Saturday, August 29, 2009

Same Ingredients, Different Dish

To manage our food spending and stretch out our dollars, I've been trying hard to use up food items and waste as little as possible. Instead of buying for only one meal, I try to think of multiple meals incorporating the same ingredients (without repeating anything).

At our little dinner party this past weekend we started with a cheese plate and fresh crusty french bread (I can't take credit for the bread). We had some leftover Crystal Brook Farm's goat cheese from the farmers' market. It's marinated in olive oil and Mediterranean spices. You can't just have one cheese on a cheese plate - you need at least two (preferably 3). To go along with the goat cheese, we had a nice nutty manchego and fig jam. The perfect start to a meal (with my two favorite foods - bread and cheese!). No picture, we ate it too quickly!

The next night we were still recovering from our busy weekend and didn't feel like putting a lot of effort into dinner. A quick scan of the kitchen turned up some pizza crusts, the leftover manchego and fig spread, and some local apples. I spread some of the fig spread on the crust, topped that with thin apple slices, then put thin slices of the cheese on the top. I baked it at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes. Here's how it looked out of the oven:

I think next time I'll bake the apples and fig spread for about 5 minutes and then add cheese for the last 5 minutes, as it got a little rubbery.

I scrambled up a few eggs on the side to add some protein to the meal. This was very tasty. It would be great with a variety of seasonal fruits and different combinations of fruit jams. This would also be a great brunch dish for company (or just for yourself!).

I think my next adventure will be to try to make my own fig jam.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Sauce - Two Dishes

In one of my many trips to Whole Foods to enjoy free samples, I came across a brand of barbecue sauce that is a now staple in our house (Angus Sauces). They are a Massachusetts company and their founder was at the store sampling. I picked up one bottle of their traditional sauce and have buying ever since! This trip I picked up a bottle of the Tumbleweed Thai cooking sauce and figured I could find a way to use it for whatever I was making.

We had come home from our weekend trip and had plans to make dinner for a few guests (and about 3 hours to get ready). Instead of coming up with a fancy, complicated menu, I decided to stick with something easy and quick. The menu was chicken breasts marinated in the Tumbleweed Thai sauce served with veggie couscous. Served with a little extra sauce on top, this was a great summer meal. With no AC in the kitchen I am always looking for summer menus that require very little oven or stove time.

This is a couscous dish that I make a lot in the summer. I dice up all the leftover veggies in the fridge, saute them until they are just softened, and then toss them with the warm couscous. You can serve it warm or cool - it's a great make-ahead dish. This version included zucchini and purple and orange bell pepper.

The next night we were still tired from our busy weekend away and didn't feel like cooking. We eat out very rarely on weeknights, so I scanned the pantry and put on my thinking cap. Since I had I only used about half the bottle of sauce on the chicken I decided to incorporate that in dinner. We also had plenty of pasta, some frozen edamame, and some ground turkey breast. I decided to throw it all together for a quick version of a noodle dish that I made last month. The meal required no chopping, just cooking and assembling. It was great and reheated well for lunch the next day. You could easily use leftover chicken or tofu in place of the ground turkey breast. Here's the photo and recipe:

Quick Tumbleweed Thai Noodles
Note: I made about 3-4 servings adjust your quantities as necessary

1/2 package of spaghetti
1/2 pound ground turkey breast
1/2 cup (appx.) frozen edamame (already shelled)
Handful of peanuts
1/2 bottle of Thai Tumbleweed cooking sauce

Spread the peanuts in a single layer on a foil covered toaster pan
Toast for 2-3 minutes, making sure not to burn them
Set aside until later

Boil water for the pasta
Add pasta and edamame to the water and return to a boil
Cook until desired texture (approximately 10 minutes) and drain

While the pasta and edamame are cooking, brown the turkey in a non-stick skillet over medium heat
Drain any excess fat if necessary

In a large bowl, combine the noodles, turkey and edamame
Pour the sauce over the top and toss well
Top each serving with the toasted peanuts

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Skillet, pasta pot, serving plates and utensils

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gambling on a Good Lunch

In my family, road trip routes are planned with dining destinations in mind. We do our research and pull out our 'if we're ever in such-and such' lists and create a plan. It's fun to stop at unique local places or spots that we don't have in our neighborhoods.

