Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Love is...

...wonderful.

Mr. Fritz proposed to me two years ago today, in the middle of the national mall after a day filled with wintry delight. When I think back to that afternoon, happy memories abound. More significantly, though, I can say without reservation that I feel blessed every single day to be able to share my life with him. So, no recipes tonight (although for the record, I did feed him a lovely dinner of tomato and sausage risotto). Instead, just a little note of appreciation to God for bringing Mr. Fritz into my life. And to Mr. Fritz for marrying me. I couldn't be more grateful.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dinner Tonight: Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork With Sweet Potatoes and Pears

This recipe for Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Pears, from the December issue of Real Simple magazine, is my kind of meal: roasted in the oven on an aluminum-foil covered sheet pan. Almost zero clean-up and very little prep time. Plus, super-delicious! To make, you cut sweet potatoes and red Bartlett pears into slices, toss them with olive oil and thyme, salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet at 425 for 15 minutes. While that's roasting, you wrap a pork tenderloin in prosciutto and, when the 15 minutes are up, push the vegetables to the side of the pan and add the pork, drizzling the pork with a bit of honey. Then you proceed to roast everything (the pork and the vegetables) for another 20-25 minutes. You end up with a company-worthy pork roast and some super tender vegetables and caramelized fruit.

My only problem, and it is one I seem to have a lot these days when I am roasting vegetables, is that the vegetables burned a bit before the pork was finished cooking. I think if I make it again, I'll put the vegetables and the pork into the oven at the same time, instead of adding the pork after the vegetables have already been roasting for 10-15 minutes. Also, since I was just cooking for me and Mr. Fritz, I used a half pound pork loin instead of one and a quarter pounds of pork tenderloin, so I wasn't totally sure how long to roast the pork for. I settled on 20 minutes and I think it probably would have been fine at 15-18 minutes.

Regardless, the pork with the prosciutto wrapped around it was really pretty wonderful, and the slightly burnt vegetables were salvageable, if a little too crispy in parts. The roasted pears, in particular, were a great treat. I don't roast fruit as often as I should...

Treats: Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I told Mr. Fritz that I'd made him some incredible cookies to take in his lunch this week and he took one look at them and said, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Fritz!" Then he took this glamour shot of them to show off their irresistibility:


The recipe is from the October issue of Everyday Food and it is the recipe that finally put this issue over the top for me as an all-time favorite. It's turned out so many great meals, I think it alone was worth the entire year's subscription price...

In any case, as I've noted many times, I am NOT a baker. I'm incredibly bad a baking. But these cookies. Oh my word. They are so delicious I almost don't know what to say. The magazine called them "Crave worthy" and that is no understatement. In fact, I gave one to Ms. Hays today as a parting gift when she stopped by to see me and when she tried the cookie a few hours later, liked it enough to send me the following text message: "I just had a bite of your cookie. Holy crap that's a good cookie!" See what I mean? Definitely worthy of Mr. Fritz's glamour shot treatment. And definitely worthy of your time if you decide to make them. I know I'll definitely turn out another batch before too long.

My one note/tip: the recipe calls for 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, chopped. I hate chopping chocolate, so I just used my big heavy meat tenderizer and banged on the two 4-ounce chocolate bars while they were still in their wrappers. Worked like a charm!

Recipe Roundup: Incredible, Easy Beef Stew


My mom always made beef stew when I was growing up and it was one of my favorite meals. This, despite the fact that I'm not much of a meat eater. I guess the thing about stew is that it is impossible to resist such a great dish - warm, fragrant, chock full of vegetables, awesome gravy. Yum!

A few weeks ago, Jamie Oliver appeared on Good Morning America and shared his recipe for stew. He structured it so that you could adapt it for chicken, pork, lamb or beef and it looked so easy that I made a note of it to try it when the weather seemed cold enough to warrant a big pot of it. Then, while reading through the December issue of Cooking Light, I saw another recipe for beef stew. I decided to merge the two recipes and come up with my own hybrid, mainly based on Jamie's.

Here's his original recipe:

Jamie Oliver's Basic Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 carrots
  • Olive oil
  • 1 heaped tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 x 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 1 pound diced stewing beef (I kept my pieces pretty big, actually)
  • 2 cups brown ale, Guinness or stout

  • If using the oven to cook your stew, preheat it to 350°F. Trim the ends off your celery and roughly chop the stalks. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel the carrots, slice lengthways, and roughly chop. Put a Dutch oven on a medium heat. Put all the vegetables and your chosen herb into the pan with 2 lugs of olive oil and fry for 10 minutes. Add you meat and flour. Pour in the booze and canned tomatoes. Give it a good stir, then season with a teaspoon of sea salt (less if using table salt) and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, put the lid on, and either simmer slowly on your cooktop or cook in an oven for the times shown above. Remove the lid for the final half hour of simmering or cooking and add a splash of water if it looks a bit dry. When done, your meat should be tender and delicious. Remove any bay leaves or herb stalks before serving, and taste it to see if it needs a bit more salt and pepper.

    I added:
    1 4-ounce package of baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
    3 cloves of garlic, minced
    half a pound (maybe more), baby gold potatoes, cut into quarters
    1 more cup of beer (in my case, oatmeal stout)

    And I simmered the stew in a big heavy pot for four hours instead of the three hours Jamie called for. The finished dish, which we shared with Mr. and Mrs. Meyer, was divine. I can't wait to make it again.

    Recipe Roundup: Sausage, Mozzarella, and Brocolli Rabe with Shells

    We had Sausage, Mozzarella and Broccoli Rabe with Shells, from the November issue of Everyday Food, for dinner on Friday night. And boy was it delicious. I used Italian sausage with basil and garlic instead of regular Italian sausage and really liked the flavors. This was also my first time cooking with broccoli rabe. It's sort of an unwieldy vegetable, but it was a great alternative to spinach, which is what usually ends up going into baked pasta dishes.

    The recipe had a few steps to it, since you start off by boiling the pasta and the broccoli rabe in one pot while cooking up the sausage, garlic and tomatoes in another before combining everything and pouring it into a baking dish, topping with fresh mozzarella and Parmesan, and baking for 15 minutes. In other words, don't make this on a night when you're in a hurry. Do make it when you want something warm, gooey, savory and satisfying. It is great!! And even
    cutting the recipe in half (well, everything but the amount of pasta), we still had enough leftover for lunch on Sunday.


    Sausage, Mozzarella, and Broccoli Rabe with Shells
    Source: Everyday Food Magazine, November 2009
    Serves 4. Prep time: 35 minutes. Total time: 50 minutes


    2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

    1 large onion, chopped
    3 sprigs thyme
    coarse salt and ground pepper
    2 garlic cloves, chopped
    3 links spicy Italian sausage (3/4 pounds total), casings removed
    1 Tb. all purpose flour

    1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes

    1 bunch (about one pound) broccoli rabe, trimmed and coarsely chopped

    6 ounces freshly mozzarella, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

    1/4 cup Parmesan


    Preheat oven to 400. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high. Add onion and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden brown, 15 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly).


    Add garlic and sausage, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Cook sauce until slightly thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme.

    Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes less than package instructions. Add broccoli rabe to pot and cook 15 seconds. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to pot. Stir in sausage mixture. Transfer to a 3 quart baking dish or divide among 4 16-ounce gratin dishes. Top with mozzarella and parmesan. Bake until cheese has melted and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

    Recipe Roundup: Chicken and Chickpea Soup

    I've been so busy the past few days that I haven't had a chance to post. But I have been cooking away. I'll be posting the things we liked. First up:


    Chicken and Chickpea Soup. This is a recipe from the December issue of Everyday Food. It's scaled to serve six, so I cut the recipe in half, sort of, and made a few other tweaks.

