Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Outside, Hearty Pot Roast and Biscuits Inside

With temperatures in the twenties and the snow ready to fly, it was the perfect weekend for comfort food. I've been making a lot of brisket and short-ribs over the past year and wanted to try something different. I fought off a few crazy women at the grocery store and brought home a nice beef chuck boneless eye round. Out came the slow-cooker, the meat could roast while I got to work on some cheddar-scallion biscuits and latkes.

In the spirit of holiday creativity, I made up my own pot roast recipe. I checked an old Cooking Light slow-cooked pot roast recipe for cooking tips and then opened the fridge to pull out the ingredients. For the roasting liquid, I had a bottle of unused Castle Rock Pinot Noir (no red drinkers at my Thanksgiving feast). We had enough for dinner, and two lunches each (6-8 servings, depending on how hungry you are).

For the side dishes, I cooked up three options. First, cheddar-scallion biscuits. Second, traditional potato and onion latkes. Third, sweet potato and scallion latkes. All delicious, and all great with the pot roast! I'll write up the latkes tomorrow. For this post I'll focus on the pot roast and biscuits.

The biscuits were inspired by a post at Playing House but made following a recipe from TracyFood. The biscuits were unbelievable. Buttery, flaky, cheesy, scallion-y, mmm.... The only change I would make next time is to add a little less salt. For my biscuits I used a cheddar-jack cheese mix. Visit TracyFood for the full recipe! Now on the meat...

Snowy Weekend Pot Roast
1 3-ish lb. beef chuck boneless eye round, tied together
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2-3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup Pinot Noir (or other red wine)
1 cup reduced sodium beef broth
2 bay Turkish leafs
Kosher salt and pepper (I forgot to measure)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1.5 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon sage

Set up your slow-cooker
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a medium sauce pan (big enough to pour in your liquid and veggies)
Rub salt and pepper on all sides of the roast
Sear meat in pan, approximately 2 minutes per side
Remove meat from the pan and put into the slow cooker
Add a little more oil to the pan, and then add in onions
Cook for about 8 minutes, until they are just beginning to brown
Add in garlic and cook for 1 minute
Pour in wine and beef broth, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan
Stir in sage and thyme
Carefully pour the liquid over the roast in the slow cooker
Put the carrots, parsnips and potatoes around the meat
Put in the two bay leafs and sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper
Cover and cook on high for 2 hours
Reduce heat to low and cook for an additional 3-4 hours, until tender

The biscuits on the side were fabulous! I'll let you check out TracyFood for the recipe, but will share my mouth-watering photos below.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Chanukah!

We celebrated Chanukah toward the end of the holiday this year, and even extended our celebration by an extra day. I didn't have time during the week to cook up any traditional holiday fare. With an impending snow storm this weekend there was plenty of time to cook up some Chanukah treats! I'll start with dessert and work backwards to dinner.

There are a few readers out there who are interested in reading about my experiment with making a modified Chanukah food. Instead of traditional fried sufganiyot (jelly donuts) - I found a recipe for sugar donut muffins that I turned into jelly donut muffins!

I used a basic buttermilk muffin recipe from my well-worn copy of Joy of Cooking along with some techniques from a recipe on Baking Bites . The idea to inject jelly in the center was all mine. One of my pet peeves is that all the commercial jelly donuts are filled with raspberry jelly, my second least favorite fruit (peaches are #1). I wanted these to be just the way I like them! To get strawberry preserves into the middle, I used a pastry decorating bag with a long narrow tube on the end.

Tomorrow at work is our holiday potluck happy hour, so I doubled the recipe to make enough to share. I averted a small disaster, after mixing all the ingredients in the first batch and pouring in to the muffin tin, I saw the sugar still sitting on the counter. Oops! So all the batter came out of the pan, the sugar was mixed in, and then the muffin tins were filled again. I made a mix of mini-muffins and regular muffins. A warning, these are buttery, sugary, delicious and not at all healthy. But if you figure they are a once or twice a year indulgence, who cares! Enjoy!

The sequence is: 1) Bake the muffins, 2) Coat in butter and sugar, 3) Fill with fruit preserves, 4) Try to refrain from eating them all yourself.

