Weekend report

Tried the genius salad idea from DALS featured in last week’s “Links delicious.” HUGE hit with the fam! The kids loved it and requested that every salad be served that way forevermore.

In the spirit of the genius salad, once the lettuce and {garden} cucumbers were gone, all that remained in the bowls was feta, a little bacon, some sliced pear tomatoes {also from the garden}, chives {garden again}, and a few sunflower seeds. Across the table sat the rest of the steam-sautéed green beans {not from the garden, dammit.  why won’t those plants produce??}. I married the two bowls and tossed the veggies in a little blush wine vinaigrette {Brianna’s — my new all-purpose favorite}. Oh my, what a happy accident!!

As much as I wanted to make peach crisp at some point over the weekend, it just didn’t happen. But still, for two nights in a row, at 9:30 p.m. I craved dessert.

In the form of dark chocolate to be precise.

To be even more precise, I craved dark chocolate chips.

Nestled in a pillow of cookie dough.

Aha, perfect occasion for the recipe developed expressly for eating in short order, no equipment–of the mixing or baking variety–required. I think of this as more a formula than a recipe, largely because it would take me longer to locate the original recipe than to just wing it. Hence, the proportions are flexible and adaptable.
Using a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe {or this one, if you wish} as a guide, mix together corresponding proportions of butter and sugar. Add flour, maybe a pinch of salt, and a scoush of vanilla extract. If the mixture is too stiff, add a few drops {yes, drops — don’t overdo it} of water. Lastly, add the chocolate of your choice — here I suggest you round up in the proportion of chips or chunks. After all, that’s the point of this whole exercise isn’t it??

Here’s what I did tonight:

1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. or so of applesauce {my grand attempt to make the notion of eating cookie dough a nearly healthy option ;)}
1.5 tsp. each brown sugar & white sugar
Teensy bit of vanilla
about 2 Tbsp. flour
Chocolate chips

Freeze for the time it takes to draft a blog post. Be sure to retrieve it before your husband does.

One last note: this is best made after the kids have gone to bed so you can savor it rather than scarfing it down so you don’t have to share. 😉


Favorite things

Trader Joe’s cannoli. In the freezer section. For dessert in a pinch, it’s dang tasty.


This galette from Dinner: A Love Story. I made it this weekend using a mix of cherries and blueberries and a pie crust I found in the freezer. It was dessert in a pinch {again}, and it was FAN-tastic. The homey deliciousness of a pie, with a fraction of the effort. Can’t wait to make one again!


Dinner on the fly. Saturday night, we put together a fantastic meal with minimal effort (thank you, summer!). Steak and corn on the grill. Salad with strawberries and walnuts. Sesame semolina bread from Panera. And thanks to my brother’s generosity, a 2007 Paso Creek Cab.


Sweet corn. One of the best things about summer in Iowa.


A surprise under the lid, or Why you should go toast yourself some coconut

Last night’s dinner was one of those meals that starts with a vague idea

Tacos, with grilled chicken

and ends with something that was more fun to make and tasted better than I could ever have conceivably planned for.

5:45 p.m. 

The Husband, “I’ll throw the corn on the grill.  Anything else?”

Me:  “Uh, yeah…” (…brain scrambling because I really haven’t thought beyond the general idea “chicken. tacos.”…) “Come back in a few for the chicken.”

5:47 p.m.

Chicken’s thawed and waiting on the cutting board.  I stare in the spice cupboard, willing some inspiration to jump off the shelves.  It does, in the form of cumin, seasoning salt, pepper, and chili powder.  Season the meat, drizzle with olive oil.  Done.

5:52 p.m.

Open the fridge in search of salsa components to go with the orange cherry tomatoes on the counter.  Locate: half a garden onion, a lime, half an avocado, some black beans, cilantro.  Oh! and look, there’s some cabbage.  Hmm…crunchy… Toss everything on the counter.

5:55 p.m.

The Husband comes through the door bearing a monster of a cucumber, fresh off the vine.  M’kay, kids will eat that.  Peel (and briefly consider seeding before remembering that they don’t mind seeds), slice, toss with Cucumber Ranch and a little salt.

5:58 p.m.

Quarter tomatoes, chop onion , toss in a bowl with black beans, salt, lime.  Add avocado, cilantro, more lime, more salt.  All the while I’m thinking about that cabbage. Hey, people eat cabbage on fish tacos, why not make a quick slaw for chicken tacos?

6:04 p.m.

Slice cabbage.  Toss with salt, lime juice, a (very) little vegetable oil, top with a sprinkling of cilantro.  All the while I’m thinking about the cumin-lime crema at Dos Rios.  How do they do that?!  What’s in that tasty little sauce?

6:10 p.m.