Our trip home from Rye, NY this past weekend presented us with quite a few travel routes. I started thinking about the cities we'd pass through and some good lunch options. It seems like all the cooking shows recently have been featuring burger challenges - guess it's a sign of the times. Burgers are affordable (except for that $5k burger from Hubert Keller) and definitely embraced by many different cuisines.

We opted for a route up through Connecticut casino country and pulled off the highway into Mohegan Sun to visit Bobby's Burger Palace. Bobby Flay is on a lot of TV and magazines - so it's hard to miss that he has a new burger place. We placed our orders for some geographically diverse burgers and found a spot to do some great people watching. The gambling crowd is pretty interesting at 2 p.m. on a Sunday.

We went for three very different burgers plus some shakes and two types of fries. The Philly burger - peppers, onions and cheese. The Dallas burger - spice crusted with BBQ sauce, pickles, and slaw. The L.A. burger with avocado relish, jack cheese, watercress and tomato. The shakes (mango and a black&white) were tasty and the sauce with the sweet potato fries was great. It was a nice tangy horseradish mustard. I took home a take-out menu to use as inspiration for creating some new burger dishes at home. I'll have to create my own signature burger to sell for thousands!

Happy eating from Good Cook Doris, her brother (of the Indy BBQ fare fame, on the left), and the hubby (of "When He Fends for Himself", on the right).

Bobby's Burger Palace on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 24, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake...the Perfect Dinner

This weekend we headed down to visit family in Rye, NY. We had a great time catching up and also had some great food! Dinner was so good that we forgot to take pictures. The scrumptious menu included:

Grilled Jack Daniels marinated flank steak
Brats sauteed in beer with onions
Wild rice salad with cranberries
Potato and green bean salad
Mixed green salad
Whole grain bread
Grilled corn

We also had some fun wines with the appetizers and the meal. The house wine, Gazela Vinho Verde, was light and refreshing - I'm going to have to pick up a case and make it the house wine here. We also had a zinfandel, pinot noir, and a fourth that I can't remember (the effect of trying them all).

Dessert was so good that it could have been a dinner by itself. We had strawberry shortcake with homemade shortbread and vanilla whipped cream. Strawberry shortcake is one of those desserts that I order whenever I see it on a menu and no matter how full I am I make room. The portions were my sized here - huge! Here's a close up picture to drool over:

Thanks to our hosts for a fabulous visit! Stay tuned for the good eats on our road trip back up through Connecticut casino country.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Spice up a Monday Night Dinner

A quick note before this post. Thanks for reading! I'm excited to find out that so many new and old friends stop by to check out what's cooking. I hope that you'll take a minute to say hi in the comments and let me know what you think - or just say hello! It's fun to see all the readers and find out where they are from! Thanks! Now on to the fun....

Cooking almost every night is a challenge - coming up with interesting meals and making sure to vary the ingredients. Often I find myself going back to the same meals and repeating them a little too frequently. The trick is to vary some piece of the meal to keep it interesting.

One of these meals for us is meatloaf muffins. The recipe lends itself a lot of variations - different veggies, sauces, even types of ground meat. For this occasion I kept it pretty simple, but decided to dress them up as 'cupcakes'. The perfect way to spice up a Monday night!

For the 'cake', I used the meatloaf muffin recipe that I previously posted. I cut out foil squares to line my muffin tin (no foil muffin cups on hand). I sprayed them well with some olive oil cooking spray before filling them with the meatloaf mixture. I topped the meat with a good layer of ketchup before cooking.

For the icing, I made some basic mashed potatoes and put them into a large ziploc bag with the bottom corner cut off (a make-shift pastry bag). I piped the potatoes on top and 'sprinkled' them with some dried basil.