Jelly Donut Muffins
Adapted from Joy of Cooking's Basic Muffins Recipe
This will yield 12 regular muffins or 24 mini-muffins

Dry Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Wet Ingredients
2 large eggs
1 cup of low-fat buttermilk
2/3 cup sugar (don't forget!)
6 tablespoons warm, melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Set up a wire cooling rack for the muffins when they are done
Grease either standard 12-muffin tin or 24-mini-muffin tin
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, set aside
Whisk together the wet ingredients in a bowl
Add the wet ingredients into the large mixing bowl (dry ingredients) and mix until just moistened (be careful not to over mix - the batter won't be smooth)
Using a greased tablespoon, scoop the batter evenly into the greased muffin tin
Bake until a toothpick stuck in the center of the muffins comes out clean, about 12-15 minutes

For the sugar donut part:
1 stick of warm melted, unsalted butter in a shallow bowl
1/2 - 1 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl

When the donuts are done baking, remove from the muffin tins and set on the wire rack
Brush the top of the muffins with the melted butter
Roll the muffins in the sugar and then place on the cooling rack
Repeat until all the muffins are coated in sugar

For the Jelly Filling
1/2 - 1 cup of strawberry preserves

Fill the pastry bag with the strawberry preserves and push it down to the tube
Stick the tube in the top of the muffin and squeeze for about 2 seconds, pulling the tube out as you squeeze
Be careful not to overfill the muffins (they will break apart)

Enjoy warm or at room temperature. And be sure to have a large glass of milk to wash them down! This will be on my holiday recipe list every year now.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More Food on the Way

Since preparing my Thanksgiving feast, I've been busy finishing up my first semester of MBA studies. That said, I have been cooking and photographing, but haven't had time to get the posts up on the blog. Now that I've made it through, I'll have time to share the tasty meals that I've made over the last few weeks.

In the meantime, you can check out a full description of my 'not so classic' pumpkin pie at The foodies behind Local in Season asked me to write up some kitchen adventures to share with their readers - and as a regular reader, how could I say no? Take a minute to check out the site and read all the great ideas for local and seasonal dishes!

Tonight I'm still celebrating the end of the semester and will let someone else do the cooking and bartending. Tomorrow I'll get back in the kitchen to fry up some end of Chanukah latkes and bake some sugar donut muffins (with jelly inside). Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Preview

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I scheduled, organized, and planned out my cooking and now have a few hours to spare before the guests come over. Here's a preview of some of our dishes! The menu is an assortment of family favorites, new recipes, and my favorites! A full post will come later - after the food coma has passed. For now, here are some pictures to get you in the mood for Thanksgiving.

First up, appetizers. Spinach balls (with fresh spinach) and Beet-pickled deviled eggs:

Next up - sides! My grandmother's famous dressing, roasted maple-ginger veggies, brown sugar baked sweet potatoes and acorn squash, and jellied cranberry sauce with fuji apple.


And last, but not least, dessert! Homemade pecan pie and a pumpkin pie (made with red kuri squash).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hearty Vegetable Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

We were at a housewarming party recently and were talking with some friends about easy weeknight dinners and recipes that we make a lot. They had some great ideas - Greek inspired tacos, avocado boats - but one idea had me thinking about it the whole way home. Good old spaghetti and meatballs. It is such a comfort food. With our recent trend toward recipes good for leftovers, this definitely filled the bill. And since the slowcooker is still on the counter, I decided to to put it to work again.

Instead of a boring tomato, garlic, and basil sauce, I wanted to make something that packed a nice veggie punch. A trip to the store yielded some nice nutritionally rich ingredients.

Before throwing everything into the pot, the ingredients got a little pre-cooking. First in the saute pan - diced baby bella mushrooms. Next the onions and carrots. Finally, minced garlic and spinach.

After the veggies were sweated and softened it was time to go in the slowcooker. I used a few cans of diced tomatoes with no salt added. I'm not a fan of the off-season tomatoes at the grocery store, the canned tomatoes are a tastier option. The sauce got off to a simmer and then it was time to get to work on the meatballs.

