Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Treat: Homemade Marshmallows

Mr. Fritz loves marshmallows. He's loved them ever since he was a child, when he'd go over to his grandmother's house and pour himself a big bowl of mini marshmallows and down them, three by three. So when we came upon an empty afternoon in his hometown, I didn't think twice about asking our niece, the eldest Miss Bowers, if she might like to make a batch from scratch. I figured that she and I could have some fun in the kitchen and Mr. Fritz (along with the rest of his family) could enjoy the outcome.

I've made marshmallows before. The first few times I made them, Mrs. Robertson was my partner in crime. A couple of years ago my sister, Mrs. Plourde, churned some out with me. Some time has passed since then, however, so I was a little rusty in my technique. Luckily Miss Bowers was a terrific helper and together we turned out a whole lot of marshmallowy goodness with very little effort.

Although there are a bunch of recipes floating around for homemade marshmallows, I have only used one, clipped from a Washington Post story from several years ago. It isn't available online, so I'll post it below. Suffice it to say, you need patience (Miss Bowers noted that it took a long, long time for the sugar and water and corn syrup to reach 240 degrees on the stove), a couple of different mixing bowls, and more patience (the marshmallows need to set for a few hours before you can cut them up). Fun cookie cutters are also a plus. We cut ours into stars, trees, hearts, bells, snow people, gingerbread men, even a big teddy bear.


Source: The Washington Post, Jan. 19, 2000

(Makes 45 to 50 marshmallows)

It takes only about 20 minutes to whip up your own batch of marshmallows, a relatively simple process that is greatly aided by the use of a candy thermometer.

Purists prefer the honesty of vanilla flavoring; substituting lemon extract cuts the sweetness of the confection. A bit of food coloring lends a festive touch, but we prefer a marshmallow that is snowy white.

Vegetable shortening for the pan

Confectioners' sugar for dusting, plus additional for the pan

2 1/2 packages (2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 cup hot water

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 egg whites*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (may substitute lemon, almond, orange, peppermint or other extracts)

Food coloring, if desired

Lightly grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch metal pan and sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar; tap out any excess sugar.

Place the gelatin in a large bowl and add the cold water. Let the gelatin sit for about 5 minutes.

In a saucepan over low heat, stir together the hot water, sugar and corn syrup and cook, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat to medium and cook, without stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil and threads; it should register 240 degrees on a candy thermometer (the soft-ball stage).

Stir the gelatin mixture into the sugar mixture. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the mixture until it triples in volume, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites and vanilla or other flavoring (and optional food coloring) into the gelatin mixture just until incorporated.

Transfer the marshmallow mixture to the prepared pan, dust the surface with confectioners' sugar until it is lightly coated and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To serve, use a sharp knife to cut around the edges of the pan. The bottom of the confection will be sticky. Cut the marshmallow slab into 1- or 1 1/2-inch squares (or whatever shape you prefer), then gently ease the pieces from the pan and toss them in a bowl of confectioner's sugar. This may be done in several batches. Transfer to a colander and toss again, to remove excess sugar.

To store: Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

* Note: Uncooked eggs may be contaminated with salmonella and should be avoided by young children, the elderly and anyone with immune system deficiencies.

Per marshmallow (based on 50): 38 calories, 1 gm protein, 9 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 gm saturated fat, 7 mg sodium, 0 gm dietary fiber

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dinner tonight... Salmon with Escarole and Lemon

Hooray, the newest issue of Everyday Food arrived while Mr. Fritz and I were visiting our families for Christmas! It was a treat to come back to it, especially since it looks to be filled with a whole spate of great new recipes. As I made my grocery list for the week, I included a bunch of them, so expect to see them in this space as the week rolls along.