For a real party, serve with green bean 'candles'! I have to admit, I feel silly even posting that sentence. Here's the photo anyway!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guest Post by Jim (our fab photographer)

When our friends Jim and Chris came over for dinner last month for the Good Cook Doris photo shoot, I made a quick apple-cinnamon pull apart bread with biscuits. Jim put his own spin on it with fresh peaches and cinnamon rolls. Looks delicious!

Make sure to check out Jim's photography too!

My Take on a Corn Tamale

These days dining out is reserved for special occasions (like birthdays, weekends when I've worked all day, or vacations). Since we're not going out for our favorite meals, I decided to start making my versions of them at home. It is much cheaper and you can control what you put in and how much you get with the order. We spent $17 at Whole Foods for 4 servings of this meal - not bad!

Inspired by the delicious Mexican food that Rick Bayless is cooking up on Top Chef Masters (specifically the tamales), this week's restaurant dish is my take on sweet corn tamales from The Cheesecake Factory. Tamales can be labor intensive and take some time to cook. I opted for a quick weeknight dinner cheat, and bought some precooked polenta. The topping is something that we could eat all the time and never get tired of it. On the side was another favorite that we could eat all the time - fried sweet plantains.

I cut the precooked polenta and seasoned it with some smoky cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper. The toppings included black beans with garlic and onions, fresh corn, fresh salsa, diced avocado, crumbled goat cheese, and cilantro. Mmm....I'm hungry just thinking about it! This was so good that we ate it two nights in a row (and could have done three or four).
Here's how you can create it at home! I prepared all the toppings and cooked the polenta last. This serves 2 - multiple the ingredients to fit the size of your party. Another note, I recently bought corn oil for a recipe and decided to use it here instead of the usual olive oil. Feel free to substitute your favorite oil instead.

Corn 'Tamales' with Black Beans and More
Presented in the order of preparation

Black Beans
1 can of drained black beans
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 of a yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan
Add in garlic and onion and cook until softened (about 3-4 minutes)
Add in black beans and bring to a boil
Reduce to low and keep on the heat until it’s time to assemble the dish

I cheated and used a store bought salsa for this. You can check out my salsa recipe from a previous post. If you are making this fresh, chop some extra cilantro and set aside to use as a garnish.

Simple cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Remove the pit. Use a spoon to carefully scoop out the avocado flesh. Dice into small pieces and cover with lime juice. Or, if you forgot to buy a lime like I did, use some limeade (it worked wonders!)

Fresh Corn
Remove the husk and all the silk from one ear of corn
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the kernels away from the cob
Heat a small amount of corn oil over medium-low heat in a non-stick skillet
Cook corn for about 5 minutes (keep stirring so it doesn't burn)
Set aside in a bowl until you are ready to assemble everything

Southwestern Polenta
6 half-inch slices of precooked of polenta (save the rest for the next meal)
About 1 tablespoon of chili powder
About 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
Salt and Pepper
Corn Oil
Spread the polenta out on a plate in a single layer
Sprinkle the seasonings evenly across the top
Heat corn oil in a non-stick skillet (enough to coat the bottom of the pan)
Cook polenta for 2 minutes on each side and remove to a paper towel

Fried Plantains
I can't remember where in the prep I made this. I'm pretty sure that I cooked them before I cooked the polenta and then put them in a 200 degree oven to stay warm.
1 sweet plantain, the peel should be dark brown (that means it is ripe)
Corn oil
Cut the plaintain into 1/4 inch slices
Heat the oil to medium in the same non-stick skillet
Add the plantains and cook for about 2 minutes per side, being careful not to burn them
Take them out and place them on a paper towel to drain off excess oil

Putting it all together
Take out two plates
Put 3 polenta rounds on each plate
Top with a generous scoop of black beans
Divide the corn evenly over each plate
Sprinkle the goat cheese crumbles next
Top with avocados, salsa, and fresh cilantro
Put the plantains on the plate and devour!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Skillet, cutting board, knives, spoons, paper towels, serving dishes and utensils

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Real Doris

Well, not quite the real Doris, but very close! The inspiration for the blog name is a family saying "Good Cook Doris". Every time we have a great a great meal the cook is complimented with a rousing "Good Cook Doris!" When we went home for wedding #3, we were treated to a one of my grandma's signature meals. Sorry to the family members that missed out.