My grandmother makes a mean meatball - so I stick with her method when making mine. They get thrown into the sauce and soak up the flavors of the sauce.

Hearty Veggie Tomato Sauce and Meatballs
1 bag of spinach leaves
1 medium yellow onion, diced
About 1 cup carrots, diced
1-2 cups mushrooms, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans diced tomatoes (no salt added) - Drained
2 cans diced tomatoes (no salt added) - Not drained
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and Pepper

Turn on the slow cooker to the highest setting (mine is 4 hours - high)
Add tomatoes
Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat
Add chopped mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes, then add to slowcooker
Add more oil if necessary, and then saute onions and carrots for about 5 minutes, then add to slowcooker
Cook the minced garlic for a minute, then add spinach to the pan, cooking until just wilted
Add spinach to the slowcooker
Cover with lid and let simmer

1 pound ground sirloin
About a cup of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and Pepper

Mix all ingredients by hand until just combined - do not over mix
Form into 1 inch balls
Add to sauce
When last meatball has been added to the sauce, cook for 1.5 - 2 hours until cooked through

I left the sauce chunky - but if you wanted a smoother consistency you could use an immersion blender to blend it. For the first night, we had the sauce and meatballs the traditional way - over whole wheat spaghetti noodles. On the side - whole wheat garlic bread.

For the second night, I planned to make meatball subs with the rest of the whole wheat bread. What I didn't realize is that the hubby had packed all the remaining meatballs for my lunch that day. So we had delicious veggie sauce subs with melted provolone cheese. Still hearty and tasty - just missing a little protein.

Anyway you want to serve it - this is a great way to add some veggies to your diet and have a great comforting meal!

Stay tuned for some more fall favorites like beef stew and roasted root vegetables. Leave a note about your favorite hearty dish or favorite comfort food!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Farmer's Market Finds: Simple Potato Leek Soup

While my squash pie was baking away in the oven, I took my other farmer's market finds and whipped them up into a simple and delicious soup. The change of the seasons means new veggies to buy at the market. Inspired by Mike I.'s apparent poor cooking of leeks on Top Chef, I decided to pick some up and give them a try. I think I have succeeded in buying a new to me veggie or fruit each week at the market this season!

When I cut them open, I loved the way the layers looked. I also picked up some potatoes and decided to make a potato leek soup. Lately we've been trying to cook dairy-free (well, lactose-free) here at the Good Cook Doris kitchen. This soup was delicious and creamy with only seven ingredients! You won't even miss the cream.

Simple Potato Leek Soup
2 leeks, cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces
About 2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into half inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups of water
1 14-oz. can of low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and pepper
Dash of poultry seasoning (marjoram, sage, thyme)

Melt the butter in a medium soup pot over low heat
Add leeks, cover and cook until soft, about 10 minutes, making sure not to brown the leeks
Add water, broth, and potatoes
Simmer for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender
Puree with an immersion blender (or food processor)
Season with poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cutting board, knife, soup pot, immersion blender, serving bowl and ladle

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Local Squash - Tasty Pie

It's the season for pie. Every cooking blog I read is either featuring pie, holiday cookies, or cakes, and they all involve pumpkin! Two of my other foodie friends have also posted their attempts at a flaky pie crust. All these delicious posts got me thinking about trying my hand at baking a homemade pie.

I haven't been baking as much as I used to, since I've been busy doing homework after dinner is over. My usual baked goods are quickbreads (banana, zucchini), cookies, and a few tasty apple cakes. I can't remember any time that I made my own pie crust from scratch. So this was an adventure! Next time I'll need to be a little more precise in my measuring techniques - it all worked out fine - but could look prettier. It tasted great!

Back in October, I made a maple kabocha squash puree that I thought would be great as a pie filling. At the farmer's market, I picked up some red kuri squash at the Atlas Farms booth. I don't like overly sweet desserts, so this filling might be a little savory for those of you with a severe sweet tooth. I also didn't make a traditional custard-like squash pie filling (like a pumpkin pie). Next time I'll add in an egg and some liquid so that the filling stays together a little more. I forgot to write down the measurements for the spices - adjust as you see fit! If your local farmers don't have red kuri squash you could also use kabocha, butternut, or the smaller pumpkins.