First up: Salmon with Escarole and Lemon. I've never cooked with escarole, as far as I can recall. A leafy green, it cooks down to have a buttery taste. For this recipe, I used a whole head of it, and I found it to be a nice change from spinach. Mr. Fritz thought it looked like seaweed (specifically, those tangled green messes that wash up on shore), but he agreed that it was edible (I thought it tasted great, personally). We both thought the salmon itself was wonderful -- essentially you top the salmon with slices of lemon, then steam it for 12-15 minutes on a bed of wilted escarole and caramelized onions and garlic. It really couldn't be simpler. My only quibble: I ended up with a burned mess on the bottom of my pot, as some of the onions and escarole apparently cooked too much during the steaming process. Not sure how I'll remedy that in the future, but I'll have to figure it out, because I definitely want to make this again. Yum!

The recipe does not appear to be posted yet on Everyday Food's site; when it is, I'll link to it...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dinner tonight... Orange Glazed Salmon

If it's Sunday, it must be salmon, right? Not really, but that has been the case for the past couple of weeks. Tonight, I tried a recipe from grilling company Fire & Flavor called Orange Glazed Salmon. Unfortunately, I can't find the recipe on the site, so I'll just explain it below. Mr. Fritz and I both really liked it. I must admit that I didn't believe that such a small amount of orange zest would make any sort of difference whatsoever, but lo and behold, the orange flavor came through clearly once the salmon was cooked.

In any case, this was very easy and I was able to pull it together with ingredients I already had in my pantry and refrigerator (except for the salmon, of course). I'll definitely make this again, possibly on a cedar plank (tonight, I just roasted it in the oven on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil). I served it with jasmine rice and snow peas that I'd sauteed with a little olive oil and lemon juice. The whole meal was ready to go in 15 minutes.

Source: Fire & Flavor
Prep time: 5 minutes + soak
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

3 Tbs. Dijon mustard
3 Tbs. maple syrup
1 Tb. balsamic vinegar
2 tsps. fresh orange zest
4 6-oz salmon filets, skin removed
1 cedar grilling plank, soaked

Preheat grill (or oven) to medium-low heat, about 350 degrees.

Combine mustard, maple syrup, vinegar and orange zest in a small bowl in set aside. Season salmon with salt and pepper and brush with desired amount of glaze.

Place smoked plank on grill, close lid, and heat for 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip plank and place salmon on heated side of plank. Close lid and grill for 12-15 minutes until done to your liking. Remove plank and salmon from grill and serve.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lunch today... Ginger-Sesame Chicken with Peanutty Noodles

Last night, Mr. Fritz and I completed all of our Christmas shopping. Yay! As a result, we were able to relax a little bit today, and I was able to make a decent lunch. So I decided to riff off of another recipe in the January issue of Real Simple: Chicken with Peanut Dipping Sauce. Their recipe calls for frozen breaded chicken breasts, which didn't appeal to me. I appreciated the peanut sauce recipe, however, and used it to launch my take: Ginger-Sesame Chicken with Peanutty Noodles. I started by boiling some Japanese udon noodles, which is sort of interesting, because to do so, you bring the water to a boil, add the noodles, then when the noodles start to rise to the top of the water, you turn the water down and simmer them for 10-15 minutes. Very odd way to cook what I think of as pasta!

While the noodles were simmering, I sauteed a couple of chicken cutlets in sesame oil, sprinkling them with ground ginger once they were in the pan. When they were cooked through, I removed them from the pan and threw in some Chinese pea pods and shredded carrot, let that saute for a couple of minutes, then added the ingredients for the peanut sauce: peanut butter, soy sauce, crushed ginger, fresh lime juice and brown sugar. After mixing that all together and sauteing everything for a few minutes, I added in the noodles (which I'd drained) and made sure it the noodles and vegetables were all nicely coated with the sauce and that it was all heated through. To serve, I put the noodle mixture in the bottom of a shallow bowl, then topped it with strips of the chicken. Good stuff, and very easy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dinner tonight... Lemon Chicken with Olives and Jasmine Rice

Tonight's meal was a winner. I once again turned to a recipe from Real Simple's "All-Time Reader Favorites" story in the January issue (Sunday's Cedar-Plank Salmon and last night's Last-Minute Lasagna were also featured in this article): Lemon Chicken with Olives. And it was great! So flavorful and tasty, with a nice presentation -- definitely dinner-party worthy.

