Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cooking Limbo

I don't know about you, but I'm in some kind of cooking limbo. It's been a long, wet, gray, spring, and my stomach is screaming burgers, and chicken, and vegetables from the grill. But the weather keeps saying soups, and stews, and chili. Don't get me wrong, soup is always my #1 choice for lunch, no matter what season it is. As a matter of fact, I made Cream Of Broccoli just today. More on that in a minute. But it's suppertime that I'm at odds with right now. These gray, damp, days dictate hot-and-hearty, but my appetite has rebelled, and craves something fresh-and-light instead. It's a real dilemma.

I must have looked like a loon today, as I wondered aimlessly through Supertarget, trying to find something remotely appetizing for tonight's supper, but nothing jumped out at me. Finally I settled upon what my family has come to call snack night. Where I prepare some type of dip and chip - pick up some wine, cheese, olives, good bread, and perhaps a nice peppery salami to go with it - then every one conveniently helps themselves. It's my new favorite thing to do.



For tonight's snack night, I went a little overboard. We had Rosemary bread dipped in olive oil along with balsamic vinegar; Asiago cheese; Olives; Marinated chickpea salad; Whole wheat crackers; A small crudites platter with Roasted Red Pepper dip; And last but not least, Turkey meatballs from Orangette's blog. Everything was a big hit. But it was the Roasted Red Pepper dip that my hubby and kids devoured and declared the most blogworthy. Personally, I couldn't get enough of the Chickpea Salad.


Chickpea Salad

It's difficult to give exact measurements as I don't use a recipe. I basically make a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, dry mustard, a good pinch of cumin, dried oregano, salt, pepper, and parsley.

I used canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained, along with a bit of chopped red onion and allowed it to marinate for while in order to enhance the flavor. This makes an excellent side dish, or lunch to take to work.





For the Roasted Red Pepper Dip I buy whole roasted red peppers in a jar for convenience, then chop them myself. Be sure to save some of the juice as you will need it to thin the dip out just a bit.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Roasted Red Peppers
Cream Cheese
Sour Cream
Chopped green onion
Parsley
Salt
A good pinch of red pepper flakes.

I used about half as much sour cream per amount of Cream Cheese. Mix everything together adding a bit of the marinating liquid from the roasted peppers to help thin the dip just a bit - making it the consistency you want. This dip goes great with crackers, pita bread, artisan bread, or just plain, crisp vegetables. Sorry about the photo, however, it really doesn't do the dip justice.



And last but not least, the real reason my daughter and I wake up each and every morning. Soup(!). I'm sorry that I don't have a picture to show you - as this soup disappeared before my hubby got home with the camera. This is my favorite springtime soup because it comes together so quickly. You can add shredded cheddar cheese if you like, but it's really not necessary.


Cream of Broccoli Soup

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 lbs fresh broccoli, chopped then put in a microwave safe bowl along with 1/2 inch water in bottom, cover with Saran Wrap, and cook in microwave for 2 minutes in order to steam the broccoli a bit and give it a head start in the cooking process.

1 large onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
1 carrot, julienned
salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup cream

Saute onion and garlic in butter and olive oil until translucent. Add flour, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add broccoli along with all the water in bowl. Next add carrot, salt, pepper, and chicken broth. Allow to simmer 15 minutes or until broccoli and carrots are tender. Add cream. Puree with immersion blender. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Regrets

I won't bore you with all the trivial details, but the economy and my hubby's new job have conspired to prevent me from blogging as much as I would like. We sold our home back in February and are now living temporarily in a small duplex. The PC, formerly located in a cozy office of it's own, is now squeezed into the corner of the bedroom, and my hubbies new job requires him to go to bed and wake up at ungodly hours. So I, the eternal night owl, used to blogging and browsing until the wee hours of the night, have been banished to the living room sofa with cookbooks, old paperbacks, and Frasier reruns to keep me company until the urge to sleep finally arrives, which is usually about 2 AM. Insomnia is my middle name. And don't get me wrong, I do love Frasier. And I've enjoyed the good fortune of going through dozens of old cooking magazines, ripping out enticing recipes and organizing them in an attractive box. But I miss you guys - I miss telling you about those Fajitas I made last week and the Brownies that were so good, I ate half of the pan all by myself.

Another impediment to my blogging is the fact that I no longer own a camera. My hubby stole it. He needed it for his new job. And the ironic thing is, he basically went from a blue collar job, to a white collar job with a 40% drop in pay, and a company that doesn't even supply the basic tools needed to perform the job. The boss said, "You've got a digital camera, don't ya?" "Well," hubby responded, "my wife does." So now the camera sets in a makeshift office - a dreary, former boardroom - which I envision with a long table, cheap paneling, and a dusty plant in the corner. Such are the lives of a couple of corporate restructuring refugees.

