Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pizza Spaghetti

The hubby and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary yesterday. He took me out for a romantic, wildly expensive meal. And shared cheesecake with me for dessert. He let me have the last three bites. AND he brought me roses.

Aren't they purty? (Uh, the video camera has nothing to do with our anniversary evening. I swear it. Although it IS high-def ...)

I can honestly say that the past seven years have been both faster and more fun than I would have thought possible. And I have absolutely no doubt that the next seven will be just as enjoyable. If we can make it through one little obstacle ...

The hubby recently announced to me that he no longer likes red sauce.

I'm not sure how or why this aversion developed, but it saddens me. (I'm hoping it's just a pregnancy sympathy food aversion that will resolve itself after the baby arrives.) In the meantime, I am free to feed my own red sauce cravings. The hubby will still partake of a piece of lasagna, and I'm sure he wouldn't run from a plate of chicken parmesan, but if he's not hungry for what I make, he'll just find something else.

Today, I needed spaghetti. Or maybe pizza. I couldn't decide. So I combined them! The idea from this recipe came from a Taste of Home Simple & Delicious magazine, but I made several modifcations. As you can modify MY version. Use sausage instead of ground beef, use whatever veggies you prefer, leave out the mushrooms if you're not a mushroom household (but increase the meat).

The key to the sauce is the pepperoni. Don't like pepperoni? This is not the sauce for you. (Quite frankly, I don't trust anyone who doesn't like pepperoni. Donna.) I think you could easily halve the amount of pepperoni and use extra ground beef, however, and still get the same concept.

And even better, this dish is amazingly, surprisingly, supposedly low-fat. I imagine that draining the pepperoni grease is key.

Pizza Spaghetti
Serves 4

1/2 lb. lean ground beef
6 oz. chopped or sliced pepperoni
Salt and pepper
8 oz. button mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
1 Tbsp. dried minced onion
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 c. water
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. sugar

1. Season hamburger with salt and pepper, and brown hamburger and pepperoni over medium-high heat. Drain.

2. Add mushrooms to pan and saute until tender.

3. Add remaining ingredients to pan. Cover and cook over medium heat until hot, then reduce heat to low until ready to serve.

4. Serve over cooked spaghetti.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Korean Pork Medallions with Spicy Asian Slaw

The hubby and I have been dining on leftovers all week, trying to get things done around the house, but we needed a bit of a break tonight. I flipped through a cookbook and found this quick recipe to go with our leftover potstickers, using some of the extra ingredients from those.

This recipe is from Fine Cooking, and it's virtually foolproof; I know this because I screwed it up in a variety of ways, and it still tasted fantastic. (And spicy!)

My only complaint about Fine Cooking cookbooks is that the writers don't take the time to mention when an ingredient in the list needs to be divided. Which, if you're actually reading the entire recipe, is fine. But if you're in a hurry and skimming like me, you might accidentally dump twice as much vinegar as called for into the marinade.

Not that this a problem. It's only vinegar. It's not like it has a strong flavor or anything.

I would recommend marinating the pork longer than 25 minutes (or 5 minutes, as it was in my case); I think that 6-8 hours in the fridge would infuse the pork chops with even more flavor. In that case, you could probably grill or broil the pork instead of pan-frying it, to make it healthier.

Korean Pork Medallions with Spicy Asian Slaw
Serves 4

Pork medallions
1 large or 2 small pork tenderloins (1 1/4 lbs.)
1/2 c. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1/2 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
2 tsp. Sriracha
2 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil, for frying

Asian slaw
5-6 c. coleslaw mix, or 5 c. thinly sliced Napa cabbage and 1 c. grated carrots
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
1 tsp. Sriracha

1. Trim pork, and cut in 1/2" slices.

2. Combine pork marinade ingredients (everything but the canola oil), and pour 1/2 c. over pork in a small bowl. (Set the rest aside for serving.) Marinate at least 2 hours, refrigerated, or 25 minutes at room temperature.

3. Combine slaw ingredients in a large bowl. Let sit 15 minutes, and toss again.

4. Heat 2 Tbsp. canola oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, until oil is quite hot. Add pork, but don't overcrowd the pan (cook in two batches, if necessary). Cook 2 minutes. Flip and cook until pork is just cooked through, about 2-3 minutes.

5. Serve pork with slaw and additional sauce, if desired.

Monday, April 20, 2009


The hubby and I dubbed the weekend as our Return to Normalcy. We put in a few intense nights last week, hauling all our basement belongings back to their rightful spots. Our upstairs is now blessedly clean and spacious. I laid down on the clean floor and rolled as best I could from one end to the other.

I like spacious.

And it's yet another busy week (are they ever not busy anymore?), including supper with my work team tomorrow night. It's a potluck, and I'm bringing a dessert, because I'm really only hungry for dessert anymore. My appetite is unpredictable at best and, well, just downright finicky otherwise. I have a 3-year-old's dream diet.

