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Category Archives: What’s For Dinner?

Meals and recipes I’m trying out.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Experiment

Well, Thanksgiving is over. From what I can tell, the majority of my friends had a wonderful holiday. I am no exception.  It was a wonderful time with family and friends around our table.  We all were responsible for bringing an item to the table for the meal.  I chose to make a salad.  Thinking ahead to overstuffed stomachs and excessive amounts of tryptophan, my choice was to go lighter.

My decision was based on kale.  It’s the hot green right now, but besides that, it’s really delicious! Then I was led to dressing choice.  Balsamic was the way to go.  It is a rarity that I buy ready made dressing, and this time was no different.  I haven’t made any balsamic in ages, but knew I didn’t want the straight oil and vinegar.  Too boring.

So, I started experimenting.  I made a base dressing of two parts oil and one part balsamic. (I used half olive oil and half canola oil as my olive oil was almost out.) A little later, I had four different types of dressing! I will tell you most about the one I ended up using, but will describe the others in case you are interested.

Ingredients going in.

Ingredients going in.

Dressing after the blender.

Dressing after the blender.

Per the norm, measuring was at a minimum, but I tried to eye it and keep track as I knew I would be writing about it. So, here goes.

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2/3 cup oil (stick to a neutral flavored oil such as canola, safflower, or a good quality olive)

1/4 cup natural apple juice (no sugar added)

1 heaping Tbsp coarse ground mustard

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend well until the mixture well combined.  It will be quite light brown in color.  Longer it sits, the better it gets. So, let it sit a while before you eat it.

The salad itself was quite simple.

Kale

Butter lettuce

Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Fresh pear slices

Toasted pecans

I assembled on the plates, as not to bruise the pears and to have better presentation. I wanted pumpkin seeds to start with, but could not find them in my county. Ha! Didn’t think far enough ahead to get any. I will try this again and with the seeds.

The other variations I made had the following ingredients: I made tiny amounts and have no measurements here- so you are on your own. This can just be a starter for you.

1. First was the same oil and vinegar base (2:1. You can do 3:1 if it’s too tart for you)

To that, I added nutmeg, allspice, cumin, pureed pumpkin (leftover) salt, and pepper.  I would use probably 1/4 tsp of each of these spices and maybe 1/4 cup pumpkin.  Blend and let rest.

These other two were a little different.  I tried walnut oil instead.  Different and very much an autumn flavor.

2. 2:1 Walnut oil to vinegar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, lots of fresh cracked black pepper, quite a few dashes of bitters. (This one was really different, but I loved it).

3. Last was the walnut oil and bv, along with Dijon mustard, brown sugar, black pepper, and cinnamon.

Plated and ready!

Plated and ready!

Give some of these a whirl and let me know how they turn out! If they are too tart, just add a little more oil.  No problem!

Cheers, O

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Steelhead Trout

Just a quick post about last night’s dinner here at the cabin. It was a yummy St. Patrick’s Day meal. Tired of the same old hum-drum fish preparation of lemon, dill, and the like, I started searching in the cabinets for a new combination of things to marinate it in. Here’s what I came up with and as usual, there’s no recipe, just tossing some things in together:

Burbon, lemon juice, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos(or soy sauce) and canola oil. Ideally, it should sit for a couple of hours. Mine did not sit for that long, but turned out very nicely. I grilled it on medium heat, about 4 minutes on each side, skin on.

With it I served Klondike Gold potatoes smashed with butter, sour cream, chives, fresh chopped garlic, sea salt and cracked pepper. Skin was left on.

I threw together a spinach salad with a dressing similar to ranch, but having dill and chopped onion added.

The fish was definitely the star. A bit of sweetness, lots of smoky flavor, and a slight crunch on the surface. Made for a dynamic quick meal.

Cheers!

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The final product, served with a Shiraz Cabernet.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2013 in What's For Dinner?

 

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Dan Dan Noodles via F&W

This recipe came to me via the Food and Wine email and I had perfect opportunity to try it. I have a friend that has recently moved to rural northwest Georgia from Tibet. We have been spending quite a bit of time together and she loves having me over to her house to cook meals and watch movies among other activities. She is trying her best to make food like that of her homeland, but it is hard to come by the same ingredients and she sometimes becomes frustrated. The day following a meal at her house, I got the F&W email and decided to try to give her a little taste of home, if only similar.

See the recipe here.

I did manage to find all of the ingredients in my local market, which was a relief. I took everything over there and commenced on making the meal. I asked her to prepare her mein noodles as she does at home and asked her if these ingredients looked familiar. They did and I could see a sparkle in her eye as I was bringing everything together.

She does not have a food processor or blender as of yet, so I chopped all of the ingredients by hand and used a whisk. It worked just fine. It was beautiful as well.