First course was rye bread and a big salad with all the goodies (peppers, yellow tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots). I had green goddess dressing (although the Ozzie Smith onion dressing did look good).

Next up, breaded veal cutlets and spaghetti. Normally the spaghetti is served with red sauce. This summer version had pesto. Can you taste the garlicky goodness?

The meal was followed up with delicious kamish bread and mun cookies (poppyseed) baked my grandpa.

Stay tuned for more recipes!

Summer Zucchini with a story

It's that time of summer where freshly picked zucchini is everywhere - here in Boston is no different. My coworker and her husband are not big fans of vegetables and she offered me a few zucchinis from her neighbor's garden. I couldn't imagine them going to waste, so I accepted!

The real story here is that my hubby and our friends Aaron and Amanda used to live in the same house that my coworker now lives in. Amanda built and planted a nice veggie garden out back so she could eat sustainably. So in fact, this zucchini came by way of Amanda (just 6+ years later). Thanks Amanda!

I wanted to make zucchini bread, but a quick scan of the fridge didn't show too many ingredients. I googled a recipe for zucchini bread + 1 egg (the ceaseless wonders of search engines) and went with the first recipe that popped up - Lemon Zucchini Bread. One thing I've learned is to check out the reviews with recipes. I followed the tip to add in some vanilla to the batter. It turned out great and we ate it all!

After the bread, I still had another zucchini left. We were getting to head out of town for wedding #3 of the season and wanted to use it up before we went. I cut it up and pondered something quick and easy to make. With the hot summer temperatures I wanted something that didn't completely heat up the house.

I sauteed the zucchini with some olive oil and salt and added it to some tri-color rotini. In the spirit of grow-your-own food, I added some fresh basil from our plant and kept it simple with olive oil and lemon juice. The hubby topped his with grated Parmesan and proceeded to clean his bowl - the sign of a tasty dinner.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Farmer's Market Finds

I've been on vacation for a few of the past Fridays and have missed my weekly trip to the Copley Farmer's Market. Here's a recap of some of the recent finds that I did have (and didn't have time to post).

First up, smoked bluefish spread from the guys at Nantucket Wild Gourmet & Smokehouse. This was delicious - better than those cream cheese-y spreads out there. It was great served on a warm toasted bagel.

Next up, my regular lunch the Goat Cheese picnic. Sometimes I feel like a little something extra to go with the tasty cheese and fresh bread. It was raining at the market this day, so my favorite vendor for dessert wasn't there (they pack up at the first drop of rain). So I opted for a healthier addition. I picked up a green heirloom tomato and fresh cucumber to make little sandwiches. For dessert I got a cranberry orange roll from Iggy's. This is a very wallet friendly lunch:

$5 (with $1 off coupon) - Goat Cheese Picnic
$.50 - Fresh cucumber
$.50 - Heirloom tomato
$.90 - One of the first apples of the season
$.75 - cranberry pecan roll
Total for Farmer's Market Lunch: $7.65

A great way to support local farmers and get a delicious deal.

Here's a look at the inside of the tomato.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fresh Fish Tacos (made at home)

Inspired by the trend of tasty tacos at some of our favorite restaurants, I decided to try my hand at making them at home. We're having a beef-free week - after documenting our meals we realized that we were eating red meat a little too frequently. The hot item in the food world right now is fish tacos. The dish incorporates a few of our favorite ingredients: avocados, cilantro, lime, and fresh fish. I opted for a pan friend (not breaded and fried) version to keep it on the lighter side.

We are also trying to stick to a stricter budget for food, so the fish choice was based on the lowest price at the store that day - cod fillet. For the two of us (no leftovers) we got 1/2 pound of cod fillet (on the thick side). I decided to wing it and make up my own recipe instead of looking one up.