    First, I used boneless chicken breasts instead of the bone-in thighs suggested. This cut the prep time by a lot, since instead of cooking the chicken in a complicated way, I simply added chunks of raw chicken into the pot after I'd sauteed the onions for awhile. I added the spices when I added the chicken, so the chicken ended up being nicely flavorful.

    I cut the amount of chicken down to half a pound, cut the amount of broth in half as well, but kept the full amounts of spices, carrots, onions, chickpeas and lemon juice. As a result, the soup was really chock full of vegetables and smelled and tasted delicious. I also really appeciated the garnish of cilantro, garlic and lemon zest - it added a nice finishing touch to the soup and was worth the five minutes it took to mix it up. I'll definitely make this soup again.

    Chicken and Chickpea Soup
    Source: Everyday Food Magazine, December 2009
    Serves: 6. Prep time 15 minutes. Total time 1 hour 15 minutes (I think I made it in about 30 min)

    2 tsps. olive oil

    4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (I used 1/2 pound of boneless chicken breasts)

    coarse salt and ground pepper

    1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

    3 tsps. minced garlic

    3/4 tsp. ground cumin

    3/4 tsp. ground coriander

    1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

    2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

    6 cups chicken broth (I used three cups)

    1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

    zest and juice of 1 lemon

    2 tbs finely chopped fresh cilantro (corriander)

    (I skipped this first step, opting to add boneless cut up chicken to the pot along with the garlic and spices in step two) 1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook, skin side down, until skin is browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Flip chicken and cook until browned, 6 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate.

    2. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from pot. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of garlic and spices; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in carrots and return chicken to pot. Stir in broth.

    3. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a medium simmer, partially cover and cook until chicken is falling off the bone, about 50 minutes. (Again, this took a lot less time - I cooked the chicken fully in step two, so then I just let the soup simmer until the carrots were soft, around 10 minutes)

    4. Remove chicken from soup. When cool enough to handle, tear chicken into large pieces, discarding skin and bones. Return meat to pot. Add chickpeas and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon garlic, lemon zest, and cilantro; sprinkle over each soup serving before serving.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Treats: Snickerdoodles


    The Original Mrs. Fritz sent us home from Thanksgiving with a container filled with some of Mr. Fritz's favorite cookies: Snickerdoodles. He's been enjoying them ever since. I asked her to share her recipe, and here's what she sent along. Thank you, Original Mrs. Fritz!

    Snickerdoodles
    1/2 cup butter
    1/2 cup vegetable shortening
    1 1/2 cup sugar, plus 3 Tbs.
    2 eggs
    1 tsp soda
    1/4 tsp. salt
    2 tsps. cream of tartar
    2 3/4 cups flour
    3 tsps. cinnamon

    Mix butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs. Sift together and add the flour, soda, cream of tartar and salt. Roll into size of walnuts. Roll in mixture of 3 Tbs sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 400 degrees 8 to 10 min. Makes about 4 dozen 2" cookies.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Love is...

    ...picking through the cooked carrots to make sure that Mr. Fritz only gets the non-burnt ones.

    Tonight I was looking forward to trying this recipe for carrots with thyme from the October issue of Everyday Food. It's super simple: put sliced carrots, a tablespoon of butter, half a cup of water and four sprigs of thyme in a skillet, bring to a boil and let it cook for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the carrots are cooked. Everything was going along swimmingly at seven minutes. Then I got a little distracted preparing the chicken that I served it with, and after a couple of more minutes I started smelling and acrid burning. Oops. I guess on my stove, nine minutes is too long. In the end, they weren't all burnt, so I served them anyway. But I made sure that Mr. Fritz got most of the good ones. And actually, even the burnt ones were pretty good, so I will definitely give the recipe another try - albeit while keeping a closer eye on them.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup, plus a bonus recipe

    Tonight, Mr. Fritz went out with the guys for dinner, so I had a lovely vegetarian-ish meal of Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup. (The "ish" comes from the chicken stock; everything else about it is vegetarian.) This soup, from the December issue of Everyday Food, has quite a kick to it. I'd never cooked with chilies in adobo sauce before, so I was surprised by how incredibly potent they are. The recipe calls for one-half to one chili. I used one half and made sure to discard the seeds before I added it to the pot.

    The recipe also calls for the so
    up to be blended, and for that I turned to one of my most trusted tools: my immersion blender. I truly think that every kitchen should have one of these; they're small and they are so incredibly handy for blending hot soups, smoothies, even making fresh whipped cream. I think I'm on my third one (they don't last forever, unfortunately, and my first two used rechargeable batteries, which I think just stopped charging. Now I have a plug-in model) and I can't rave about it enough.

    I made this soup on Sunday afternoon and have been eating it all week for lunch (and, well, dinner tonight). It turned out velvety smooth and wonderful. It's garnished with a bit of sour cream, which helps to cut the heat from the chilies. I highly recommend it and plan to make it again!


    Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup
    Source: Everyday Food Magazine, December 2009
    Serves: 8. Prep time: 15 minutes. Total time: 50 minutes
    2 Tbs olive oil
    1 medium white onion, chopped coarse salt and ground pepper 2 tsps. ground cumin 4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 to 1 whole chipotle chili in adobo, chopped 7 cups of low sodium chicken broth sour cream, for serving
    toasted flour tortilla wedges, for serving (optional)

    1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until beginning to brown around the edges, about 7 minutes. Add cumin and garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sweet potatoes, chile, and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce to a rapid simmer, partially cover, and cook until sweet potatoes can be mashed easily with a spoon, 20 to 25 minutes. (I let mine cook for probably 30 minutes longer than that, because I was busy with other things when the initial simmering window was up.)

    2. Let soup cool slightly. Working in batches, transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) (Of course, I just used my aforementioned immersion blender for this and pureed the soup in the pot. Less mess!) Return pureed soup to pot over low heat and season with salt and pepper. Top with sour cream or serve with tortilla wedges if desired.

    Bonus recipe: Last night I broiled some salmon topped with dill and lemon, and served it alongside Spinach with Nutmeg and Lemon. The spinach recipe is from the October issue of Everyday Food and it was, as far as spinach goes, sublime. I was able to make dinner in all of nine minutes. And it was the best "fast food" that we've probably ever had! Definitely give it a try!

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Individual Chicken Potpies

    You may recall that I already have a killer chicken pot pie recipe, one that has been a hit again and again. The only drawback to that recipe is scaled to feed at least six, sometimes twelve - which makes it great for feeding a crowd and overkill for feeding Mr. Fritz and me. So when I saw this recipe for Individual Chicken Potpies on the cover of the October issue of Everyday Food, it seemed worth attempting. I also liked that the recipes differ a bit - my original recipe uses pie crust and frozen vegetables, plus evaporated skim milk. This new recipe uses puff pastry dough, fresh vegetables (well, except for the peas, but I'll get to that in a moment), and is dairy free.


    The recipe is scaled to feed four. I cut the flour, broth and chicken in half, doubled the vegetables (actually, I think I may have quadrupled the peas, since I used a whole ten-ounce box. Poor Mr. Fritz said something like, "I think mine is 'Pea Pot Pie...'" I was hoping he might not notice the influx of peas...), and used 16-ounce ramekins because I didn't have 12-ounce ramekins (plus, I needed extra room for all of those peas!). The resulting pot pies were lovely, but honestly, for amount of time involved in making them (there's sauteing and chilling and prepping and chilling and then finally baking...), I probably will not make them again until I have a long lazy afternoon in my sights. Still, I am glad I tried them tonight; they were comfort food for sure!

