I can’t stand mayonnaise. I’m just not a condiment person. Or a cream sauce person. When it comes to potato salad or coleslaw, it goes to reason that I will pick a vinaigrette over a mayo or buttermilk based dressing any day of the week. My husband fortunately knows about my (strong) anti-mayonnaise sentiments so he was wise to pick Ina Garten’s French potato salad to go with our barbeque last Sunday.Read More
Now that it's June, it is time to think about backyard parties. And wearing white jeans. And replacing your regular duvet cover with linen. This last one I may have done before Memorial Day.
Memorial Day weekend is usually a bust weather-wise around here, and this year proved no exception. We went to a movie at the library on Friday, then on Saturday took the kids to the theater to see Tomorrowland during yet another round of showers. Just a little PSA: this movie might be a bit scary for some kids. Like Théa. Gus, however, absorbed every single minute of it and thought it was the best thing ever. Especially the robots. With guns. It should be obvious at this point that I made a tactical parenting error taking my five-year-olds to this movie. Also your kids might not want to go on It’s A Small World after seeing this movie. I’ll leave you to decide whether that is a good or bad thing.Read More
It seems like fava beans are all I see in my food porn stream around this time of year. And every year, I pin or save or drool over fava bean recipes only to find that there are no favas available where I live. Last week, I almost shouted in the market (it’s true – you can ask my husband) when I saw fava beans in stock. I had no idea what I was going to make but I bought a bag on the spot.Read More
I realize that we’ve had a shortage food posts over the last couple of weeks and I would like to blame that on a broken camera. I’m a really bad liar. Would you accept dance recitals as an excuse? Or soccer tournaments?
Here’s a quick and dirty of what we’ve been up to Chez Susie in the last week.
Boise. Twice. Let’s refresh. Boise is a two hour drive each way. Last week, I went twice.
On Monday, we went for an OT appointment. We talked extensively about tantrums, social skills, and emotional recognition. More on this subject later because I could really use a sounding board on this one. We also went to Build-A-Bear. I’m still recovering from this part of the trip. If your kids are Build-A-Bear unaware, do yourself a favor and take all paths possible to avoid their ever knowing anything about it. This may mean that you have to skip every mall in America as well as Downtown Disney. So far, I've only managed to keep my kids unaware of the fact that you can add sounds or smells (gross) to your bear. Just trust me on this one. Stay away.
On Saturday, we went back to Boise for a soccer tournament. Abby’s team was missing their goalie, so, of course, Abby volunteered. Direct kicks are fantastic to watch when your kid is kicking them but they are NOT fun to watch when your kid is in goal. I am happy to say that the weekend was a success. The girls played fantastic soccer, they won all four games, and Abby was only scored on twice. For the first time in my soccer mom career, I actually enjoyed watching my kid in goal. I might be willing to do it again next year.
In between those two trips to Boise? Lauren presented her big senior project, Théa performed in her spring showcase, Gus painted a horse, Sam had two lacrosse games (their team won the quarter final, but lost in the semis – heartbreaker), Gus and Théa had a school play, and Logan flew off to Spokane to try out for a AAA hockey team. Are you tired yet?
In between all of those things, I think we might have eaten. There was Chick-Fil-A. And there may have been pizza. But before there was pizza, there was seared ahi and cucumber salad with fried onion strings. I could eat that meal every single day.
Fried onion strings are a nice little lagniappe that occasionally show up on menus in restaurants, am I right? The unfortunate thing is that they are typically a garnish for a steak or something. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to order a steak to get my hands on onion strings. And those fat Outback Steakhouse style onion rings (you know what I’m talking about – I know you’ve seen the commercials) are not a substitute for the thin, crispy bits of heaven that I want.
It turns out that onion strings are ridiculously easy to make at home. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but of course Ms. Ree Drummond (a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman) has a recipe for onion strings and of course there are step by step photos. Tiny girl crush going on right now.
