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
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.


Linda said...

YUM! Thanks for the recipes that I look forward to trying.

I'm with you on the snack night for dinner -- in the olden days, this is something that my daughter and I did frequently when my first husband worked evenings/nights. So, we used to eat our larger meal at noontime and just had snacks in the evening (just she and I). It was a great way of staying in shape as well!

I'm feeling the same way about Spring - though we've had a long, mild Spring here in this part of Illinois, it's been far too wet, windy and grey. I write about it today on my post as well. Tired of rain.

Glad to read your fun post.

Proud Italian Cook said...

I love chick peas and I like that touch of honey you put in yours I'll try that. I'm going to try your red pepper dip too, sounds all good Michelle! Glad to see you taking photo's again. ;-)

Cynthia said...

I too have been feeling that cooking limbo lately. The difference is that I am forced to cook something weekly to post because of my column.

Firefly said...

I definitely want to try all of these! They look great. You reminded me of the cheese and cracker night I had a few months ago. Looks like I should add some dip and veggies, and do it again. We've got a new fancy cheese store down here - forward foods, and it is awesome! Thanks for the great recipes.

Michelle said...

Thanks for stopping by all. It's so good to be back at it, and hearing from you all again. I do enjoy it. Thanks for all the inspiration!

Kate said...

Wow, I couldn't describe MYSELF better than this post. I'd just as soon have soup every day for lunch (and sometimes it's a great breakfast) year round. I'm a Soup Alchemist, for sure. And like you, I've seemed to be in a cooking limbo lately too ... what I really, really crave is a big black-on-the-outside but pink-inside hamburger from an outdoor grill which I don't own, and have no yard to cook it in. And really, what I do instead, is have your little Tidbit Dinners all the time. That's really my favorite way to end an evening. I'd rather have dips and chips and bits and bites than a huge entree. I want to come to your house on snack night!

Michelle said...

You're welcome to stop by Kate,
I'll put out some extra dip and chips!