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Holiday Treat: Pilgrim Hats and Turkeys

    The Eldest Miss Bowers is back for her second annual Thanksgiving blog post. Tonight, she's going to write about the fun Rice Krispie treat pilgrim hats and turkeys that she made with her mom, Mrs. Bowers, and her littlest sister, The Youngest Miss Bowers. Eldest Miss Bowers, take it away!


    "To follow up on last year's Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Pilgrim Hats, we decided to move into Rice Krispie Treat Pilgrim Hats and Turkeys, too. We made the Pilgrim Hats first. My mom made chocolate rice krispie treats and we cut them into pilgrim hat shapes. Then we added a frosting buckle and hat band. That was pretty much it. It was pretty easy!


    "The Turkeys were a big project. They took awhile, but they were fun. We used regular Rice Krispie treats and cut them into circles. Then we used chocolate frosting and put it near the top edge of each circle. Next we added as many candy corns as we needed, and put them upside down, side by side on top of the frosting, to form the feathers. Finally, we added a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup on top of each one. And we made frosting eyes with white and then black frosting on top of each peanut butter cup and we added a beak made out of frosting. That's it!

    "One of the things I'm thankful for is getting to bake with my family. Happy Thanksgiving!"

    Thank you Eldest Miss Bowers!!

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Risotto Cakes with Roasted Tomatoes and Arugula

    So tonight I used last night's leftover risotto as the basis for this meal. Unfortunately, took longer and was messier to create than I thought it would be. Nevertheless, the end result tasted really good, so I think it's worth posting here. One note: there's at least 15 minutes worth of chilling time needed between when you form the risotto cakes to when you can fry them, so if I were to do this again, I might form the cakes earlier in the day so that when I was ready to get dinner out, I could speed up the whole process.



    Risotto Cakes with Roasted Tomatoes and Arugula
    Source: Everyday Food, October 2009

    Serves 4. Prep time: 30 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes plus chilling


    4 cups leftover Leek, Bacon and Pea Risotto, cold

    2 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 8 cubes
    all-purpose flour for dredging
    2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes

    4 sprigs thyme
    1 Tb extra virgin olive oil

    salt and pepper

    1/3 cup vegetable oil
    2 bunches arugula, thick stems trimmed


    Preheat oven to 450. Form risotto into 8 balls. Press a cube of cheese into each ball and flatten risotto into 1/2 inch patties (make sure cheese is covered). Dredge patties in flour and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, 15 minutes.


    Meanwhile, on a large rimmed baking sheet, toss tomatoes with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Roast until tomatoes begin to collapse, about 20 minutes.


    In a large skillet over medium heat, heat vegetable oil until it sizzles when a pinch of flour is added. Dredge patties in flour again, shaking off excess. In two batches, fry patties until golden and warmed through, about 10 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels. Serve risotto cakes with arugula and tomatoes.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Leek, Bacon and Pea Risotto plus 2 bonus recipes

    I think that the first time I made risotto was back in 1999. At the time, it was pretty intimidating. All that stirring! It was the first time I'd made anything on top of the stove that needed so much attention for such a sustained time. But over the past decade I've lost my fear of this creamy rice dish and have made it in many different iterations. Tonight's version, Leek, Bacon and Pea Risotto, comes from the October issue of Everyday Food. It's scaled to make more than you'd need for a single meal, since leftovers go towards a second recipe (which I plan to make tomorrow night).

    Tonight, I cut the amount of broth, arborio rice and parmesan cheese in half, left the full recipe amounts of bacon, wine and lemon juice, and increased the amount of peas from 3/4 cup to a full 10 ounce package (because who needs a partial package of frozen peas hanging out in their freezer?). And I definitely have enough left for tomorrow's secondary meal. Mr. Fritz commented a couple of times that he really liked the finished dish, much to my delight.

    The key to making risotto without losing your mind is to heat up the broth on a separate burner. That way when you mix it into the risotto a cup at a time, it won't take as long to be absorbed. This cuts down the amount of time you'll find yourself standing at the stove stirring and stirring, which is a very good thing. (And that's a tip I don't think I learned until 2001...) In any case. this was good and I expect I will make it again!

    Bonus recipes: Today was a bacon kind of day. For lunch I made Tomato Soup with Cheese and Bacon Toasties. The soup was pretty quick to pull together and the "toasties" were pretty much grilled cheese mini sandwiches with bacon amidst the cheese. Delish!

    And I didn't get a chance to post this previously, but Thursday night I made Almond Chicken, adapted from an Everyday Food recipe for Cashew Chicken. It was particularly tasty - they labeled it "Eat Out At Home" and it definitely qualified as a really nice at-home version of Chinese take out. Mr. Fritz loved this - it will definitely make a repeat appearance. I served it with rice and green beans. I forgot about the green beans till I was done with the chicken and so I ended up throwing them into the same skillet and stir frying them with a little bit of soy sauce and rice vinegar. They were great!

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Appetizer: Bleu Cheese Pinecone

    Mrs. Glade asked me to cater a dinner party for 20+ guests at her home tonight.We planned a very fall-like meal, comprised of some of the dishes that I've made in the past that she and her husband particularly enjoyed. I mixed in a couple of new items, as well. On the menu:

    Pistachio-Covered Cheese Log
    Blue Cheese Pinecone
    Green Salad
    Braised Brisket with Cranberries
    Rice Pilaf with Vermicelli
    My Mom's Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream


    The Bleu Cheese Pinecone was one of the items that was new for me. I wanted to do something to complement the pistachio-covered cheese log, which is made with cheddar. I found this recipe on a women's ministry web site and it is super easy. They suggest shaping the cheese mixture into a pinecone. I went the classic route and just shaped it into a ball. The almond-covered ball and the pistachio-covered log looked very nice together!

    The Rice Pilaf with Vermicelli was another new-to-me recipe. I thought it would pair nicely with the brisket, since the brisket is very flavorful and a bit tart. My mom always adds vermicelli or another similar pasta to her rice, so I am used to making rice with pasta. But unlike my mom's recipe, this one adds onions and cooks in chicken broth instead of water. It, too, was very easy. It serves four, so I used three pots and did a double batch in each one. I'll definitely make it again some time for me and Mr. Fritz.

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Love is...

    ...when a Wolverine makes chocolate and peanut butter buckeyes with which to surprise her Buckeye husband the night before the Big Game.


    This was my first time making buckeyes. (And to be honest, they look really sad compared to the gorgeous ones The Original Mrs. Fritz regularly turns out. Sigh.) I would like to think that I may have gone momentarily insane, causing me to set aside the Maize and Blue running through my veins in order to be able to make these symbolically loaded confections. But the truth is, I just love Mr. Fritz. And I know these will make him ridiculously happy. And that's enough of a reason for me to do just about anything.

    That being said...
    Go Blue!

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Baked Chicken with Onions, Potatoes, Garlic and Thyme

    Wow. I wish that you could have been in my kitchen tonight. The meal that I made, Baked Chicken with Onions, Potatoes, Garlic and Thyme from the October issue of Everyday Food, smelled positively sublime while it was roasting. The whole house filled with the scent of lemons and thyme.


    And happily, when it came out of the oven, it tasted just as wonderful as I'd hoped - luscious, perfectly tender chicken, lemons that roasted so thoroughly the practically melted, fragrant roasted garlic, caramelized chunks of red onion, and well-cooked hunks of new potatoes. The dish had very little added fat - I used 2 Tb. of olive oil total, since I halved the recipe - and required very little prep or cleanup. I think in total, I used a baking dish, a cutting board, a knife, a measuring spoon, and a little tupperware container to mix the balsamic vinegar with the olive oil before drizzling it over the chicken and vegetables. It's the ideal one-dish meal and it is one I plan to make again and again from here on out. Delish!


