Memorial Day Cookout

I love a good excuse to spend an entire day in the kitchen. To me, there is something about chopping, peeling, grating and cooking all day. No time pressure, no worries, just a nice relaxing day to cook. So I invited a few people over for Memorial Day and used it as my excuse to cook.

I started with chicken and ribs. Orange and thyme marinated chicken and cider braised ribs.

20130527-194936.jpg The chicken was a total experiment. Zest and juice of two oranges, thyme from the garden, three chopped cloves of garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. Marinade for twenty four hours. The pork was simple and tasted oh so good …

20130527-195228.jpg Apple cider, soy sauce and brown sugar. Marinade overnight then braised in a 250 degree oven for about four hours – turning once. They come out juicy and falling off the bone.

20130527-195425.jpg Add some home made BBQ sauce and grill – they were the star of lunch.

The chicken was good, but not nearly as good as the ribs.

Now lunch would not be complete with just the chicken and ribs. So we also had my no mayo coleslaw

20130527-195658.jpg cucumber and tomato salad with a white balsamic and dill vinaigrette

20130527-195731.jpg potatoes (which I forgot to take a picture of) and a quinoa tabbouleh – a total experiment and not bad. It looked really pretty though.

I also added some pineapple and watermelon from the farmers market. The pineapple was amazing; the watermelon not so great. But it sure looked pretty.

No meal would be complete without dessert. And as much as I hate making it, I did make the fabulous French Silk Pie.

I know I’ve made and posted this one before but really when you start with

20130527-200235.jpg and

20130527-200250.jpg and mix it for a LONG time to come up with that pie … Well, it is worth posting again. Although whoever decided that it takes “7-10 minutes” to get eggs to 160 degrees over a double boiler while mixing with an electric mixer was insane. Try 23 minutes. But the pie is so worth it.
And since I can’t do dessert half way and it is the beginning of summer, I had to go with berry shortcake.

Vegan scones, macerated strawberries and blueberries (maple syrup, sugar and vanilla) and whipped cream. Yes, real, homemade whipped cream. Ohh … It is almost as good as the pie.

The picture at the top is the lizard one of the cats brought in. I thought it had gone back outside, but apparently it went up in the pantry and sat near my vanilla. I almost had a heart attack but Bob saved the day – I think he was afraid I may not move it myself and then all the desserts would not get made.

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day!

I Actually Cooked This Week

Three day weekend! Can I just say how excited I am about this? Nine days left with students and a three day weekend. (Yes, for those that don’t know, teachers and school personnel are as excited about the kids getting out for a summer as the kids are. Probably more. It is not that we don’t love them, but we don’t want them around for a while by this point in the year.)

On to cooking. I started the week with a salad. I felt the need for more greens and something healthier. Part weather, part yoga and part the large amounts of take out over the last two months had my body screaming for veggies. So … Mixed green salad with yellow tomatoes, orange peppers, cucumber and topped with a little steak that I marinated in sriracha sauce, honey, sesame seed and sesame oil. Pan fried and the left over, non used marinade on top as a dressing. Bob got meat, I got salad and we were both happy.

I also made what I am referring to as international fajitas. Soy and garlic marinaded chicken with a Caribbean pepper blend (very hot) in a Mexican tortilla, with Videla onions, orange pepper and finished with an Italian cheese blend. Had this with a Californian red wine. I actually really liked this. It worked well, and the flavors were balanced.

I also tried a new brownie recipe this week.

20130525-142031.jpg They look so good, but they didn’t really work. Not sweet enough, not chewy enough, and they didn’t have the great brownie taste/feel. Oh well.

We are grilling out Monday, and I have the menu planned. Heck, what else was I going o o sitting in a room for five hours watching one kid take a test? I planned an entire meal, wrote out the shopping list and mentally went through the cabinets to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

Winding Down

You would think that by May school would be easy. Calm with everyone anticipating the summer and kids preparing for finals. But no, we are still doing state testing – going into week six or seven – and trying to make sure kids are doing what they should, and not doing what they should not do. Sounds simple enough, but most days I think everyone has lost their minds, or I’ve lost mine. R a combination of both. No wonder we’ve been making do with quick, simple meals or take out.

I did find a fantastic wine.

20130519-175037.jpg. I asked the very nice gentleman for a recommendation for a good after wok wine. He didn’t hesitate and pulled this Cotes du Rhone. Normally I’m not a Cotes kind of girl, but this was fabulous. Light, fresh, crisp but not acidic, great “mouth feel.” (Now I feel like a wine snob … And I’m ok with that.) It was perfect with dinner one Friday evening and for sipping after walking Jessie one Saturday afternoon.

I was going to bake Bob a birthday cake last week and try my hand at buttercream icing. But we ran into a problem. No. I wasn’t missing ingredients, the house didn’t explode, nor did I fall asleep before baking. We had a leak in the kitchen.

20130519-175511.jpg The drain in the sink was apparently leaking for at least a few days as we had a minor flood under the sink. By the time we got to the hardware store, started, went back to the store for more parts and got it fixed, I wasn’t baking. I did manage to make the beer bread experiments before heading to Val and Bill’s for the weekend


I used a White wheat, Guinness, a Lambic and the New Castle as the control. All were a hit and there was no clear winner as everyone had a different favorite. I think I liked the white wheat best. It’s amazing what three cups of self rising flour, half a cup of sugar and a bottle of beer can create. (Baked at 375 for 55 minutes)

Oh … And Bob had his own geeky project this week.

