Category: Cooking for 1 or 2

New Year’s Morning Parmesan French Toast Breakfast Sandwich

New Year’s Morning Parmesan French Toast Breakfast Sandwich

IMG_2031

I may have enjoyed my Christmas a little too much. Maybe you did, too? Even so, there’s still time to add to that merriment because…

Continue reading “New Year’s Morning Parmesan French Toast Breakfast Sandwich”

Table for One with a One-Pan Dinner

Table for One with a One-Pan Dinner

IMG_0036

Some of us cook for one every day and every night; some of us only on the rare occasion.  If you’re a parent who’s had to cook for a big family most of your life, cooking for only you might seem like one of the highlights of the year, a cause for celebration. You can cook what you like, for as long as you like.  You can set the table exactly as you want or choose a tray and do the previously unthinkable:  read or movie your way through dinner. On the other hand, you might be totally mystified and ready to pour a bowl of cereal or order pizza.  Take heart.

While the weather holds, I’m still outdoors when evening comes.  The candle is lit, the music turned on, and I make sure I’m in a place where I can be grateful and enjoy the beauty of plenty to eat. I mostly like to cook for myself and I cook fish a lot. It’s maybe the fastest and easiest thing to cook for one person. Needless to say, I love fish. I encourage singles to decide you’re worth cooking for. (No more, “Oh, it’s just me.”)

I am, however, a tad cautious outside at dinner lately….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(photo courtesy C.P. Perry–right down the street from my house) Continue reading “Table for One with a One-Pan Dinner”

Ina Fridays–Main Courses–Chicken Chili for Two

Ina Fridays–Main Courses–Chicken Chili for Two

I once heard a woman say, “You can’t make chili for two people.”  As I began to write today, thinking about that conversation did make me do just a little bit of research…because I often make chili for one or two!

Chili is American, isn’t it?  That much we think we know, but read on.  There’s also the  beans or no beans dilemma.  “If you know beans about chili, you’ll know there are no beans in chili,” Texans say.  Minnesotans go, “Huh?”  when you quote the beans line.  Then there’s the meat.  There’s chili and there’s chili con carne.  After a while, you start wondering what is in chili.  Today, there are as many variations as there are cook-offs, parties, and so on.  Chili is served regularly at Super Bowl, Halloween, and at neighborhood or church gatherings.  Here’s an interesting bit of chili lore from whatscookingamerica.net–just for fun:


According to an old Southwestern American Indian legend and tale (several modern writer have documented – or maybe just “passed along”) it is said that the first recipe for chili con carne was put on paper in the 17th century by a beautiful nun, Sister Mary of Agreda of Spain. She was mysteriously known to the Indians of the Southwest United States as “La Dama de Azul,” the lady in blue. Sister Mary would go into trances with her body   lifeless for days. When she awoke from these trances, she said her spirit had been to a faraway land where she preached Christianity to savages and counseled them to seek out Spanish missionaries.

 It is certain that Sister Mary never physically left Spain, yet Spanish missionaries and King Philip IV of Spain believed that she was the ghostly “La Dama de Azul” or “lady in blue” of Indian Legend. It is said that sister Mary wrote down the recipe for chili which called for venison or antelope meat, onions, tomatoes, and chile peppers. No accounts of this were ever recorded, so who knows?

Whoa!  Gives me a chill or two.  But what about your chili…just for one or two?  I often make Ina Garten’s chicken chili (among others–I love Silver Palate chili for a crowd) from Barefoot Contessa Parties.  It’s on page 232 and serves 12. But as I made it last week, it seemed a perfect meal for this blog.   To begin with, it’s made with chicken breasts (skin removed after cooking) you’ve either just roasted or have in the frig from yesterday’s dinner–or even the rotisserie chicken from the store– and it also includes vegetables that cook quickly–onions and sweet peppers.

That makes it healthy, wealthy, and wise--and fast for chili.  Secondly, it doesn’t have beans so while you have less starch (and that sort of fiber), you also have more vegetables and less calories.  I do, truth to tell, often make a pot of beans alongside it… so that we can have beans and cornbread another day.