    Baked Chicken with Onions, Potatoes, Garlic and Thyme
    Source: Everyday Food Magazine, October 2009
    Serves 4 - Prep time 10 minutes - Total time 1 hour

    1 whole chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 pieces and breasts halved crosswise*
    1 pound new potatoes, halved (quartered if large)
    1 large red onion, cut into eighths
    1 head garlic cloves, separated and left unpeeled**
    6 sprigs thyme
    1 lemon, quartered
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    2 Tb balsamic vinegar
    coarse salt and ground pepper

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange chicken, potatoes, onion, garlic, thyme and lemon in a 12-by-16 inch roasting pan. Whisk together olive oil and vinegar and drizzle over chicken and vegetables. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper. Turn chicken skin side up. Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 50 minutes.***

    A few notes from my kitchen:

    * Since it was me and Mr. Fritz, I subbed boneless/skinless chicken breast, about 1/2 pound total. I'd probably use boneless/skinless again even if I were doing it for more people, because it came out so well without the mess of having to hack up a chicken.

    ** I peeled my garlic. I didn't want to deal with the skins in the finished dish.

    *** My version was done in 40 minutes, probably because it was boneless and skinless. Also, instead of using a roasting pan, I used a small but heavy ceramic baking dish.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Marinated Salmon with Couscous

    Tonight I was reminded what a blessing it is to be able to cook. Knowing how to read and execute recipes means that anything is possible in the kitchen. It means that you never have to eat the same thing twice if you choose not to - and it means you can eat the same well-executed dish over and over again if you find a recipe you really love. As I sat down to dinner tonight, I thought about how much we'd probably pay for a similar meal at a restaurant and concluded that it'd cost at least three times as much. So not only do I gain satisfaction from cooking for myself and Mr. Fritz, we also save money without sacrificing quality or taste. I realize that this revelation is nothing new, but it is good to remember why I spend time in the kitchen as well as reflect on what we gain from it.


    All that to say, tonight's meal was really good! And super easy. I adapted this recipe from the October 2009 issue of Everyday Food for Marinated Salmon Steaks with Couscous. I chose to use 6 oz salmon filets instead of salmon steaks, and I cut the rest of the recipe in half. Also, I didn't bother to marinate the salmon for 30 minutes as the recipe calls for, because ever since I read this story in the Washington Post about why there's no good reason to let something sit in a marinade, I've pretty much eliminated that resting time from every recipe I use that calls for marinating something. I slathered the salmon on both sides with the marinade, set it in a baking dish and baked it for 13 minutes at 375. And it came out perfectly. The couscous is infused with olive oil and lemon zest, and it's pretty essential for the meal, because the marinade has such a crazy kick to it thanks to the jalapeno pepper included in it. Mr. Fritz and I both liked this a lot, despite the fact that it was spicier than what we usually eat. I also appreciated that it was a new way to serve salmon (since I am always in search of new ways to serve salmon!) and really liked that it had sort of a Middle Eastern flavor to it. I will definitely make this again!

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Dinner Last Night: Cubano Sandwiches

    I spent the weekend in all-day classes, so I was excited to be able to make a super easy meal last night. Using the pork tenderloin leftover from Thursday night's Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Acorn Squash, plus another loaf of freshly baked bread from the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book (dough that I had pre-made last Sunday but baked off last night!), along with Swiss cheese, dill pickles, mustard and some thinly-sliced deli ham, these Cubano Sandwiches (also featured in the November issue of Everyday Food) came together in a flash.


    My tweaks: I used a regular heavy sauce pan instead of a grill pan, since I don't own a grill pan. And I used my bread instead of hoagie rolls, but the timing for grilling and baking stayed the same. Also, I subbed Vermont cheddar for Swiss on my sandwich, since I prefer cheddar, but put Swiss on Mr. Fritz's. And, I learned last night that Mr. Fritz cannot stand pickles. I appreciate that after 3+ years together, there are still things I don't know about my hot husband. It keeps things interesting!

    Cubano Sandwiches
    Source: Everyday Food Magazine, November 2009
    Serves 4 - Prep Time: 20 Minutes - Total Time: 30 Minutes

    3 Tb butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
    4 Portuguese rolls, split
    yellow mustard, to taste
    1/2 pound thinly sliced deli ham
    1 pound Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin, thinly sliced
    1/2 pound Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
    sliced dill pickles, to taste

    1. Preheat oven to 425. Butter inside of each roll; spread with mustard. Divide ham, pork and cheese among bottom halves of rolls. Top with pickles, more mustard to taste, and top halves of rolls. Press down firmly on sandwiches.

    2. Heat a grill pan and another heavy pan over medium. With a paper towel, lightly coat grill pan with butter. In batches, place sandwiches on grill pan and weight with second pan. Cook until bread is crisp on the outside, about 3 minutes per side; transfer grill pan to over and bake sandwiches until cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. To serve, cut sandwiches in half.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Arugula Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Feta, Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Acorn Squash and Homemade Bread

    Tonight, we had the great pleasure of having our fun friends Ms. DiNardo and Mr. Fielder over for dinner. Since they are both great cooks, I wanted to make something seasonal and special for our meal. The November issue of Everyday Food had a couple of things that I thought would go well together.


    First, a salad of arugula, feta and roasted sweet potatoes with an orange and white wine vinegar vinaigrette. This was incredibly easy to put together: roast one and a half pounds of sweet potatoes tossed with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, then toss with arugula and feta and dress with a mixture of 1/2 tsp. orange zest, 1 Tb. fresh-squeezed orange juice, 1 tsp. white wine vinegar and 2 Tb. olive oil. And, for a salad with only three main ingredients, was really tasty.


    The main course was also very simple: pour a marinade of olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, chili poweder and cumin over slices of acorn squash. Sear a 3 pound pork loin, then baste it with that same marinade. Then roast the squash and the pork loin on the same pan in a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes, turning the squash and re-basting the pork every 15 minutes. The squash becomes tender and caramelized and the pork gets a most luscious, flavorful crust.


    But the part of the meal I was most proud of was actually the bread. I made bread from scratch! And it was ridiculously simple. I used a cookbook called "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day" and was able to make the bread with just flour, yeast, water and salt using just a bowl, a wooden spoon, and a pizza stone. The authors of the book have created a method that yields a really wet dough that you can pull together in literally just a couple of minutes, that needs no kneading or proofing and that is truly idiot-proof. And the bread! Mr. Fritz cannot get over how great it tasted. It was hearty, salty, airy-yet-substantial and had a great crust. I am so thrilled with the result, I can't wait to try the rest of the recipes in the book! (This time, I used the "boule" recipe) Better yet, the dough (which I made on Sunday) made enough for two loaves. So I'll probably make another loaf on Saturday to use for that evening's meal. Woo hoo!

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Cheddar-Dill Omelet and Hash Browns

    It's been raining all day and so when it came to making dinner, I wasn't really in the mood to make anything too complicated. I also had limited supplies on hand. That's why I was particularly proud of how well tonight's meal came off - it was simple, yummy and satisfying. Oh, and inexpensive. I used stuff that I had on hand: 5 eggs, a potato purchased a couple of grocery-shopping trips ago, dill leftover from the bunch I'd used for Monday night's pasta recipe, and a handful of shredded cheddar.

    To prepare this riff on breakfast-for-dinner, I chopped up the potato into tiny pieces (it always amazes me how far a single, medium-sized potato can be stretched) and fried it on medium-high heat in a little bit of butter. While that was cooking, I cracked the eggs, added dill, salt and pepper, then poured the egg mixture into my widest saute pan to make a mega-sized omelet. I sprinkled the cheese on top and let it cook away over medium heat until it was no longer wet. (Mr. Fritz is not a fan of wet eggs...). Then I cut it into two pieces, and plated each one alongside the hash browns. Easy as can be, with quick clean-up. Perfect for a mid-week meal!

