Monday, August 23, 2010

Gingery Pork Meatballs with Noodles

I found this recipe in the September Cooking Light. I was flipping through it in bed one night (seriously--this is what I do) and saw this recipe and knew we had to have it soon. It sounded tasty, and we had bought some ground pork a few weeks ago at the West Allis Farmer's Market. Perfect.

Here's the recipe. We followed it exactly, except that I added about half of a random red, frying pepper I had.

It was really, really good. The only thing I would do differently next time is add some type of sauce to the noodles when serving them. They only had a little bit of sesame oil on them from the veggies. I would probably add more of this oil and a bit of soy sauce.

What to Do with All Those Tomatoes

I seem to have been stockpiling tomatoes. We've been getting them from our CSA box, and the co-worker I split the box with is growing his own tomatoes, so I've been getting all of them. Plus, a neighbor has been giving us some. So, needless to say, we had a lot of tomatoes I had to use up.

I thought it would be a good opportunity to make both salsa and tomato basil (since I have a ton of basil, too) soup.

I made the salsa up as I went. I debated attempting to can the salsa. I'd like to do it sometime, but I just wasn't feeling up to it this past weekend. I ended up freezing two jars of it. I hope it's OK once it's time to have it!
Here's what I used and what I did:
5 tomatoes
1 red onion
1/2 lime
3 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno
2 skinny chili peppers (I don't know what they're called!)
about 1/2 cup cilantro

I chopped everything up--other than the lime, I just squeezed that in the bowl--and stirred it all together. that's it! It's a bit spicy. I should have probably just used two peppers, but now I know.

For the soup, Tomato Basil Soup, I followed a Betty Crocker recipe I've made before. Only last time, I used canned tomatoes as it suggests as an easier way to do things.

This is the recipe I followed. It seems a bit unusual that it includes carrots, but they give it a good flavor.
I had to peel the tomatoes before putting them in the soup, which I had never done before. I brought a big pot of water to a boil, dropped in each tomato, and cooked them 5-7 minutes. I took them out with a slotted spoon and let them cool before peeling them. For some of them, the skin came right off. For others, I had to poke the skin with a knife and peel it off. I was supposed to seed the tomatoes, too, but that seemed to be too difficult, and I think the soup turned out just fine.

I stuck it in the freezer right away, since it's not exactly soup season and I figure I'll want to have it more into fall and winter. The taste tests came out pretty good, though!

Tater Tot Bake--Enough Said

I first mentioned this recipe, Tater Tot Bake with Mozzarella and Spicy Marinara, in my third blog post (and first recipe post) back in January, when I wrote about another recipe in The Good, the Bad and the Yummy. And I have honestly been thinking about it ever since and waiting for a good opportunity to make it.

Last Saturday, Nate was out of town, and my friend Ann came over for a girls night, complete with tasty food, a few bottles of wine and movies we used to watch in high school ("Romeo + Juliet" and "Empire Records," for those wondering). I thought it would be a good opportunity to make the tater tot bake.

It turned out just as good as I thought it would. It's so simple and very tasty. I followed the recipe exactly, except that I didn't use quite 1/2 teas. crushed red pepper and I added some fresh basil to the sauce, since I have so much of it. I think if I made this again (and I'd like to!) I'd add some veggies to up the nutrition--I'm thinking spinach, eggplant, zucchini ...

Tater Tot Bake with Mozzarella and Spicy Marinara
1 32-oz. package frozen tater tots
2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
1/2 teas. salt, plus more to taste
a few grindings black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 teas. crushed red pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella

Bake tater tots according to package directions, removing the potatoes from the oven a few minutes before they're golden brown.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and fry the onions until tender and light gold. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, breaking them apart with a spatula. Add salt, pepper and red pepper and bring sauce to a simmer. (This is when I added the basil.) Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer the sauce until slightly thickened, about 30-40 minutes. Adjust seasonings if you like.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large, wide baking dish (I sprayed bottom with cooking spray), layer half tots with half the sauce and half mozzarella. Repeat to form the second layer, and top with mozzarella and a few grindings of pepper.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown. Let cool before eating.