It goes without saying that these onion strings are excellent atop a simple salad of sliced cucumbers and red bell peppers. I used Martha Stewart’s Rice Wine Vinaigrette as a dressing for my salad. Can someone tell me why vinegar is spelled with a “vine” and a “gar” but vinaigrette uses an “ai” instead of an “e”? Anyway, this vinaigrette is light and perfect for the cucumbers and fried onions. I’m not sure why it only received three stars on Martha’s website. I thought it was perfect for this dish.
I’d love to tell you about the ahi that my husband made but I have no idea what recipe he used and admit that I was attempting to stay out of the kitchen. It was Mother’s Day after all.
But if you need another basic dressing recipe, might I recommend this basic vinaigrette from Ina Garten? I used cane vinegar instead of champagne vinegar because it was what I had on hand. Very good, very simple dressing that proves that there is no reason to have bottles of dressing in your refrigerator.
Sunday night was Back to School Night at the kids’ high school. This parents-only affair is held annually to give parents the lay of the land with respect to curriculum and overall expectations. I have never been.Read More
Ok, so we didn’t eat honey-ginger chicken with lime last night. Nor did we eat shrimp and grits on Sunday. Is this a recipe review blog or what? Maybe not. Maybe it will be again, but for now, let’s call it like it is. I am in perpetual catch-up mode. It could be that I’m also in mid-life crisis mode. My youngest children want to trade in our disguised mini-van (a.k.a. Acadia) for a convertible beetle. I’m actually considering it. Why not? Like I said, possible mid-life crisis. More on this later, I’m sure.Read More
I like a recipe with a picture. I like to have an idea of the end goal. I am totally a planner at heart. But I chose to make roasted corn, jicama, and mango salad despite the lack of accompanying photo because I happened to have every single ingredient on hand. How often does that happen? Never.Read More
I have already mentioned that my husband has this thing about making ribs on Father’s Day. And, honestly, as the father of seven kids, if he wants to make ribs once a year, let him. I don’t particularly care for ribs and that does not matter in the slightest because not only is it “his day” (please, people, you and I both know that father’s day is more work for dads than the average Sunday) but also because he cooks them. Perfect. I’ll have bread for dinner.Read More
It turns out, I was right. My husband did want ribs for Father’s Day. And he rocked them. But more on that later. I really wanted to try the lamb skewers that I had scheduled for Sunday, so we had a little switcheroo on the menu. Lamb skewers on Saturday night, ribs and barbeque chicken on Sunday afternoon. We were fortunate to have all of our kids at home on Saturday night (not so for Sunday), which meant another change in the menu since the farrotto recipe (via Collards and Carbonara) was not vegetarian friendly. A little flexibility goes a long way.Read More
We’ve been on the road. Eating junk. That’s not to say that I haven’t been eating some pretty good stuff. I’ve mentioned the crawfish already. The wedding cake was amazing. I’m a sucker for almond wedding cake. I had a shrimp po-boy, and fried catfish, and beignets, and Rob had an amazing blackened snapper sandwich. We also ate at a cool beachside spot near Pensacola called The Gulf.Read More
I saw a photo of spring pea farro salad from What’s Gaby Cooking on Instagram and I had to make it. I actually wanted to make it the very day that I saw it except that I don’t live in Los Angeles, and our farmer’s markets are open yet, and there are no spring peas or pea shoots to be had in the mountains in April. And I almost couldn’t find farro. It’s ok, though. I persevered. Anything for a good meal.Read More
It’s craziness here in the mountains this week. I’m pretty sure that it is warmer than it was the entire time we were in Southern California for spring break. We’ve been able to eat out on the porch and walk to the store for popsicles… I’m hoping this lasts forever.
In the spirit of spring, one of the recipes that we tried this week was Not Yet Summer Greek Pasta Salad from Joy the Baker. I L-O-V-E Joy’s blog. Her photos make me hungry. She’s funny (see especially this recent post). Oh, and she makes really good food. So it was only a matter of time before I tried her Greek pasta salad. Fortunately, my associates were up for the task.Read More
We did a little switcheroo on the menu tonight because we are taking the kids night skiing tomorrow. Night skiing. How did they get old enough to go night skiing?