I honestly have no idea what makes a crema.  So I’ll make something up:  plain yogurt, cumin, lime juice, a little salt.  Taste, add, taste.  Add cilantro (to make it pretty, of course!).

6:10 and a half p.m.

What’s this under the yogurt lid?  A recipe for lemon parfaits?  Scanning it — I have all of those ingredients…mmm…mental note: don’t throw the lid away!

6:30 p.m.

After repeated requests to “please wash your hands and come to the table!” and remembering “oh YEAH! tacos require shells, d’oh!” and “please carry this to the table” and “please get the glasses.  and silverware.”  and “did you wash your hands?!” we are finally ready to eat.

Damn, that was good.  The birdgirl declared the crema/yogurt sauce “Delicious! Can we have this every time we have tacos??”  The Boy said with a full mouth and vigorous nod, “This chicken is really, really good!”  The Grill Master, too, offered his compliments.

A discussion about black beans may have ensued, with birdgirl insisting that she did NOT like them. 

Me: You’ve never had them, silly.

BG: Yes, I have.

Me: No.  You have not. [At least not that you’re aware of, because every other time I’ve served them, I’ve disguised them, a la Meri’s secret, yummy taco filling, or in chili that you won’t touch with a ten-foot pole.]

BG: Well, I’ve had brown beans and I don’t like them.

Me (yes, the adult): Black beans are better.

BG: I don’t like brown beans.

Me: But these are BLACK beans.  And they’re much better than brown beans.

BG: But I don’t like them.

Me: They have lime juice and salt on them. And they’re really, really good.

Finally, she tastes one.  Well, more like, she licked one. 

BG: Hmph.  I don’t like it.

Me: You didn’t. even. taste it. It’s tiny. Now put the whole thing in your mouth.

Finally!  Bean, chew, swallow.  Wait for it…

BG: M’kay.  Can I have another one?

And seven minutes later, “can I have more black beans, please?”


Now, about that mental note.  “Luscious Lemon Parfaits,” said the recipe.  But I twisted it just a bit to continue the “lime” theme.  Same diff, eh?

Oh. These were so, so delicious.  The toasted coconut totally made this a showstopper.  Even the kids loved it.

Luscious Lemon Lime Parfaits

from the foil lid of a quart of Danon plain lowfat yogurt

Layer the following in a parfait glass:

1/3 c. plain yogurt

couple teaspoons lemon lime curd

2 T. crushed graham crackers

2 T. toasted coconut

Repeat layers a second time.  Top with whipped topping if desired.  I abhor whipped topping and therefore did not desire it.  Totally didn’t need it.

p.s.  You’re welcome. 🙂

How have I lived?

So.  The Husband is away this weekend, and the little birds are still at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  As my coworkers and I discussed our respective plans for dinner last night, someone asked if I’d splurge since I was alone and maybe eat ice cream for dinner. 

For a second, I reconsidered my plans.

But then I remembered that having the house to myself means I can make whatever *I* want without having to please anyone else’s palate.  Which also means I can have goat cheese at every meal.  (How have I lived most of my life without the wonder of goat cheese?! I’m making up for lost time this summer.)

And so I did.

Dinner last night was a twist on mac ‘n cheese, inspired by IGE.  I adjusted the recipe a little, subbed green beans for some of the broccoli and steam-sauteed the veggies before making the sauce.  No pictures, but trust me, the goat cheese made the sauce so creamy and fantastic.  Next time, I’ll add some herbs.  Didn’t do it this time since I made dinner after dark and was feeling too chicken to trek out into the backyard at that hour!

Behold:  Breakfast.

Soft scrambled eggs with a bit of whole grain mustard, goat cheese and chives.  I love Deb’s how-to for scrambled eggs.  No one else in my house appreciates eggs this soft and tender.  These were all mine.  So, so good.

Okay, for lunch I skipped the goat cheese, and had black bean tostadas with some avocado salsa instead.  Another something that the usual inhabitants of this house would frown upon.  Again, so, so, good.  The salsa was so fresh — tomatoes from the market and a handful of quartered orange cherry tomatoes from the backyard, a quarter of a red bell pepper, onion from the garden, cilantro, salt, lime, and diced avocado.  Y.U.M.

And, lastly, dinner.  I painted all day and didn’t stop for dinner until almost 10 p.m.  Looking for quick & easy, I opened the freezer and found Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. 

Now, typically I’d frown on ice cream for dinner.  But this?  This was Cherry Garcia Froyo.   That’s right, frozen yogurt.  Totally makes it okay.

But I was still hungry for something savory.  So I cooked up some hashbrowns with S&P, herbs d’provence, and browned goat cheese.  Hit the spot!

Working on something interesting for breakfast tomorrow.  “Breakfast cookie” anyone??