So brownies, it is. Now, while I'm completely a chocolate person, I'm not really a chocolate-flavored person. There's a big distinction. Chocolate chips are chocolate; chocolate frosting is not. Hershey's kisses are chocolate; chocolate cake is not. Brownies are a gray area for me. If they're cakey, frosted, light brown, or don't include chocolate chips, they're out for me. No question. But if they're dense, rich, fudgy, and full of extra chocolate, well, I'm all over that like cheese on a pizza.

This is, hands down, the best brownie recipe I have ever tried. It's a slight modification of a Barefoot Contessa recipe (which all seem amazing, to me), and while it takes some extra effort, these brownies are worth it.

They are, uh, not exactly good for you. But when viewing the quantities of ingredients, keep in mind that this makes a half-sheet pan (something in the vicinity of 12"x18"). Which makes it all OK. Right? Right.

Makes 20-30

4 sticks butter
2 2/3 c. plus 2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 c. sugar
1 c. plus 1/4 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12"x18" pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large saucepan, melt butter, 2 2/3 c. chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate until thoroughly combined. Let cool slightly.

If you follow instructions well, you'll chop those big bars of unsweetened chocolate into smaller pieces before adding them to the pan. I'm too impatient to do this, and I regret it every time. They're always the last to melt, and you don't want to bite into a chunk of unsweetened chocolate.

3. In a large bowl, stir eggs (don't beat them), and combine with coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Add chocolate. Cool mixture to room temperature.

Be sure the lick the chocolate spoon thoroughly after you empty the saucepan. It's gooood. And messy. I got a bunch on my face, and the hubby took a pic with his cell phone so he can send it to our friends at his whim. Why? Because that's what the hubby does.

What? You never received the cell phone pic of me in a hospital mask with the messy hair when I was in the emergency room with an infection last year? You're the only one.

4. Add 1 c. flour, baking powder, and salt to batter. Stir to combine.

5. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 c. flour and 2 c. chocolate chips.

The flour helps them float better in the brownie batter, so they don't all sink. Neat, huh?

6. Add the chips to the batter and combine. Pour batter in pan and spread out.

7. Bake 20 minutes. Rap the baking sheet against the oven rack to remove the air pockets (making the brownies more dense). Bake an additional 15 minutes. Cool before serving.

Yes, I had to try one. It ... fell out of the pan.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fudge Torte

The hubby and I had another busy week. We're attempting to put the house back together again, which poses several challenges. We're trying to put things away, go through everything, and combine the guest room and office, all at the same time. So while it feels like we're working very hard, we have little progress to show for our work aside from the growing pile of charity donations. We'll get there eventually. And yes, so far all of my cookbooks are staying.

We also had company for three days. OK, it was my brother, but he still counts. (My definition of company is someone around whom I'm required to wear pants. Much to Cory's relief, this applies to him.) We went to a movie, made lasagna, met up with the grandparents for Easter dinner, and had an all-around good time. Oh, and this was the condition of the interstate on our way to dinner.

Fun driving!

So last night, exhausted from a long week, I decided to make a fudge torte instead of going to bed early. This recipe for which comes from Betty Crocker (I think). I've made this dessert several times over the past few years, and I go back and forth between whether this is my favorite dessert, or if I like the fudge truffle cheesecake better. The torte is very much like a flourless chocolate cake, but even more dense and fudgy. It's amazing. I had to have some.

The torte is a very simple mixture of butter, chocolate, vanilla, and eggs. So when it comes out of the oven, it's baked, but still has a gelatinous quality to it until it sets up. It's a bit fragile in that state. I always let it cool in the pan, flip it out onto my serving plate, and let it cool again a bit before letting it set up in the fridge.

But last night, I had a horrifying problem. My torte refused to leave the pan. This has NEVER happened to me.

Maybe it had something to do with the weather yesterday. Maybe my oven temperature is differing slightly from before. Maybe it was related to the fact that I forgot to grease the pan. One never knows why this sort of thing happens.

I attempted to use the force of gravity, aided by intense banging on the counter, to remove the torte from the pan. Until the hubby made me stop; he was afraid the neighbors would complain. His solution was to grab a spatula and make a move like he was going to scoop it out. I freaked out and said, "No, you can't do that! It has to come out it one whole piece!"

He said, "Why? What happens if it doesn't?"

"It'll break!"

"And what happens if it breaks?"

"It'll be BROKEN!" Sometimes men can be so dense.

So the hubby took over my banging and shaking, and eventually got ... half the torte on the serving plate.

At this point, I was exhausted, laughing, and covered in chocolate, and my torte was a mess. So, I did was any self-respecting cook would do.

I mashed it all back in the pan and covered it with ganache.

I wish I could cover up all my mistakes with ganache.

Fudge Torte
Serves 8-10

1 c. butter
2 2/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 c. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease an 8" round pan. (Looking back, this part is probably important.)

2. In a saucepan, melt butter and chocolate chips over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove chocolate mixture from heat. Stir in vanilla, and gently stir in eggs until well blended. Pour mixture into pan.

3. Place round pan in a 9x13 pan. Add warm water to the larger pan until the bottom inch of the round pan is surrounded by the water bath.

4. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until center of torte is set. Remove round pan from water and cool on a rack 40 minutes.

