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.


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

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

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."