To prepare, you dip thin-sliced chicken cutlets in a mixture of flour, lemon rind and cumin, dusting off the excess, and fry in about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes, just long enough for the chicken to brown. Then you set the chicken aside, lower the heat to medium and saute a sliced shallot for a few minutes, until it softens and caramelizes. Then you add halved green olives, chopped parsley, white wine and fresh lemon juice to the skillet, bring that to a boil, put the chicken back in with the rest of the mix, lower the heat to a simmer, and let it all simmer for 4-6 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. So simple!

I wasn't sure how I would feel about such a strong presence of olives, but I think that they were tempered nicely by the lemon and white wine sauce. I used chicken breasts that had been air-chilled and had no water added to them and I wonder if that made a difference, because they were so tender! I used half of a sweet onion because my grocery store was out of shallots. (Who would have expected a run on shallots at the Teeter?) And I paired it with jasmine rice, which always makes my kitchen smell lovely. Mr. Fritz said that the dish was a little tangy for him, but that he could handle it. This is good, because I will definitely want to make this again. Yum!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dinner tonight... Last-Minute Lasagna

On Sunday, I made a pan of Real Simple's Last-Minute Lasagna and divided it into six portions. I'm eating it for lunch each day this week (which is good, because work has been so busy that I can barely step away from my desk for the minute-and-a-half it takes to warm it up), and Mr. Fritz had it for dinner tonight (I had dinner out with a friend). This was another one of Real Simple's all-time favorite recipes and I must admit that it was in fact both easy to prepare as well as really tasty.

The recipe has only a few ingredients: refrigerated ravioli (I used tortelloni, because the grocery store was out of rav), frozen chopped spinach (thawed, with the water squeezed out), shredded mozzarella, marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe's Organic Vodka Sauce because I had a jar in the pantry), and shredded Parmesan. What makes it extra easy is that the filled pasta stands in for ricotta cheese and you don't need to pre-boil the pasta, since it's fresh, unlike regular lasagna sheets. You layer sauce, pasta, spinach, cheese, then repeat twice, finishing with sauce. It then bakes for 30 minutes, covered, in a 375 degree oven, followed by 5-10 minutes uncovered. Simple, tasty, good, and lends itself to lots of variations.

Some notes:
The recipe calls for one 24-26 ounce jar of marinara sauce, but I think it would have been better with more sauce, maybe even double that amount. Also, OCD girl that I am, I carefully placed the tortelloni in rows. I think that it would probably be fine to be a little less precise, but what can I say? I'm kind of all about the presentation. At least I didn't force myself to alternate between the plain pasta and the spinach pasta -- even I can admit that doing that would have been over the top!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dinner tonight... Pasta with Tomatoes, Sausage and White Wine

I'm continuing my quest to feed Mr. Fritz anything but Asian food this week, since he had his fill for awhile while on his business trip. So, tonight, I turned to another Real Simple recipe: Pasta with Tomatoes, Sausage and White Wine. It's from a story in their January issue called "18 Easy Upgrades for Your Favorite Convenience Foods." In this case, the convenience food is jarred marinara sauce. I picked up a 24 ounce jar of Mezzetta Roasted Garlic marinara sauce because I wanted to start with a decent base and thought the product could do the work for me of layering in a roasted garlic taste. (I used half of it tonight for this dish.)

To make this for two people, boil an appropriate amount of pasta (I used angel hair) and as that's cooking, follow these directions: "Heat 1 Tb olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 a pound of sweet Italian sausage (removed from casings) and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1/2 cup dry white wine and cook for 3 minutes. Add the sauce and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve over the pasta." To make it for six people, follow the same directions, just use the whole jar of sauce.