 

After using the skillet for the first cooking, I browned some pork chops in the peanut oil with just a little salt and pepper. Once they were nicely browned with the perfect crunch, they were set aside for a few minutes. Before serving the noodles, we put them in the skillet so that they could soak up all of the leftover oil and goodness. I thinly sliced the pork with her magnificent Chinese cleaver and placed over the top of the noodles. We poured the sauce mixture over the noodles and pork then topped with green onions cut on the bias and a squeeze of lime.

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This was one of the best dishes I’ve made in quite a while. My friend loved it. Not quite like home, but close enough. She loved it so much that she wanted to cook it a second time this week for her husband’s family. And so, we did. The second time, we used a blender, hoping to get the consistency described in the recipe. However, I must say, we were both disappointed with this method. The flavor was quite different and the second dish did not compare in beauty. We decided that next time, we would revert to the original, more time consuming method.

Let me know if you try it or have already.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Jalapeno Cornbread Stuffing in Pork Chops

I recently posted here about jalapeño cornbread and promised to write a follow-up with recipes that used it.  The first thing I’ve done is to make stuffing for pork chops.  Let me tell you, this is one of the best dishes I’ve made in a long time. Not recalling ever having made stuffing before, I referenced the Joy of Cooking for guidance. Guidance is the key word, here. Please understand that.  Unless I’m baking, my cooking is typically a dash of this and a bit of that. The recipe I followed [glanced at] was cut in half to start with and subsequently modified about every other step. I could not find a copy of this recipe online. It’s pretty long and I am not in a mood to type it out at the moment.  If you don’t have it or can’t find it, shoot me an email on my form here or leave a comment and I’ll scan it and send to you.

Using my iron skillet, I started out sautéing the bell peppers and onions in butter until tender.

Here, I added some more jalapeños and garlic into the mix. I did not add celery to this. Celery gives it more of a traditional taste and that’s definitely not what I was going for. I also left out the sage and thyme.  As memory serves me, I think I added some cilantro and cumin.  Just a few dashes of cumin and maybe a tablespoon or two of chopped cilantro.  A little bit of sea salt rounded off the top.

Once these ingredients were tender, I added in the crumbled cornbread, stirred, then added the chicken broth. (I used some that I had frozen from before.)

Below is the mix of cornbread and broth.  It should seem moist, but excessive liquid should not be in the bottom.  If there is too much liquid, add more cornbread or some breadcrumbs a little at a time.  Toss lightly to maintain larger pieces of cornbread.

Here, I pounded the chops with a mallet to tenderize and thin the meat. This makes it easier to wrap around the stuffing.

I used thin chops and rolled the meat around the stuffing, rather than using thick chops and slicing and stuffing the inside.  Once rolled, I wrapped a piece of bacon around the outside and held everything together with a toothpick.  Here, I used my smaller skillet, but it would be yummy to put the chops back in the skillet you cooked the stuffing in.

The chops were baked in the oven at about 400° until they got nice and brown.

We served it with some garlic sautéd Brussels Sprouts.  Needless to say, the two we made for lunch the next day were eaten that night.

Just a note from this past weekend: My mother and friend Carol served these at their supper club (about 40 people) and it apparently was a huge hit! Some of them have requested the recipe and I hope they come back here to tell me how it turned out!

Enjoy and report back if you try it or if you make something similar!

Cheers, O

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Chicken Alfredo Roll-ups

Aahhh, Pinterest. How can I possibly accomplish all the things you present for me to do? You tell me what to wear, where to go, crafts to make, rooms to decorate, and oh so often, what foods to eat. For last night’s dinner, the bf and I, we thank you.

A couple of my friends, Chasidy and Danielle, posted this picture/recipe yesterday afternoon. Something new is always getting experimented with around this kitchen and yesterday was no exception.

Source: mmmcafe.blogspot.com via Olivia on Pinterest

From there, I dove right in. Knowing it was going to be rich and loaded full of fat and other yummy things, I decided to add a pinch of healthy into it. Since I was going to be rolling it up, zucchini ribbons seemed to be a good choice. So, I used a peeler and made thin ribbons. (A good substitute since I don’t have a mandoline). I will apologize now for the poor picture quality. I took these with my phone in the terrible lighting I have in my kitchen. I’m just lucky that I didn’t drop it in the Alfredo sauce.

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In her recipe, the author mentions that it will be messy. She’s right. Making this in a tiny kitchen didn’t help much either. However, we managed. It took some wiggling around and switching up, and after feeling like we were candidates for a kitchen makeover show, we got in a rhythm. Here’s the process halfway. Spreading everything out on the noodles, layering, then rolling up. Also, I would like to mention that I used fresh mozzarella.  I just bought a small (fist size) ball and sliced a little in each roll.
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The person that made it originally managed to get it neatly situated in an 8×8 dish. That did not happen for us. I just had to move it over to a bigger dish to start with. Once I make this again, maybe it will be with more finesse and it will fit. Here is the dish as it came out of the oven. The smell was incredible. Of course, what’s not good about butter, cream, cheese, pasta and garlic aromas filling a house???