But you needn’t make beans; it’s great on its own.  Or there might be a can of some sort of beans on your pantry shelf (I hope) and you can use those should beans be needed.  While I look at the recipe for six (see Food Network link above/below) or twelve (in Ina’s book) and just cut it down by intuition/taste while cooking, I’ve tried to get approximate measurements for a smaller batch here. Do please consider this a guideline only and use your own judgement and tasting abilities.  While I think of it:  I also often add chopped zucchini and/ or mushrooms. Your frig might contain other wonders you’ll think of adding.  But, enough of all this.  Let’s stop talking chili and start making it.   Here’s the recipe with great thanks to Ina, who’s one of my heroines:

Ina Garten’s Chicken Chili cut down to– two servings

  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1T good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
  • 1 clove garlic, minced  
  • 1 1/2 red bell peppers–or yellow (or a combination) cored, seeded, and large-diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Tiny pinch dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Tiny pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 t kosher salt, plus more for chicken
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
  • 1/8 c minced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 – 1/2 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

  • Chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream  (beans optional)

Directions

Chicken Breasts:  (I do these first)Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, (45 at altitude) until just cooked. Let cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bones and skin and cut it into 3/4-inch chunks. 

Meanwhile, begin the chili:

Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Add baked chicken and simmer another 10 minutes or so.  Serve hot and, if you choose, with beans or toppings listed above.  Let leftovers cool completely before covering well and storing in the refrigerator for 1-2 days only.

Cook’s notes:  If you’re cooking gluten free, check the canned tomatoes and the chili powder for an ingredients list or make your own: chili powder.   If using canned beans, the same is true; check your labels or make your beans from a trusted source from scratch.

WINE:  My friend Drew Robinson has convinced me that a Syrah (all Syrah–not a blend) drinks well with something like chili.  Many folks like a barely sweet-laced beer.

DESSERT:  You’ve been so good eating a light chili, I think something warmly chocolate would be lovely.  Cinnamon chocolate chip cookies or chocolate-cayenne dipped butter cookies.  Maybe just a cup of Mexican hot chocolate topped off with a splash of Kahlua?  
                                                                         ***
                                                       
Check out Ina’s whole recipe on the Food Network site here.
Watch the video of Ina making this chili here.
                                                           ~~~~~~~~~~

Who’dve thought of looking in a party book for recipes for one or two beautiful people like you?  Never know.

ALL ABOUT INA FRIDAYS:
The first Friday of the month, food bloggers from many parts of the world join together in posting a favorite Ina recipe.  This month we have Main Courses; next month we’re cooking Dessert! 

Stop in and see what all of our fine writers are cooking up today or any day:

*Not all writers will blog Ina every week–there’s work, vacation, family–but take a peek anyway. Some bloggers will post the following day due to time change or work/family commitments.

Are you a food blogger? We’d love to have you every month or even once in a while! Email Alyce @ afmorgan53@yahoo.com to join the group or link in to join us occasionally (click on blue oval link button at bottom and follow prompts) only if you’re blogging Ina! No other posts, please?! 

                                              If you like this, you might like…

Alyce’s Pumpkin-Chicken Chili

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself, and if you have time, listen up to a young singer named Jeremy Anderson. You can download his music here.  Guy does all his own tracks…sometimes 12.  On itunes, too.

Alyce — Back in Colorado with 300 boxes, no ipad cord, and a computer that is crashing daily
 ( portions published previously on my blog dinnerplace.blogspot.com)

Cherry Tomato Chicken Pasta with Basil or I’m Gonna Fit in the Slinky Black Dress in Three Weeks

Cherry Tomato Chicken Pasta with Basil or I’m Gonna Fit in the Slinky Black Dress in Three Weeks

Here with rotini  (new photos added November, 2012)

 As cooks, we sometimes wake up with something special on our minds.
Something that just keeps going round and round and, until we make that dish, we just can’t do anything.
No one should get in our way then.  No how.
Then we go to the grocery store.
Are way-laid by a point of entrance display of, say, raspberries.  Or avocados.  Or, in this case,
CHERRY TOMATOES.
I had every intention of making a Splendid Table newsletter dish called something like “Sicilian Chicken.”
Until I saw cherry tomatoes

10 PINTS FOR $10

And my world went spinning until I could figure out and make  (a large detour from Sicilian Chicken)

Here, the original photo with linguine

Cherry Tomato Chicken Pasta with Basil
serves 4

3 pints cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a little extra for chicken
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, ditto
5 cloves garlic
1 small red onion, sliced
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped very finely
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3/4  pound  (12 ounces) whole wheat linguine

10-12 fresh basil leaves

4 tablespoons gruyere cheese, grated, optional

Bring to a boil a 10qt pot of salted and peppered water for linguine.  Add a few leaves of fresh basil.  Lower heat a little and leave water ready for pasta as you make the sauce:

In a deep, 12 or 14″ saute pan,  heat 2T olive oil over medium heat and add tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cook 10 minutes until tomatoes begin to pop, stirring often.  Add garlic, onion, mushrooms, dried red pepper, wine, olives and rosemary.   Continue to cook for another 10 minutes as tomatoes begin to fall apart.  Heat another saute or grill pan and add 2t olive oil.  Salt and pepper chicken breasts and grill very briefly, about 1 minute on each side.  Lower heat under tomato sauce and add the chicken to the  sauce.  Cover and cook at a low simmer for about 12 minutes.   Bring pasta water back to a rolling boil and add linguine.   Let covered chicken in sauce sit 10  minutes.   Test pasta for doneness and pour out into colander.   Divide the pasta into four pasta bowls and top each with a piece of chicken and a good serving of the tomato sauce. Garnish with torn fresh basil leaves and a dusting of fresh ground pepper.  Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

Wine:  We liked a not-so-rough chianti with this dish.  Don’t buy the bottom of the barrel, literally.  Go up one notch to a chianti classico for a tish more smoothness in your mouth and in your stomach.

Dessert:  Now you know I’m watching every bite (except at birthdays and wine dinners like Saturday), so I’m just having a bite of whatever Dave’s having.  He eats dessert and he’s thinner.  Hmm.  I consider this a justice issue.    I made a parfait for him out of layers of strawberries, blackberries, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.  In between each layer, I put a tablespoon or so of crushed shortbread cookies.  A long, skinny iced tea spoon and he was in business.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Neighborhood News

If you want to eat things grown with 50 miles of here, this is what you can eat….

So, ‘Hood news in no apparent order:
Snowed every other day, at least.  Doves out this morning taking a walk right down the middle of the street at 5:30am.   Crab apple trees, bright pink, prettiest sight in town.  Book  Club is Wednesday night.  The neighbor with the best lawn already had to mow.  (Not us.)  Wed. we had 70mph winds and so much pollen that the entire sky was coated in waves of what looked to be smoke.  Praise God, there were no fires. 

 Sing a new song; change your mind at the store,
Alyce

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JUDY MAYS!

Judy Mays
Lover of politics and fried chicken.
(Always a great combination)
Friday Night Dinner in the Fireplace or Still too Cold for the Grill

Friday Night Dinner in the Fireplace or Still too Cold for the Grill

Usually I do a lovely dinner on Friday nights.
While we’re Christians, we think of it as our Sabbath…
We’re both home.  Time to breathe, rest, catch up.   Live.
No watches.
No cell phones.
No television.
Music.
Candles.
Sigh.
But where was spring?  I was getting desperate for a little lamb grilled outdoors.
Maybe a glass of wine on the deck before it got too cold.  (The light is lasting now.)
Mother Nature had other plans.
In Colorado Springs, we have so little rain that I usually can’t remember the last time it rained.   So when it does blow up a storm (we often have dry storms come summer) and then drizzles all day, I must be grateful.  Even if I can’t cook on the grill.
So I had some chicken apple sausage, which, to my not-very-sausage-saavy-palate, tastes a lot like brats.  A fraction of the fat.  They’re pretty versatile.  Already fully-cooked, you can grill them and eat them on a roll, slice them into a salad, put them in bean soup, or chop them up into scrambled eggs.  Lots.   Friday night, I said, “Ok, if the grill won’t come to me, I’ll come to the fireplace.”  Or something like it.  We dug out the wienie forks from the dusty camp kitchen stored in the garage, and while I heated up some soup I’d frozen last month, grilled onions and buns, Dave built a fire.  When it was ready, we roasted wienies in the basement.    Tucker, of course, wanted some.  No way.

and watched “Gladiator.”  So sad at the end….
Sing a new song; skip the grill and cook at the fireplace, let sleeping dogs lie…..
Alyce
Grilled Asparagus with Tex-Mex Dip or Spring Eats in the Snow

Grilled Asparagus with Tex-Mex Dip or Spring Eats in the Snow

                                 Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. ~Doug Larson

Living on the edge of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, I’ve seen snow every month of the year.  Sounds impossible to most folks, but it often warms up for the many false springs (and sometimes summers) we love and then turns stormy bitter overnight.  July 4 can bring mountain snow, though probably not down here in the Springs.  We once sat through an outdoor July concert in Woodland Park until we couldn’t stand the blowing snow anymore and ran down the hill to McDonald’s for coffee. (Not a lot of choices.)  We never put away our jeans and sweatshirts and we  keep a coat, a candle with matches, a bottle of water, and a chocolate bar in the car 365 days a year. You’ve heard this tale.