Maple Red Kuri Squash Filling
2 small red kuri squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tbsp. kosher salt
Water for cooking
1/3 cup (appx.) maple syrup
3-4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (a little less) nutmeg
A dash of ground cloves

Place squash cubes in a medium-large stockpot
Add about two inches of water (the squash won't be covered)
Sprinkle the salt across the top
Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to low
Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until squash is fork tender
Drain and place squash into a mixing bowl
Puree with an immersion blender until smooth
Mix in butter, maple syrup, and the spices
Chill until ready to bake the pie

Delicious Flaky Pie Crust
I won't re-type this pie crust recipe, I'll point you to the blogs where I read about this great recipe. You can visit Delicious Dishings or Playing House for the link to the recipe. I will say that the secret to this flaky crust is chilled ingredients - especially the ice cold vodka. I used what I had in the freezer - guess I should call this Absolut Squash pie. You can't taste anything but the flaky deliciousness after baking. There is a reason that people go to culinary school to learn how to make pastries! I had a blast making this, but I definitely do not have the pastry patience!

A few notes on my pie crust preparation. First, after all this cooking I still don't have a large food processor. This means that I either process in small batches or I turn to my immersion blender. For this recipe, I'm sure that my immersion blender method affected my dough mixing success. It still came out great, but it was a little unwieldy to work with.

Second, I have a great rolling pin but nowhere to roll out the dough. I improvised and taped down a huge sheet of wax paper to my countertop. Next time - a silicone mat! Thankfully I had two balls of dough to work with (the recipe is for a double crust pie). The first didn't roll out very nicely, so I turned it into lattice strips for the top. The pastry gods were looking out for me - the second ball of dough rolled out much nicer.

I spent about ten minutes looking at the rolled-out dough and trying to figure out how to get it into my pie plate. I know that a lot of cookbooks advise folding the dough into quarters and then unfolding into the pie plate. My dough was a little wet so that was not an option. I ended up untaping the wax paper and flipping the dough into the pie plate. Did the trick!

Third, a rustic looking pie tastes just as delicious as a perfectly precise presentation. I probably should have prebaked my crust for extra flakiness, but my pastry patience was running thin. I scooped in my chilled squash filling and laid my free form lattice strips on the top. I brushed the top with some egg white wash and sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top.

Then, into the oven to cook. After about 30-35 minutes the outside was starting to get a little dark, but the bottom wasn't quite done. I made some aluminum foil 'crust protectors' so it wouldn't burn and continued to cook until I thought the bottom was done (another 15-20 minutes).

This pie was the perfect level of sweetness for me. Delicious, flaky crust. Smooth, maple squash goodness. I had a hard time not eating the whole pie by myself, especially since I was home alone. I'm sure my co-workers are glad I controlled myself! This pie crust will be making another appearance for holiday baking. I'm calling my grandma to get the recipe for her pecan pie filling to add to this crust.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Slow Cooker Delights - Take 2

My new friend Cara has a great blog and always has interesting (and healthy!) recipes. I remembered reading about some of her slow cooker meals and decided to peruse her site ( for some recipes. Since I already had the slow cooker out on the counter from the brisket, I wanted to use it again!

I stumbled upon her recipe for Crockpot Coconut Peanut Curry Chicken. This combines some of my favorite flavors: cilantro, lime, peanut, etc. I'll let you check out the recipe on her I made a few edits for my version. I used the full crockpot to make sure there were plenty of leftovers for the week. I used 4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts and approximately doubled the amounts of the other ingredients. Also, I substituted in natural chunky peanut butter (Cara uses a fancy PB2 that you can read about on her site).

To start, I assembled the spices, minced ginger, and diced jalapenos for the sauce.

Next up was adding the chicken and liquid ingredients. Then setting the slow cooker for 6 hours on low. I think I ended up taking it out after 5 hours, because the chicken was cooked all the way through and I planned to reheat the dish before eating it. The chicken was practically falling apart after cooking - nice and moist. Here's a look at it after cooking:

When we were ready to eat this for dinner, there was just a little more preparation to do. I took out my trusty green cutting board and knife to chop up the cilantro, scallions, and lime wedges to finish off the dish.

