Thursday, September 10, 2009

Baking with Morgan

Well, it is that time of week again and Morgan is over to spend the night.  I really enjoy having Morgan over, its like getting to adopt a cool teenager for the day.  I get to make dinner with her and bake a dessert of some sort, make her breakfast in the morning and then get her on her way  to school.  For the record, I do know having a child involves more than just food; but since most of my life revolves around food, would you expect this to be any different?
So what did we make?  Chocolate Carmel Oatmeal Chews.  This is a PC recipe from a set of recipe cards.  The verdict:  Good.  I think we may have eaten them a little early because the recipe says to cool completely.  I would definitely increase the cooking time to get them a little crisper (just my preference).  Morgan put all the ingredients together and did the steps of the recipe, while I read the recipe to her.  She needs to work out those stirring muscles, but we have lots of Thursdays to practice.  I would recommend this when you are short on time, but need to make something for a group.  It is mostly made with pantry items and makes a lot.  Morgan says, "they were delicious."

Fix it and FORGET it

If you thought my Pampered Chef review from a week ago was scathing, wait until you read the comments on tonight's dinner.  Let me preface this discussion by saying we have an unspoken, spoken rule in this house.  When you make something new every time you cook, you are going to hit those recipes that are  After lots of practice, you can get a good sense, while cooking, which recipes are going to be questionable.  They could go either way and you are really hoping for GOOD (sometimes, even the best hopes fail).  On these nights are rule is: If this is horrible, we will go out and get something else that tastes good.  I know this is not the most frugal way to live, but it is better than eating the inedible.  Just so you know, this does not happen very often!
Well tonight I did a slow cooker menu Fix it and Forget it.  It was Simple Soup Supper including Fresh Tomato Soup and Broccoli Corn Bread.  As mentioned before, I love cooking while doing other things, so you can imagine my happiness when all day, whilst cleaning the house, the smell coming from the kitchen was heavenly.  I was so excited to try this soup that smelled like the best beef vegatable stew I have ever smelled.  It was the Broccoli Corn Bread that concerned me.  It too was a slow cooker thing and I was slightly disturbed by the fact that you could chose to cook it at differing cooking times depending on the texture you were looking for (obviously not disturbed enough not to try it).  Well, imagine my surprise when we sit down to dinner, with Morgan, and I try the broccoli corn bread first while Morgan and Drew take a spoonful apiece of their respective soups.  I look up from my broccoli corn bread and say, "this tastes good."  To which Morgan responds, "it tastes like blood, " referring to the soup.  Drew takes another bite and nods his agreement and then I taste half a bite of mine.  To my horror, it DOES!  Each of us moved our bowls toward the kitchen sink and moved our plates of broccoli corn bread toward ourselves.  We immediately began discussing where we would be getting food for dinner.  IT WAS FORGETABLE.  The sad thing in this house is that forgetable is actually memorable because it happens so infrequently.  Oh well, now Drew needs two hands to count the amount of dinners that were, in his word, FAIL. 
Thank God I get a break from cooking for the next couple of days as we go out of town to celebrate our anniversary.  Have a great weekend, back on Sunday night!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Special Dinner for my Love

I got my first reader question!  Yea! You should get a prize, but I don't know what that would be.  Oh wait, your prize is...the ANSWER.  For those of you not obsessively reading each comment posted on the blog, the question is: are you cooking through the Pampered Chef cookbook or is it just a coincidence that almost of the recipes have come from there (paraphrased)?  The answer is yes, I am cooking through the cookbook more or less.  Because I cook so many new recipes, I am on a constant search for the next great cookbook and, once found, figure the best way to get to know a cookbook is to cook through it.  This helps with my monthly menu planning (I am sure I will fill you in on that at some point in the future) and it helps not to have  a bunch of cookbooks cluttering my kitchen workspace.  I am currently working through the Pampered Chef 29 Minutes to Dinner 2 cookbook.  I highly recommend the first incarnation of this cookbook and look forward to wholeheartedly recommending this installment.  The key to "cooking through" a cookbook for me is to look through it and weed out the things that Drew and I will NEVER eat.  Then I go through and find the appetizing ones and put them on my menu plan.  I just stated that like it is a process, but it really all happens at once.  You will also notice in the future that some of my recipes are from the Fix it and Forget it slow cooker cookbook.  I have been slowly working my way through this one because I challenged myself at the beginning of the year to use my slow cooker once a week.  I have not always made it on that challenge, but that is the reason it is called a challenge. 