Still, like most Americans, we dream of spring in March, and hey, we sometimes get a little.  It was 65 the other day and, inside the house it was above 70.   Turned the oven on to bake bread (Irish Soda, of course) and the kitchen was soon 75.  Two days later, it snowed all day long and we were building fires, warming up soup, and snuggling our toes inside wool socks.  Ah, Colorado:  no water and weird weather.  Not always a good combination.   Praise God for central heat and gas stoves and food trucked in to places where it can’t be grown.  I guess? 

Friday night, as I set the table and lit the candles, I knew I had a light meal that needed either an appetizer or dessert.  As I’m currently cutting my caloric intake by 25% a day in a concerted effort to seek health, I decided on  a vegetable appetizer.  A pound of asparagus bored to death in the frig had a little bit to do with it; I’ll give that to you.  I never tire of grilled asparagus (or as my good friend Sue says, “I’d pay anything for it.”) and, given the time constraints (dinner was almost done and Dave had begun the music), grilled sounded good.  I promise I won’t blog asparagus anymore this spring. (Fingers crossed.)

When I shot this pic, I realized I probably didn’t even need to do it.  No doubt there were multiple shots of grilled asparagus stored on the computer.  Finding them (my photos need organizing pretty badly) was another story.  I clicked two times and above you see one of those.  Gives you an idea of my skill level.

These were skiiiiiiiiiiiinneee asparagus (doesn’t equate with good or tender), so I knew they wouldn’t take long to grill, and, while I like them almost done, I don’t want them limp.  Time to think of a dip, a sauce, a topping, a …whatever.  I’m crazy about fresh lemon squeezed over asparagus; it’s one of my favorite things.  Kinda old, though,  Alyce.  What else?  Some finely chopped peppered cashews?  Hmmm.  Getting better.  What about salsa?  Atypical.  What about salsa and Greek yogurt?  Hepped up with garlic?

Sounding better all the time and was quick as spit.

Here’s how I did it:

Grilled Asparagus with Tex-Mex Dip

1# fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed
1T olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 c plain, non-fat Greek Yogurt (or any plain yogurt will do)
1/3 c best quality salsa (make sure it’s gluten-free)
pinch each table salt and fresh ground pepper
1 clove garlic, grated or smashed well

Heat grill outdoors or stovetop grill to medium-high.  Brush with olive oil and lay asparagus on grill in an even layer.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  Grill, turning once, for 8-10 minutes.  Meantime, make dip:

In a small bowl, mix yogurt, salsa, salt and pepper, and garlic.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Place grilled asparagus on serving platter with a bowl of dip and enjoy.

2-Dog Kitchen Continued
Sing a new song; enjoy a new spring,
Alyce
Potato Soup and Irish Soda Bread

Potato Soup and Irish Soda Bread

I had a farm in Ireland…….
——————————————————————–
Not.  I did, however, visit once.
I wish I could go back.
I can’t go today, but I can make Potato Soup and Irish Soda Bread on
St. Patrick’s Day……
———————————————————————–
I’ve been making this meal for a long time.  I love it, but I don’t make it any other time of the year.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be special if I made it, say, in May or September.  You, however, have no holiday strings emotionally strumming over these recipes and could make them next week or next year.
Go you.  So, here’s the soup………..and then the bread–
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
971c1-dsc01117

