Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday is right for laziness

I feel like such a lazy bum.  It could be due to the fact I am trying very hard this week to begin new routines and new routines can be tiresome. Today, I did not do a whole lot of anything, but I knew dinner would be easy.  Every once in a while, it is good to not have to work for dinner.  Tonight was one of those nights.  I know I have piqued your interest.  We had carnitas with all the fixings. Yesterday, I went to a Mexican grocer (local) and bought dinner for tonight.  You might be wondering what would possess me to do this strange act.  Pssst...I have a secret...I am a mystery shopper.  Don't tell anyone, its top secret.  
Here is my official review:  If purchasing dinner from this store in the future, I would only buy the carnitas.  We were not fans of the beans and rice.  Their salsa is a little off (could have been the tomatoes).  The carnitas were good and flavorful, if a bit dry.  That said, I must also mention that better carnitas are to be had in this desert.  Oh, and pass on their dessert items.  I make an infinitely better (if I do say so myself) cheesecake and the chocolate cake was just "ehhh."    It sounds like I am not happy with tonight's dinner.  If that is the case, please understand I am thankful for having an easy FREE dinner and thankful in general.  Life is good...
As a side note, Drew just put on Big Joe Turner's Shake, Rattle, and Roll. I view this as a message from my husband to get in the kitchen and cook...soon!  Back tomorrow with actual cooking.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

And you will know her by the trail of pans...

The status of tonight's dinner is questionable because I have a number of factors at play.  It is Thursdays with Morgan, but I have to pick her up late from school.  I also have a party tonight for my first Southern Living at Home Consultant!!!  So, either Drew and Morgan are going to get dinner at SouPlantation, or I will get something at the grocery store so we can all eat together before I go, or I will make something.  I think the latter two options are less likely than the former.
That said, I have spent the last 30 minutes trying to post a picture to the top of my blog only to find out I cannot do this given the format of blog I chose.  So, I will post the picture here for your enjoyment:

Those items displayed (so lovely and new) on my kitchen countertop are my new Pampered Chef pans.  I got them because I hosted a party in August and it went well.  They had a special for hostesses to get the pans for 60% off and I was in need of new pans.  I went with a set of stainless and a set of nonstick and a stir-fry pan, because we love Asian food!  Although I have cooked in stainless before, I was a little nervous about creating an incredible, sticky mess.  Well, these pans clean up so nice and they cook pretty good too.  I have to keep reminding my self to preheat them properly because my previous pans were so thin they heated up quick.  Time is a small price to pay for even cooking and easy clean up.  I used the 10" skllet last night for the pork chops.  The nonstick set is very nice, as well.  I used the small stockpot for the soup a couple of nights ago and found it to be the perfect size for a couple servings of soup.  But I have to say my favorite thus far is the stir fry skillet - I love its size and shape.  The heating is truly even, which helps when (get this) stir-frying (it seems that chef knows what he is doing).  
Here I offer again my hearty recommendation of all things Pampered Chef, including the pans.  Becky does not pay me to mention her name, but if you need anything, check out her website:  
Maybe I will make this a semi-regular post to let you know my current favorite kitchen gadget. What do you think? Post a comment and let me know if this interests you and what your current favorite gadget is.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fancy, schmancy...easy, peasy (cliche, anyone?)

Tonight's dinner was pretty good.  Could have had one more item to it, to make it more filling (my fault, should have trusted my gut - haha, like the pun?).  Thankfully, we had a coupon for BOGO McFlurries and they have a new one with Reese's peanut butter cups (yes, Drew will eat this - he is very selective with his preferences of dessert - he is a veritable moving target for desserts) and we supplemented dinner with dessert (an unhealthy one at that!).  I made Brandied Dijon Pork Chops from PC 29 Minutes to Dinner 2.  The rundown follows:
Drew picked up some very nice pork chops from Jensen's (definitely recommend their meat department) and the rest of the items on the ingredient list were pantry items, so it is a great *cheap* dinner.  I think it would break down to $6.00 total for the 2 of us to eat tonight.  Very nice flavor on the sauce, I did sub out the brandy (not because I think it would be bad, but because I didn't have a chance to run to BevMo to get "testers" - ok so maybe a was a little skeptical) for a little more chicken broth.  The presentation is very tah-dah, so it would work well for dinner with friends.  This would work nicely even when having company on a weeknight, as it is lightning fast.  We cut it in half because we are not gluttonous, despite the aforementioned dessert.  You could increase the recipe very easily and still have great results.  I paired the pork chops with green beans.  I would put some sort of grain with dinner next time to fill out the presentation on the plate.  Great job PC!

2nd Question...I feel importantish

I got my second reader question and it is a hard one.  I have conferred with Drew about this, so I think I am offering the most balanced answer for our household.  The question posed: "what are your favorite recipes to date and why?"  The answer can be summed up in the following list with quick reviews/reasons they make the cut.