The top is a little more brown than it probably should be--I didn't hear the timer go off and have no idea how long it actually cooked!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pizza on the Grill--Again

(I apologize for being M.I.A. for the last week. It feels weird not having blogged at all! But there hasn't been too much to blog about. We haven't been cooking a lot, due to Nate's brother being in town over the weekend and being busy on weeknights.)

We haven't made it for quite some time (too busy grilling other stuff I guess), but as I've mentioned before, making pizza on the grill is one of my new-ish favorite things.

I had some girlfriends over Tuesday night (the group I do ethnic dining with). We decided to mix up our monthly outings by having a cookout at my house.

I made two grilled pizzas for us. I made some last year, and they were a hit, so I wanted to make them again.

The first one I made was a BBQ chicken pizza. I used Saz's BBQ sauce (my favorite!) for the base. I had previously cooked one chicken breast (chopped) on the stove top, just mixed with some BBQ sauce, garlic powder, a bit of chili powder, salt and pepper. I spread the chicken on the pizza as well as sauteed yellow onion and cheddar cheese.

For the other pizza, a vegetarian one, I used an olive-feta cheese spread from Outpost as the sauce, and I put green and red pepper on top as well as some crumbled feta.

For how to make pizza on the grill, check out this blog post. There are step-by-step instructions on the post.

In addition to the pizza, everyone brought a delicious component to the night's meal.

Leah brought little cucumber sandwiches, which were pieces of bread with a cream cheese and herb spread, topped with a cucumber and some dill.

Lisa brought a super delicious (I think we were all a little surprised!) "massaged" kale salad, with apples, sunflower seeds, onions, currants and more. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture.
Here is the recipe.
For dessert, Sun made fabulous oatmeal creme pie cookie sandwiches (a take off on the Little Debbie cookie sandwiches). They're super rich, but, of course, super delicious! Here is the recipe.
As always, we had a great meal together!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thai Chicken with Basil

Nate found this recipe through an app, called "What's For Dinner," on his phone. It used two things we had overflowing in our garden--basil and red chiles.
This recipe for Thai Basil Chicken was good. It didn't look nearly like the picture looks, but it was tasty, and we'd make it again.

Here is the recipe. And here is what we did differently:
-Added some additional soy sauce and fish sauce toward the end (we thought it was supposed to be more saucy. Not so, apparently!).
-Use 4 cloves of garlic, not 3 (Nate was the one who primarily made this meal, and he often goes crazy on the garlic).
-We added about 1 cup of chopped orange, red and green bell peppers to get some extra veggies in.
-We didn't scrape out the seeds or membranes from the chiles.
-We ended up chopping the basil, rather than leaving it whole, because the big pieces seemed a bit overwhelming.

The dish was spicy, but not overly spicy. We served the chicken with a side of pan-roasted potatoes.
It was kind of a weird choice, but we had them from the CSA and wanted to use them up. Next time, I'd probably make rice with it as it had a bit of liquid to it.

Replacing Noodles with Squash

We keep getting lots of yellow summer squash in our CSA box, and I've been looking for creative ways to use it. Luckily, Alison Sherwood, of Post-College Kitchen blog on JSOnline recently blogged about using strips of summer squash in place of noodles in lasagna. I thought this sounded (and looked) delicious, so I wanted to give it a whirl.

I mostly followed what Alison did for her lasagna (check it out here), but made it a bit bigger. It seemed like I had a ton of squash, so I used a 9x13 pan.

Here is what I used and what I did.

Summer Squash Lasagna
-15 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
-2 medium-sized summer squash
-about 1/2 cup basil, chopped
-1 egg
-about 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
-a little less than a 1/4 cup of grated pecorino romano
-about 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
-1 26.5 oz. can spaghetti sauce
-about half an onion chopped and sauteed in a bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes
-salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

Slice squash lengthwise using a mandolin. (I let Nate do this--I'm not always so good with sharp things.) My slices were a bit thinner than the 1/4" Alison suggests. In small batches, microwave on a paper towel-covered plate for about 2 minutes on medium-high. Pat dry. Repeat with all squash.

Combine ricotta, egg, cheeses, basil and parsley in a small bowl. Use salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste.

Combine spaghetti sauce with onions.