Potato Soup

  • 2 slices of bacon, diced; 1/4# Canadian bacon, chopped*
  • 2 onions (different kinds are nice), chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 3 large pototoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 turnip, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces, optional
  • 6-8 cups unsalted chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 c Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • parsley or dill
  1.  In an 8-10 quart soup kettle, saute bacon until about half-done; add Canadian bacon.  Cook until well browned.  Remove meats  from pot and drain on paper towel-lined plate.  Cool and  refrigerate until you’re going to serve the soup. 
  2. Pour out all but enough bacon grease to coat the bottom of the pan well.  Add onions, garlic and leeks and saute until almost golden, stirring often.  Add potatoes, turnip and parsnip and cook 2-3 minutes until hot.  Add chicken broth.  Bring to a  boil and lower the heat.  Simmer until all vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  
  3.   Puree in food processor, with hand-held blender or by hand using potato masher.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream, a bit of the bacon and ham and a garnish of fresh parsley or dill.  Make sure there’s fresh ground pepper at the table.
    *You could choose to use all bacon.
  4. Printable recipe for both soup and bread below the bread recipe.
17308992_1267377379965436_8649806387995927284_n
There isn’t much better than soup and bread anywhere.  If you’re cold.  If you’re really hungry.  Can you think of anything better?  I have a friend whose husband doesn’t like soup,  Just doesn’t like it at all.  He did, however, eat soup at my house once.  And asked for the recipe later.  Such folks are few and far between.  Who doesn’t walk in a house, smell soup simmering or bread baking and go, “Wow!  It just smells so good in here.”  And, while we can’t always put our fingers on what makes us happy in life, we do know we like it when the house smells like something good to eat.  Those  “Wow”s come with big smiles and anticipatory movements that include looking around for the delighting elements.  So, here’s the bread.  More on the provenance later.
Irish Soda Bread – American Style
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cup currants or raisins
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk (+ 2-3 T, if at altitude)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1.  Grease a 2qt  round bowl (ovenproof), casserole or  deep cake pan. Alternately, line a baking sheet with parchment paper for a free-form loaf.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F.
  3. In food processor, or large mixing bowl, measure dry ingredients and mix well.  Cut in with blade attachment or with knives or pastry blender, the butter. 
  4. In a large mixing cup, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs; add the currants and baking soda.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and mix well to form a very wet dough. 
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured board and knead briefly.  Shape into a round loaf.  Turn out into the prepared baking bowl or onto baking sheet and bake for about an hour  (or a bit more)  until bread is very well-browned and firm in the center.  A wooden skewer stuck in the middle of the bread should come out clean.  You may have to test several times.
  6. Let this bread sit 15-20 minutes before cutting or it will crumble.  Cool completely before wrapping tightly in foil and storing in the refrigerator.  Will keep 3-4 days.
  7.  Excellent leftover just as it is, but even better for toast made under the broiler. 

{printable recipe for both soup and bread}

 

Me and the green.
A couple of notes on the provenance of the recipes:
I began (and later changed) the potato soup years ago from a recipe called  “A Cold Winter’s Day Potato Soup” from THE EASTERN JUNIOR LEAGUE COOK BOOK, edited by Ann Serrane and published by David McKay in ??1980.
The bread recipe is one I have no idea about from whence it came.  It’s on a recipe card I’ve had for so many years.  I’d guess I copied it out of a magazine or a book at the library one day as a young wife.
——————————-
THE TWO-DOG KITCHEN IS REALLY SOMETHING ELSE AS TUCKER HITS FOUR MONTHS……
While we are making the potato soup, Tucker tries to figure out if he likes onions skins.   Nah….
Sing a new song,
Alyce
all photographs copyright Alyce Morgan 2003 and 2010
Almost Veg Pasta a la Lindsey Vonn and Elizabeth’s Gwendal

Almost Veg Pasta a la Lindsey Vonn and Elizabeth’s Gwendal

 

Had to have something really fast for dinner two nights ago. Inspired by a super new book I’m reading (buy it:  LUNCH IN PARIS by Elizabeth Bard), I  decided to make a pasta dish a la Elizabeth’s husband’s non-recipe with what was in the house.  I quickly rifled through the small freezer and then through the veg bin.  Leftover fresh pasta (enough for me) was in the freezer/big smile.  There was, lo and behold, a small package of yummy, thick smoked bacon.   The veg bin was a little more confusing.  There were a few carrots (not even limp); there were even a few very straight and tall stalks of celery.  Good so far.  Onions?  In the bag under the mudroom sink.  Garlic?  Shallots?  In cappucino cups on the counter with the olive oil.  Ok, that’s a start, but we’re missing something that’s going to pull it all together.  I then remembered some baby broccoli in a bag on a shelf and, praise, praise, there were three fresh tomatoes needing to be eaten SOON.  The skins were already a little crepey.  Great for the saucepot.

