Category: Eating in

Two nights in a row now I’ve spent a lit­tle extra time on sup­per and been real­ly pleased with the results. In both cas­es, the extra time meant a lit­tle more thought going into plan­ning what I was going to do with the food than usu­al more than any­thing else, but that’s often the case with a good meal.

Last night, I made smoth­ered pork chops with au gratin pota­toes and green beans. The extra plan­ning required came from the fact that I was using a tech­nique and a recipe that I had not used before to make the chops. One inch thick pork chops would usu­al­ly go on a grill, not into a hot pan with some salt and pep­per to be browned light­ly until a mush­room, onion, and gar­lic gravy gets dumped over them to sim­mer for a while. They turned out a lit­tle more done than they would have if I had grilled them (Medi­um Well instead of Medi­um), but the gravy was real­ly nice with them.

Tonight, I made whole wheat penne with ital­ian sausage and mush­rooms in toma­to sauce. I nor­mal­ly don’t use whole wheat pas­ta, but we’re try­ing to eat a lit­tle health­i­er, so I thought we would give it a try. I do know that whole wheat pas­ta doesn’t get as fla­vor­ful as eas­i­ly as semoli­na pas­ta does, so I put a lit­tle more salt in my water than I nor­mal­ly do and took the pas­ta out of the water soon­er to put into the sauce. I fig­ured, the soon­er I could get the pas­ta into the sauce, the more fla­vor the pas­ta would absorb. I’m glad that I didn’t wait any longer than I did, because even with almost 10 min­utes of swim­ming in the toma­to sauce, the pas­ta just bare­ly had fla­vor. I’m gonna miss semoli­na.

That is some­thing. I’m hav­ing trou­ble find­ing semoli­na flour in my area. I’m not sure whether I should be going to a spe­cial­ty mar­ket for this or what, but I’m not find­ing it at any of my local super­mar­kets. I’m won­der­ing if any­one else is hav­ing trou­ble find­ing cer­tain sta­ple goods like this one.

As promised, I have made the Choco­late-Peanut Cous­cous again, refin­ing the recipe, and I believe that it is ready to be shared with the world. Or at least the lit­tle slice of the world that reads this thing. I even have a new pic­ture!

As you can see, I have added whipped cream on top. Com­plete­ly option­al of course, but I think it’s fun. It’s actu­al­ly quite easy to make this dish.

To make 4 serv­ings, I start by putting 3/4 cup of water and 3/4 cup of half and half in a small saucepan. I add 1/2 cup of sug­ar, 1 table­spoon of cocoa pow­der, 1/2 tea­spoon of pure vanil­la extract, 1 tea­spoon of peanut but­ter, 1 tea­spoon of but­ter, and a pinch of salt. This may not seem like much peanut but­ter, and you can add more if you real­ly want, but it real­ly isn’t nec­es­sary. Bring the liq­uid just to a boil. The cream in the half and half will keep it from scald­ing eas­i­ly, but you don’t want it to get to a heavy boil. When you are just start­ing to see the liq­uid bub­ble, add 3/4 cup of cous­cous. Stir it, remove it from the heat, cov­er it, and let it sit for 7 to 10 min­utes to let the cous­cous absorb the liq­uid.

When all of the liq­uid is absorbed, stir in 1/4 cup rough­ly chopped dry roast­ed peanuts. The cous­cous should be very moist and sticky. If you want to add more peanuts, feel free! They add a bit of fla­vor and a crunchy tex­ture to a soft, pud­ding-like dessert. Por­tion it into your serv­ing dish­es and either top it with whipped cream, driz­zle it with choco­late syrup, or both.

I found that while this can be served hot or cold, whipped cream worked a lit­tle bet­ter with it when it was cold. When it was hot, the cream just sort of un-whipped itself and became cream again. In any case, it was sweet and nut­ty and choco­late-y and made a good dessert.

If any­one has any ideas for how to improve it or any com­ments about it as it is, let me know and I’ll try it out. Enjoy!

I tried some­thing new tonight. I once tried to make a choco­late risot­to and it didn’t work out that well for me. It could be that I was not using the cor­rect rice, or my tech­nique might have been off. At any rate, the entire thing was an abyssmal fail­ure.

Tonight, I want­ed to try some­thing sim­i­lar to that, but a lit­tle more fool­proof. Enter Choco­late-Peanut Cous cous. It turned out much bet­ter than the choco­late risot­to deba­cle. It was quite edi­ble. Not HIGH praise, but I now know that I didn’t put enough sug­ar in it. I will post a pho­to, but I will forego post­ing the recipe until I have it per­fect­ed.