I took a shortcut on the rice and microwaved one of those :90 rice packets. To make a little fancier, I bought the basmati rice version. There are two generous servings in each pack - no mess to clean up!

This was a dish that will get added to our repeat recipe list. The flavors work well together and it reheated very well for a few days of lunches. Thanks Cara!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Slow Cooked Goodness

When we got married (four years ago already!), I (we) registered for all the fun kitchen gadgets and appliances that are absolutely necessary for cooking. I use a lot of dishes, plates, and utensils in the kitchen but don't always use the fancy electrics that we own. No more! I've pulled out the slow-cooker and decided to put it to work.

My first thought about using the slow-cooker was that most recipes call for 6-8 hour cooking times. I'm often gone for 10-12 hours during the day, so this doesn't really work out very well. Then it dawned on me - I could cook while we sleep. I can prep the food after dinner and homework and then turn on the slow-cooker overnight. So I searched Epicurious for a slow-cooker brisket recipe and got to work!

This recipe is definitely a keeper. There were a few things I didn't think about before cooking. 1 - All night we dreamed of brisket. The smell of roasting onions permeated the house. 2 - The slow cooker lid doesn't seal perfectly and we woke up to a stream of brisket sauce down the counter. Besides that - it was great!

Here's the ingredient list for the sauce (my first time using the iPhone in the kitchen - a little messy). You can find the full recipe at the Epicurious website:

The recipe did involve a little prep work - not strictly a dump and cook recipe. First is browning the onions. Second is searing the brisket to get a nice brown crust. Then, cut potatoes into 1/4 inch slices and line the bottom of the slow-cooker. Next time I will halve the number of potatoes as they took up too much room. Then I followed the recipe and put the slow cooker to work while we slept. The brisket was fall apart tender, the potatoes had a great meaty flavor, and the veggies cooked down into a tasty sauce. For two of us we had enough for a few days of lunches and dinners. Stay tuned for more slow-cooker treats!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quick Food Tour of LA and San Diego

I had a conference to attend in San Diego this past week and decided to extend my West Coast visit to visit my brother-in-law and sister-in-law in Los Angeles. We had a pretty low key weekend before I headed down the coast - but managed to take in some great cuisine! Here's a quick recap of my food tour of LA and San Diego.

One reason my brother-in-law was excited for my visit (besides catching up) was the opportunity to go out for sushi. We got a little excited and ordered way too much! But it was delicious. We went to Oishi Sushi - according to one review I read, it is the "least sceney spots in Beverly Hills". I agree - but the rolls were big and delicious. Whenever I'm out in California I try to order fish that we don't always see here in Boston. We had some great albacore.

For our Saturday night adventure, we trekked over to Hollywood to witness the excitement that is Thai Elvis. This man has been impersonating Elvis for 30+ years - and the food was great too! We had some pad see ew, chicken green curry, and veggie pad Thai. The Thai Iced teas were like slushies and perfect for cooling off after the spice.

After a fun weekend in LA, I hopped on the Pacific Surfliner and headed down the coast to San Diego. I never have high expectations for conference food, so I made sure to get some restaurant recommendations before I left for CA. I'm glad I did! I had three great dinners and a delicious lunch. It's fun to be solo diner sometimes - you can strike up conversations with strangers and get great recommendations from the bartenders!

I didn't get pictures from my first dinner at the Princess Pub. I had the 'best fish and chips in San Diego' at this English pub in the Little Italy neighborhood. Had a great California brew - an award winning Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA (delicious). The next night I was starving after the conference function - so I headed out into the Gaslamp Quarter looking for a place to grab some dinner. I decided on sushi - more albacore and Hawaiian yellowtail. And another local California brew.

I had almost a full day for site-seeing before getting on the red-eye flight back to the East Coast. I asked the hotel concierge for a tip on a good Mexican place that he would eat at (not a tourist destination). I knew he was pointing me in the right direction when he told me to "go to Maria's, she should be open now". I got a fish taco (when in San Diego...) and was very happy!

