Sunday, June 28, 2009

Growing Tomatoes

I planted three tomato plants about 5-6 weeks ago and they've been growing like weeds, but I'm afraid that: a) I didn't plant them deep enough b)I over-watered (it rained like crazy for a couple of weeks) and c) I didn't plant in big enough pots (I don't have a yard). Because of these things, I'm seeing some fruit, but not a lot, mostly in big clusters (this is normal, I'm sure) and the bottoms look like this:

We did have a crazy snail infestation, but that's been taken care of and I've planted marigolds to help with any bugs...

Any suggestions would be lovely!

Fresh Cherry and Apple Crisp

For a few weeks now I've been on a diet, of sorts, having Isagenix Isalean Shakes twice a day and having a low calorie lunch or dinner, depending on the circumstances. This is working (though I'm realizing I'm a bit more ornery than usual), but I find myself really missing the activity of cooking, especially with so many fresh herbs out in my faux garden.

In any case, we were given a bucketful of fresh cherries, so we're incorporating them into our shakes, but Saturday is my day to make whatever I want without feeling any dieter's guilt - Saturday is my favorite day...

Fresh Cherry and Apple Crisp

4 apples, peeled and sliced
2 c. cherries, pitted
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c. sugar
zest of 1 orange
Arrange in a baking dish.

1/2 stick butter, softened*
2 c. instant oats
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 whole nutmeg, finely grated
Sprinkle over the fruit mixture and bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

*You should probably use a whole stick of butter to get the proper crumble texture, but I only used half.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eating Montréal - Fairmount Queen Elizabeth Hotel

Our time in Montréal was interesting, but there's no doubt that the artful execution and quality of the food is unlike anything I've ever experienced. One particularly amazing dish was the cream of mushroom soup in the hotel restaurant Le Montrealais Bistro-bar which is also is where the room service comes from. When we go on vacation, we don't spend a lot of money, but we always splurge on local cuisine, particularly room service if the hotel is a little extravagant.

Steak sandwich from the restaurant inside the Fairmount Queen Elizabeth (room service). This sandwich was simply steak and bread and it was the single best thing I had to eat while in Montréal.

Scallops with sun dried tomaotes and portabello mushrooms - room service

Large Pizza - room service

Small Pizza - room service

I didn't get to taste this napoleon, but I was assured that it was incredible.

Pastry in the underground mall underneath the Fairmount Queen Elizabeth hotel. We walked down every day to take a look at the insane French pastry. I was in foodie heaven...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Marinated Chicken with Tzatziki Sauce and Pita

I love, LOVE souvlaki with cucumber sauce - they have a great version of this at the Crown Burger in Salt Lake City.

I like to make my own version, but I usually just cook the full chicken breast instead of cubing it up and skewering it. Tonight's was the best we've had in a long time!

Marinated Chicken with Tzatziki Sauce and Pita

For the marinade and chicken:

Combine juice of 1 lemon and one lime with 2 TB. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 1/4 c. chopped fresh oregano and 1 TB. fresh lemon thyme leaves. Pour over chicken in a zip bag and marinate for 8 hours (I do this before work so the chicken is nice and flavorful by the time I get home). Remove chicken from bag and pat dry, sprinkle with salt then sear both sides over medium high heat until golden. Place in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until just cooked through.

Tzatziki Sauce

1 32-oz. container low fat plain yogurt
1 English cucumber or two regular cucumbers, peeled, grated and squeezed in a towel to remove water
2 cloves garlic, pressed through press then sprinkled with 1/2 tsp. coarse salt and ground to a paste with the back of a spoon (this step is critical - it removes the bitterness from the garlic)
1/4 c. chopped fresh mint or 2 tsp. dried mint (the dried brings a much stronger flavor)
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
juice of 1 lemon
2 TB. good olive oil

Combine and chill! This will last in the refrigerator for 5 days, or so.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stuffed Pork Chops with Steamed Cabbage Wedges

Just another Sunday dinner for two:

For the pork chops:
2 1-1/2" pork chops, marinated in soy sauce and 2 cloves crushed garlic for 20 minutes, then patted dry. Make a pocket in the porkchop, making sure to leave only a 1" opening for stuffing.

For the stuffing:
3 slices bread, cubed
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 TB olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Toss and bake at 400 degrees until golden brown. Let cool, then pour over 3/4 c. boiling chicken broth and cover until the broth is absorbed. Let cool then stir in 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Stuff pork chops and quickly brown each side, then bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Cut 1 head cabbage into wedges and steam until tender. Serve with garlicy lemon butter: 2 cloves crushed garlic, sauteed in 1 TB. olive oil. Add 1/2 stick butter, juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, and 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eating Montréal - Dragon's Beard Candy

At the first of August, I had a buisness trip that took me to Montréal, and though I was in meetings and classes for the majority of the 5-day trip, I did get the opportunity to take a food tour that lead us through the various food districts in the city, including the Greek, Jewish, Chinese, and Italian districts.