This was great with the cod - the hubby decided that the recipe would be tasty with salmon or mahi mahi (and fresh tuna if it ever went on sale). For the wrapper we used a small corn tortilla that had more flavor and was easier to manage than a giant burrito sized flour tortilla. Topping included a quick pickled cabbage, diced avocado, fresh tomato salsa, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.

This was a quick meal. While the fish was marinating I chopped veggies for the salsa and the black beans. The beans were started, salsa and avocado prepared, and then all that was left was cooking the fish and warming up the tortillas. I only wish that we had some margaritas to enjoy with the meal...there's always next time.

Here are some photos and recipes. I didn't write down measurements as I cooked, this is my guess at what I did!

Fresh Fish Tacos
1/2 pound fresh cod fillet, cut into 2 inch cubes
About 1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
2 dashes of green Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper (just a sprinkle of each)

Put half the olive oil into a bowl with the smashed garlic clove and jalapeno
Put the cut fish into the bowl
Sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, Tabasco, and salt and pepper
Put in the refrigerator for 10 minutes (or as long as you need to prep the other components)

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat (on a 1-10 dial, I used 5)
Remove fish from the marinade and put into the skillet
Cook for 4 minutes on the first side
Flip, and cook for 2 minutes on the other side
When the fish is cooked through, use a fork to break up the big pieces (it will flake along the grain)

Serve with warmed corn tortillas and the following toppings

Quick 'pickled' Slaw
I cheated and used a prepared coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots). Use only enough for this meal. The idea is to get a nice tangy slaw to play off the salsa and avocado flavors. You could try any vinegar you have (in the next post on turkey tacos, I used red wine vinegar)

Coleslaw mix (or chopped green cabbage)
About 3-4 tablespoons or so of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Toss cabbage well with the oil and vinegar
Season with salt and pepper
Keep in the refrigerator until just before serving

Tomato Salsa
2 plum or roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/4 of a white onion, diced
A small handful of chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper

Mix well and chill

Black Beans and Red Pepper

1 can black beans, drained
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1/4 onion, diced
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a small pot over medium heat
Add in red pepper, garlic, jalapeno, and onion
Cook for about 5 minutes, until just softened (don't burn the garlic!)
Add in beans
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer
Simmer until the rest of the meal is ready

Other Toppings
Diced avocado (squeeze lime juice over it)
Lime wedges for a squeeze over the whole taco
Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish

All these meals...Now for a Dessert

I've mentioned my love of free things and coupons before (it's no secret). This week I had a coupon for a new product - Nasoya soy creations. It might sound a little (or very) scary, but it is essentially pudding with soy milk instead of regular milk. I opted for the chocolate flavor and came home to check the website for recipes.

It was hot (no AC in the Good Cook Doris kitchen), so I looked for the recipe that required the least amount of effort and the least amount of time in the oven.

I decided on the Chocolate Bread Pudding, the recipe called for just a few ingredients. I adapted the recipe to a two serving size and used what we had on hand. For the full recipe, use the link above. My version used whole wheat potato bread. Instead of a whole baking dish (I would eat it all if it was there), I made 1/4 of the recipe and baked it in two 4-inch springform pans for eating and storing.

Chocolate Bread Pudding
Adapted from Nasoya

About 1/4 cup Nasoya Silken Creations Dark Chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
4-5 slices of whole wheat bread, bread crust removed, torn into 1 inch pieces
Confectionery (Powdered) sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Combine the soy creations, cocoa powder and bread in a bowl and mix gently (don't squish the bread)
Let the mix sit for 10 minutes so the chocolate can be absorbed
Divide the mixture evenly into two 4-inch springform pans (or oven safe bowls)
Bake for 15 minutes and check for doneness
Cook for up to 15 more minutes (it should be cooked through, but not crunchy)
Sprinkle with confectionery sugar
Serve warm (a la mode if you have ice cream on hand)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15-30 minutes
Bowl, spatula, springform pans, measuring cups, and spoon

Sprinkled with a little powdered sugar it was delicious! The next day I warmed the second serving up in the microwave for about 15 seconds before eating. It was even better the second time!


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