Statement

Did I really say something like "You're nuts if you buy hummus because I can make it for less and it's better"?  Did I say that?  I believe I did, and yes, I found proof.  There's my rant about homemade hummus.

I want to retract that statement, at least partially.

Because this Sabra Roasted Pine Nut Hummus has found a permanent home in my refrigerator.  And it's not terribly expensive.  And it's not going to clog my arteries in a day.

It's creamy, flavorful, topped with fun stuff, and it's got judicious amounts of olive oil in it.  Good fat!

So there you have it.  A great hummus choice in the refrigerated section.  But I will still make my own hummus when I want that special flavor and texture that I can completely control.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Garlicky Chicken Breasts

Things I Love to Eat...



Green Onions

Put them all together, and you've got Garlicky Chicken!

Do you want a fast, easy, yummy meal?  Try this.  Usually, I cook the chicken in smaller chunks and put it on a pizza, piled high with mozzarella.  But it's just as good sauteed in a nonstick pan (and probably a little better for maintaining a little waistline).

Garlicky Chicken Marinade
1 lb. chicken breasts (whole or cut into chunks)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. chopped green onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Mix marinade ingredients and pour over chicken.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.  Then sautee, with marinade sauce, over medium to medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet until done.

I served this with a simple green salad: organic romaine hearts with celery leaves.  The celery leaves added an interesting peppery bite.  To add a little protein and extra flavor, I topped it with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, a little fresh grated parmesan, and an olive oil salad dressing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Diner's Choice Pizza Night

Confession.  I collect recipes everywhere.  Bookmarked on my computer, stuffed in my cookbook cabinet, hidden in the closet, stuck in books.  And I have collected so many pizza recipes over the years that I have an entire folder titled "pizzas and flatbreads."

Yet when I actually make pizza, I wing it.  Winging it can be wonderful, but why do I do this?  Innate laziness?  To save me a possible trip to the store or the chore of defrosting something?  I don't know, I just don't know.  However, it worked out well.  I made four different kinds of pizza with items we had on hand!

Pepperoni.  Our favorite.  Healthy marinara sauce, turkey pepperoni (Hormel's is great!), mozzarella, oregano.  You just can't go wrong with pepperoni pizza.

White Pizza.  Olive oil, rosemary, oregano, mozzarella, parmesan.  Delish.  I'd roast garlic and add that too, next time.

Spicy Orange Olive pizza.  Unique and very flavorful.  Excellent for a cocktail party or wine tasting, or before a smooth, creamy meal like fettucine alfredo.

Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Pizza.  I think I'd add some parmesan and pine nuts to this next time.

This is why I never make my own pizza dough.  Because it involves rolling it out, and I'm a messy cook, so I can't contain my flour explosion.  Plus, I'm always dubious that the yeast is really going to do its thing.  How bubbly is bubbly?  How warm is lukewarm water?  Oh the questions!

Love Chocolate

There's emergency chocolate, and there's love chocolate.  Emergency chocolate is designed to help you get through a difficult spot, whether it's the end of the holidays or a really nasty day at work or a big speeding ticket.  Love chocolate is only designed to please you.  Make you sigh and close your eyes and smile.  You can't see a difference, but you know the difference when you reach for it.

I've been smiling since noon, when my dear hubby brought me not one, but two!, boxes of chocolates.  I ate the first one and I was just transported away from my workday.  All right, it might have been partly the effect of the sweet card, too.

If he wouldn't look so shocked to see me do this, I might go to Target and buy a couple more boxes of each kind when they go half-off after good ol' V-day is over...  Lindt truffles are, of course, the gold standard.  And the Hershey's truffles are nearly as decadent - a little firmer, a little less melt-in-your-mouth, but so creamy and just-right sweet.

Actually, I still might.  Love chocolate gets as much love as it gives, from me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Morning Breakfast Burrito

It's a "Saturday Morning" Breakfast Burrito because it's a conglomeration of leftovers from the week.  Mostly our Chipotle Fajitas...

I took our leftover fajita stuff - four pieces of meat and a mess of green peppers and onions - and chopped them into smaller, more bite-size pieces.

Then I added them to four beaten eggs, poured it all into a hot skillet and cooked it.  What's easier than that, I ask you?  Not going to the drive-through; you have to leave your house for that, and I do not like leaving my house first thing on a Saturday morning.

