Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I'm going to take this week off due to being sick and recovering from hosting a party last weekend.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fried Eggplant p. 245

Ingredients: eggplant, salt, flour, bread crumbs, eggs, pepper, EVOO.

My grandmother makes the best fried eggplant. The best. In the whole wide world. But I haven’t had any since I was in 7th grade. That’s been a long time, friends. (Mimi, please make me some fried eggplant!)

So I anxious to make it myself to see if it was as delicious as I remembered. Mark Bittman suggests cutting your eggplant in ½ inch slices. In my humble opinion, I think that’s too thick. Mimi’s wasn’t that thick. And in the end the pieces were too big to pick up and were just too thick. So if you make it at home, I would recommend cutting it about ¼ of an inch thick.

I’m really getting better at this frying thing. My mom never fried when I was growing up, so it’s a new concept to me, even though I was raised in the South. Bryan really didn’t take to the fried eggplant, which was a bummer, because we now have a large stack of left over eggplant.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Olive Oil Salt Bread p. 830

Ingredients: EVOO, flour, baking powder, salt, water.

So this was my first run-in with actually making a bread. I was cooking spaghetti the other night and wanted some bread to go along with it. This looked easy enough.

The recipe says to put the flour, baking powder, and salt in the food processor. I found out the hard way, that my food processor is exactly 3 cups. So I dirtied it without even getting to use it and mixed up the dough by hand, which wasn’t difficult.
I put the dough in a cast iron skillet and put it in the oven. It didn’t turn golden brown and looked kinda blah. And it tasted kinda blah too.

This is a very easy recipe, but I wasn’t impressed with the results.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Simplest Whole Roast Chicken p. 644-645

Ingredients: whole chicken, EVOO, salt, pepper, garlic, fresh herbs

Really the simplest way to cook a whole chicken. So easy a caveman can do it. Oh wait, he probably did.

Rub your chicken with olive oil and salt and pepper. Throw on some herbs and garlic if you like. Then roast in the oven for about 40-50 minutes. Simple as that.

The tough part is finding the meat on the chicken. Its like a treasure hunt. Ours was a small chicken and at first it seemed like there wasn’t any meat on this little chicken, but then we found it. The bird was tender and juicy and delicious.

Seriously one of the easiest and best recipes you can make, especially on a busy weeknight.

(Apparently I didn't take any pictures of the chicken whole.)

Crisp Pan fried Potatoes (Home Fries) p. 341-342

Ingredients: potatoes, peanut oil, salt, pepper.

Basically you leave cut up pieces of potato in a pan so that it browns all on one side and try not to stir too often. That’s really too much to ask of me. I think the main problem was that I had too many potatoes in the pan because it took forever to cook all the potatoes. Will have to try another time with less potatoes and less stirring.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mashed Cauliflower with Cheese p. 281

Ingredients: cauliflower, cream, butter, cheddar cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg.

I was planning on making eggplant the other night, but wasn’t able to find a decent eggplant in this city to save my life. So I went with cauliflower. It happened to be the closest and cheapest thing to me when I finally gave up on the eggplant hunt. Bryan was upset when he saw it. I think his actual words were “great, the only thing I hate worse than eggplant.” I made him promise to try just a bite for me. And he did and he loved it. Unfortunately for him, at that point I had tasted it myself and swore that no one was allowed to touch the rest of it but me. The point is, cauliflower can be delicious, just be willing to try a bite.

I boiled the cauliflower til it was done. The rest of the process reminded me of making mac and cheese from the box. Add in the cream, butter, and cheese, also a little salt and pepper and mix and mash. The result was something so deliciously evil that I claimed it all for myself.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sweet Potato Gratin p. 248

Ingredients: sweet potatoes, cream cheese, brown sugar, nuts

I never liked sweet potatoes. My mom would force them on me growing up. I avoided the casseroles at Thanksgiving and other events. Over the last year or so they’ve been slowly growing on me. I’ve even made them voluntarily in my own kitchen. I prefer them roasted.

This recipe, actually off the Vegetable Gratin chart on page 248, is super easy and so amazingly delicious. Even better than most sweet potato casseroles.

Simply roast your sweet potatoes. Then I put them in a casserole dish and dotted with half a thing of cream cheese and some brown sugar. Broil for a couple of minutes and then top with some roasted pecans. Amazing!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Marinated Celery and Carrots, Chinese Style p. 85-86

Ingredients: celery stalks, carrots, salt, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, cayenne

I happened to have all the ingredients for this recipe on hand and whipped it up last second before going over to families’ house for a meal. Simply chop your veggies and marinate in the other ingredients. I didn’t have time to marinate them for more than 30 minutes or so, but loved the flavor. I’m planning on making this for another event coming up and will marinate them overnight beforehand. This should fully infuse the vegetables with the flavor.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vegetable Stock p. 157

Making your own stock is something I never ever thought about until I started reading this book. Who makes their own stock? I guarantee a very small percentage of American kitchens make their own stock. Which, after doing it myself, is a sad thing since its simple, cheap, provides ample stock to save for later, and gives you the control of what you put in your mouth.

