Monday, February 26, 2007

Yucatan-Style Chicken, Lime, and Orzo Soup

I've made this soup a couple times before and it's one that we enjoy, but I couldn't remember if I used two jalapenos or just one in the past. Note to future self: just use one jalapeno. Woo! Spicy. It's a great soup, but two jalapenos dominate the flavor of the soup. I used canned diced tomatoes this time - I think I do like fresh tomatoes better with this one. A good soup but better when it's turned down a notch.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Rosemary Garlic Roasted Potatoes and Broiled Zucchini with Parmesan Crust

I have decided that I don't like "themed" potlucks. They are way too stressful. We went to an Italian-themed potluck yesterday and I spent so much time online trying to find a good recipe that I didn't have to buy too many ingredients for. I figured everyone would be bringing some sort of pasta dish so I wanted to bring something different. We had a bunch of potatoes so I made this potato dish. It was pretty good - nothing fancy, but hey, they're potatoes.

I also had some zucchini in the fridge so I made this broiled zucchini dish. I thought it was good, but my husband wasn't crazy about it, probably because it was lukewarm when he ate it. Lukewarm zucchini is just not that great. I kind of burned them under the broiler, and I had only had them under there for about 2 1/2 minutes (the recipe says broil it for four minutes). I scraped some of the burnt part off because I didn't want to bring a burnt dish to a potluck! That is too embarrassing. I used bottled grated Parmesan which I wouldn't recommend. Oh well. Live and learn.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Penne with Basil-Seafood Sauce

Bay scallops were on sale at Kroger, so I did a search on and found this recipe. I made it with a little more scallops (almost 3/4 pound). I also used canned tomatoes, which taste much better than fresh this time of year. I got this tip from the book How To Break An Egg: when using canned tomatoes, buy whole tomatoes instead of diced or sliced - I guess they're supposed to taste better - and just take a pair of kitchen shears and cut them up in the can. Voila! I listen to APM's Splendid Table and she recommends either Hunt's, Contadina, or Muir Glen canned tomatoes, so I bought Hunt's since that's what they have at Walmart (yes, I admit, I buy most of my groceries there. When the farmer's markets are in season, I'm all about those, but otherwise you just can't beat Walmart's prices!).

This is an easy, delicious dinner that looks fancy and like it took a lot of work to make. I love seafood and so I was very happy with this one. I actually liked the shrimp more than the scallops but they were both great. I'll definitely make this one again - I'll have to head to Kroger and buy some more scallops while they're still on sale. Best thing about it was that it's not that expensive to make - the ingredients cost about $11-12 to feed four people, and I still have about two servings worth of leftovers.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cranberry-Tangerine Scones

Even though my last few attempts at scone-making have been a little disappointing, I still love eating them so I am going to keep trying. :) I made these cranberry-tangerine scones today. Yummy! They turned out exactly like scones should - slightly crunchy top, flaky inside. The only thing I did differently was use a different brand of butter - could that make any difference? Maybe my butter was a little colder than usual, and I didn't mix the batter too much - enough to still leave big flakes of butter in it, and just enough to mix the wet and dry ingredients but still be clumpy. The dough was not wet at all, which made it easier to work with, but the scones are not really dry. I baked them for 12 minutes but should have taken them out at 11 minutes - they are a little browner on the tops than I would like, but still very good. They are kind of small, so maybe next time I'd make a double batch.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Lebanese Lentil-and-Rice Pilaf with Blackened Onions

I'm trying to add to my lentil repertoire, since we plan to move overseas where there will not be much meat available for protein. We are not big meat eaters anyway - maybe I'll cook something with meat in it once every two weeks or so. I made this lentil and rice pilaf the other day. I overcooked it and it came out a little mushy. It was bland when I tasted a little from the pot so I was a little dismayed about serving it to my husband. Once we added salt to the dish, though, the whole thing was transformed. Now, some dishes benefit from salt to make up for the lack of flavor of the other ingredients, but with this once, the salt totally enhances the flavors that are already in the dish. It turned a 2 star meal into a 4 star one! I'll make this again, definitely.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Margherita Pizza

I made this pizza tonight and based it off the Margherita Pizza recipe from the All New Joy of Cooking. I have not yet learned how to make homemade pizza dough, so we bought store-brand premade pizza crusts and used those instead. This was pretty easy and was great! I used store-brand pizza sauce, four diced Roma tomatoes, about 1/3 cup basil, some grated Parmesan, and shredded mozzarella, then baked it at 450 degrees for about 11 minutes. It was a good, quick, tasty meal.

I borrowed a book on cooking a few months ago from the library, and the most useful tip I got from it was how to freeze basil. I tried growing basil in a little flowerpot this summer and fall, but it didn't work out too well (note to self: frost kills basil pretty quickly, bring the plant in sooner next year). My local grocery store sells basil in these big clamshell containers, but they cost $3-4 dollars and a lot of it would go bad before I could use it. Then I learned that you could freeze basil, and, well, basically my life changed forever. All you do is rinse it, pick the leaves off the stems, and dry the leaves. Then you take a long sheet of wax paper, lay the leaves on it in a single layer, roll up the wax paper, stick it in a freezer bag, throw it in your freezer, and voila! You have basil whenever you want. It won't look fresh in your dishes, but the taste is preserved. So I used some of my frozen basil on our pizza and saved myself $3-4 and a trip to the store.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Ginger Scones and Chocolate Chip Scones