Anyway, through no intentional planning, I served spring on a plate tonight. We switched Tuesday night's tacos for Wednesday night's Italian. Both the penne and the asparagus salad were incredibly light but flavorful. This dinner was very refreshing, especially after last night’s burning man. I wasn’t sure how I felt about raw asparagus salad. I know. I’m the one who planned to make it, but I still wasn’t sure. And while my associates did an excellent job juicing lemon,Read More
We made a slight deviation from the original meal plan last night. Both the planned recipe (Barley Soup with Chicken and Pancetta) and the actual recipe (Stuffed Chicken Thighs, La Cucina Italiana, January/February 2014, page 27) are Italian. And both call for chicken thighs and pancetta. But you know, sometimes you just aren’t in the mood for soup. And sometimes you have more people for dinner than you anticipate. And they are teenage boys so you can’t very well serve them soup or they will be hungry in five minutes. You improvise. Maybe you turn three pages back in the magazine that you took out for dinner and hey, there’s something that looks tasty. It’s tough work, this kitchen gig.Read More
Confession time. I can’t see and I did not cook this meal. In fact, I’m not sure that I will be cooking much for the next week. I had a little surgery on my right eyeball on Thursday. Let’s just say it was a tad more involved than I thought it would be. I’m actually squinting out of one eye with my glasses on to type this. And I look like someone punched me in the face. No joke.Read More
Remember weeks and weeks ago (ok, a month ago) when I said we were going to have meatloaf for Christmas dinner? Yep. We did. And it was amazing. It’s probably about time that I write a review of that dinner because you should make every bit of it.
Just for the record, meatloaf does not photograph well. It’s rather camera shy. At least for amateurs. That and I was so busy actually cooking in the kitchen that I assigned one of my sous-chefs the photographer roll. While he got some very creative shots, the color was not exactly in the appetizing category. More like old Chinese take-out menu. Totally not his fault as I didn’t change the camera settings before handing him the camera. Oh well. Never mind the photos. The food was outstanding.Read More
I cannot count the number of times that I have made meatballs. It feels a little cheeky to even write a post about this. I mean, doesn’t everyone know how to make meatballs? And are these the BEST EVER? No. I have made them so many times that I don’t even follow a recipe. I just throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl and go with it.
These meatballs were no different. I had intended to actually follow the recipe in Tony Chachere’s Cajun Country Cookbook, the recipe that my grandmother always used, and that I started using a million years ago. Nope. I opened the freezer to find that I had one ziplock of meat mix that really needed to be used, so I started with that. In a stroke of crazy, I noticed that I had somehow omitted onions entirely when originally making the meat mix. Seriously. How do you ignore an entire ingredient? Yep. That (and my purse) must be the sign of an addled mind. At least I am consistent.Read More
I need a new system. I keep saying this or that recipe was so simple. Really, do I cook anything complicated (ok, except the Christmas gnocchi, but I’ll get to that later)? Not so much. Maybe a sliding scale of easy? I’ll work on that.Read More
There is a Mexican restaurant where we live that makes an amazing salad. They deliver it in what would function as a serving bowl in my house, but it is actually your own individual bowl. Think Cheesecake Factory portions. Huge. You tell your dining companions that there is no way you could possibly eat the whole thing. But you do. You just can’t stop.
We have been trying to recreate that salad at home for years. It is really all in the dressing and the grilled chicken. Now, you know that I am not a recipe creator. This means that I have tried a lot of cilantro-lime dressing recipes. So far, this recipe from Dancing Carrots is the hands down winner.
For starters, any dressing that is made in the blender is my kind of dressing. No chopping or fussing around. This dressing is both sweet (honey) and spicy (jalapeño). It is creamy but has no dairy (combination of balsamic vinegar and honey, maybe?). My kids literally drown their salad in it. Maybe that isn’t a selling point to you, but I vote for anything that isn’t ranch or ketchup that gets kids to eat vegetables.
As for the salad, we start with chopped romaine and add whatever we have. I usually add corn, black beans, avocado, and green onion. Spanish rice makes a nice addition. Tonight, I forgot about the rice until the last minute, so I cooked some basic white rice substituting a can of Rotel tomatoes for some of the water. Worked in a pinch. If you are feeling saucy, you can add some cheese too. And some crunched up corn chips. Top the salad with grilled chicken and/or grilled zucchini (toss both with a little olive oil, salt and pepper before grilling) and you have a winner.