I got a small stockpot going with water for the pasta and turned on the Olympics.  Now, I’m not a huge sports fan, but I like the Olympics as well as the next girl.  Especially the winter olympics.  I skated quite a bit as a kid (really) on the long-time frozen pond behind our house and the love of the glide and the wind (and the scars-not) is still with me.  It just happened that as I made this, ok, it was lovely, pasta, Lindsey swooped down that slope with me holding my breath as I sauteed the onions and celery.  I nearly burned the garlic as she hit that one curve, but it all came together  in the end as she cried for joy over just having finished the darned run.  I would have cried, too.  Oh.  Maybe I did.  Phew.  I was so glad for Lindsey, and for me… that it was over..and that dinner was ready.  Of course, it was nice that she won that gold medal, too.  Go, Lindsey!!!  Go, Gwendal!!!

Here’s what I did:

Almost Veg Pasta a la Lindsey Vonn and Elizabeth’s Gwendal
     serves 2-3

First, set your small (6q) stockpot to boiling with about 4 qts of water and a little salt.  Cook your pasta and, while it’s cooking…

In a deep, large sauté pan or skillet, cook until about half-way done

-2-3 strips bacon or 1/4 cup smoked ham, thinly sliced in  1T olive oil (No bacon for you? You can sub 3 -4 tablespoons total olive oil for the bacon and 1 Tablespoon oil)

Then add

-1 onion, finely chopped
-2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
-4 stalks celery, finely chopped
-1 bunch baby broccoli, ”   ”

(Meantime: check your pasta.  If it’s nearly done, drain it, saving a 1/2 c pasta water for sauce.)

Cook until softened and then add

-3-4 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
-1/4 cup mixed chopped fresh parsley and basil (or 1 t each dry oregano and basil)
-fresh ground pepper to taste
-kosher salt   to taste

Let the sauce cook down for 3-5 minutes.  Dust with a little more ground pepper.   If you haven’t drained the pasta yet, do so now, and add the half-cup pasta water to the sauce.   Fork up some pasta into your bowl,  top with a big ladle of sauce and then add some

-Parmesan cheese,  coarsely grated

I  also like this topped with a few chopped fresh herbs. Parsley and basil are nice. 
.
Gardening note: Neither one of those herbs is growing in my south window right now and I have to buy them.  Currently doing quite well through the winter are thyme (three pots), sage (huge pot three years old), rosemary (two smaller pots with slow-growing plants) and almost frozen dead mint. 

{printable recipe}
————–
You won’t win the Olympics with this dish, but you’ll sure be happy, warm and full.  You’ll also have  all of your veg for the day at one meal.  The bacon didn’t hurt a bit. (Thanks, Elizabeth Bard!)

 

Wine:  any  red.  I liked a Syrah.
Dessert:  One square of dark chocolate (Lindt –about 50 calories per) for your health, of course
Sing a new song; win a new medal,
Alyce
———–
NEWS FROM THE TWO-DOG KITCHEN———or , for now, A THREE DOG NIGHT…..

                                Gabby and Tuck had the big kid from next door sleep over–Meet Moss!

We know how to share a meal, well…maybe just a bone.

How long do I have to live in the kitchen?
Meatloaf Panini or I Always Loved YOU (and Meatloaf Sandwiches)

Meatloaf Panini or I Always Loved YOU (and Meatloaf Sandwiches)

Meatloaf, though well-loved (like you–Happy Valentine’s, friend)  is often the source of ridicule.  People laugh about it, call others by its name and while they eat it without turning up their noses (in fact, they really want it), it perhaps is wolfed down with a little snotty, eye-raising disdain.  When they mention it, their voices lower and, sotto voce, with eyes slanted, they run on about the meatloaf their mothers made with ketchup.  On the other hand, if no one is really listening, they are hot on the trail of a good recipe.  If you bring up meatloaf at the hairdresser’s, ten women will soon be surrounding you, wanting to know how in the (well, you know) you make it and just how good is it?  Do you use a mixture of meats?  Turkey? If so, how do you flavor it?  They want it now.

And so on.

Bring up mashed potatoes and boiled carrots (then sauteed in a little butter and honey and thyme) and the world is at your feet.  It’s like talking biscuits.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Beef stew. Chicken and dumplings.

Feeding six people for years and years led me to think about and try many kinds of meatloaf before settling on a rather pedestrian, (embarassing to admit I still use an envelope of dry onion soup mix in it),  but very quickled snarffed down and s-i-m-p-l-e (also cheap) version.  Later, I began making meatloaf for the homeless when we fed them at our church.  I sometimes made it just so we’d have meatloaf sandwiches to travel with when we were on the way to a camping spot or traveling across country.   We were kind of the meatloaf bunch back then.