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Here’s a roll after I served it up. I loved seeing the zucchini peeking out. Accompanying this was a salad and glass of Merlot.
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Looking forward to trying this again and getting the hang of the process and the mess under control.

Let me know if you try it. (Recipe below.)

Cheers, O

Link to the original post here. 

Chicken Alfredo Roll-ups

9 lasagna noodles
2 ½ cups alfredo sauce (optional homemade recipe below)
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
oregano
garlic salt
3 cups shredded Mozzarella, or cheese of your choice

Spray an 8×8 pan with non-stick spray and pour ½ cup alfredo sauce, or just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Boil 8-10 cups water in a large pan, cook lasagne noodles until al dente. (I usually cook 1 or 2 extra just because lasagna noodles always seem to break on me when I am stirring them.)
Now this is the important part! Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water to prevent them from sticking to each other. Then, lay out each noodle individually and blot dry with a paper towel.

Spread about 2 Tbs. alfredo sauce over each noodle. (if there is too much sauce you will have a big mess on your hands!) Sprinkle oregano and garlic salt on top of sauce. Take 1/9 of the shredded chicken and spread it out evenly over each noodle. Add approx. 3 Tbs. cheese. To roll up, start at one end and roll the noodle over the toppings. You will need to lift the noodle a little to prevent squishing out the inside ingredients while rolling.

Place the roll-ups in the pan, one by one, seam-side down so they don’t come undone. Once they are all in the pan, pour the remaining alfredo sauce over the top. Top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted on top.

Serves 3, 3 roll-ups each
Recipe highly adapted from Artsyfartsymama.blogspot.com

The Best Garlic Alfredo Sauce
Printable Version

½ cup butter
2 ounces cream cheese
2 cups heavy cream (or substitute half and half)
2 teaspoon garlic powder
½  tsp. fresh minced garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp dried oregano
⅔ cup parmesan cheese

In a medium to large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add fresh minced garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the cream cheese and whisk to smooth and melted. Whisk in the heavy cream.
Season with the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and whisk frequently until sauce thickens, around 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese and when melted, remove from heat and serve.

Makes 2 ½ cups
Recipe from Momma!

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Today’s Lunch! Had to share!

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Grilled Cheese w/ cheddar, fontina, jalapeños, and thick cut country bacon! Good grief, it was good!

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Jalepeño Cornbread

Growing up, my mother always made cornbread and I must say, has been very good at it. On occasion she would make Mexican Cornbread. I’m not sure how she came into making it, but I always enjoyed it. As I remember, she would add a can of Mexican style canned corn to the batter and occasionally a chopped onion. The burst of the corn kernel and the crunch of the onion always appealed to my senses as a child.

Last night, while making chili, I wanted something different to accompany it. So Mexican cornbread it was. Not having the recipe or being able to get my mother on the phone at the moment, I went to the internet to find a good substitute. Of course, who did I find there? Ina herself. If there is another woman in the kitchen that I love besides my mother, its Ina Garten. After looking no further than the Barefoot Contessa recipe, I was ready to go. Jalepeno Cornbread sounded close enough and better. As it turns out, I decided to marry the two recipes and what a wonderful product I ended up with.

Here’s Ina’s recipe. Link to Food Network.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread 2006, Barefoot Contessa at Home

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
  • 8 ounces aged extra-sharp Cheddar, grated, divided
  • 1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra for garnish, 3 scallions
  • 3 tablespoons seeded and minced fresh jalapeno peppers

Directions

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don’t overmix! Mix in 2 cups of the grated Cheddar, the scallions and jalapenos, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated Cheddar and extra chopped scallions. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Here are my modifications:

First and foremost, this is a giant recipe.  I cut it in half right from the start.  She says that her’s makes 12 large pieces and she isn’t kidding.  In half, it filled a standard iron skillet for me.
In addition to the scallions, I had a little white onion left over from my chili and I wanted to add that.  So, I added about 1/4 of a cup. I added 2/3 of a cup of canned corn (or half of an 11 oz. can). Her recipe calls for 3 extra large eggs. I used 2 large for the half recipe.
In hindsight, I wish I had added the seeds of the jalepenos.  The extra heat would have been a welcomed addition.
I must say, this was truly some of the best cornbread I’ve ever eaten.  The recipe called for much more flour than meal, which is more Northern for sure. We didn’t mind one bit. The texture was cake like and fluffy.  Brandon (the bf) and I walked into the kitchen and said at the same time “Oh my god, that smells so good.” Believe me when I say it- it was so good.  He and I both forgot to take a picture of it when it came out of the oven because we were dying to eat it.  We couldn’t even wait for it to cool at all- which you will see by the crumbs and broken pieces below!! At any rate, I am exceptionally happy with this recipe.  I will probably play with it a little more and I’ve even thought about making some sort of stuffing out of it to accompany some pork. MMMMMM.  Stand by for that.
Cheers.  Olivia

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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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