Mr. Fritz and I both really liked this: it was flavorful and filling, and it took only about 10-15 minutes to pull together, which is perfect for a weeknight. In addition to using nice jarred sauce, I also picked up some good quality, house-made Italian sausage from the grocery store instead of going with a mass-produced variety. And it was another chance to use a mini-bottle of white wine, which I happily cracked open in lieu of using a full-sized bottle and having tons left over. I'll definitely make this again. It reminded me a little bit of the seriously tasty Italian-sausage laden risotto I made a few weeks ago, but with much less effort required.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dinner tonight... Cedar-Plank Salmon

Our dear friend Mr. Corbin is visiting from Austin, Texas, and we had the pleasure of hosting him for dinner this evening. Since it's a rare treat to see him, I wanted to be sure to make a special meal. So I decided to try something new (to me, anyway): roasted salmon atop a cedar plank that had been soaked in water. I was inspired by the January issue of Real Simple, where the editors published some of the magazine's all-time favorite recipes, including this one for Cedar-Plank Salmon.

It's super easy: You soak a special cedar board (I picked mine up at the grocery store) in water for at least an hour. (This is essential, so that the wood doesn't catch on fire in your oven) Then set the salmon on the plank (I used 6 oz salmon filets and as usual asked the fishmonger to remove the skin for me), then topped each piece with a mixture of brown sugar, dried thyme, cayenne pepper and vegetable oil. Then I set the plank on top of a rimmed baking sheet and put the whole thing into a 350 degree oven. Twenty minutes later, the salmon was perfectly roasted and wonderfully fragrant, as the scent of cedar had essentially smoked the fish. The brown sugar mixture had kind of hardened on top of the fish, sort of like the top layer of creme brulee.

I served the salmon alongside couscous studded with dried cherries and a salad of greens, feta, cucumber, cilantro and a lemon-white wine vinaigrette. Mr. Corbin seemed to like the meal, noting that the sweetness to the salmon rub was especially pleasing. For my part, I will definitely be experimenting with roasting on a cedar plank again in the future. Oh, and Mr. Fritz, who made it home safely from the tropical place, enjoyed the meal, too!

Drink: Pomegranate Soda

Friday night, the ever-stylish Ms. Yee joined me for dinner. As we caught up over our meal, we sipped specially made Pomegranate Sodas, concocted by drizzling 2 Tbs pomegranate syrup over a tall glass filled with ice, then topped with soda water.

The pomegranate syrup is created by dissolving 1 cup of sugar into 1/2 cup of pomegranate juice -- bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, without stirring, until it's syrupy, about 2 minutes. Let it cool and you can store it in the refrigerator for up to one week, then just use it to make individual drinks as needed.

I served the drinks with an iced-tea spoon so that we could stir the syrup up to better mix with the soda water. It makes for a very pretty presentation as the entire drink slowly gains a pink tinge -- and might make for a nice signature drink at a party. The recipe suggests topping each drink with a marachino cherry. I didn't have any, so I skipped that, but I think I might invest in a jar for the next time I have the chance to serve this tasty drink.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mr. Fritz forages for food in tropical place, reports back with findings

Since I didn't do any cooking this evening (I attended a benefit dinner for this amazing organization with the spectacular Ms. Hays as my date), I thought it might be fun to post a field report from Mr. Fritz, offering a glimpse of what he's been eating while he's been away on his business trip. It's short, because he was typing on his iPhone. Plus I don't think he gets as excited about waxing poetic over food as I do. And dutiful and wonderful husband that he is, he was kind enough to send a photo. His report:

"Tonight, we went to an all you can eat sushi bar. It didn't look expensi
ve... kind of had a fast food look. Ended up costing $30. Couldn't believe it. One draft beer was $12.50. But 50% off tonight. I think one bottle of cheap white wine ($5 in a store) cost $30.

"On my big plate is a breaded shrimp on a stick, some teriyaki, and a couple pieces of pork. The little plate had an assortment of sushi I picked out. I had no idea what I was picking. It was all colorful though."

Apparently, Mr. Fritz has eaten teriyaki every day this week. I think that means I should probably refrain from making Asian food for awhile upon his return!