I added guacamole, shredded cheddar, and some homemade salsa to mine.  Plenty of salsa.  I love the flavor.  Sadly, this is our last jar of homemade salsa...

Side note:  If you love the flavor of homemade salsa, but don't want to make a fresh batch every week, canning is the way to go!  This summer I'll do more and post a little "amateur's guide to canning."  The amateur, by the way, is me.  I make an absolute mess of my kitchen when I can.  But I feel so industrious doing it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cat Trails and Potty Patches

For a man who says he doesn't like cats much - even our cat - my hubby sure treats Murray awfully well.  Look at this path he shoveled out to the shed.

I guess that trail might be as much for my benefit as for Murray's, but I'll assume that his excellent motives go so far to extend to my cat.

Are you wondering what that big bare circle is to the left of the trail?  That's the potty patch.  It's to encourage our wayward pets to potty in the yard rather than directly outside our door, on the deck, while we've got these mounds of snow.

We have yet to see how well it beckons them to come and squat.

This pile of fresh, fluffy snow right outside our door seems a favorite place for Murray, so far.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chipotle Fajitas

New "Recipe" Night!  Chipotle Fajitas!

I love dishes that require really only preparing one or two food items, and then just combining it with others.  I don't know if these can really be called recipes, but whatever they are, they are a big part of my life.  Real Eating.  I live and dine by it.

In this case, I prepared the meat by making the marinade - compliments of The Pioneer Woman's Beef Fajita Nachos recipe - and letting it soak in for 24 hours.

Add to that some sauteed onions and green peppers (sprinkled with cumin, garlic salt, chili powder and salt), some quickly smashed guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheddar, and chopped cilantro, and you've got a tasty "recipe."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Snowy Nights... Brownies and Ice Cream

On cold, snowy days (and we've had far too many of them this winter, if you ask me!), all I want to do is curl up inside with

my fuzzy socks (which establish my status as a cool, sexy wife)

a good book or two (I like choices, and no matter which you choose of these two, you've got a winner.)

brownies and ice cream

Because, inexplicably, I want - no, I demand - ice cream as soon as the temperature dips to ten degrees or less.  One of my little quirks.

I'm serious when I say snowy days, by the way.  Look at this!

Murray is spending his days on the heater.  I'm guessing this might cause a resurgence in my hubby's allergic symptoms, but since that is a completely unscientific assumption, I'm not going to bring it up until he does.

The Whirley*Pop: A Retro Treat

The Whirley*Pop.  Freshly popped stovetop popcorn, made to order, at your own home.

Isn't that the coolest, most retro looking thing you've seen in a kitchen in a while?  You hold the handle with one hand, and use the knob to keep things stirring inside, once the kernels start to pop.

Just about five minutes to freshly popped popcorn, without all that junk that probably comes with prepacked popcorn (Which, however, I also love.  Orville Redenbacher's Salt and Pepper popcorn is the best!)

Of course, I'm not Dangerously Domestic without reason.  Toward the end, I might have been cranking a little too enthusiastically, because I sort of lifted the Whirley*Popper lid off and it skidded off the stove coil, too.

No one was harmed.  We still got our fluffy, crisp popcorn.  All is well.

Monday, February 7, 2011

For the Birds

I've got this suet feeder hanging from the corner of our shed, but the neighborhood birds just haven't found it yet.  I consulted my mom, who is my all-things-outdoor expert.  She suggested putting out some other kind of bird food to draw them in, since sometimes suet doesn't quickly or easily attract birds.

While back at my parents' house, we gathered a few old corn husks from an obliging neighbor's field.  I love the way they look, but these are not just for rustic country decor.  They are for sustenance.

I shelled a few ears into my little bowl . . .

and cleaned up my auction-find bird feeder . . .

And now I've put it outside under the suet feeder so the birds have a one-stop dining area.  Sure, both are right by Murray's shed, but that's no reason a fast, brave bird can't dine and ditch.

**In the time elapsed since I put the corn out, a varmint has come into our yard.  We think it's building some sort of nest under the shed, probably to be close to its food source.  Long story short, we're going to have to remove the corn and fill the little turtle's mushroom cap with something less interesting, like water.  The neighbors will not take kindly to Haley baying when she hears something skittering away from her during her 4:30 a.m. potty breaks.