20130519-180020.jpg yep – remote camera. We may have to talk a out the one inside.

Hope everyone is having a great spring.

Zucchini & Tomato Fritters

I’ve been wanting to make the zucchini and tomato fritters I found in my vegan cookbook for a while. Even for omnivores, the Veganomicon cookbook is incredible. I’ve gotten biscotti, cakes, side dishes, etc out of there and so long as I “forget” to mention that they are vegan everyone loves them. The zucchini and tomato fritters were something I stumbled across, they sounded great, so I tried them – slightly altered as usual, but it worked.

20130507-201536.jpg I had some fresh zucchini and two beautiful tomatoes left, so I decided on this dish. I grated the zucchini and peeled the tomatoes then chopped them. No precision here, just used what I had.

The base was a little harder. I took one package of firm tofu, drain it and chopped it up. Into the food processor it went with three cloves of garlic, about a quarter cup almonds, a hand full of panko breadcrumbs, the juice of half a lemon, some fresh herbs from the garden (in this case dill, oregano and mint) and salt, pepper, tomato paste. The pepper was a hot blend Bob likes.

20130507-202013.jpg I figured a little heat would make up for the tofu. Once this was blended

20130507-202048.jpg I folded in the zucchini and the tomatoes. Because I forgot I was working late Monday, the mixture sat in the fridge, covered, for two days, but it was it was fine.

Today I heated a frying pan, added olive oil and fried tablespoons of the mixture that I coated in more panko. They are delicate, but if you just leave them and only flip once, they seem to come out ok.

I made these with panko crusted chicken with the same pepper blend since I just wasn’t 100% certain about them.

Bob really liked them and asked me to make them again and I have to say, I was happy with them – lots of flavor and a good texture with the tomato chunks and the crunch of the breadcrumbs. It was a really great side that I could turn into a main dish pretty easily.

All in all a success and not too bad for a Tuesday night!

Beer Bread

There are so many things wrong with the concept of Beer Bread that it is so right. I asked Bob to get me a bottle of beer for baking. He initially looked horrified, as though I was asking for one of his fancy Belgium beers to destroy. But, once I explained the concept of beer bread (to a man who is severely limiting grains, making my go-to cooking dishes non-starters) he was suddenly ok with me using beer for baking. Just not his really good Belgium beer.

So … Three cups self rising flour, one 12oz bottle of beer (I used Newcastle Brown Ale as it is the only beer I know other then Guinness, which I thought was too dark for bread), a half cup sugar. Mix, pour into a buttered loaf pan and bake at 375 for 55 minutes. If you want to get fancy, add a pat or two of butter the last few minutes of baking.

20130505-204042.jpg After seeing Iron Man 3 (quite entertaining actually) we came home and tried the bread. Bob pronounced it “phenomenal” and moaned as he ate it. I took that as a good sign and went with it. I will say I thought there was a slight bitter taste on the back end of the bread, but both Bob and John (who joined us for Iron Man) assured me there was none. I still think there is, but the bread is surprisingly good.


Bob has even agreed to gather a few different types of beer, a lambic, Guinness, a wheat ale and maybe one other so I can make a few loaves and we can experiment with which ones we like best. He is, apparently willing to indulge in grains when they contain beer. But for now, we have one loaf of beer bread … half eaten already. I’m thinking French toast or a grilled cheese sandwich since the bread was particularly good with cheese.


I’m pretty sure I cooked more this week than I did all of April. It felt good, but all made me look forward to work slowing down a little more so I can get back to experimenting.

I started out simple. Hamburgers with a great little salad. Tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, fresh cucumbers and an amazing goat cheese. The cheese is Midnight Moon from the same cheese maker that does my Lamb Chopper and Bob’s Humboldt Fog. Once we figured that out we knew why it was so good.

20130503-203548.jpg Next was the honey ginger chicken. It was pretty good but I really needed to marinade the chicken. Making it as a sauce only gave it a good flavor, but very little depth.

Now today’s experiment …. Unexpectedly delightful. I wanted something lighter but still filling. I had pork out, and I wanted to use the leek I picked up last week. So … I found a recipe for a pork pie and totally changed it.

20130503-203919.jpg I used boneless pork chops, cut up into cubes. I got a nice brown crust on those, then added the leeks and carrots to the pan. Once those cooked down a little, I added veggie stock, apple juice, tomato paste, thyme, pepper, salt and cornstarch dissolved in water. I let the cook on the stove for about 15 minutes then transferred it to a pie pan and covered it with phyllo dough. I then baked it at 400 for 30 minutes and then let it sit for ten. The result didn’t look pretty

20130503-204208.jpg but wow did it taste good. Bob and I ended up eating the entire thing. Rich flavor, a nice sauce, but not a heavy dish at all. And it looked better on the plate than in the pie dish.

We also got some new wine. Bob discovered woot wine and this is our second order. They do a different selection every day and the one that came today looked interesting.

20130503-204538.jpg Six bottles of reds, but two are a 1996. Not sure if that is a good year or not. But we will soon see.

Zucchini and tomato fritters are on for this weekend. I finally found the right tofu to make them!