Monday, April 28, 2008

KitchenAid giveaway! Enter NOW!

*EDITED TO ADD: this contest ends at 8:00 pm. Pacific time.*

The Pioneer Woman is hosting a giveaway of a real, new KitchenAid mixer at her site, and all you have to do is submit a favorite recipe in a comment to enter. Here's the link, but don't wait--these contests are usually only a few hours long! I believe she's going to announce the winner tomorrow.

Enter here

Even if you get there after the contest is over, take a peek at the comments--hundreds and hundreds of peoples' best recipes, ripe for the picking. And while you're there, check out her recipes, too. I haven't made many of them, but the ones I have made have turned out really well!

French Dip Sandwiches

This recipe comes from Ellen, and it's easy and good! First, I'll post her recipe verbatim, and then I'll add what we did to them the night we enjoyed them.

So, for the most important part, Ellen's recipe:

French Dip Sandwiches

chuck tender roast
can of coke
can of french onion soup
beef broth

in crock pot all day
serve on french bread - dip in juice - delish!

See? Yummy. Except that I didn't have a can of Coke or a can of french onion soup. So I just used an envelope of onion soup mix mixed with a cup of water, and a cup or so of beef broth, and poured that over my chuck roast, and it was still good. I do think the Coke would give a really nice depth to the jus, but on this particular day, I wasn't up for a trip to the store for a can of Coke.

It's important that you use a chuck roast here, because a) the shreds will be just the right size, and b) it's a relatively cheap cut of beef that, because of its fat and marbling and connective tissue (that sounds gross) cooks up best over a log period of time, in liquid, on a low heat, a la a crock pot.

As for the sandwich assembly, the only thing I did differently was to open my buns, top them with some provolone cheese, and toast them under the broiler for a minute or two so the cheese would form a protective layer between the meat and the bread. That way, when you dip it in the jus, it doesn't fall apart. Admittedly, I mostly did this because I'm a tad bit OCD and always feel compelled to toast the bread I use for warm sandwiches. ALSO, I didn't have the more sturdy French bread that Ellen's recipe called for, which would obviously stand up wonderfully to the jus. But again, I wasn't up for a trip to the store to get some, so we made do with what we had. So if you're not up for it or think I'm being silly about the whole thing, or if you have French bread for these babies like you're supposed to, don't do the whole toasting thing. Or do. It's your choice. Either way, it will still be REALLY, REALLY good!

Thanks, Ellen!

Scalloped Potatoes

My sister-in-law called me one day, asking for my scalloped potato recipe.

"I don't really have one," I replied.

"What? But you make them all the time!" she said.

"Yes, but hardly ever with a recipe, and never the same way twice. I've just never hit upon the recipe that I like best, so I just continue the hunt every time I make them."

"Oh. Well. Never mind, then, I guess."

As I'm sure you've noticed if you've flipped through this blog at all, I have a love affair with potatoes. I will eat them in a house, and I will eat them with a mouse, I will eat them here or there, yes, I will eat them anywhere. And over the years, I've been fortunate enough to find or concoct recipes for potatoes that I've really loved in every category of preparation.

Except scalloped.

I first had scalloped potatoes as a child, when my family was dining with some friends. They were a potato lover's dream: wonderful flavor, simple, tender... I longed for those potatoes in my adult years, and thinking back to that first dish and how it must have been prepared, I reckon it involved potatoes, milk, flour, butter, and salt and pepper, and that's it. I must have tried every possible combination of those ingredients, but I never made scalloped potatoes that comforted me as much as those first scalloped potatoes. In fact, my sauce either turned out too thick and gloppy, or a more simple pour-the-milk-over preparation favored by many old-fashioned cookbooks yielded a curdled, tasteless mess.

But there's this marvelous magazine called Cooks Illustrated. The idea behind this particular publication is that they test and dissect recipes until they are perfect and foolproof, and they're very often successful. So when I had reached an impasse in my scalloped potato recipe search, I remembered them. They have one of those websites that you have to pay a monthly fee to use, and I wasn't quite desperate enough to pay for the recipe--yet. Frequently, bloggers and other miscellaneous recipe-posters will post notable Cooks Illustrated recipes on other sites, so I went a-Googlin' in hopes of finding it for free, and lo and behold, up popped this recipe.

So I tried it, and I loved it. It is now my scalloped potato recipe, so if Beth ever calls again looking for one, I will give this to her. Actually, come to think about it, I think I already gave it to her, knowing that she'd love it as much as we do. It's a little more detailed of an ingredient list than the flour-butter-milk-salt and pepper recipes I'd been using, but it still wasn't difficult, I usually have everything on the list on hand, and it actually comes together much more quickly than standard scalloped potato recipes, and with infinitely better flavor and texture. If you love potatoes like I do, or even just kind of like them, give this one a try!