A particularly intriguing part of the tour was in teh Chinese district where, in a small booth on the side of the street, a pair of people created this ingenious candy that has a strange texture that turns out tasting a bit like nougat. It's hard to explain, but if you ever have the opportunity you have to try it!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vegetarian Lasagna Rolls

I've been obsessed with cooking lately. A lot of the dishes I'm experimenting with are hit and miss and I'm easily frustrated with a bad result. I am also in the mindset that I want to use up everything I have in the freezer and pantry before making a trip to the store, so I've been coming up with random pairings. This isn't odd or random, but it is without meat, which is a little hard for my carnivorous husband to accept. I think this is probably the first time that he's truly wanted leftovers for dinner instead of something new and fresh...

Vegetarian Lasagna Rolls

12 lasagna noodles, boiled for 9 minutes, drained, set aside.

1 12-oz. can whole tomatoes
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme

Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan and let simmer until the sauce has thickened and the tomatoes have broken down. This will leave you with about 1 cup of sauce. This is an element of the filling, not the tomato sauce for covering.

15 oz. part skim ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine and set aside.

1 TB. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
salt and pepper
10 oz. baby portabello mushrooms, cut into medium sized pieces
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

In a medium frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium and add the onions, salt and pepper. When the onions become translucent, toss in the garlic, mushrooms and thyme. Turn the heat to medium-high; the mushrooms will release a lot of liquid, so let the liquid boil away and then allow them to brown. I like a lot of color on my mushrooms, so I let them brown, then stir, then brown then stir - the process takes about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

12 oz. diced carrots
3 large celery stalks, diced
2 TB. olive oil
salt and pepper

In the same pan (over medium heat) add 2 TB. olive oil, carrots and salt and pepper. In order to expedite the cooking on the carrots, I add 1/2 cup of water and let the carrots boil until the water evaporates - you may need to do this 3-4 times. Add the celery about half-way through. When the carrots and celery are tender and all water has evaporated, the oil left in the pan should be enough to brown the vegetables. Stir in the mushroom mixture and the tomatoes.

Line the filling about 3/4 of the length of each lasagna noodle. Spoon the ricotta mixture over and roll! You should use up all of the filling and half of the ricotta.

1 standard bottle spaghetti sauce
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Spoon a light layer of sauce on the bottom of your pan. Add the lasagna rolls and top each roll with the remaining ricotta. Pour the spaghetti sauce over and top with the cheese. Bake at 400 degrees until hot and bubbly.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Chicken Salad and Tartlets

This has been a lovely Mother's Day! I spent the morning making dessert and chicken salad for our Mother's Day dinner, then spent the afternoon with my mom and my grandma and grandpa and my siblings.

So, for me chicken salad is always a little tricky. I find the chicken is always dry and the flavors are either to mayonnaisey or too salty, overly spiced, oddly flavored (pickle relish, anyone?) or just plain bland. All-in-all, I'm not a big fan. For Mother's Day, we knew we would be eating outside on my grandma's lovely patio, so we decided we'd have picnic-type food and I have been determined to come up with a chicken salad that I love.

Erin's Chicken Salad

5 medium chicken breasts, about 3.5 lbs., poached, cooled and cut into 1/2" cubes

Combine the following ingredients and toss with cooled chicken:
1 c. mayonnaise
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 c. chopped fresh dill
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. minced celery
1/2 c. minced green onions
1 1/4 c. sliced grapes
1/2 c. sliced almonds

To poach the chicken: add 4 whole peeled cloves garlic, 1 TB. black peppercorns, 3 dried bay leaves and 1 TB. salt to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, return to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Let sit, covered for about 20 minutes, then remove from water and set aside to partly cool. This makes for a very tender, juicy chicken that cuts easily into cubes without shredding.

Note to self - leftover chicken salad on a bed of romaine with lemon vinaigrette - this will be delightful!

These pictures aren't great, but that's OK, I'm not really a photographer :D


On to dessert... A while back, I made some tarts that ended up being pretty damned tasty. I was at our local farm stand trying to decide what to make for dessert when I saw these gorgeous strawberries on sale (4 pounds for five dollars) and I decided on cheesecake. When I got home I came to the realization: Hey, dummy! You're lactose intolerant, so quit it with the cheesecake! This is what I ended up with:

Strawberry Cream Cheese Tartlets

The basics from the tart recipe are the same, but this time I added a layer of sweetened cream cheese and used the following ingredients for the coulis:

3 lbs. fresh strawberries
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. orange liquor
zest of 1 lemon
juice and zest of 1 orange
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 of a fresh nutmeg, grated
1 tsp. vanilla extract and juice of 1 lemon added at the end, then add
2 TB. cornstarch, dissolved in 3 TB. water - boil until thickened

Tart shell coated with white chocolate and filled with 1/4 tsp. sweetened cream cheese.

These tarts were definitely the hit of the day..