Wow, readers, I hope you were ready for that exhaustive answer!  On to tonight,  We had a special dinner, because we are looking to head out of town for the weekend for our 5th anniversary!!!!  I had planned, without knowing we were going to be out of town to make one of Drew's favorites and I left a night open for whatever, so I just moved my special dinner to tonight - now that is flexibility (wink, wink)!  So for dinner tonight I made a new recipe (yes, I know I said it was a favorite of Drew's, but I meant favorite ingredient): Seared Scallops with Creamy Parsley Pesto.  Be warned, I am not a fan of scallops, but because they are one of Drew's favorite ingredients I made them for him.  Here's the review:
Really quick.  I am discovering it is best with this installment's recipes to have everything out and measured before beginning the recipe.  I know this sounds like common sense, but this is not the way I normally operate in my kitchen.  Everything in this one comes together fast.  I did swap out cilantro for the parsley, because I can't handle parsley (I dislike it more than any food item I can think of at the moment), but I love cilantro more than some people love their children.  The resulting cilantro pesto, I cannot say I was a huge fan of.  I have never put half and half in pesto and I don't think I will again (chalk it up to experience).  The cauliflower was good, but I think could use a little more seasoning.  The scallops seared nicely, but I don't think I had my skillet hot enough when I first started.  Drew liked the scallops.  I would also like to mention here, I am in desparate need of a good food processor.  I will not go into the woes that haunt me each time I use mine; but I will say one would think that having 2 food processors of different sizes would result in "good food processing."  Lets just say, I think Drew enjoyed this one more than I did. 

After our "romantic" one candle lit dinner in the dining room, Drew helped me clean up the kitchen in under 15 minutes (quite the accomplishment, at least I think so because I have never clocked it), then we went upstairs to play Guitar Hero before coming downstairs to what I am sure will become our must watch night of television this fall.  So You Think You Can Dance and Glee, how happy can one couple be?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two for one, what a great deal!

So, I have a little problem "working" on the long weekends.  I do enjoy the break.  But I did cook last night and tonight, so I am going to let you in on a little deal: two reviews, one post! 
Last night we had Moroccan-Spiced Apricot Chicken with Couscous from Pampered Chef 29 Minutes to Dinner.  By the way, the dinners are, as promised, less than 29 minutes to cook.  As always, I did a couple of modifications.  For the couscous, I used regular couscous and omitted the almonds and apricots (both Drew and I are disturbed, for the most part, by fruit in savory items).  We are large couscous fans in this house and this was wonderful.  I can take my regular couscous and my Pampered Chef spices and make any flavor combination I desire.  This discovery has made me really happy (it doesn't take much).  The chicken was incredibly flavorful and easy to make.  I made it in one of my pans, instead of pulling out the George Foreman, but had good results.  I really need to get another one of the thermometers that I like.  I am really frustrated not having it, while trying new recipes. 

Somedays, you discover new things about your spouse that you did not know before.   Yesterday, I half-discovered something about Drew.  I cannot call it a full discovery because he would probably say it was not true and it is mainly my conjecture (you will have to read the comment I know he will post).  What was this discovery/conjecture?  Drew does not like dark meat.  There I said it.  He did not like the texture of the chicken.  This led me to question all previous attempts to make chicken thighs (catalogued in my brain), which led to this conclusion:  He prefers it if it is slow cooked or cut up and then cooked.  Both of these are acceptable, but he does not prefer his chicken thigh to be whole and boneless.  You can psycho-analyze him according to your own parameters, I will just be sure to fit within his in the future.

On to tonight...
We had a late dinner, because I went to Ralph's for Triple Coupons before the end of the grocery ad week and saved a really, really good amount of money!!  Then I came home and got started on the Zesty Ravioli Skillet from Pampered Chef's Seasons Best Cookbook.  Quick review: Good flavors.  Like the spinach.  Great for a busy weeknight meal.  Drew says, "it was too pasta-y, not that that is a word."  This review from my husband is to be expected.  We have pasta about once or twice a month, because it is not his favorite.  This is proof that God gives us someone to balance out our weaknesses.  If He gave me a pasta lover, I would be the size of a barn.  If He gave Drew someone else...well, I don't know how I balance him out on that one. I enjoyed my pasta and have some leftovers for lunches.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day weekend

We are enjoying our extended weekend.  I had a hard time posting Saturday night's dinner because then you will know a dirty little secret in the Hudson household.  We sometimes don't eat that well.  I do my best to make sure the dinners I make are well rounded and include all the items on the food pyramid.  Other times, we have what amounts to junk food for dinner.  Sorry, it is just the facts.  We haven't even started basketball season yet and I am already craving some not-so-good-for-me stuff.  So for dinner Saturday night we had Steamed Wonton Purses (from Pampered Chef Seasons Best) and the leftover Asian Veggies from Friday night.  Yes, I snuck in LEFTOVERS to Drew and he ate them!!!  Here's the review for the Wonton Purses:

Recipe is actually fun to make because it is very steps-oriented.  I like the repetition and they look really good when you get done.  It calls for ground turkey, but if I were to make them again (which is a distinct possiblity come Mavs time), I would use ground pork.  We are used to the wontons at one of our favorite restaurants (P.F. Changs) and they have pork in them.  I just think the pork has a bolder flavor.  Drew and I were discussing the wontons and concluded that they could have been spiced up a bit more.  I think I would throw in a little thai red chili paste, to (as Emeril would say) kick it up.  The Sauce they have you make is WAY, WAY too vinegary.  I tried to calm it down with more soy sauce, but no amount would have brought it down.  I would recommend you start by adding equal parts soy and vinegar and then go from there to your taste. Overall, good recipe.  This would be a great thing to make with teenagers and let them do their own fillings.  Great for a crowd if doubled or tripled.

And for those of you now worried for our physical health, I brought some grapes upstairs for us to snack on while we played Guitar Hero.