Thursday, September 24, 2009

Best Laid Plans

You know how I love to extoll the virtues of the slow cooker?  The slow cooker is perfect for the perfectly planned day.  It is good when you know when you will be home and what time you want to have dinner.  Well, today did not go as planned.  Today, life happened and dinner was delayed.  Guess what happened to my slow cooker meal.  Yup, it was black (you know the state after burned)!  I was sad because I was so hungry and ready to eat when we got home.  I had a party this afternoon (hello new readers!) and en route to the party, the A/C went kaput and the car was smoking (not cigarettes...I don't know much about cars, but I sensed this was a problem).  So Drew came over and took the car in after work and we got home a full hour and a half later than I was expecting to get home.  Oh well!!  Maybe someday I will get around to making this dinner again.  Instead we went and got Popeyes since I didn't have the energy to try to figure out what else (I do not improvise well).  Back in the kitchen tomorrow (I hope!).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It all depends on the tools you use.

Anyone who gets in the kitchen on a regular basis knows (for the most part) success depends on the tools used in making or baking what you desire.  I have come to understand this in my 5 years of cooking and have subsequently thrown out some of the lesser tools of my trade in favor of tools of higher quality.  I think women should not register for the bulk of their wedding gifts until they have spent some time in the kitchen, figuring out their style and needs.  I know this is true in our own marriage.  We registered for and recieved an immense amount of stuff (all of which were good and perfect gifts)...then we got married and started using them.  Some of them have faired better over the years than others.
We have also thought long and hard about certain purchases and have had mixed results in that area.  If you ever are searching for THE perfect blender, look no further than a Breville.  On the other hand, be very careful and cautious about the purchase of a slow cooker.  We were given, very generously, our first slow cooker and I have always enjoyed it.  I messed all that up last year by deciding I needed a bigger one for other recipes.  I could not have been more wrong.  Each time I use our new one, I am left frustrated with the results and regretting its creation in some far-off factory.  Remember, when I said some of the tools have been thrown out?  Large slow cooker, you are on notice!!
All that to say tonight's dinner was a slow cooker recipe from Fix it and Forget It: Ham and Hash Browns. Maybe I am using said slow cooker in an improper manner, but I thought they had plug-and-play capabilities.  Well, this one heats up WAAAY too fast and ends up burning the entire "crust" of whatever I am cooking (Note: this was the same slow cooker that served up the worst tomato soup known to man!).  Thus, after cooking for less than half the cook time, the edges are brown working on black and the center is mushy/soupy.  I honestly don't think it is the recipe's fault.  This post just turned into a review for our slow cooker, instead of the recipe.  Another reason its the tools that matter in the kitchen. 
So here's the rundown on the actual recipe: The flavors were ok if a little bland and I would definitely try this in another slow cooker.  It would be good paired with some scrambled eggs for a quick meal.  I don't think Drew liked this. He mentioned, whilst eating this dinner, another similar slow cooker recipe which he did like (we had that over a year ago...I think I am turning him into an encyclopedia of successful meals).  You know you are eating something that is not that enjoyable when, in mid bite, you are thinking of other better food you would rather be eating. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

First Day of Autumn

Can you believe we have officially entered Fall?  This is my favorite season and I have been working hard around the house to get it fall ready (decorations and such).  In honor of the begining of a new, hopefully cooler season, I decided to make comfort food with a twist.  Tonight's dinner was South of the Border Meatloaf from (you guessed it) Pampered Chef Seasons Best for this Fall/Winter.  Here's the review:

Wonderful flavor!  Love the idea of mixing the rub in with the ketchup to make (say it with me)... flavored ketchup.  I modified this a little bit to add more spice by putting half a serrano pepper into the mix.  Awards go to the PC covered baker for making this dish something easy for a weeknight.  A little story to let you know how my day went: I fell asleep while sitting down watching tv at 4:30 PM and Drew woke me up at 7:00 PM, yes 7:00.  I felt like I had been drugged (we think I had an allergic reaction to something I was working with today).  So I slowly extracted myself from the couch (with much effort) and got to the kitchen to make dinner.  It took around 35 minutes from the time I got in the kitchen until dinner was on the table.  I paired this meatloaf with seasoned steamed zucchini.  One note for this recipe, I don't know what I did to make it not stick together enough, but the meatloaf was definitely missing its LOAFNESS (new word for the day).  It ended up being really crumbly - still tasty, but crumbly.  HELP!  Do my readers have any tips for the perfect meatloaf?  Post a comment, I am always looking for new tips!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ham and Swiss Calzone

Tonight's dinner is from PC Season's Best and it is called Ham and Cheese Calzone.  Here's the review:

Simple ingredients, more healthy than it sounds.  Goes together pretty quickly and gives enough time to clean up the dishes while it is in the oven.  Makes more than enough for 2, but I am looking forward to leftovers in for the next couple of lunches.  Drew said, "It was good, it worked out well."  I guess that means he noticed how easy it was to put together.  I must say I really am starting to enjoy my PC Bar Pan.  For the uninitiated, it makes really great crisp crust for dishes like calzone and pizza.  Paired this with a simple salad and viola...dinner.

As a side note regarding future posts.  I am about to finish (for the time being) the Pampered Chef 29 Minutes to Dinner 2.  I will be posting a review post in a week or so with my overall thoughts on this cookbook.  Something to look forward to!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wing Weekend

As food lovers go, each of us have our obsessions with specific foods.  Mine: cilantro, pumpkin, pesto, cheesecake (I am sure there are others).  Drew's: wings, buffalo sauce, pickles, Dr. Pepper (I think this pretty much sums him up).  I strive to be a good wife to my husband.  I attempt to provide him with the things he loves on a regular basis.  I try to make sure we are always stocked with pickles (I am currently failing in that area - must take a trip to the grocery store soon), we have 3-4 different types of buffalo sauce in the fridge/pantry, and this weekend, was an unofficial wing weekend.  I intended it to be a wing night on Saturday night, but I inadvertantly got started too late on one wing recipe.  It turned out to be a blessing, because we are trying to eat out only once on weekends for lunch. 
So last night I made one of Drew's favorites:  PC Smoky Buffalo Chicken Wings  (they have published this recipe in a few of their recent Season's Best cookbooks).   This is a favorite for both of us for different reasons.  Drew loves the flavor of the BBQ and buffalo.  I love the recipe because it is SO EASY to make.  This involves microwaving the chicken in PC's covered baker (A wonderful tool for your kitchen) and then throwing the wings in a pan with a little oil for a few minutes to give them a little brown.  Toss with the rub and sauce to finish them off and you are done.  Easy, Easy - less than 30 minutes.  I served this with a bag salad and we enjoyed the rest of the evening with popcorn and cokes while catching up on old episodes of House. 
Today, I made wings again for lunch from another PC cookbook: Spicy Chicken Wings from Stoneware Inspirations.  These are a completely different flavor, based on Indian chicken tikka.  We are lovers of Indian food in a big way, so I enjoy making Indian flavored foods.  This involved marinating the wings overnight in yougurt and spices a la any Indian cooking method you can think of.  This afternoon, I threw them in the oven for 45 minutes and then we had lunch.  Another incredibly simple recipe with good flavor results.  Drew still prefers the Buffalo wings, but I think he enjoyed these as well.  I did make the sauce for the wings, despite my hesitations to do so.  I did not like it because it is an apricot based thing.  I don't really prefer mixing sweet with savory flavors as a rule.  Drew wouldn't even try it - I don't blame him. 

As a side note, my husband, the love of my life, one of the funniest people I know has started his own blog and here is his review on the latest "new" pickle to enter our lives:
Read and enjoy!