Thanks, Mr. Fritz, for being tonight's guest blogger!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dinner tonight... Spring Rolls with Ginger Sesame Shrimp

A few years ago, my friend (and my entertaining role model) Mrs. Durham served me a truly fun meal: make-them-yourself spring rolls. She put the ingredients on a platter and we all sat around the table and assembled them to our tastes. I have thought about trying my hand at them ever since, but always thought that it was too complicated to pull off. But since I've been doing all this cooking of late, suddenly chopping up a few things seemed pretty simple, all things considered.

So tonight, when the very sweet Mrs. Gage joined me for dinner, I decided it was time to give them a go. Following Mrs. Durham's directions, I set out a carefully composed platter that included shredded carrots, thinly sliced cucumbers, fresh mint, basil and cilantro, cellophane noodles, mung bean sprouts, peanut sauce, fresh limes, and shrimp that I had sauteed in a little sesame oil with ginger and sesame seeds. I also boiled some water in my tea kettle and set that out in a large bowl. As the meal went along, we dipped dry rice paper wrappers into the hot water to soften them, then filled them with shrimp and the rest of the items on the platter, rolled the wrappers around the filling like you might roll a burrito, and ate them. It was a really fun, creative, relaxed way to share the meal and the flavors were all so fresh and bright -- a true treat.

Notes: you can find cellophane noodles and rice paper wrappers in the Asian section of the supermarket. I looked for the wrappers in the refrigerated section at first, not realizing that they would be sold in a manner similar to dry pasta. For the carrots, I just used my vegetable peeler to create long thin strips. And I sliced the cucumbers very thin as well. Pulling the elements together onto the platter took just a few minutes. Definitely worth the effort!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dinner tonight... Pasta with Mixed Mushrooms and Thyme

This week, Mr. Fritz is on a business trip to a tropical place. So I'm taking the opportunity to cook for friends, and tonight the very fun Ms. Rowings joined me for dinner. Since she's a vegetarian, I made a simple, tasty meatless meal for us: Pasta with Mixed Mushrooms and Thyme.

To prepare it, you saute a minced shallot in a little bit of butter, then add some white wine and let that reduce. From there, you add thinly sliced shitake and button mushrooms to the pan along with some fresh thyme. Once the mushrooms have softened, you add them to freshly cooked (and drained) pasta, and mix in some Parmesan cheese and a little more butter. Yum. Oh, and we balanced the decadence of the pasta with a salad of greens dressed in olive oil and lemon juice.

Notes: I skipped the step that involved dried porcini mushrooms, because I couldn't find them at the grocery store. I also minced a couple of shallots instead of just one, and I think that added to the flavor in a positive way. And finally, I can't remember if I've mentioned this or not yet, but my new favorite thing is individual mini-bottles of wine -- they are each about a cup and you can buy them in four-packs. They're perfect, in my opinion, for cooking, since you'll rarely need more than a cup of wine for any recipe. Plus, they have screw caps (how gauche, I know...) if you only need a small amount, so reclosing isn't difficult.

PS: Mr. Fritz took the camera to the tropical place (I insisted), so no photos this week. Sorry!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lunch this week: Enchilada Casserole

Every now and then I use my slow cooker on the weekend to make lunch for the week. So yesterday, I turned to one of my favorite vegetarian recipes: Enchilada Casserole from Cooking Light. It's a simple recipe that takes just a couple of minutes to mix together before it spends about 5 hours in the Crock Pot.

The base of the casserole consists of black beans, corn, chopped green chiles, enchilada sauce, salsa, cilantro and chopped scallions. You mix all of that together, set the slow cooker on low and let it go for four hours. Then you mix up a package of Jiffy corn mix along with some more green chiles, chopped roasted red peppers and an egg, and drop that in dollops over the top of the casserole base. Put the lid back on and let it cook for another hour. Finally, drop some shredded cheese over the whole thing, let it melt and you're done.