I made dessert for our gam­ing group tonight. As I’ve said before, I am not very adept at mak­ing pas­tries. So instead of mak­ing any­thing that would involve any kind of pas­try, like a pie or cake or any­thing of that nature, I opt­ed for berries and cream. Mak­ing a Mixed Berry Sal­ad with Whipped Cream was quick, easy, and was a very eco­nom­ic dessert for 7 peo­ple.

I took 2 quarts of straw­ber­ries, quar­tered, 1 pint of black­ber­ries, 1 pint of rasp­ber­ries, and 1 pound of halved, pit­ted cher­ries and com­bined them togeth­er with the juice and zest from one lemon, 1 table­spoon of water, 1/4 cup of sug­ar, 1 table­spoon of hon­ey, 1/2 tea­spoon of cin­na­mon, and 1/4 tea­spoon of salt. I let the mix­ture sit cov­ered in the refrig­er­a­tor overnight to let berries release some of their juices.

Right before I served the berries, I took a bowl of ice and put a sec­ond bowl on top of it. In the sec­ond bowl, I put 1 pint of heavy cream, 1 tea­spoon of pure vanil­la extract, and 1/2 cup of pow­dered sug­ar and whipped them togeth­er. I used my immer­sion blender, which has a wire whisk attach­ment, but I’ve used beat­ers or even just a hand­held wire whisk before. It just takes longer to do it by hand.

The berries are very sweet and I end­ed up not being able to eat as many of them as I want­ed to. Every­one else seemed to go nuts for them. I was debat­ing whether to use 1 quart of straw­ber­ries or 2, and it’s a good thing I used 2 or there wouldn’t have been enough for 7 peo­ple.

Cher­ries have been real­ly rea­son­ably priced this year, so buy­ing some fresh cher­ries every now and then is def­i­nite­ly in the bud­get. Of course, fig­ur­ing out what to do with cher­ries when I am real­ly not that good with pas­try, oth­er than just eat­ing them, isn’t always easy. Just eat­ing them can be fun, but there’s more that can be done with cher­ries than sim­ply eat­ing them raw.

This morn­ing, I made Choco­late Cher­ry Turnover Puffs for break­fast. I stemmed and pit­ted the cher­ries a cou­ple of days ago and let them sit in a cou­ple of table­spoons of sug­ar and a lit­tle lemon juice. Then yes­ter­day, I added a tea­spoon of cocoa pow­der and stirred it up.

This morn­ing, I cooked the liq­uid off the cher­ries and added about a tea­spoon of choco­late syrup. I then took some store bought puff pas­try in a can, oth­er­wise known as cres­cent rolls, and placed a table­spoon or so of the pre­pared cher­ries in the mid­dle of the dough, bring­ing the ends up to the cen­ter and clos­ing it up. I then brushed the top with melt­ed but­ter and cooked the puffs accord­ing to the pack­age direc­tions on a Sil-pat lined cook­ie sheet.

When I brought the puffs out of the oven, I quick­ly brushed the puffs with a lit­tle more but­ter and dust­ed them with a lit­tle sug­ar. They have a sweet cher­ry fla­vor with a hint of choco­late rich­ness. The choco­late fla­vor is real­ly under­stat­ed, and I could enhance it by driz­zling choco­late syrup on top instead of sug­ar, but I like that the choco­late is just a sea­son­ing and not a pow­er­ful fla­vor­ing.

For sup­per tonight, I would have loved to have tak­en pho­tos, but alas I didn’t. I ate it too fast. It smelled too good and tast­ed too good for me to take the time to grab my cam­era.

I made Poached Tilapia with Creamy Toma­to Orzo Risot­to. I poached the fish in the cream and toma­to sauce that even­tu­al­ly got mixed with the orzo to become the risot­to, and the tilapia was so juicy and ten­der that it prac­ti­cal­ly melt­ed on my tongue. It was still firm enough though that it didn’t fall apart between the pan and the plate. I’m def­i­nite­ly going to make this again because we both enjoyed it.

There are times when I go into the kitchen to make one thing, but I don’t have what I need to make it. Or my oven is bro­ken down. Or any of a hun­dred oth­er dif­fer­ent things have hap­pened to keep me from mak­ing what­ev­er it is I’m want­i­ng to make. When that hap­pens, I cheat!