1.  Beef and Chicken Lettuce Wraps from Cuisine at Home magazine (highly recommended publication, by the way).  Incredibly time consuming preparation, very fast actual cook time - rewarding results.  This recipe sticks out because Drew will not order lettuce wraps anywhere else because he enjoys these so much.  I have made it 4, maybe 5 times and the flavors (Chinese 5 spice for the beef and buffalo with honey for the chicken) are wonderful. FYI, the beef and chicken do not go together. Theoretically, you could make just the beef or just the chicken.  I enjoy having both to have different flavors to play with. 
2.  Granny's macaroni and cheese.  This is a favorite for me from my childhood.  It is not really a recipe so much as a method, but I enjoy it all the same.  It is with great difficulty that I eat any other mac and cheese (ban the box for sure).  Drew has almost become a complete convert.  He would be if I made this a little more often.  As it stands, I make it once or twice a year. 
3.  Buffalo wings done in the Pampered Chef covered baker.  Drew could literally eat Buffalo wings or buffalo flavored dinner every night.  He can't get enough of it!  The Pampered Chef recipe for these is a little different because it includes their BBQ rub, so they have a little smoky flavor with a kick.  I have been waiting to make these because my baker broke, but I just received a new baker a couple of days ago.  Now that Drew knows this, I must make these asap.  I think this weekend for dinner.  I have made these twice, but that is in the last 6 months.  See, I don't make my husband wait too long for the things he loves!
4.  Crown Roast of Pork  (recipe from the Food Network site - I think it is Bobby Flay) - we had this for our first Christmas and it...was...delightful!  We still talk about it.  We are talking about doing it again, but charging a cover charge at the door because it was also the most expensive meal we have ever had at home!
5.  Wingless Buffalo Chicken Rolls (this is a modified Rachael Ray meal, I have tried her other incarnations) this is from her 365: No Repeats cookbook.  This one was a surprise to me.  We had this a couple of years ago and Drew really liked it (but it does have buffalo, so that should not be a surprise to anyone). 

Well, that turned into a top 5 of sorts.  I am sure there are many more, but these stick out to the two of us.  Thanks for the question and the trip down memory lane.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New week, new soup

OK.  So I am back with a vengeance (probably due to the fact that I am listening to Eminem as I write this blog post - don't judge me!).  Back in the kitchen, undaunted by the mistakes of last week.  How do you bounce back from what is arguably the worst meal made in the last year?  You get back in the Pampered Chef 29 Minutes to Dinner 2 Cookbook and make dinner in less than 20 minutes!!!  The recipe tonight was Asian Beef Noodle Soup.  It was wonderful.  Here's the review:
Great easy meal.  Wish we had chopsticks to enjoy this fabulous meal.  We saw these really neat bowls at Crate and Barrel last weekend, they would have been nice for serving this soup (the tall one).

While making this dish, the smell took me back to my dorm days when our group of 4 senior roommates would make Ramen noodles every night (each of us had a different method for making ramen - I am sure there are millions of methods).  The broth thankfully, did not taste like ramen noodles.  Last year sometime I decided to try to have ramen - my old favorite (Oriental flavor) - what was I thinking - that stuff is NASTY!  Thus, I was pleasantly rewarded by this brothy soup when it did not taste like ramen.  Loved the idea in the recipe for stir-ins.  This provided "wife-sanctioned" additions to our dinner tonight.  I say this because Drew has this endearing habit of "spicing" up almost everything I make.  I attempt each time he heads to the spice cabinet not to take it as an affront to my cooking - sometimes I succeed.  Well tonight, I got to throw in some jalapenos for my heat-obsessed (read: HOT) husband and I think he was pleased.  I thought the broth itself had just enough seasoning, just the right amount of heat.  I would definitely make this again, if I made things more than once. 
I am actually considering this as the first course (sans beef) for a dinner party I have dreamed about since Drew and I moved in to our new home.  We have a large coffee table situation (2 tables shoved together) that would enable us to have a dinner party with 8 people - I dream of having everyone sit on pillows and eat Asian food.  How does that sound do you?  Comment to this post in favor of said dinner party and you just might get an invite.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Don't Give Up

My dismay over the last kitchen outing is not what has kept me from recently updating the blog.  Instead, we went out of town for our 5th anniversary.  I always enjoy getting Drew to myself 24 hours at a time.  We had lots of fun and ate way too much.  What romantic place did we dine to celebrate our nuptuals, you ask?  Well, none other than On the Border.  Yeah, we are pretty simple people with pretty simple expectations and what could two people from Texas want more to eat on a special occasion than the best Tex-Mex in Cali.  Hard to say that, but it is true.  I know the Texans reading this are saddened by the plight of this young married couple, but we will live on. Saturday night we stepped it up and went to Red Lobster.  We have eaten at Red Lobster 3 times in our marriage and we really enjoy it.  I have seen a recipe that imitates their biscuits and will have to try it sometime because they are almost worth the price of admission. 
I still have not made it in to the kitchen because Drew had leftovers last night (he heated up himself!) and then tonight we were invited over to Mom and Dad's for enchiladas.  This is something I have never attempted in our 5 years.  Why make it when it can be made for you.  We always enjoy this family favorite - my Granny's recipe (modified over the years) and, of course, the company (its a shame Drew doesn't get along with my family - hah).  Of course, we had to go to Yogurt Island for dessert, but it was a sad trip (indeed) because they did not have our favorite flavor.  Drew abstained.  I tried something else, but it was not the same.  Yogurt Island, if you are listening: Never, Never, Never replace the Yogurt Island Sorbet! 
More adventures from the Hudson kitchen coming up tomorrow!