So I regret that I have no pictures to show you.

And I regret the fact that I can't show you the tasty vegetable soup that I made on a lazy, rainy, Sunday afternoon with crusty homemade Italian bread to go along with it.

And I regret that I ate half of Ina Garten's box mix brownies, which turned out even better than my own made from scratch. Damn you, Ina. Just kidding. I love Ina. I worship Ina. And besides, somebodies gotta support those poor people living in the Hampton's.

I also regret that I have an insatiable appetite for Mexican food. Thus compelling me to make way too many chicken Fajitas that were beautifully marinated in garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and olive oil, topped with Cotija cheese and pickled red onion.

And I will interminably regret the fact that I ate so much Pasta Alla Vodka for supper tonight that I had to lie down afterwards and couldn't get up to do the dishes. Look up the word ddivinity in the dictionary and you find the words Pasta Alla Vodka.

And last but not least, I regret the fact that I cannot afford a shiny new laptop and state of the art digital camera to show you these delectable dishes that I've enjoyed recently. But I wanted to let you know about them anyway - and that I am still here - cooking, eating, following your blogs and looking forward to the Farmer's Markets opening up soon.

Drop me a line to let me know what you've been up to(!).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Grey Gardens

I just found out that the documentary Grey Gardens has been made into an HBO movie starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange, airing this Saturday, April 18th. It's such a coincidence(!). I knew nothing of this movie when I mentioned this documentary in my previous post.

I look forward to seeing the movie, in such an intriguing, disturbing sort of way.

Here's a link to the HBO preview in case anyone is interested.
http://www.hbo.com/films/greygardens/

Friday, April 10, 2009

Grey Days

It's midnight. The only chance I've had to update this silly blog in weeks. I'm working full time now and my commute time has also increased. So it's official ... I'm a certified rat in the rat race.

To sum it up, I drive a small grey SUV to work on early gray mornings, down a long grey turnpike at a fast-forward pace to a large gray building in which I wind my way through a long grey maze of cubicles, where I wind up setting all day long in front of a grey computer, enduring a sordid grey, inhuman existence.

To make matters worse, as an Aquarius, I tend to retire from the world at times and become a temporary loner. I bake bread, read books, shuffle about the house in sweatshirts and old baggy pants and quite enjoy myself. I highly recommend it.



Anyone seen that documentary Grey Gardens? I really must find a new job soon. Or else, one day, you may find me dancing around on TV with a scarf on my head talking to fourteen cats.

I haven't been cooking much lately. But there have been a few special dishes. And I guess I should keep a camera nearby in the kitchen, for often by the time I get something made, the gang is so starved that we just dig in and there's never enough time for pics. Dishearteningly, I think to myself, that would have made a good pic for the blog. But life is like that. It speeds by at a grey, blur-like pace.



So sometimes I try to slow things down a bit and stop and view the colors. Which is pretty hard to do here in Oklahoma - with the smoke from the fires, the gray skies, and the tornadoes going by. Nothing much sounded good for Friday night's supper, so I made some quick appetizers and we all just snacked out.

My hubby really enjoyed this Hot Artichoke Dip. And like most things I make, I read a recipe once as a starting point, then pretty much did my own thing. So that's why it's always so difficult for me to give you a recipe, when there isn't one there really to begin with. The typing and blogging part always come easy. It's those damn pictures and recipes that challenge me. Perhaps someday my daughter will become Little Edie to my Big Edie and take over that job for me. It's a horrifyingly, funny thought.

Hot Artichoke Pepper Dip

2 cans medium Artichoke Hearts, drained and finely chopped
1 large, fresh Anaheim pepper, chopped
2-3 pickled banana peppers from a jar, chopped
1/2 large red, sweet pepper, chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 1/2 cups Mayo
Good pinch of salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Bake in 8" square baking dish in oven at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Serve with homemade Pita Chips

Pita Chips

Take one package of Pita and split each pita apart into two, thin, round Pita's if you like them really thin and crispy. Take about 1/4 cup of olive and mix in about one teaspoon of garlic salt and one teaspoon of good Spanish Paprika. Spread pita evenly on a baking sheet and brush with the olive oil mixture. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until desired crispiness.

You may have noticed in the first picture that there weren't many pita chips in the basket. That's because they were so good, we ate most of them before the dip was finished baking. I made more. But they disappeared too.