Sev­er­al months ago, I want­ed to make meat­loaf, but our oven was down for the count. It was expe­ri­enc­ing death by sty­ro­foam and seri­ous­ly could not be used safe­ly until it was cleaned, a task I didn’t have the time or ener­gy for before mak­ing sup­per that evening. I had, of course, not thought about this before mix­ing the meat, eggs, sea­son­ings and such togeth­er for mak­ing the meat­loaf how­ev­er. I had already tak­en to mak­ing sev­er­al small loaves instead of one large loaf because they cook faster and are eas­i­er to serve. I decid­ed to take it a step fur­ther and try some­thing new by sear­ing the mini meat­loaves in a skil­let on the stove, then sim­mer­ing them in a sauce to allow them to cook through. I made the sauce by mix­ing toma­to juice and beef broth and the process worked amaz­ing­ly well. Not only did the meat­loaves cook more quick­ly and more even­ly than in the oven, they were incred­i­bly moist due to the very wet con­di­tions they cooked in.

Last week, I found anoth­er easy cheat. I’m fair­ly cer­tain the mak­ers of Pro­gres­so Soup weren’t expect­ing peo­ple to turn their prod­uct into gravy, but the French Onion vari­ety can be reduced down to what is actu­al­ly a rather tasty onion gravy. I put the soup into a medi­um saucepan on medi­um heat and let it sim­mer for 20 to 30 min­utes until it is reduced by 3/4. Since the soup is most­ly beef broth, the gravy it makes ends up being nice and rich and goes well with any num­ber of veg­eta­bles and meats.

So today I sim­mered some green beans in the soup until it reduced to sauce, made the mini meat­loaves, and served them togeth­er with some Gar­lic Parme­san Cous­cous.

The entire meal, start to fin­ish, took less than an hour to make, includ­ing prep time. Most of the cook­ing time is sim­ply wait­ing for sauces to reduce.

Drunken dessert

Din­ner tonight was fun, but I enjoyed dessert much more. I made Drunk­en Straw­ber­ries and Cream. This is actu­al­ly very easy to make and tastes won­der­ful! First, I quar­tered a pound of fresh straw­ber­ries and put them in a bowl with about a 3/4 cup of shi­raz, a tea­spoon of hon­ey, a tea­spoon of sug­ar, and a pinch of cin­na­mon. I cov­ered the bowl and put it in the refrig­er­a­tor for a cou­ple of hours. (I used shi­raz because I real­ly like shi­raz, but any sweet or semi-sweet red wine like sher­ry or port will work.)

When you are ready to serve, whip a half cup of heavy cream, two table­spoons of pow­dered sug­ar, and two table­spoons of the wine from the straw­ber­ries until the cream is firm. Remove the berries from the wine with a slot­ted spoon and top them with the whipped cream in serv­ing bowls. Serve the wine in glass­es on the side as a quick cor­dial.

This doesn’t take long to make, and it’s sweet with just a hint of a spicy note from the cin­na­mon. The wine is a great way to relax after the meal and unwind at the end of the day. Giv­en the week we’ve had, it was a wel­come refresh­ment.


Last night, I end­ed up eat­ing veg­e­tar­i­an, which is unusu­al for me, but there are some dish­es that are fill­ing enough and good enough to give up meat for, at least for a meal or two. One of my favorite dish­es is Rata­touille. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, while I had sum­mer squash and zuc­chi­ni on hand last night, I didn’t have any egg­plant. An easy sub­sti­tu­tion and I had a dish that was just as won­der­ful.

Orig­i­nal­ly, I had planned on hav­ing a ham­burg­er because I made Crispy Lemon Gar­lic Chick­en Strips for James. I made the rata­touille to be a side dish, but it smelled so good, and I always enjoy it so much, that I decid­ed to for­go the ham­burg­er and just nosh on veg­gies.

Since I didn’t have egg­plant, I sub­sti­tut­ed cau­li­flower, added a clove of minced gar­lic and a half cup of quar­tered kala­ma­ta olives. While the fla­vor wasn’t exact­ly the same as tra­di­tion­al rata­touille, it was sur­pris­ing­ly close! As always, it was a very eco­nom­i­cal dish. In spite of the fact that I only used two small zuc­chi­nis, two small squash­es and twelve ounces of cau­li­flower, there was enough for six to eight serv­ings.

The chick­en I made James was very easy to pre­pare. I took two chick­en breasts and pound­ed them flat with a mal­let. Then I tore the meat into strips. I then mar­i­nat­ed the meat in a mix­ture of lemon juice and Gar­lic-Pep­per­corn Sal­ad Dress­ing for about 45 min­utes. Once the mari­nade had a chance to soak in, I dipped the chick­en strips in Panko bread crumbs and fried them in veg­etable oil. Since I had pound­ed them thin, they didn’t take long to cook and the panko insured that they got nice and crunchy.