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Spaghetti and Meatballs

    Every now and then I ask Mr. Fritz what he would like to have for dinner. Usually, he has no preference, which is why I rarely ask. But sometimes I am desperate for inspiration, so I put him on the hot spot and beg him for a suggestion. This week, when I was searching for an idea, he suggested spaghetti. We have pasta all the time, but rarely the long skinny stuff that actually qualifies as honest-to-goodness spaghetti. So tonight, I tried a meatball recipe from the October issue of Everyday Food. But, as usual, I tweaked it a bit.

    The original recipe is for meatballs in a tomato sauce, served alongside garlic bread. I subbed the spaghetti for the garlic bread because I didn't want to have two starches. And instead of giving a hoagie roll a whirl through the food processor to use as filler with the meatballs, I subbed in a half a cup of panko. The meal came together pretty quickly - the whole thing was done in around 25 minutes. I enjoyed it - it'd been a long time since I made meatballs and the last time they were turkey meatballs. This was a nice variation.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Chicken, Lemon and Dill with Orzo

    Wow. Just when I think I've been bored to death by chicken, a recipe like this one comes along and wins me over yet again. This beauty, featured in a story called "Beyond Lasagna" in the November 09 issue of Everyday Food, is sublime. It's also ridiculously easy. Which means it's definitely a keeper. It combines lots of my favorite things: lemon, dill, feta, and orzo to create a baked pasta dish that is equal parts comfort food and savory delight. Spectacular!


    I played with the ratio of ingredients a bit, because the recipe is written to serve six. I more or less cut it in half, but went with ample amounts of lemon juice and dill, in particular, and less feta and parmesan. The end result is sort of risotto-ish, actually, without the fuss and attention needed for real risotto.

    Chicken, Lemon and Dill with Orzo
    Source: Everyday Food Magazine, November 2009
    Serves 6. Prep time: 10 minutes. Total time: 50 minutes

    4 cups low sodium chicken broth
    1 Tb unsalted butter
    1 1/4 tsp coarse salt
    1/4 tsp pepper
    1 pound chicken tenderloins, cut into 1-in pieces
    1 pound orzo
    2 cups crumbled feta (about 4 ounces)
    1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
    2 tsps finely grated lemon zest plus 1 Tb fresh lemon juice
    1 c grated Parmesan

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a sauce pan, bring broth, 3/4 cup water, butter, salt and pepper to a boil. In a 3-quart baking dish, combine chicken, orzo, feta, dill, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour broth mixture over chicken mixture and stir once to incorporate. Bake until orzo is tender and cooking liquid is creamy, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle Parmesan on top and let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

    Enjoy!

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    Treats: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


    These are the cookies my mom made for my family when I was growing up. One bite takes me immediately back to my childhood, hanging out in the kitchen while she whipped up a quick batch. I thought they were the best cookies ever. In fact, when I was in high school and college, I used to give these to my friends for Christmas. The first year of my cookie gifting, I gave each of them a full-to-the-brim, personalized glass cookie jar, and then each year afterwards, I collected the jars, refilled them and redistributed them. When Mr. Fritz was deployed to Iraq a couple of years ago, these cookies made it into one of the many care packages I sent his way. And tonight, I made them just because. (They'll find their way into Mr. Fritz's lunch this week and possibly next...) So, if you're looking for a sweet treat to share with someone you love, give these beauties a try. I promise, you won't be disappointed!

    Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
    adapted from the Quaker Oats canister recipe

    1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
    1 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
    1 cup white sugar
    2 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla
    1.5 cups flour (scooped - NOT spooned - into a measuring cup)
    1 t baking soda
    1/2 t salt
    3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
    1 whole bag of chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

    Preheat oven to 375. Beat the butter until it's light. Add sugars. Beat until fluffy. Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat that well. Add the flour, baking soda and the salt. Mix well. Stir in the oatmeal and the chocolate chip until thoroughly combined. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are just set. Let cool for one minute then transfer to a wire rack. Do not overbake.

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Mrs. Taylor's Pasta Sauce over Sweet Italian Sausage Tortellini

    While my pound cake was in the oven, I decided it might be nice to pull together a little something to simmer on the stove. So I pulled out one of my most beloved cookbooks - one put together and given to me by my old friend Mrs. Taylor of her favorite tried-and-true recipes - and made a pot of from-scratch pasta sauce. I must admit that more often than not, I cheat and use bottled sauce. (I'm partial to Vodka Sauce from the Teeter) even though I was raised by a mother who always always made a fabulous meat sauce from scratch. So tonight, I vowed, I'd return to my from-scratch roots, and, since I wanted to make a meatless sauce tonight, I went with Mrs. Taylor's version. I'm going to serve it over tortellini stuffed with sweet Italian sausage as a concession to my meat-loving husband. It's still simmering away as I type this, and it smells great. Here's to hoping Mr. Fritz likes it! (I think he will... It's seriously awesome...)


    Mrs. Taylor's Pasta Sauce

    2 cups chopped onion
    2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
    2-3 Tbs olive oil
    3 30-oz cans diced tomatoes
    2 6-oz cans tomato paste
    2 Tbs. brown sugar
    2 tsp. dried oregano
    1 tsp dried basil
    1/2 tsp ground thyme
    2 tsp. salt
    2 bay leaves

    1 pound fresh mushrooms
    olive oil

    In a large stock pot, cook onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until tender, but not brown. Add remaining ingredients (except mushrooms) and simmer on low heat for about 2 hours until sauce is thick, stirring occasionally. Saute mushrooms in olive oil; add to sauce. Remove bay leaves before serving.

    Treats: Sour Cream Pound Cake

    My sister is a genius. As you know, I am a hapless baker. As such, I have been having a hard time getting cakes to turn out without splitting in half in the pan, and so tonight, as I prepared to separate a sour cream pound cake from its pan, I decided to do what I should have done three cakes ago: call Mrs. Plourde for an assist. I asked her how long to leave it in the pan before flipping it out and she gave me this sage advice: "About 10 minutes. If you leave it in less than that, it won't come out and if you leave it in longer than that it won't come out." So I set a timer and, like magic, this gorgeous specimen emerged in all its glory. I actually yelled "hooray" out loud when it appeared on the cooling rack in one piece. (Mr. Fritz had yelled something similar to that a few minutes prior when his beloved Buckeyes scored a touchdown. I told him after my "hooray" that I could totally identify with his joy...)


    This particular pound cake, "Grandmother Paula's Sour Cream Pound Cake" is a Paula Deen recipe. I am not typically a Paula Deen fan. Her stuff seems heavy and her accent and folksy manner drives me bananas. But this recipe looked super simple when I came across it on the Food Network's web site, so I decided to give it a try in this week's quest for a good breakfast treat for Mr. Fritz. The batter tasted great (yes, I tried a little bit off of the beater) and so I'm expecting the cake will as well. If nothing else, did I mention that it looks spectacular? Go Mrs. Fritz!

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Chicken with Easy Peanut Sauce

    Another night, another oooold recipe that I've finally gotten around to trying. This time, it's Jean Carper's recipe for Chicken with Easy Peanut Sauce. Mr. Fritz and I both liked this a lot, and since it lived up to it's "easy" title, I definitely plan to make it again.

    Jean calls for grilling chicken breasts for 7 minutes. We don't have a grill, so I threaded bite-sized pieces of chicken onto four metal skewers and broiled them for around 8 minutes, turning each skewer once mid-way through cooking them. While they were broiling, I made the peanut sauce - you just put peanut butter, garlic, a bit of soy sauce, and some chicken broth into a bowl and nuke it for three minutes.