After spending the afternoon touring the USS Midway, I headed back to the Gaslamp Quarter for a tapas dinner at Cafe Sevilla, a recommendation from a well-travelled college friend. I pulled up a seat at the bar and found out I made it in time for half-price martinis and tapas. The bartender, Ray, recommended some albodingas in a sherry garlic sauce and I also ordered the spicy potatoes. To wash it down, I had a margarita-tini. I had never heard of Licor 43 before, but now I'm a fan! Of course no meal is complete with a cheese course, and this was no exception. I tried a creamy tronchon tres leches that was served with almonds, chutney, and preserves. A great end to my West Coast swing!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Catching up - A Budget Friendly Get Together

I'm seriously behind in posting from the last few weeks. These next few posts will be out of chronological order, but no less delicious.

My sorority alumnae chapter is active and each month a different member hosts a get together of their choosing. My month was October and I decided to host a Sunday afternoon board game party. The party started just after the 1 p.m. football games ended and ended before the Sunday night sitcoms came on. With about 8 people scheduled to attend I got to work planning the menu! On the game menu: Apples to Apples, Scattegories, and a Uno themed Jenga. We had a blast!

I decided to challenge myself to make this a budget friendly party using mainly items from the pantry (with a few twists). Game playing calls for finger foods and dishes that can sit out for a few hours (no mayo!). My menu brainstorming session resulted in chips, dips, veggies, some pasta salad, and desserts. Nice and simple and easy to prepare - almost no cooking involved! Another bonus, most of the dishes were 'not bad for you' (healthy might be a stretch when they all are eaten with chips).

The non-pantry items for the party were the chips - old favorites tortilla and pita chips - and store bought salsa. I also picked up a bag of the new Ming Tsai sesame rice chips.

The star of the non-pantry items was a kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) that I picked up from the weekly farmer's market.

When the hubby and I were in Vancouver on our honeymoon we had an unbelievable kabocha squash puree with a sweet whipped cream. When I saw the squash at the market I knew I had to try it! I treated in like a potato for the cooking method and pureed it with some butter and maple syrup. More butter would have made it a little richer, but I forgot to restock my butter supply at the store. I served it chilled as a dip with the pita chips. It would also be great thinned with some broth and served as a soup. I also cleaned up the seeds and toasted them with maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and salt. Great for snacking while making the rest of the meal!

Maple Kabocha Squash Dip (puree)
1 kabocha squash
1/3 (ish) cup of maple syrup (I used grade B)
1-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Water for cooking

Start by cutting the squash into halves or quarters
Scoop out the seeds and set aside for roasting
With a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the squash pieces
Cut into 1 inch pieces
Fill a large pasta pot with about 2 inches of water
Add the squash (it will not be covered by the water)
Sprinkle the salt over the top
Bring to a boil and then reduce immediately and simmer for 10-12 minutes (until squash is tender)
Drain and put the squash into a bowl
With an immersion blender, blend the squash until it is a smooth consistency
Stir in desired amount of butter and maple syrup
Chill and serve

Next up on the menu - white bean, garlic and parsley dip. This was gone by the end of the party. Simple ingredients - great taste. All you need is 2 cans of cannellini beans, 2 cloves of fresh garlic, a handful of parsley, and some olive oil. Throw it all in the food processor with some salt and pepper and that's it!

The pasta salad was easy - tri-colored rotini, pesto from the freezer, chopped fresh basil from my basil plant, frozen peas, and olive oil.

The only thing left untouched at the end of the party was the store bought salsa. I'd consider the party a success! Counting the pantry items as $0 + chips, salsa, and the squash, the grand total for the party was around $20 for a party of 8. The guests brought the drinks and left feeling full!

Looking forward to the next get together!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

When He Fends for Himself - "The Snack Dinner"

Welcome back to the latest and greatest edition of "When he fends for himself." Today's edition introduces the world to a favorite of mine. It's a meal that is looked down upon, that is thought to be a lazy and unhealthy way to eat, dine, and live. However, all of that can not be further from the truth. In actuality the meal I will describe is a guilty pleasure that we all turn to from time to time.