In a 9x13 pan, spread a bit of spaghetti sauce. Place one layer of squash (can double squash like we had to do) and drizzle with olive oil. Spread some sauce on top. Then spread 1/3 of cheese mixture on top.

Repeat squash, sauce and cheese two more times, using up all the squash and cheese. Top with the last bit of sauce and some Parmesan cheese.

I made it up on Sunday and kept it in the fridge for dinner Monday night. We cooked the cold lasagna at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes (covered with foil) and then let it sit for about another 15.

It didn't come out on the plate so pretty, but it was really, really good--or, as Nate put it, "This is actually really good." Sure, it's not exactly the same as "normal" lasagna, but it's a nice change and healthier. It was a bit watery, but not really enough to make any changes next time. I think next time I make it I'll add more to it, such as sauteed spinach or mushrooms.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

State Fair on a Stick

Last Saturday, Nate and our friends Ann and Craig went to the Wisconsin State Fair. While the State Fair offers many entertaining things--people watching, farm animals, the Expo center people hawk thinks like the Sham-Wow and knife sets--the best part of the fair is the food.

Sure, it's not, for the most part, healthy. But doing it once a twice a year, who cares?? There's so much great, unusual stuff to choose from.

This is our third year the four of us have attended the fair together. We've found our favorite foods and food stands, and generally try something new to the fair that year.

Here is everything we ate (and, for the most part, we all spilt everything so we could try different things).

We started with the flavored milk from the Herb Kohl milk stand. You can't go wrong with good-sized cups of milk in flavors like strawberry, root beer, banana, cherry vanilla and chocolate. And they're each only $.25!

We then stopped at our favorite fried cheese curd place, Brad and Harry's Cheese Curds. I think it's the combination of being freshly fried curds and the delicious batter they use. These are by far the best curds (and I've had a lot) I've ever had.

Next, we went to Cousin's Subs stand for one of the new fair foods: fried cheese steak on a stick. It was pretty much like a corn dog (but smaller) with, instead of a hot dog inside, ground beef with seasoning. It came with a side of some kind of sauce--maybe something with horseradish? Unfortunately, they weren't all that great. The batter/outer part was too thick and overwhelming, and you really couldn't taste the inside.

Then we hit up Benno's micro beer tent for some drinks. There is a lot of great micro beers, much of it local. I tried a "cream puff" ale from Milwaukee Brewing Company.

Later, we stopped at the Wisconsin Products Pavilion for one of our favorite foods. Simple as it is, Ann and I love the grilled cheese sandwiches. I don't know what it is about them, but the simple American cheese on white bread is just so good.

In the same pavilion, Nate and Craig got buffalo tacos. I tried a bite of Nate's, and it's really pretty good, although it doesn't have a ton of buffalo meat in it.

Then, Nate and Craig split one of the most talked about items at the fair this year: the cheeseburger inside a Krispy Kreme doughnut. They elected to not have the burger with the piece of chocolate-covered bacon. I tried a bite of it, and I thought it tasted weird more than anything. I could really only taste the doughnut, and the texture of the burger was weird. Nate and Craig seemed to think it was all right, though.

I then felt like I needed something with some substance, so I got a turkey burger from I don't even know where. It was decent, but it wasn't the best I'd ever had. Ann got a pizza burger--beef burger with mozzarella and marinara sauce--which was really good.

Finally, we finished off with one of our favorites: deep-fried s'mores on a stick. It's a phenomenal mixture of a tasty batter with chocolate and marshmallow inside. Delicious!

All in all, it was a great eating and drinking experience. What are your favorite fair foods?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Excellent Korean Beef with Rice Noodles

In my magazines and cookbooks, I finally started noting how we liked each recipe. My mom always did this, so I don't know why I didn't start it sooner.

The meal we made Thursday got an "excellent." It was fantastic--and easy, too. The recipe, Korean-style Beef Skewers with Rice Noodles--was another recipe from the May 2010 Cooking Light. For a quite a while, not too long ago, I really wasn't eating red meat (for no good reason, really). I still don't eat a ton of it, but the grass-fed, free range beef we've been buying from Outpost or farmers markets is just so good. It's so much more flavorful and lean than typical grocery store beef.