One of the things I like about cooking, especially with fresh ingredients, is knowing exactly what I’m putting in my body. I’m not health conscious, just look at my waist line, but I like using fresh ingredients. No processed crap for me, please. Living in the dorm in college was quite challenging for me.

But I digress, back to the stock.

Ingredients: carrots, onions, potato, celery, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, parsley, a lot of water.

Basically, you can use whatever you have around. Save your scraps for a few days and make it. I failed to read that part until after I stocked up an ALL the above ingredients. Oops. It was fine though, it made a delicious stock and I have used the remaining fresh veggies in other dishes.

14 cups of water over your veggies makes about 12 cups of stock. So be prepared with baggies or other containers to freeze some for later.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Stir Fried Vegetables

Ingredients: oil, garlic, ginger, onion, carrot, celery, snow peas, stock, soy sauce, sesame oil. (No kitty cats were harmed in this recipe)

Heat a large skillet or pan over the stove. First add your smaller stuff like garlic, ginger and onion. Once they are soft add your larger vegetables. Cook until all are tender and then add stock, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

I added chicken to my stir fry. Before any vegetables I cooked my chicken pieces until brown and then tossed with the finished vegetables later.

You could serve your stir fry over the traditional rice, but I decided to make them lettuce wraps and served in large pieces of ice berg lettuce. A fun way to mix up a weeknight meal.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Five-Minute Drizzle Sauce

Five minute drizzle where have you been all my life? If you don’t know about the five minute drizzle, please make notes now. It will change your life.

Ingredients: olive oil or butter, garlic (or onion or ginger or shallot or other stuff), lemon juice or vinegar, salt and pepper.

Here’s the deal: heat your oil or butter (about 4 tablespoons) add your garlic or onion or whatever your preference is, and cook for a minute or so. Then add a bit of water (not much though) and lemon juice, then salt and pepper to taste. Let it bubble for a minute or so. Serve over whatever.

I served it over a pork tenderloin. There are infinite number of things to serve this over. And no matter what you choose to put in your drizzle sauce, it’s amazing and you’ll be so glad you learned this little trick.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Roasted Vegetables p. 241

Ingredients: any kind of veggies (I used sweet potatoes and regular potatoes), olive oil, salt, pepper.

Most home cooks have probably already cooked this or at least something similar. Chop up your veggies, put them on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven. Simple as that.

My mom would put the veggies in a plastic bag with olive oil and whatever spices she felt like and then shake. This is a great method of coating the veggies with oil to prevent sticking. Plus it added more flavor. The basics of roasting your veggies is heating your oven to 425 degrees and cooking anywhere between 15- 60 minutes depending on the veggies you choose.

Served with corn on the cob (with cheese!) and pork tenderloin topped with five minute drizzle sauce.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Braised Potatoes p. 343

Ingredients: potatoes, EVOO, onion, stock, salt and pepper, parsley.

The book, How to Cook Everything, offers ten different ways to braise potatoes. This time around I went with the basic recipe. To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with the results, but then again, my potatoes were over cooked and mushy. Bryan liked them, but he also said he could live off only potatoes.

First heat your oil, and then toss in your potatoes for a few minutes stirring so they don’t stick to the pan. Then toss in your minced onion, let them cook for a couple of minutes til they are soft. Then you add in some stock and water if necessary (you want to make sure your potatoes are covered by the liquids). I put on the top and lowered the heat to cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. I think I cooked about 20-25 minutes, which is what the book said, but like I said earlier, mine were mushy, so you’ll want to check the tenderness every so often.

The consistency and taste was like stew, but without any variety. Some of the other options look more appealing and I’ll try them in the future.

Served with Salmon Roasted in butter.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cooking in Packets

Mark Bittman drops in at the Today Show and shows us how limitless cooking in packets can be:

Salmon Roasted in Butter p. 583

Ingredients: butter, salmon fillet, salt, pepper, parsley.

This is about one of the easiest recipes ever. Seriously. I feel like I say “this dish is easy” in almost every post, but seriously, it is.

Simply melt some butter in a pan (about half a stick). Then put your salt and peppered salmon in, preferably with the skin still on. Cook six minutes on one side (at about 475 degrees) and three to six minutes on the other. Mine only took three, but they were smaller fillets.

I garnished with a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh parsley. Delish.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Coffee Cake Muffins p. 833

Confession: before I cooked these delightful muffins I had never baked from scratch…. That I can remember…. Or at least for sure not in my married life. There might have been a time when I was much younger and I helped my mom make cookies from scratch or something. But lets just say this was my first time. Okay?

I woke up early and was feeling domestic one morning. It just felt like the day I was going to make muffins from scratch. What’s a girl to do in such a situation, but make muffins for her sweet hubby?

It was rather easier. Not as easy as measuring just milk and adding it to a mix, but almost. Just add a few more ingredients. This book offers a variety of ways to vary muffins, but I was leaning towards coffee cake this particular morning.