Presented here is "The Snack Dinner"

I came home to an empty house with all the intention to grill up some bison medallions the wife got for me at Whole Foods. I really like bison meat, but the wife is a little cool to it, so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to make it for myself. However, once I got home, checked my e-mail, and sat on the couch to see what was on TV, my motivation escaped me and I needed to change to Plan B.

That meant that a formal dinner was out the window. Instead I opened the fridge, checked the pantry, and started to scrounge for food. I've been dining on the snack dinner for years and have realized that it is very important to start with your go-to snack. For me, it's a chewy peanut butter granola bar from Kashi. I go through about a box a week. If I'm on the run, on the golf course, or on the prowl for food, it usually hits the spot.

After my appetizer I turned on the TV and checked to see what was on for a couple of minutes. Then, it was time for round 2. Every time we go to BJs we end up by a 6 pack of canned olives. When the wife is making dinner, she likes to open one up for an appetizer for us to munch on. Since we are usually well stocked, I end up having a full can to myself from time to time.

Now, eating a can of olives in one sitting sounds disgusting and even to me, not appetizing. Because of this, I spread out the olive consumption over the period of an hour. I grab a few from the kitchen, eat them in front of the TV, and at the next commercial break I go back for more. It really spreads out the snack dinner and makes it a full evening of enjoyment!

After the olives, I was in a little bit of a bind. There wasn't anything quick and easy I could munch on. Available to me were chips without salsa, plenty of spreads with no bread, and some dry goods, like pasta. The snacks on hand didn't have their complements and the pasta was out because the purpose of the snack dinner is to do absolutely no cooking.

So I was forced to go the healthy route. At a last resort, I opened the fruit and veggie drawer in the refrigerator and and found my next snack: grapes. The problem I have with grapes is, once I start I can't stop. I can pick at grapes all day and won't stop until they are all gone. And that's what happened.

About 10 minutes later, I was mildly full and looking for another course. Since it was getting late I started to think of dessert. Luckily, the wife had whipped up a batch of the apple kugel muffins that were waiting for me on our counter. I took one (OK, maybe 2) and quickly finished off my meal.

About an hour and a half after I started, I was finished with my 4 course dinner and full. Not only that, I didn't do any food prep, cooking, or cleaning. It's not textbook, but on this night, it worked for me.

I hope I've been inspired others to try this every once in awhile. It's not endorsed by the wife, but it gets the job done. And desperate times call for desperate measures when you're fending for yourself.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Night Dinner - Time to Catch Up

Friday night dinners are pretty low-key here at the Good Cook Doris house. We usually have something quick and easy, or if we're feeling especially lazy we'll go out for Indian or sushi. Last week's Friday night was the former.

We picked up some bagels, cream cheese and lox at the store. We had eggs and some parsley in the fridge for omelets. I thinly sliced up some red onion and cucumber to complete the lox platter. On the side was our typical Thursday and Friday reading - US Weekly, Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly and ESPN Magazine. By the end of dinner our heads were filled with a lot of useless pop-culture and sports information, and the knowledge that some people just wear it better than others (you US weekly fans will understand).

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

When He Fends for Himself - Breakfast Edition

One of my favorite things about the weekend is that the hubby likes to make breakfast. His specialty is pancakes and French toast. He purchased an egg beater (two beaters with the hand crank) and enjoys mixing up the batter. I've had these photos of recent breakfasts and haven't had a chance to post them yet.

Since he's started experimenting more in the kitchen, he feels more confident in coming up with new flavors and twists on the standard pancake batter and egg-mixture for the french toast.

For the pancakes, he mixed in some vanilla extract for the twist. The pancakes were well done on the outside, but still nice and fluffy on the inside. A great breakfast served with warm maple syrup, a cup of coffee, and the Sunday comics.

The French toast was delicious. I had recently stopped into a local Brazilian bakery and bought something that looked like challah. It had a sugar glaze on top and we decided it would make great French toast. With the eggs, the hubby mixed in some vanilla and almond extracts and soy milk to give it a "nutty" (his words) flavor. The result was a sweet, almondy, well-cooked breakfast treat! We'll be adding this to the regular breakfast rotation.


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