This is an easy supper with lots of flavor and texture. Despite the moaning and complaining that comes with telling kids that tonight’s dinner is salad, I bet they will eat it. Mine had seconds.
I always think I have more time to cook on Sunday than I do. I’m just saying, start the calzones early.
We made a run to Costco (60 miles away) on Saturday, after which I still seemed to have no actual food. I did, however, have a new pair of running shoes. And Abby found some cute boots. Not to be out done, Théa found some kicks herself.
So Sunday’s meal started with a trip to the grocery store. At 3:30 PM. For bread flour and yeast to make the calzone dough. Let’s just say we weren’t going to be eating an early dinner.
Bread flour in hand, the dough was remarkably simple. I do love my stand mixer. I had the dough set to rise by 4:15, scheduled to check it at 5:45. Plenty of time to make the filling. Which I didn’t start until 5:15.
Some tips. Use fresh mozzarella. The flavor is worth it. I really don’t see the point in grating it, though, because this took FOREVER. Maybe just chop it really fine? Or maybe go to a grocery store that has fresh mozzarella in more sizes than just teeny, tiny balls that shred your fingers when you grate them. Perhaps grating larger balls of mozzarella would take less time.
We decided on a combination of fillings in addition to the ricotta – sweet Italian sausage, red peppers, and spinach. I started by browning the sausage, then added the garlic and red pepper flakes as directed in the recipe for sausage and broccoli rabe. Once that was cooked, I turned it out onto paper towels to dry. Using the same pan, without wiping it clean, I sautéed the red peppers, then added the spinach to wilt.
We did not need a full pound of spinach. Because we were combining recipes, we used slightly less of each of the ingredients (except sausage) even though we were actually making 1 ½ times the calzone recipe. We did use the full batch of cheese mixture, but had extra of the veggie and meat mixture once the calzones were shaped.
Pay attention to the timing of the directions. The dough, once cut into balls, needs to sit for another 15-30 minutes and the oven needs to be preheated at 500° for 30 minutes before you start baking. I missed this step, which would have delayed dinner had I already made the salad. Winner for me there.
If you don’t have a pizza stone, and want one, I would suggest this. It is a set of six tiles that you can use separately for little pizzas or put together to fill either your grill or your oven. We have used them on both and love them. Also love that they pack up small, so you don’t have to figure out what to do with a 16” stone.
Big tip here. Use semolina flour to keep the dough from sticking to everything if you don’t have parchment. I did this, but did not use enough the first time. The dough ended up sticking to the wax paper we were using to separate the dough rounds, which resulted in a frantic effort to de-stick our dough rounds so that we could fill the calzones.
Needless to say, I do not have photos of this part of the awesome process. I will say, however, that this is where it totally helps to have a large family because we would not have eaten without the help of two of my kids. Thank you, Lauren and Logan.
We were able to successfully transfer the (slightly misshapen) calzones into the preheated oven with the pizza peal and no parchment. It is also helpful to have a big family here, because every time we opened the 500° oven, the smoke alarm went off. Thank you, Sam, for being at the ready with the broom to take care of that little nuisance.
I forgot to mention that while all this was going on, I had a pot of tomato sauce simmering. If you have a lot of extra tomatoes in your garden next year, try throwing them (chopped, skins on is fine) in your blender, then cooking down the puree for 8 hours or so until the water has evaporated. Freeze in whatever you have. You won’t be sorry.
All in all, these calzones were amazing. A lot of work, a bit of a smoke hazard, but fun. We served with a little tomato sauce on top and some of us indulged in additional parmesan.
Sorry for the iphone photo. It was a little hectic.
the chop salad
No recipe here. I chopped up a head of romaine and added chopped salami, fresh mozzarella, pepperoncini, kalamata olives, seeded cucumber, and garbanzo beans. I also added some dried basil, oregano, and parsley. We served it with Newman’s Own Oil and Vinegar dressing (except Lauren, whose plate is above and apparently used a balsamic dressing). It was excellent. And there was just enough left over for my lunch on Monday.