5. Run a knife along the edge of the torte to loosen the torte from the sides of the pan. Invert the torte onto a serving plate. (This is the glamorous option. If the torte won't come out of the pan, just leave it there.) Cool 20 minutes.

6. In a small saucepan, combine cream, corn syrup, and vanilla. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Pour over chocolate chips in a small bowl, and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is combined.

It'll look like this at first, but it will come together quickly.

7. Pour ganache over torte.

8. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

I'll get a better picture of this another time. First piece out is always a little wonky.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lemon and Spice Beef Kabobs

I've craving the Indian thing this week, so I came home tonight and decided to make some kabobs, the spice mixture for which is based on a Rachael Ray recipe. Kabobs? Kebabs? (Grey/gray? Doughnut/donut?) They're so simple, and they cook quickly, which is very important. The hubby and I invested in the MLB.com package this year, and time's a wastin'. My Tigers played at 6:00.

Yes, I'm from Fargo, and I'm a raging Detroit Tigers fan. It's a genetic flaw that's passed down in our family, like weak joints and tension headaches.

Actually, it's a cute story. When my dad was 5, the Yankees and Tigers were playing on TV. Everyone was a Yankees fan in those days, so my dad vowed -- in the way of 5-year-olds everywhere -- that if the Tigers won, they'd be his favorite team for FOREVER. The Tigers won, and my dad kept his vow. He even wrote to his favorite players (and has a signed photo of Rocky Colavito still hanging around somewhere).

When my sister and I were 5 and 4, Dad sat us down, had us choose our favorite players (Lance Parrish for her, Alan Trammell for me), and had us write letters. And we had little Tigers jerseys. And we'd cheer like mad whenever our team was on TV.

My dad's mom, Grandma Gladys, became a HUGE fan. She lived out in the boonies and couldn't get much for TV reception, but she listened to baseball on the radio all the time. My sister and my grandma were both buried with their Tigers hats, and I fully expect that when it's our time, me, my dad, and my brother all will be, too.

So yeah, we're fans.

And usually, I only get to watch my Tigers when they're playing the Twins, our "local" team. Until the hubby suggested we get the MLB.com package. Now I can watch them on my computer every day.

While eating kabobs, of course.

Lemon and Spice Beef Kabobs
Serves 4

4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram (can substitute oregano)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. Montreal steak seasoning
1 lb. steak, cut in large chunks

1. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, and spices in a medium bowl. Add beef and stir until thoroughly coated. Let sit 15 minutes.

2. Thread beef onto skewers. Grill over medium heat about 10 minutes, turning frequently, until cooked to desired degree of doneness.

Or, if you're grilling indoors, you even (gasp!) skip the skewers, cook the beef chunks, and pretend you made kabobs and just pulled all the meat off.

Not that I'd do this. Just sayin'.

3. Serve with grilled vegetables and bread.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Baked Tandoori Chicken

After months of eating out of necessity rather than for enjoyment, I am slowly but surely regaining my appetite. I woke up this morning and couldn't wait to cook something.

My cookbooks will be so happy. They look so sad and neglected, don't they?

OK, that's not how they usually look. They're usually very well organized on their bookshelves in the basement. Which is still sort of susceptible to flooding now that the National Weather Service announced that the second crest in Fargo, in a few weeks, will likely be higher than the first record-breaking crest. EEP. Our mayor doesn't think that will happen, but for now, we'll leave our basement belongings where they are.

Which is another reason that I've been hesitant to cook. The main floor of our house looks worse than when we moved in, and the kitchen is my oasis of space of cleanliness. I can walk in, face that corner, and pretend for a moment that everything is normal.

Unless I look right. Then I see this again.

The hubby says I have a problem. I told him that no, I'd have a problem if I'd brought ALL my cookbooks upstairs. Duh. These are just my favorites.

And my family heirlooms. Like this one.

My grandma has given me many of her old cookbooks, including this cutie from 1951. I'll probably never cook from it, but I can't get over how adorably homespun it is.

I promise, none of my other cookbooks look like this.

But back to today. I gave the hubby his choice of several dishes for supper, and he chose the tandoori chicken. It's pretty fast, very tasty, and also very healthy. This is a variation of a Rachael Ray recipe, and I like to serve it with couscous (cooked in broth), grilled veggies, and grilled bread.

Baked Tandoori Chicken
Serves 4

1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1 c. plain yogurt (I use fat-free)
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut in chunks

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

2. Combine spices in a bowl. Add yogurt, ginger, and garlic. (I set aside about 1/2 tsp. spice mixture to rub on the veggies before I grill them.) Add chicken chunks to bowl and stir until chicken is thoroughly coated.

3. Cover a baking sheet with foil and top with a cooking rack. (I use the rack from my roasting pan.) This allows the heat to circulate under the chicken rather than leaving the bottom kind of gooey.

4. Place chicken chunks on rack.

5. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. (Use this time wisely. Grill your veggies!)

6. Serve with couscous.

Or rice, if you're the hubby. He no like-like the couscous.

He's also really big on equally spaced food placement.