After this past weekend I guess I got used to being in the kitchen, so for the past few nights I have just kept baking. I've started making scones more often, which are great for breakfast (and dessert too sometimes). I've made these ginger scones before, which are great if you are a ginger fan. The first time I made them I followed the recipe and made them into 3 inch rounds. They were a little too shortbread-y for me though, although they had great flavor. This week I made them again and cut them into wedges instead. I'm not sure what happened, but this time they spread like crazy, but they were moist and not shortbread-y at all. What gives? I didn't think the shape of the scone would have much effect on it. I did mix the dough a lot longer than I did the last time after adding the butter. It says to mix it until the mixture is the consistency of fine meal. I know this dates me, but I don't know what the consistency of fine meal is. Like corn meal? There were still pea-sized chunks of butter in my mixture so I just kept mixing it in my electric mixer. Maybe I overdid it and the butter got too warm. Next time I'll try freezing the dough for a little while before I shape the scones.

Yesterday I tried making these chocolate chip scones for the first time. They are good, but the dough was extremely wet and I had to add another 1/4 cup of flour to it, and it was still very sticky. I tried forming them into wedges but there was no way I was going to get them to stay that way, so I ended up just dropping gobs of dough onto the baking sheet. So they ended up looking more like half cookie, half biscuit type things. I would make these again, but I think I'll add more flour to them so that they'll hold shape a little better. I used regular sized chips instead of the minis.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Super Bowl Sunday

My team lost :( But at least we had good food. I was in the kitchen all Saturday and Sunday afternoon - it was kind of like Thanksgiving, but instead preparing a turkey with all the trimmings, it was a bunch of food that you could eat in front of the TV. There was a total of twelve of us at the party. Here was the lineup:

Buffalo Wings

These were awesome - they tasted just like the wings I used to buy in Chicago at Buffalo Joe's. All they call for is hot sauce and butter - who knew? I guess you can't go wrong with fried chicken and butter. Mmmm. This was the first time I have ever fried chicken - I usually prefer healthier things, but hey, it's the Super Bowl. I put these in our crockpot to keep them warm during the game, and served them with blue cheese dressing.
Sweet Chili-Glazed Chicken Wings
I've made these a few times before - good flavor (and better for you since they are not fried) but they aren't crispy, and I just don't dig soggy chicken skin. I tried broiling them for a few minutes but that didn't crisp them up much. Some of the liquid from the marinade pools in the bottom of the baking pan while cooking - I poured some of it off after 20 minutes but maybe I should have done that sooner. If I make these again, either I'll grill them or try using a roasting pan with a rack instead.
My husband couldn't stop eating this guacamole - it was delicious! I used 4 avocados instead of three and adjusted the spices accordingly (though kept the vegetables and the lime the same). I did decrease the cayenne a little bit, but next time I'll use the recommended amount. This will be my go-to guacamole recipe from now on.
Fresh Salsa
This is my aunt's recipe, though I liked it a lot better when she made it. I think it was probably because my tomatoes were mealy. Maybe I would try this again with Roma tomatoes - or wait until tomatoes are back in season.
Veggie Tray
Rather than buying an overpriced ready-made tray, I just bought a pint of cherry tomatoes, some baby carrots, and a bag of celery which I cut up. Same effect, but half the price! I made Hidden Valley Ranch dressing out of the packet as a dip.
Deviled Eggs
These are good, classic hors d'oeuvres. Nothing fancy, but tasty.
Caramel Popcorn
You cannot go wrong with this recipe. Make it, and your friends will love you and think you are the best cook ever. I have made this popcorn for several get togethers over the years and I always get comments on it. It is labor intensive but worth it! I used two bags of microwave popcorn, but could have used three (there was plenty of caramel left).
Cocunut Cupcakes
These were amazing cupcakes. I guess it's hard to mess up butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, but man were these good. They are very rich, though, so I would save this for after a light meal (i.e., not for Super Bowl Sunday when you are stuffed like a turkey). I colored the coconut with a little blue and orange food coloring to be festive. These are a good special occasion dessert.
This was my husband's contribution to the buffet line. We had a box of Duncan Hines brownie mix at home, and then he shaved chocolate truffles onto the top (his idea. I think I'm rubbing off on him!). The truffles made these brownies delicious.
Spiced Nuts
I've blogged on these previously. They didn't get eaten quite as much because there were so many other good things to eat. But now we have a ton to snack on for the next week!
Hummus and Triscuits
Store bought. I like the Athenos hummus, and figured it's not expensive and it's not worth it to me to buy all the ingredients to make it.
Fresh Fruit
I had an assortment of red grapes, apples, bananas and clementines. When I felt stuffed I would get a small bunch of grapes to munch on. There's something about the Super Bowl that just makes you want to have food in your mouth at all times.

Special thanks to my husband for cleaning up most of my dishes and cleaning the house while I cooked!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Moroccan Chickpea Soup

I made this soup a few nights ago for dinner. It's the national soup of Morocco. Every night during Ramadan every house makes this soup (called harira) to break their fast. There's my random bit of knowledge for the day. :) It was great - a nice hearty soup for a cold winter night. I used spaghetti instead of capellini and it was fine. I'd never cooked with dried chickpeas before - they were good, but take a while to cook. Next time I'll boil the chickpeas the night before.

Garden Vegetable Enchiladas

I made these enchiladas for dinner tonight. Delicious! I've never made enchiladas before so this was a fun experiment. They were very hearty even without any meat or beans in them (whole milk and butter help!). My husband said they would make good company food.