When the kids walked (or ran) off, one by one, I found I made it less often.  How much meatloaf can two people eat?  It went the way of big trays of biscuits and dozens of homemade blueberry muffins for dinner every night.  It went the way of 12 qt pots of spaghetti sauce. In the place of those cooking for the masses dishes,   I started cooking 3 quarts of Tyler Florence’s bolognese. (And still had to freeze some.)  I began to fall in love with tiny lamb chops served over barely warmed arugula with slivers of parmesan and almonds…all served with mind-warming Pinot Noir from Oregon.  I fixed saute pans full of sole and plates of quickly grilled vegetables topped with feta and fresh basil.  No need for big ol’ pot roasts and 2# meatloafs…or was there?  I adored (and yet do) cooking for two.  Yes… but, then again…….

One day, I just couldn’t stand it any more,  I had to have meatloaf.  And potatoes. And carrots.    So I made it.  I made it all.  And, of course, it was mostly all still there the next day.  I said, “Let’s not cook tonight; let’s have meatloaf sandwiches and watch a movie in the basement.”  Dave was all over that.  I told my good friend, Sandy, about it and she, too, was enthusiastic.  “Oh YES and have a nice, round red with them.”   Which sounded fine.  I adored meatloaf sandwiches.  But…

As I went to fix them, the new cook in me, the one who cooks for two,  pulled out the grill pan.  She grabbed the cast-iron, wooden handled press (my cheap panini maker) that we used to cook meat camping.  She searched out a little spinach, some fresh basil, a jar of salsa and whatever cheese was in the cheese drawer.  And here’s how she did it because, friends, she made

Meatloaf Panini with Sauce for Dipping
serves 2!  (orignial meatloaf recipe below–keep reading at end)

                        Make it with cheddar, serve salsa for dipping.
                        Make it with provolone, serve marinara for dipping

4 slices whole wheat bread (large slices); I like them with seeds
1T butter
2T coarse ground Dijon-style mustard
3-4 thin slices meatloaf (your choice)

4 slices cheese (provolone or cheddar, depending on the sauce)            
1/4 c fresh basil leaves
1/4 c fresh spinach leaves

1 c marinara or salsa for dipping (depending on which sandwich you make)                                                                                          

     

Heat a grilling pan (or large cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat.  Butter each slice of bread on one side.  On the other side of only two slices, spread the mustard.  Place one slice bread on the pan and lay on the  meatloaf, cheese and basil and spinach leaves.  Top with other slice of buttered bread.  Repeat.  Lay something heavy on top (a grill press or a heavy pan or plate) and grill until toasty brown on one side.  Turn over and grill until the other side is just as brown.  Eat while it’s hot!!!– right away, each served w/ 1/2 c  desired sauce in a ramekin or small bowl.

SIDES:  Chips, pickles.  Right.
WINE:  Rhone.  (We drank a California Rhone called “Incognito.”  Whoo Hoo.)
DESSERT:  Small piece of dark chocolate with the rest of the wine.

Porque no?
Pourquoi pas?
Happy Valentine’s Day! 
Sing a new song; grill a new sandwich,
Alyce

Meatloaf recipe:  1# lean ground beef, 1# bulk breakfast sausage, 4 cloves garlic, grated or minced finely,  1 15 oz can tomato sauce, 1 ex-large egg, 1 envelope dry onion soup mix. 2 slices bread (torn in small pieces) 1/2 t ground black pepper, 1T dry basil, 1T dry oregano.  In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients well using your great hands.  Pat meat mixture into 9×5 loaf pan (I like glass) and bake at 350F for an hour.  Pour off grease.  Let meatloaf remain in pan, covered with foil, for 10-15 minutes before cutting.

NEWS FROM THE TWO-DOG KITCHEN:

Baked Snapper in Tomato Sauce or How to Decide What to Cook

Baked Snapper in Tomato Sauce or How to Decide What to Cook

When you arrive at the store or market with no set plan in mind (and this is a good way to shop sometimes), you have opportunity to be moved by what appeals to your
  • eyes
  • stomach
  • wallet
  • sense of the season
  • knowledge of what’s in your pantry and frig

You must choose, at that moment, to be a rather more open and spontaneous cook, person and shopper. You must allow yourself the ability and time to walk through the produce and meat and fish/seafood sections (the pasta aisle remains fairly static) to just see what appeals. What looks possible, given your time constraints. What looks lovely, given the season. What looks available, given the bucks needed. What looks incredible and must-doable, given your heart. Your heart is critical here. There are days the most beautiful shrimp being sold at the most beautiful price won’t move you. It’s just not your day for shrimp; who knows why.