My mom

My favorite picture of the day - Grandma and Grandpa licking their plates!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

I love chicken pot pie, but baking the dish from scratch after a long day of work isn't really realistic for me. This week, I came home and threw this together from ingredients I already had. I wasn't sure where I was going with it until I realized I had some leftover puff pastry.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
meat from 1 whole roasted chicken
1 large onion, diced
4 large celery stalks, diced
3 c. shredded carrots
3 TB butter
3 TB olive oil
1 TB fresh thyme leaves
2 c. milk
6 chicken boullion cubes, dissolved in 4 c. hot water
4-6 TB Flour
2 bay leaves
2 c. frozen peas
1 sheet puff pastry, cut into sixths and baked until golden (400 degrees, 20 mins)

Saute the vegetables (with the bay leaves, thyme, salt, and the pepper) in the butter and oil until tender. Sprinkle in the flour and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the milk, stirring quickly, then the dissolved boullion water. When this comes to a boil and has thickened, stir in the chicken and the frozen peas. It couldn't hurt to throw in a little more fresh thyme at the end.

Lazy Turnovers

Let me just start out by saying that I never have (and probably never will) attempted to make my own puff pastry. I'm far too lazy for that.

I was at lunch and overheard someone talking about the best pastry they ever had: chocolate hazelnut and cream cheese. The idea stuck.

Puff pastry (from a box), Nutella, cream cheese.

Puff pastry (from a box), Nutella, peanut butter, bananas.

These were definitely different, and the cream cheese version was the favorite. Not bad for 5 minutes prep and 15 minutes bake time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Paula Deen's Fried Egg and Avocado Sandwich

Monday, I had to have a delightful (read the sarcasm) medical procedure, which required no eating for 48-hours before. Luckily, my last meal was an awesome family dinner in celebration of my grandfather's birthday. My contribution was stuffed pork chops, which turned out great! I didn't get to eat the red velvet cake (my favorite) or the Au gratin potatoes, and was starting to feel sorry for myself, but I overcame.

So, I fasted for two days, all the while watching Food Network (I'm a glutton), and though EVERYTHING looked delicious, one recipe stuck out in my mind. Well, two, actually, but this Fried Egg and Avocado Sandwich was killing me. A fried egg, tomato, bacon, avocado, on toasty bread with oniony cream cheese? Count me in. During my procedure I had been anesthetized, and apparently I'm not as susceptible to the sedation, so I was given an extra kick of sedative. I woke up an hour earlier than most people do, so I'm told, and the first thing I said was - I WANT THAT SANDWICH! In my haze, I listed off the ingredients and my lovely husband ran to the store and picked everything up.


I fried the eggs, my husband threw the bacon in the oven and after about 10 minutes we ate the single most delicious sandwiches that I've ever tasted. And then I went to sleep at 5:00 in the afternoon and didn't wake again until 8:00 this morning. I started to think, "OK, that sandwich was only that good because you were so damned hungry." Naturally, I tried the sandwich again the second I woke up and it really is every bit as good as I've already said it is. I added a little more avocado and fried the egg to over-easy - mmm perfection.

Family Macaroni Shrimp Salad

My mom made this a lot when I was growing up, mainly for family parties and holidays. This is my version, made to go along with Easter dinner.

Macaroni Shrimp Salad

1 lb. salad macaroni (ditalini), boiled with 3 TB. Salt, drained
1 bunch green onions, quartered and sliced very thin (my mom hates the texture of onions)
1 6 oz. can black pearl olives, sliced
5-6 large eggs, boiled for ten minutes, chopped
1 medium cucumber, seeds removed, small chop
2 cans mini shrimp, drained

Toss all ingredients, then fold in:


1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 TB. milk
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice


Saturday, April 04, 2009

Berries with Lemon Cream

Continuing on with my lemon obsession, this is something I made last Friday for dinner with friends:

The topping is a mixture of 1 cup of cream, whipped with 2 tablespoons of honey, 4 oz. cream cheese, 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste and one tablespoon lemon extract.

The berries are: 2 packages frozen mixed berries, cooked over medium heat with 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 c. coconut rum and 2 tablespoons orange liquer until a bit of liquid leeches out, but not all the way warmed through. Refrigerate for 2 hours, then add 1 pint sliced fresh strawberries and 1 cup fresh blueberries.

I made a dieters version of this a week prior, using a small amount of cream, nonfat milk, honey, plain gelatin, lemon and vanilla flavorings. I used splenda in the berries and omitted the alcohol... the full fat version was obviously much better.

Fingerling Potato Salad

While I'm not very motivated to blog, I do find myself thinking, "I should blog this!" every so often. This dish is something I threw together in a hunger frenzy and it is now in my top 3 potato salads...

I didn't do any measuring here, but the gist of this is: combine the juice of 1 large lemon, 1/3 olive oil, salt and pepper. Boil mixed fingerling potatoes, drain, slice in half and while still hot, toss in the dressing. Add halved grape tomatoes and crumble in some feta cheese. It's not exactly pretty, but it IS delicious!