The recipe for the beef and noodles is above. The only thing we did differently was use Sriracha instead of chile paste. We cooked the beef a little longer than it probably should have been cooked (we had a bit of a grill snafu--the gas tank ran out on our big grill, so we had to use our small tailgate grill, which makes it a little harder to control the heat), but it was still really tasty and flavorful.

On the side, since we had some to use up, we made a spicy eggplant dish. Here's the recipe. Since we really only had about a half an eggplant--rather than the four Japanese eggplants the recipe calls for--I kind of quartered the recipe and made it up a bit as I went. I used all the ingredients the recipe calls for, other than oyster sauce (I used the fish sauce we have) and chili garlic sauce (again, I used Sriracha).

The eggplant was really tasty. It was definitely a new and different way of making eggplant.

All in all, it was a great meal, and we're still talking about it days later!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Not Every Dish is a Winner

It's bound to happen once in a while. Even if it looks really, really good in the picture, there's a chance it's not going to taste really, really good.

That's what happened with Wednesday's meal, a Spring Vegetable Carbonara. As I said before, all our meals this week came from the May 2010 Cooking Light (maybe that should have been my first hint--using spring veggies in the middle of summer). We followed the recipe pretty closely, yet it just didn't have much taste.

Here is the recipe for Spring Vegetable Carbonara. Here's what we did differently:

-We used the bow tie pasta we had leftover from this recipe instead of the cavatappi.
-Since it's not asparagus season, I used frozen.

-We used turkey bacon, rather than regular bacon, since we had some in the freezer. Since it's not as fatty as regular bacon, there wasn't any drippings left to cook the bell pepper, so we used some olive oil.

The sauce didn't get as thick as it probably should have been. I'm not sure why. And it needed some more salt or garlic ... or something. Like I said, not every dish is a winner. We probably won't make this again (it sure did look good, though!). Also, please note: if you do make this and heat up the leftovers, be sure to not heat it too long nor on too high in the microwave. The egg gets a little scrambled-eggy!

Chicken Sausage with Black Bean Salad

This week, all the recipes we made came from the May 2010 Cooking Light. This one, however, wasn't an actual Cooking Light recipe, but rather from one of those ads in the middle of all the recipes. The ad was for al fresco chicken sausages. Funny enough, we didn't actually use the al fresco chipotle chorizo mango sausage the meal calls for, because Outpost doesn't carry them. So we substituted Outpost's chicken andouille sausage. It was the closest they had.

-Sausage substitute, as stated above.
-Instead of cutting the sausage before grilling, we grilled them whole and then cut them into pieces.
-I used an entire can of black beans, which, if I remember correctly, was just under 1 cup.
-I couldn't find fresh mango (must not be mango season), so I used a can of mango chunks, drained.
-The recipe calls for just "ripe tomatoes," but if you look closely at the picture, it looks like grape tomatoes. I used regular, large tomatoes, but I think next time, I'd use the grape tomatoes. The salad was a bit watery.
-Since we don't have white balsamic vinegar, I just used regular.

The meal was very good. The sausages from Outpost a great. They have a nice spice. We served the meal with slices of a sourdough baguette. Unfortunately, by the time we cut it up it was really dry. I think next time I'd just have it with a few tortilla chips.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chicken Fajitas

We had a pepper overload from our CSA box, Outpost and from our own garden (growing habaneros, jalapenos and some other long type of pepper I can't remember), so we decided to make chicken, pepper and onion fajitas.

Here's what we did:

-We cut up the chicken into small pieces, and marinated them using Spice House fajita seasoning, lime juice and canola oil.

-We cut strips of red, orange and green bell pepper, as well as onion. We also chopped up a long pepper and a jalapeno from our garden.

-We combined everything in a large skillet and cooked it all until the chicken was done and peppers somewhat soft.

-We served the chicken and veggies on tortillas we had left over with salsa, Adrian guacamole and shredded cheddar.

They were delicious! For a side, we made white basmati rice, seasoned with chili powder, cumin, corinader and garlic powder.
We had two very small cobs of corn from the CSA that we cooked in the microwave and cut off the chop to add to the rice.

Delicious! I absolutely love fajitas.