When I do big batch recipes like this, I try to immediately separate the finished dish into individual portions. Then all the containers go into the fridge and I can just grab one each day before I head to work. It streamlines my morning lunch packing routine and stops me from eating too much in any one sitting.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dinner tonight... Shrimp Pad Thai

One of the things I am most enjoying about feeding Mr. Fritz: at this point, I really feel like I can replicate a restaurant in my kitchen. One night, it's an American steak house, another night, an Italian trattoria, another night, a French bistro, etc. If we're craving it, I can (more or less) make it, and make it to order. So today, as I was planning this week's menu, I decided I'd give Pad Thai a try. I'd never made it before, but really like it. To my great delight, this recipe for Shrimp Pad Thai offered a very close approximation of what we'd get if we ordered it out.

Notable things: rice stick noodles, which look like my hair, were my hair translucent and white, can be hard to untangle. I only wanted to use half of the 8 oz package and ended up having to use scissors to cut off a slab of these dry, stiff, yet strangely pliable noodles in order to get the amount I needed. Also, this was my first time using fish sauce. I was hesitant, but figured that after all these years of avoiding it, it was probably time to just give in a buy a bottle. 2 Tbs of fish sauce is the equivalent to 2 Tbs of soy sauce and 1 Tb of anchovy paste. And, if you ever need to chop peanuts, try this method: put whole peanuts into a small ziplock bag, remove any excess air from the bag and seal it, then bang on it with a meat tenderizer. It works like a charm and is a lot easier (and safer) than triying to chop them with a knife. Finally, this recipe has a longer ingredient list than most of the ones I've used of late, but it really is worth it to gather everything, including the cilantro, fresh limes, scallions, and mung bean sprouts. Each ingredient really adds to the layered flavors and textures in the overall dish. Good stuff.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dinner tonight... Chicken Fried Rice with Bok Choy

For as long as I can remember, my mom has told me that when life gives you lemons, you need to make lemonade. Towards the end of making Thursday night's meal, I set aside some chicken and a couple of cups of jasmine rice. And so, Thursday night's less than spectacular meal (i.e. the proverbial lemons) turned into tonight's Chicken Fried Rice with Bok Choy (i.e. some pretty tasty proverbial lemonade), the second part to another two-parter Everyday Food recipe set.

In any case, it was very easy. First you beat an egg and pour it into a large frying pan over medium heat and let it cook until it sets, then remove it from the pan, roll it up and slice it, it'll make long strips that you'll eventually add back into the rice. Next, chop some bok choy, dice an onion, mince some garlic and saute it all in a little vegetable oil over medium-high. When the bok choy has softened (after 5 or so minutes), you add in the leftover rice and the leftover cooked chicken (shred it first), some rice vinegar, soy sauce and bottled ginger, stir everything together until it's all heated through (again, about 5 minutes), then add in the egg, give the whole thing another stir, and serve. Super easy!

A couple of notes: this was my first time cooking with bok choy. I was a little nervous about it -- I knew I'd eaten it in Chinese food in the past, but couldn't really recall if or how much I liked it. (Turns out that in this dish, anyway, it was great.) The recipe said to core and then chop it. As far as I can tell, "coring" it means to avoid using the stuff in the very center and make sure to cut the botton off of each stalk, the way you would with celery. Also, cooking the egg according to the directions yielded a really cool superthin omelet, almost crepe-like in its thinness. It made me thing that it might be fun to experiment with making eggs like that in the future and rolling stuff inside, such as proscuitto, blanched asparagus, etc. So many possibilities!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dinner tonight... Braised Chicken with White Wine, Tomatoes and Peas

This will be a short post, unfortunately. Tonight I made Braised Chicken with White Wine, Tomatoes and Peas from the December issue of Everyday Food and even though it sounded good when I read the recipe and the end result presented well:

...It just didn't taste very good. So I'm not going to go into how I made it or any of that, because I just don't think I'd recommend anyone else give it a shot. Sigh. I guess it could have been worse: we could have ordered it in a restaurant, paid lots of money for it and then been disappointed. But still, kind of a bummer.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dinner tonight... Steak Tostadas with Cilantro Sour Cream

Here it is: part two of Monday's cliffhanger! As promised, I made Steak Tostadas with Cilantro Sour Cream using ingredients intentionally left over from Monday's dinner. Because I'd prepped everything in advance, this meal came together in about 10 minutes, which is just about as good as it gets for a home-cooked meal.