It’s as much a creative process as anything and, I promise: the process improves with time. The first time you do it, you may wander round and round, taking an hour in the grocery or farmer’s market. The second or third or fourth time may give you the same result. At some point, your love of food and innate intelligence will take over (or not) and the connections will begin to be made. You will walk in, see green beans two pounds for a dollar, stunningly red tomatoes grown nearby, teeeeny bright new potatoes, ahi tuna on sale for $11.99 a pound, and you will say,

“Et voila! Salade nicoise!” or

WOW, WE’LL HAVE GRILLED TUNA WITH GREEN BEANS, NEW POTATOES AND TOMATOES IN A MUSTARDY VINAIGRETTE

Now, I’m just starting to take a great French class (one of my life-long goals), but Salade Nicoise does sound better, I think. And, I hope you have better luck finding the tiny Nicoise olives than I do; I usually end up with kalamata.

Ok, you might not start there. This could be an ambitious example.

In between those trips, you will have cooked, eaten and fed someone you like (I hope) and you, if you’re really interested, will have begun to read recipes or even watch Ina Garten on tv. The ideas for what you can do with food will have begun to make an imprint on your, well, I’m a faithful person, so I’ll say soul. You will begin to trust yourself after some successes and disasters. Your friends and family will begin to look forward to your forays in the kitchen and you will be a new person for having learned something more about how to take care of yourself. I believe it can happen to most anyone.

Too scared to start? Then begin by taking 2-3 recipes you think you want to make. Walk through the fresh areas of the store (always on the perimeter). Think about what looked good that is actually on one of your lists. Shop for that recipe and make it.

Here’s the story of my fish:

I knew I wanted to make fish. (fast, friendly, healthy). Went to the store and saw that red snapper looked the freshest and was, in fact, the cheapest right then. Snapper was $9.99 a pound; Tuna was $21.99 a pound. I knew I had zucchini that needed to be used and always have on hand

canned Italian tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, and celery

I began to have a picture.

Something, then, could come of all these things. I could have just grilled both the snapper and the zucchini, but something a bit more cooked appealed and this is what I made:

BAKED SNAPPER IN TOMATO SAUCE

—serves 2-3

1-2 T olive oil

1/2 c chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, chopped

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2″ pieces

2 stalks celery, diced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

1/2 t Herbes de Provence*

1/8 t crushed red pepper flakes

1 32 oz can tomatoes, chopped (I like Cento)

1/2 c ea, red wine and water

1 – 1 1/4 # fresh red snapper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Over medium heat, in large saute pan, cook chopped vegetables, herbs and salt and peppers in the oil for 10-12 minutes or until softened. Stir often. Add chopped tomatoes, wine and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes until somewhat reduced and a bit thickened. Add snapper. Place pan in oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes bit. Serve over a few gluten-free or regular noodles or rice, if desired.

*Herbes de Provence are available in the spice section or you can make your own by combining dried lavender, thyme, sage, marjoram, savory and/or tarragon. Some people add a wee bit of fennel. If you don’t have these things, try some basil and oregano in generous amounts.

WINE: Try a Cotes du Rhone or even a Beaujolais. This is a good instance of red wine with fish. Here we’re pairing flavors and preparation, not protein, with the wine. Think outside the bottle.

DESSERT: How about a little lemon sorbet, maybe with a tiny butter cookie? Otherwise, try a piece of biscotti with the rest of your wine.

The animals version of this story goes like this:

My bushes out front are, this morning, full of six (yes, six) robins eating juniper berries. Your guess as good as mine as to why the robins are in Colorado in January.

Sing a new song; cook a new fish; go see what the birds are eating,

Alyce

A blogging note: I’m in the process (might take while) of moving my blog from Blogspot to Word Press; my new address will, sometime in the future, be….

moretimeatthetable.com

I’ll let you know when the switch occurs. I’m working on getting the site ready, but already see I’ll have more flexibility and can entertain comments, etc. more easily. If you peek anytime soon, you’ll see a site under construction, but are still welcome! Thanks for your patience while I make the change.

HAITI DONATIONS:

Over 3 million Haitians are affected by the earthquake; here are two great places with websites to which you can donate:

World Food Program (UN)

Share our Strength, No Kid Hungry