    I plated the chicken with steamed pea pods and basmati rice and served the peanut sauce in a ramekin on the side. It made for a nice looking plate and each element was really good both individually and collectively. And considering there were four components to the meal, cleanup was still pretty quick.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: In-a-Hurry Chicken Curry


    I clipped this chicken curry recipe years ago from USA WEEKEND and just now got around to making it. Looking for something easy to prepare tonight, I finally got around to making it. With just a few ingredients, it was super simple to make but it was a little too spicy for my tastes. If I make it again, I'll use less curry. I liked the addition of golden raisins and pineapple - the sweetness cut the heat a bit. But not enough...

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Calzones with Italian Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

    Last night, Mr. Fritz and I watched the Seinfeld rerun in which George gets the Yankee's owner hooked on calzones from a local pizza place. In true George fashion, he ticks off the one of the workers at the restaurant, finds himself banned for life, and has to turn to Newman to procure Steinbrenner's daily calzone fix. The episode made me laugh. It also made me think about making calzones after a long calzone hiatus.

    So, tonight, I used refrigerated pizza dough, Italian sausage that I precooked on the stove, a shredded mix of Italian cheeses and the final bit of the roasted red pepper sauce I made previously to cook up a couple of calzones. They took a quick 13-minute trip through a 400 degree oven and were good to go. Verdict: pretty good and fast meal for a Tuesday night!

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Shrimp, Feta and Orzo Salad

    During the year after our wedding, I found myself on the receiving end of a magazine called The Nest. I think it came to me automatically because I had used The Knot to help me stay organized as I planned our big day. In any case, the magazine came around once every few months and then, once we hit our one year anniversary, it stopped. I guess once we were past being newlyweds they assumed we were fully "nested". In any case, I actually sort of enjoyed the magazine and got a few good recipes out of it. Among them was this one for Shrimp, Feta and Orzo Salad. It's a hybrid of a hot and cold salad - warm shrimp over a cold orzo pasta salad, served on a bed of lettuce. I definitely picked the wrong season to make this - eating a cold salad in front of a roaring fire is just sort of ridiculous, and needless to say, Mr. Fritz wasn't really a fan of the dish, mainly because of the temperature.

    Regardless, I think it's worth posting here because it has a good mix of flavors and textures. And in the right season (for the record, the recipe ran in the Spring 08 issue), would probably make for a great meal.


    Shrimp, Feta and Orzo Salad
    Source: The Nest magazine
    Serves 2

    1 garlic clove, minced
    3/4 Tb. fresh lemon juice
    2 Tb. olive oil
    1 1/2 tsp minced fresh oregano leaves (I used dried)
    salt and pepper
    1/2 lb medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
    3/4 cup orzo, uncooked
    1/3 c crumbled feta (about 2 oz.)
    1 medium tomato, chopped
    3 scallions, sliced
    1/2 c packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
    1 avocado, chopped (this is my addition)
    1 c baby greens, washed and rinsed

    DRESSING
    1/2 garlic clove, chopped
    2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
    1/4 c fresh, flat-leaf parsley
    2 tsp. minced fresh oregano leaves
    pepper
    1/4 c olive oil

    Directions
    In a bowl, whisk together garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Add shrimp to marinade, stirring to coat well. Marinate shrimp, covered and chilled, 1 hour. Prepare grill pan. (Note, I let it marinade for awhile, but not a whole hour, and it was fine. Also, I didn't used a grill, I just sauted the shrimp when I was ready to cook it.)

    Meanwhile, cook orzo according to package directions. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.

    For the dressing, combine all six ingredients in a blender until emulsified.

    When orzo is cool, stir in feta, tomato, scallions, and parsley leaves. (Note: I added a chopped up avocado as well because I had one on hand - I thought it made the dish better). Add dressing to taste and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

    Remove shrimp from marinade, discard marinade. Grill shrimp until just cooked through about 2 minutes on each side. Using tongs, remove shrimp from grill pan and toss gently with orzo mixture. (I just put all the shrimp on the top of each dish of salad. But I probably should have tossed it all together...)

    Line salad bowls with baby greens and fill with orzo salad. Serve.

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Treats: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies


    This afternoon I made these excellent cookies for Mr. Fritz. The recipe is from Real Simple and it's easy enough that even I couldn't screw it up. The hardest part (or rather, the part that takes the longest) is unwrapping all of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. But honestly, the result is worth the effort. My only issue with the recipe: it claims to make 48 cookies. I was able to get 24 out of the first batch of batter I made a few weeks ago and just 18 (albeit pretty big) cookies out of today's batch. Regardless, if you have a bag of mini Reese's leftover from last night's festivities, I definitely recommend giving this recipe a try!

    A Perfect Fall Dinner

    Welcome, November! The weather had a bit of a chill to it today, which put me in the mood for comfort food. Which was perfect, since we were expecting our spectacular friends Mr. Leamon and Ms. Kuhn over for dinner. I spent the afternoon preparing the meal so that I could fully enjoy spending time with our guests. On the menu: my favorite salad from Foster's Market in Durham, North Carolina, chicken pot pie, and my mom's apple crisp. I made the chicken pot pie and the apple crisp all the way up to the baking stage during the day, then put the pot pie into the oven about 30 minutes before our guests arrived and put the apple crisp into the oven as soon as I pulled the pot pie out. And I presliced all the ingredients for the salad, dousing the avocado and apple slices in lemon juice so that they wouldn't brown, and made the dressing, then assembled the salad just before we were ready to eat it. The meal was delicious - exactly what I had hoped for!

    While I'd made the salad (which I first encountered while visiting Mr. and Mrs. Stevens in Raleigh a few years ago) and the pot pie (a Pam Anderson recipe for USA WEEKEND) many times before, this was the first time I'd ever made my mom's apple crisp. Her recipe was a little vague - she didn't specify how many apples to use or how long to leave it in the oven, and when I called to ask her, she said what all great cooks would say: "bake it till it's done." Translated: for a 9x13" pan, use 7-8 apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks and bake it for around 30-40 minutes, or until the apples are nice and tender and the "crisp" is golden brown. Taking a bite of the finished product immediately transported me to my childhood, a very happy time indeed! Thanks, Mom, for the apple crisp and for always being so good to me!!

    Avocado, Cucumber, Green Apple, Feta Salad
    Source: Foster's Market, by way of Mrs. Stevens

    Grated zest and juice of one lime
    1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
    1 tart apple, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
    1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
    1 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and sliced 1/4 inch thick
    4 cups watercress, washed and trimmed of tough stems
    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    3 onces feta, thinly sliced

    1. stir the lime zest and juice and vinegar together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until all in incorporated. Stir in the mint.

    2. In separate medium bowl combine the apple, avocado, cucumber and watercress. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently. Arrange the salad on a platter or individual plates, top with the feta slices, and serve immediately.


    Apple Crisp
    Source: my sweet, amazing, talented mother

    7-8 apples, cored, peeled and roughly chopped into good sized chunks
    1 cup brown sugar
    1 cup flour
    1 cup oatmeal (the old fashioned kind, not the quick cooking)
    1 stick of butter, melted
    1/4 tsp. cinnamon*
    1/4 tsp. nutmeg*
    1/4 tsp. salt
    vanilla ice cream

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a 9x13" baking dish with the apples. Mix remaining ingredients together and pour mixture over the apples. Bake for 2o-30 minutes or until the apples are nice and soft and cooked through. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

    *says Mom: "if you wish, you can use more or less cinnamon and nutmeg."

    Enjoy!!