On Monday, I sliced the remaining flank steak into thin slices, chopped up a couple of scallions and put those ingredients plus the leftover roasted mushrooms and a small can of well-drained corn into a big tupperware container, each ingredient in its own little pile. I also mixed up the sour cream/lime juice/cilantro topping and put that into a smaller container alongside the rest of the ingredients. So tonight, all I had to do was mix everything together, put it on top of two tortillas topped with cheese, and heat the tostadas in a 475 degree oven for a few minutes.

A couple of notes: they say to put the cheese-topped tortillas in the oven for 4-6 minutes first, then top with steak mixture and put them back in the oven for another 6-8 minutes. I found this led to a really hard tortilla in the end. I think it would be better to just put the cheese and the steak mixture on the tortilla from the start and let the entire thing spend only 6-8 minutes in the oven. I also thought the flank steak was overly chewy, but that might just be because I don't like meat that much. Amusingly, at the end of the meal, I'd left a lot of the meat on my plate and Mr. Fritz had left a lot of vegetables on his. Together we'd make one really good eater (or one really bad one, I guess!).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lunch today... Easiest Indian Stew

Just a quick post tonight. I generally pack Mr. Fritz a lunch everyday that consists of a couple of sandwiches, cookies, chips, a piece of fruit, some carrots, etc. But my lunch is usually a lot more random. Could be just instant oatmeal some weeks or just vegetables other weeks. But occasionally I go all out and make something -- usually a vegetarian something -- divide it immediately into portions in tupperware and then eat it all week for lunch. This week I did that with this recipe from Everyday Food called Easiest Indian Stew. It really is simple and it features chick peas, which I love. So there you go, a mini post about feeding Mrs. Fritz. Cheers!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dinner tonight... Seared Steak with Roasted Mushrooms and Spinach Salad

You know how sometimes your favorite TV show will do a two-part episode, leaving a cliffhanger at the end of the first hour? Well, that happened tonight in my kitchen. I decided to tackle a two-part Everyday Food recipe series, where you make extra of a couple of things on Night One (in this case, flank steak and roasted mushrooms) and then re-purpose the extra in a second meal on Night Two.

So tonight, Mr. Fritz and I dined on Seared Steak with Roasted Mushrooms and Spinach Salad, and on Wednesday, we'll reconvene to enjoy Steak Tostadas with Cilantro Sour Cream. It's like planned leftovers. Or leftovers with a purpose. Or something. In any case, I'm already looking forward to dinner on Wednesday!

As far as tonight's effort went, it was very easy to create. First, I quarted the mushrooms, tossed them with a little olive oil and chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and put them on a baking sheet and into a 475 degree oven for 20 minutes.

As soon as they went into the oven, I prepared a rub for the flank steak by mixing together crushed oregano, sweet paprika, red pepper and salt and pepper. I rubbed a little olive oil all over the 1.5 lb piece of meat, then covered it on both sides with the rub. The recipe calls for searing the meat on top of the stove, but I decided to toss it into the oven as well, for 15 minutes.

Once both the mushrooms and the steak were roasting, I turned to the salad, which was really just spinach dressed with a vinaigrette made of equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When the mushrooms were done roasted and the flank steak was cooked to our desired internal temp, I sliced the steak thinly and plated everything together. Done and done!

Mr. Fritz really liked this meal and so did I, despite not being a huge meat eater. The rub enhanced the flavor of the meat and the high-temperature oven roasting went surprisingly quickly and resulted in a nice juicy steak. The roasted mushrooms were particular tasty -- they had a nice firm texture and a great woodsy flavor. Plus the garlic added a little extra punch. And the salad was nice and simple. After we were done eating, I pulled together the ingredients for the tostadas a made a little meal kit for Wednesday. I feel ahead already!