Tonight’s lessons

1.  Easy with the mustard, Lassie

2.  Turns out you can roast frozen green beans!  Who knew?!

Re: #2:  I saw this recipe for roasted green beans and wanted them, like, right then.  But then the day happened, what, with its weather and all and it got all freezy and blizzardy and there was no way in h. e. double-hockey-sticks that I was going to the grocery store on a night like this.  Even if I were wearing more than sheers on my legs (yeah, who decides to wear a dress in 30 mph winds?! that would be yours truly.).  A person wants to be nowhere other than home when the wind and snow are blowing and howling like a pissed off bear.  Anyway, the point?  I wasn’t going to seek out fresh green beans, but I did have a bag of frozen beans.  The recipe says “or frozen,” so I decided to give it a go. 

Eh, they’re not exactly pretty but the flavor’s good.  And they’re a far cry better than the water-logged taste of most frozen veggies.

Now, about the mustard.  I love Dijon mustard.  Love, love it. 

But I put too much in my cheese sauce.   Damn!

I usually put ground mustard into my sauce for homemade mac ‘n cheese, so I figured I could sub some Dijon along with a few other tweaks (bit of herbs de provence, nutmeg).  Tasted the sauce and it was crazy overboard on the mus.  So I added a little sugar, plus it needed some salt.  We’ll see if it’s salvageable.  Stay tuned….


Yay!  File this under “Happy Accidents,” folks, ‘cuz this was fantastic!!  The flavors mellowed and melded just right in the oven and this was the best mac ‘n cheese I’d made in a looooong time.  My Hubs thought it was the cheese that was different and perfect and inquired after just what I’d done differently.  The kids even ate it (but only after expressing severe disappointment upon seeing baked mac instead of their favorite box of Annie’s on the counter)!  The Pink One even declared, “Mommy, you make the BEST mac ‘n cheese!” 

The green beans met some initial skepticism but the flavor won us all over.  We’d always prefer fresh, but these were great in a pinch.  I’d definitely make them again…you know, if we were homebound with nary a fresh green bean in sight.  In this winter, that’s an all-too-common prospect.

The cheesy pasta was just rich enough to warrant a glass of wine, so the sommelier selected a Malbec.  Good ’nuff.

And, after a dinner like that, who needs dessert?!

Potato soup, sans potatoes

Well, not really “sans.” But there certainly were not enough potatoes to warrant it being called “Potato” Soup. 

I’d dreamt of it all day:  rich and creamy mashed Yukons, half and half, warm, mmmm.  I was even going to break out The Bacon.  And I still had leftover ham from Christmas.  In efforts to be as bold in the kitchen as my brother, I was even planning to puree that ham!  It all came together in my head–I could practically taste that cream, salty, smoky bowl of heavenly potato soup….

And then.  Then I get home, start pulling stuff out of the fridge and cupboards, open the cupboard to grab the potatoes and am hit with a sense of dread.  Oh, no I didn’t, did I?  Did I really use all of the potatoes last time I reached into this cupboard??  Please, no, tell me my memory is failing me!…

Sho ’nuff.  All I find are two rinky dink Yukon golds.  Two.  Even Jesus may have had trouble making those two potatoes serve my small crowd.

Alright, time to improvise.  I have a large stalk of broccoli, about 7 pounds of carrots, and cheese.  Got it!  California medley-ish soup with the pureed potato/bacon/broth concoction as the thickener.  And cheese.  Ready, set, go.

Cooked The Bacon in a bit of oil.  (Why?!  I dunno…)  Removed the slices, then sauteed some onion, celery, garlic.  Added potatoes, tossed ’em around.  Added stock, boiled till taters were tender.  Removed that lovely concoction and let it cool a bit.

Added more stock to the pan, along with some sliced carrots.  Boiled a bit, then added the chopped broccoli (wished later that I’d chopped it smaller–now I know). 

Pureed the potato concoction, along some ham.

Stirred the veggies and stock.  Panicked a bit when I realized and yelped, “I forgot to add The Bacon!”  Husband graciously volunteered to run the boat motor and puree The Bacon into the Potato Stuff.

Stirred the Stuff into the veggies.  Wasn’t the consistency I was aiming for so added a little slurry.  Meh, close but not there.  But didn’t care so much because by now we were all starving.  Added some shredded cheddar and a bit of parsley.

O.M.G.  Veggies–they were the centerpiece and made it seem so much more wholesome and not totally a dinner indulgence.  Creamy–even the two rinky dink potatoes made their special contribution. Smoky– The Bacon added an irreplaceable dimension. 

I would totally make this again.

You know, if it were possible to recreate something you totally made up on the fly and have it taste the same a second time around.