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Chicken and Tortellini with Green Beans and RRP sauce



    This weekend I made another batch of the aforementioned Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and decided to use some of it for dinner tonight. It was a very simple affair and gave a nice result. I put a pot of water on to boil and when it was ready, I dropped in a package of cheese-filled spinach tortellini. While it was cooking, I cut up boneless chicken and sauteed it, along with green beans until the chicken was cooked through and the green beans still had a little bite to them. Then I deglazed the pan with a little white wine. When the tortellini was ready, I divided it between two bowls and dressed each bowl with a few tablespoons of sauce. Then I topped each bowl with the chicken and green bean mixture and more sauce. And then finally I dusted each bowl with a bit of Parmesan. It was a nice meal and was very colorful. The combination of pasta, protein, vegetables and sauce is a pretty regular meal solution for us on busy weeknights. But this is the first time I've put these four specific elements together. I'll definitely make it again!

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Wayne's Inheritance



    There are many great restaurants in Ann Arbor, Mich., but my favorite is Zingerman's Deli. It's quite possibly the greatest place on earth for someone who likes to eat really good food. It's also home to what is probably my favorite sandwich ever, Wayne's Inheritance. Comprised of roasted chicken, cucumber slices, white cheddar and Ranch dressing, it's a pretty simple sandwich to replicate at home, although it never really occurred to me to try until I started cooking for Mr. Fritz. Now I serve it every few weeks. Zingerman's is all about the ingredients - the best of everything. My version comes reasonably close to the original, though.

    I use organic chicken breasts which I cut into strips and saute over medium high heat until they're cooked through. I heat up two demi-baguettes (I think I've written about these before - this great crusty bread that's sold frozen and then finished off at home with 10 minutes in the oven), split them open and spread ranch dressing on one side each one and lay out a slice of Vermont white cheddar on the other side of each baguette. I top the cheese with chicken and the chicken with slices of cucumber, then close each sandwich up, cut them in half and serve them warm. The contrast of the hot bread and warm chicken, the melted cheese and the cold dressing and cucumber is sublime. It's the sort of thing I'd never come up with on my own, but in this context, all of the ingredients are perfectly wedded to each other. Yum!

    Treats: The Original Mrs. Glade's Easy Chocolate Cake

    Mr. Fritz likes to eat something sweet in the morning. For the first year of our marriage, that took the form of two doughnuts with a banana chaser. But he's gotten a little tired of the doughnuts, so I've begun to explore other sweet treat options, including homemade bundt cakes.

    The one I made this week is pretty incredible and it is ridiculously easy. The recipe came from Mrs. Glade, who got it from her mother-in-law, The Original Mrs. Glade. It's a chocolately delight and it starts with a cake mix, reducing the chance for error by people like me who regularly fail in their baking endeavors. If you are looking for a quick, wonderful cake, I can't recommend this one highly enough!

    The Original Mrs. Glade’s Easy Chocolate Cake

    1 box Devil’s Food Cake Mix

    4 eggs

    1 instant chocolate pudding packet

    ½ cup water

    8 oz. sour cream

    ¼ cup vegetable oil

    ¼ cup strong coffee

    Package of Chocolate Chips

    Mix all ingredients together and stir until well incorporated. Pour into greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan before turning it over onto a rack. Enjoy!

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Dinner Last Night: Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup

    For better or for worse, Mr. Fritz rarely asks for anything specific for dinner. As I was making my grocery list earlier this week, I was in search of inspiration, so I asked Mr. Fritz for ideas. His response: Chicken Noodle Soup.


    Well, dear reader, I am embarrassed to say that I've never made chicken noodle soup in my life. It seems like the most basic of dishes, yet it's just never been on my menu. But that was no reason to disappoint my hot husband. So, I went off in search of a good recipe. I found one from a 1998 issue of Bon Appetit that was pretty good. A very basic recipe, I tweaked it a bit to suit Mr. Fritz's tastes (specifically, I cut out the mushrooms but kept in the lemon juice) and my timeline (I traded a whole bone-in, skin-on chicken for three boneless breasts) and preferences (I upped the amount of vegetables and decreased the amount of broth by half). In the end, I had a pretty good soup, but one that I think could have used a bit more seasoning. I think if I make it again I'll add some dill to the broth or possibly some ginger. I had it again for lunch today and I actually think it tasted a little better on Day 2. Do you have a can't miss recipe for chicken soup? If so, please share it in the comments!

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    A Tale of Three Peppers

    Recently I picked up a pack (not a peck) of peppers at Trader Joe's. It was a three-pack, consisting of one red, one orange and one yellow pepper. I wasn't sure what I was going to use the peppers for, and so they languished for a bit in the crisper. Then I had a revelation: Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. The recipe is an old, long-forgotten favorite of mine. Back in college, I worked for a restaurant called Pastabilities. The restaurant is, sadly, long gone, but I managed to sweet talk one of the cooks into giving me the recipe for both this sauce and a killer pesto as my time there was coming to an end. The thing about it is that it really could not be more simple to make, yet it tastes spectacular. And, so, without further ado, the tale of how my three lowly peppers turned into the best sauce ever:

    Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
    adapted from Pastabilities*
    Yield: about 2 cups

    Ingredients:
    3 red peppers (or a mix of red, yellow and orange)
    1/2 of a 10.5 oz can of crushed tomatoes
    2-3 Tb heavy cream

    Cut the peppers in half, discard stems and seeds, and broil cut side down on a baking sheet until the skins are totally black. Remove peppers from oven and place in either a ziplock bag or a bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Let peppers rest until they are cool enough to handle, then remove blackened skins from each pepper and discard the char.

    Place peppers in a blender, add tomatoes and cream, and puree until smooth. From here the sauce can either be saved for another day or heated and served over your favorite pasta. I served it to Mr. Fritz over gnocchi and mixed in some bite-sized pieces of sauteed chicken breast, then dusted the dish with grated Parm. Seriously delish!

    * The original recipe called for a 48 oz can of roasted red peppers, a 10.5 oz can of 6-in-1 tomatoes and 8 oz of half-and-half. This would have made enough sauce to feed and army and wouldn't have helped me use up my fresh peppers, so I scaled it down to the recipe you see above. If you need a LOT of RRP sauce, definitely give the larger proportions a try!

    Sunday, March 8, 2009

    Dinner tonight: Pan-Fried Shrimp with Green Curry Cashew Sauce and Sesame Carrot Salad

    I cooked a lot this weekend for Mr. Fritz (and will try to post the additional recipes as the week goes along), capping off my time in the kitchen with this excellent meal: Pan-Fried Shrimp with Green Curry Cashew Sauce from the Everyday Food Cookbook. It came together quickly -- the toughest part, really, was cleaning the food processor after the curry prep was finished.


    To prepare the curry, you blend roasted, salted cashews with ginger in a food processor until smooth, then add some plain low-fat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt, which may have led to a thicker end result than would have been otherwise), cilantro, curry powder and salt and process some more. Once it's nicely pureed, divide between serving cups and set aside.

    The preparation for the shrimp is super easy: heat some olive oil over medium high heat, add shrimp, salt and pepper and pan fry 2-3 minutes per side. Serve with the curry sauce and enjoy! Mr. Fritz and I really liked the the taste of the curry sauce. I was a little wary of it because as a general rule I don't like cashews, but I found that when they were blended with the rest of the ingredients, I couldn't even pick out the flavor of the nuts -- or at least it didn't impact the taste negatively.

    I also made a sesame carrot salad to go along with the shrimp and curry. For this, I shredded a few carrots with a peeler, then mixed them with a dressing of rice vinegar, ginger, sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil. The carrot salad (which is paired with the curried shrimp in the cookbook) added a nice light, crispy element to the meal.