Cooks Illustrated Scalloped Potatoes with Thyme and Bay

2 Tbsp. butter
1 med. onion, minced
2 med. garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, minced (or 1 tsp. dried thyme--that's what I use)
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. (about 5 medium) russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 in. thick (*note: I don't peel, I just scrub. I like the skins and the flavor and nutrients they add. And to slice, I just run the spuds through the food processor with the slicing blade)
1 c. chicken broth
1 c. heavy cream (or, if you're like me, you use 2% milk, because that's what you have)
2 bay leaves
4 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup loosely-packed shredded cheese)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Melt the butter, and sauté the onion over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook for about 30 seconds or so. Add the potatoes, broth, cream (or milk), and bay leaves, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and discard.

Transfer the mixture to a 8x8 baking dish (or whatever casserole dish you'd like). Sprinkle the top with the cheese and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Cool for about 10 minutes before serving (or not, if you're impatient like me).

NOW, if you want to turn this into a main dish casserole, prepare as directed, except that, before you dump the potato mixture into the baking dish, add some cubed ham or chicken. I'd say about 1 1/2 cups should do it, but it's ultimately up to you. And if you really want to go crazy and make it a one-dish meal, you could add some thawed (but not cooked) frozen peas, too, about 3/4 to 1 cup.

Menu Plan Monday

Hey, look! It's Monday! And I'm actually posting a menu plan, instead of waiting until Tuesday or begging your forgiveness for not posting one at all. To be fair, it is a short cooking week, so that makes it fairly easy. But still.

Spaghetti w/Meat sauce
Garlic Bread

Maple-Sesame Bacon Fried Rice (w/lots of peas to count as our vegetable)

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli

Chicken and Bacon Corn Chowder (or leftovers, if we have tons)

Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Visiting Grandpa and Grandma in Ohio--nothing for me to plan!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Menu Plans Past and Present

Well! Are you ready? The winner of last week's Menu Plan Suggestion Showdown was...

Ellen! Her suggestion for French Dip sandwiches went over very well. She even sent me the recipe, and it was really easy and really good! With her permission, I will post it soon.

And by the by, reading over your suggestions made me drool! Especially my mom's plan--I think I want to go live with her again. The cook at my house is too predictable and boring.

So here's last week's plan, followed by this week's. Thanks for playing along!

Tomato Soup
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Fried potatoes
Scrambled eggs and cheese

French Dip sandwiches

Oven Fries
Roasted Corn on the Cob

Fried Chicken (remind me to post about this sometime--it was really good. Thanks, Paula Deen)
Cheesy potato casserole
Asian Broccoli Slaw


Burgers (again--but yummmm) at one of our favorite local restaurants. They're running a special for April--every burger, topped with whatever you want (I got cheddar, bacon, sauteed peppers, sauteed onions, and grilled tomatoes. Abe got pepper jack, bleu cheese, olives, and bacon--weirdo.) is $5.99. And kids eat free! It doesn't get much better than that.

This week:
Honey and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
Rice Pilaf with peas

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

Pork Tenderloin with fruity glaze

Cuban Sandwiches
Yellow Rice
Black Beans


Ballpark food when we go watch the Detroit Tigers play the Angels. Bring on the brats and nachos!

Probably Subway

Monday, April 14, 2008

Menu Plan...Blah, blah, blah...

Okay. I have far too many part-time, on-the-side projects going on right now, and no time to do them in. My deadlines have passed, and I'm overwhelmed. And the last thing my mind wants to do is create a menu plan for this week--I'd really rather the Dinner Fairy showed up at my house every night with something delicious to eat. Since I haven't heard from her in years, I'll settle for some suggestions: what are YOU having for dinner this week? If you have a whole plan, super! I'd love to see it in a comment. Even if you don't have a whole plan, one or two things that you plan to eat this week might make for a helpful suggestion for me and mine.

Next week, I'll post what we ended up eating this week, accompanied by whose suggestion the various meals were. And for the person who suggests the meal my family ends up loving the most, I've got a special prize!

So please plan my week for me!!!! Hope to see some comments soon.

(No, seriously, I need your help....soon.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chicken Verde

Okay, I'm not going to re-type this recipe--I'm just going to give you the link to its blog of origin. Again. I linked to this recipe in my weekly menu plan this week, and we ate it tonight. Sweet fancy Moses, it was good. I mean, really, really good. The only change I made to Canarygirl's recipe was to sub a 16-oz. jar of medium-heat salsa verde for the tomatillo sauce--though, for all I know, they may very well be the same thing. And in the burritos, we used black beans instead of refried. And instead of a whole chicken, I just used a bunch of thighs and legs--dark meat is cheaper and more moist, and turns out so much better after long periods of cooking, as in this recipe. And, oh. Cilantro. We love cilantro, so I put lots of fresh cilantro on mine, and hummina hummina hummina.

So, just to reiterate, WOW. This was good. I will make it again. And again, and again, and again...

Chicken Verde. Seriously.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Here's what's going on this week! Yahoo for warmer weather!

Beef Noodle Bowl

Texas Toast Garlic Bread Pizzas

Roast Beef
Mashed Potatoes
Glazed Carrots

Chicken Verde
Cilantro Lime Rice
Black Beans

Hot Sauce

Girls' Night--Daddy cooks (!!!) or scrounges for leftovers

Girls' Day--Daddy wishes wife wasn't gone, takes kids to McDonald's