To make, you mix your wet ingredients in one bowl and dry in another. Then mix both after creating a “well” in the dry ingredients. For the coffee cake variation you mix butter, brown sugar, and pecans and mix half of that in with the muffin batter. Once you’ve filled your muffin tin put the remaining coffee cake mixture on top. Viola! Homemade muffins.

Here’s a peak.

And now I’m officially a domestic goddess… not really.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Simply Cooked Spinach p. 352

There isn’t really an exact recipe, but anyone who’s ever sautéed spinach knows how easy it is. Put it in a pot over the stove with a little olive oil. The leaves will wilt within a few minutes. Mark Bittman offers a list of 14 things that you can mix in with your spinach. I traditionally use a ton of salt (spinach needs a lot of salt, in my opinion) and some Worcestershire sauce. One of the options Bittman gives is compound butter. I still had some Bacon Compound Butter in the freezer, so I whipped it out. It didn’t taste overly bacon-y in the end, but I think the butter added some savoriness (Is that a word?) to the dish.

Simply cooked spinach is a delicious, nutritious, not to mention easy side dish to go along with any meal. I served it along side a Chicken Cacciatore from the Joy of Cooking and sautéed mushrooms.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Vodka Pasta Sauce

So a good friend and I were discussing vodka pasta sauce the other day. We’re both fans. But couldn’t decide between using chopped, pureed, or various other forms of tomatoes. I was torn between cooking the version in How to Cook Everything because of loyalty to this blog, but I also deeply love the Pioneer Woman and her many delightful recipes (I pre-ordered my copy of her cookbook just yesterday!). A side by side comparison was in order.

Ingredients: On the left we have How to Cook Everything, except that it didn't take garlic, please ignore it. Also ignore the labels on the cans, I should really start paying attention to what I put in the cart instead of what the shelf says. On the right we have Pioneer Woman's ingredients.

First you start off with your oil and/or butter and onions. Both recipes called for a whole onion, since Bryan doesn't like any bit of onion, I compromised and put half an onion in each. I'm nice like that.

Then things changed.

HTCE said to add the tomatoes. PW said to add the vodka. I should also mention that the proportions of vodka and cream were vastly different. A fourth of a cup to one full cup. I'd call that vast.

For HTCE I used diced tomatoes, PW calls for a puree. So the textures were different as well.

Another significant difference is that PW calls for a cup of cheese when you toss the sauce with the pasta. But I didn't notice a big difference in taste.

Bryan and I each got a bowl of each. Fortunately for all of you, I documented Bryan tasting each one. (For the record, he's not naked, he had just come back from a run and got out of the shower as dinner was ready.)

How to Cook Everything went first:

Happy Face, that's a good sign.

Next came Pioneer Woman:

He decided after the initial tasting that Pioneer Woman won. But ultimately both were delicious and we couldn't decide on a clear winner. It just depends on what kind of texture you are looking for.

As I am typing this I'm eating them both and they are even better the second day, like most pasta sauces. You cannot lose with a delicious, creamy vodka sauce.

Sauteed Mushrooms p. 313-314

Ingredients: olive oil or butter, 1 lb mushrooms, salt, pepper, white wine, garlic, parsley.

I’ve sauteed mushrooms before. I watched my mom do it once and didn’t think you’d really need a recipe. But I had a hankering (does that make me sound too old?) for mushrooms, so I looked up to see what Bittman said. Pretty much what I was doing, although I wouldn’t have had thought to add in wine or garlic towards the end. Basically you cook your mushrooms for 10-15 minutes and then add wine and let it cook off for a minute or so. Then add garlic and parsley and cook for only a minute or so more. I was uncharacteristically out of garlic, so I substituted shallots (they’re almost the same, right?). The mushrooms were delicious and I ate every last bite. Another nutritious, simple side dish.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fried Okra p. 320

My brother and grandfather have a large garden and my brother brought me some okra they grew. I had to make fried okra, one of my favorite dishes. Since my last frying experience didn’t go so well, I was a bit nervous, especially since I had guests watching me prepare their dinner.

First, chop up a bunch of okra. Soak them in buttermilk, then put them in flour/cornmeal mixture til coated.

Fry in 2” of oil. My first batch wasn’t very good because I didn’t wait for the oil to get hot enough. But the next two batches were delicious. Just like fried okra should be.

My guests and Bryan, who frowned when I told them okra was for dinner, even enjoyed it… or at least they said they did.

Finally a successful frying experience!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shrimp Scampi p. 574

This was our second night’s meal while at the beach. I had purchased the shrimp at the fish market the day before. This area does a lot of shirmping, so I knew it was going to be delicious.

This is yet another simple dish to prepare. Heat some olive oil or butter in a pan over the stove, add the shrimp. Cook for a few minutes until pink on one side and then flip. We added fresh parsley, lemon juice, and white wine.

We served over pasta and with asparagus.