    I will definitely make this meal again -- I was reminded yet again that it is often so much more satisfying to try a new dish at home than it is to go out to eat and spend tons of cash on something that likely will not be as tasty as what I can whip up in my tiny kitchen. Yay!

    Sunday, March 1, 2009

    Mrs. Fritz resurfaces with lots of recipes

    Several friends have emailed me, concerned that Mr. Fritz may be starving. I want to put those fears to rest: he continues to be well-fed despite my lack of posting here. That said, he and I have been trading colds and other various ailments for most of 2009 and thus I have slacked off on blogging. But I have tried some pretty good recipes in the past month and I don't want to keep them from everyone, so, below, you'll find six of the best:

    Orecchiette with Sausage and Roasted Peppers

    This recipe from Everyday Food took some effort -- roasting bell peppers in the oven under the broiler until blackened, then letting them sweat in a plastic bag before rubbing the skins off and chopping them up, but it was worth it in the end: a company-worthy dish that won raves from both me and Mr. Fritz in terms of flavor and overall lusciousness.


    My only variation to the recipe as written is this: After the sausage was cooked, I added the peppers and the cooked pasta to the pan, mixed it all together, then added the reserved pasta water and the cheese and butter and mixed it all together. That way, I didn't have to dirty another mixing bowl and everything stayed nice and warm. I'll definitely make this again.

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    Mexican Shrimp and Rice

    Ms. Haley came over for dinner a few weeks ago and I served this dish from Real Simple. Unfortunately, I can't find it on their web site, but I've typed it in below. The most notable thing about this meal is that I should have followed the directions more closely and added the dash of heat the recipe calls for instead of going with a milder, heat-free preparation. As a result, the meal was a little bit bland -- good for Mr. Fritz's palate, not so good for mine and Ms. Haley's. I'm confident that following the recipe would make this good dish great. One variation that I made that I would recommend: instead of transfering the shrimp and rice to a casserole, I baked the whole thing in a dutch oven -- makes for less cleanup and works just as well. Not sure why they even included the transfer as part of the recipe, actually.


    Mexican Shrimp and Rice
    source: Real Simple Food, page 101

    Hands on time 25 minutes, total time: 1 hour
    Serves 4

    2 Tb. olive oil
    1 small white onion, diced
    2 medium carrots, diced
    1 cup Arborio rice
    3 Tbs. chipotles in adobo sauce, mashed (or substitute a splash of hot pepper sauce)
    1 14.5 oz can low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
    1/2 tsp. dried oregano
    1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    1 1/2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
    juice of one lime
    1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)
    1 lime, cut into wedges

    Heat oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a dutch oven or oven-proof sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, carrots and rice and cook for five minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate pan over medium heat, heat the chipotles, broth, oregano and salt until warm. Add the broth mixture to the rice and vegetables and transfer to a casserole. Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and lime juice. Recover and bake until the rice is tender, 10-12 minutes more. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro if using and lime juice. Serve with lime wedges.

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    Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry

    I made this one night for me and Mr. Fritz and we ate it while watching Gosford Park, the Robert Altman movie from a few years ago about a weekend party at a manor house in England. The film follows the wealthy attendees of the the party as well as the goings-on down "below house" where the servants live and work. Great movie! And an equally good meal. (Although there's nothing "English" about it. Note to self: work on themed dinners to eat while watching future films...). Anyway, this came together quickly and offered all of the yumminess of Chinese food without the uncertainties of chemicals (MSG) or hidden fat from lots of oil. Will definitely make the next time we are craving Asian food. Oh, and my variation (because I always seem to have one): I substituted sugar snap peas for the called-for broccoli, since Mr. Fritz won't eat broccoli.


    Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-fry
    Source: Everday Food, March 2008
    Prep time: 35 minutes. Total time: 40 minutes. Serves 8

    1/3 cup cornstarch
    2 cups orange juice
    1/2 cup soy sauce
    1/2 cup rice vinegar
    1/4 cup honey
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    1-2 tsps. red pepper flakes
    coarse salt
    1 Tb. vegetable oil
    3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
    1 head broccoli, cut into florets, stalks peeled and thinly sliced
    1 lb carrots (about 5), peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal
    cooked rice, for serving

    Place cornstarch in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in cornstarch until smooth. Whisk in soy sauce, vinegar, honey, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt. Set aside.

    In a 5 quart, non-stick Dutch oven or pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook chicken on one side until slightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes; transfer to a plate and set aside (chicken will cook more later.)

    Add broccoli, carrots, and 1/2 cup water to the pot. Cook, partially covered, until water has evaporated and broccoli is bright green, 3 minutes. Add reserved chicken and cornstarch mixture; bring to a boil. Cook until chicken is opaque throughout and sauce has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve stir-fry over rice.

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    Grilled Peanut-Butter and Banana Sandwiches

    Mr. Fritz loves bananas. Mr. Fritz loves peanut butter. And Mr. Fritz loves French Toast. So imagine my delight when I came across this recipe for what is essentially a peanut butter sandwich filled with bananas and then dipped in an eggwash and fried in a pan on the stove like french toast. Perfection on a plate! This will definitely make another appearance in the future here at Chez Fritz...


    Grilled Peanut-Butter and Banana Sandwiches
    Source: Everyday Food Magazine, March 2008
    Serves 4. Prep time: 15 minutes. Total time: 15 minutes

    1 large egg
    1/4 cup whole milk
    1 Tb. light brown sugar
    1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
    coarse salt
    4 slices white sandwich bread
    1/4 cup peanut butter
    2 bananas, peeled and cut in half crosswise and then lengthwise
    1 Tb. butter
    confectioners sugar for dusting

    In a shallow bowl, whisk together egg, milk, brown sugar, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

    Spread each slice of bread with 1 Tb. peanut butter. Dividing evenly, sandwich banana pieces between slices of bread.

    In a medium, non-stick skillet, heat butter over medium. One at a time, dip both sides of sandwiches into egg mixture and place in skillet. Cook until golden brown, 1-3 minutes per side.

    Transfer sandwiches to a work surface. Using a serrated knife, cut sandwiches into quarters. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve immediately.

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    Creamy Carrot Soup

    I made this Cooking Light soup last week and had it for lunch every day. And it was absolutely fabulous. The recipe made plenty of soup and the hardest part was chopping all of the carrots (it calls for 2 pounds of carrots chopped into 1/2-inch pieces). If you are in need of a filling, warming, inexpensive, incredibly tasty meal option, I can't recommend this soup highly enough!


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    New-Fashioned Pot Roast with Fresh Rosemary

    Today, Mr. Fritz and I delivered dinner to Mr. and Mrs. Robertson to celebrate the birth of their first child. I wanted to make them something special, so I turned to a recipe from one of my favorite slow-cooker cookbooks: Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker: Recipes for Entertaining. This recipe is super simple -- it mainly requires a bunch of chopping (carrots, onions, and potatoes), plus mixing up a quick marinade of red wine vinegar, ketchup, fresh rosemary, Worchester sauce and some boiling water. I was planning to make it in the slow cooker, but then I looked at the weather forecast and realized that it would be smarter to take the cooking down from 8-10 hours to more like 4. So instead of employing my crock pot, I pulled out an enormous Dutch oven, filled it first with the beef (a 4-lb boneless chuck roast) then added the vegetables, then poured the sauce over the whole thing, covered the pot and put it on the lowest rack of a 350 degree oven. I put it in at 9:30 a.m. and by 2:15 p.m. it was done -- it smelled heavenly and, if previous outings with this recipe are any indication, should taste heavenly as well. We can also report that Baby Robertson is absolutely gorgeous! Cheers to the new parents!


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    So there you have it -- a recap of most of my adventures in cooking over the past month. I will try to post more regularly from here on out. Thanks for reading the blog!