Thursday, November 29, 2007

WHB - White Chili

There is nothing I like better than a big bowl of chili on a blustery fall or winter day. My husband is the champion of regular red chili. As a matter of fact, it's all he cooks. So, besides the 3 or 4 times a year that my husband makes it, if we want chili, I usually make a white chili. The flavors are different than a red, but they have the same sort of chili feel. Don't you love the way I spilled the chili on the side of the bowl and didn't wipe it off like a good chef should? And how my cilantro is a little past it's prime? No one is going to be hiring me to do any food photography anytime soon! This recipe was adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.

White Chili
Serves 6 to 8

1 pound dried great northern beans, picked over and soaked (I just soak them in the soup, and check in the morning to see if I need to add any more liquid)
8 cups chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium-size yellow onions, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 boneless chicken breasts cut in half (I used 3 legs and 3 thighs because that is what I had, and I like the extra flavor from the chicken bones)
1 medium-size jalapeno, seeded and minced
8 ounces chopped roasted green chiles
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup canned, fresh, or frozen corn
1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste

Serve with
shredded Montery Jack Cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro

Here is where I substantially differ from the recipe in the book (besides using thighs and legs instead of boneless breasts). The recipe in the book calls for several steps, including cooking the beans separate and sauteing and cooking the other ingredient before adding to the pot. One of the reasons I use a slow cooker is so that I can dump everything in it, go to work, come home and eat dinner. So, that is what I did. I dumped everything in the slow cooker the night before (except for the corn). I checked the liquid in the morning to see if I needed to add any more, turned it on low, and left for work. Came home to a house that smelled fantastic! About an hour before serving, I added the frozen corn. I removed the chicken, let it cool a bit, and shredded the meat as I returned it to the pot (it was pretty much falling off the bone anyway). I minced some cilantro, opened a bag of all ready shredded Montery Jack Cheese and dinner was served!

Don't get me wrong, I love to cook. But sometimes I love to dump food in a pot, come home and have dinner ready. I use my slow cooker twice a week. This is so that I can go to the gym right after work and workout without having to worry about dinner. What a great idea! But it also means that I can skip the workout, come home, change clothes, curl up with Scrappycat and have a nice nap until about an hour before dinner. Life is good.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by the lovely and talented Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen. And again, it's cilantro for the zillionth time. Sorry people, I love my cilantro.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes ala Dorie Greenspan

My pumpkin pie recipe that I used for Thanksgiving did not use the whole can of pumpkin puree. So, like I do every year, I put the leftover puree in a container in the refrigerator. But unlike most years, where I find it a couple of weeks later growing green mold, this year I actually used it. While reading through my ever-growing list of blogs that interest me, I found a recipe by Dorie Greenspan at Serious Eats for pumpkin pie pancakes. These pancakes call for 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree, plus you can mix the ingredients the night before (keeping wet and dry separate) and combine them in the morning. It sounded like a great way to use up the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes
- makes about sixteen 4 1/2 -inch pancakes -

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
Maple syrup or ice cream for topping

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, rum and vanilla to blend thoroughly. ***At this point, I covered the bowl of dry ingredients and left it on the counter. I covered the bowl of wet ingredients and placed it in the refrigerator. And then the next morning, I continued with the recipe.*** Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix with the whisk, stopping when everything is just combined. (Don't worry if the batter is a bit lumpy.) With a rubber spatula, gently but thoroughly fold in the pumpkin puree.

2. If necessary, lightly butter, oil or spray your griddle or skillet. Preheat over medium heat or, if you're using an electric griddle, set it to 350°F. If you want to hold the pancakes until serving time (or for up to 20 minutes), preheat your oven to 200°F.

3. Spoon 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake, allowing space for spreading. When the undersides of the pancakes are golden and the tops are lightly speckled with bubbles that pop and stay open, flip the pancakes over with a wide spatula and cook until the other sides are light brown. (These are soft and puffy, so turn carefully.) Serve immediately, or keep the finished pancakes in the preheated oven while you make the rest of the batch.

These were amazing! I have been holding off buying Baking: From My Home to Yours because I don't bake all that much. But I've been so intrigued with all the baked goods that people have been posting in their blogs, and now with these pancakes, I think this is definitely going on my wish list! And please don't let the above photo discourage you from trying these. These smelled so good, and I was so hungry, this was the best photo I could manage before diving into them.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Why The Cashiers at the Grocery Store Hate Me

Well, maybe hate is too strong of a word, but they really, really, really don't like me. When I go to check out, they all avoid catching my eye, they look away or look down. Kind of like when you are in school, and you avert your eyes hoping that the teacher won't call on you. Sometimes, if there is much of a line, they don't see me get behind someone. Then when they finish checking the other person out, they look up, see me, and their face betrays their unhappiness.

Am I rude? No. Do I yell at them? No. Do I have a zillion coupons, half of which are expired? No. My problem is produce. That's it. Produce. At my local grocery store a lot of the produce does not come with one of those handy scannable numbers that make cashiers lives oh so easy. So, they have to key in the 4 digit number. The good cashiers have a lot of these codes memorized. Tomatoes, no problem, cucumbers, got it. The problem is my produce, apparently it's unique. Not a lot of people buy what I buy. Or at least, not enough to memorize the codes. Plus 99% of the cashiers at my local grocery store are high school girls. I know because all 3 of my daughters have worked there. High school girls, in case you are wondering, could care less what kind of vegetable you are buying. They don't consider it a challenge to learn the codes of the unusual vegetables. No, they consider it an unbelievable hassle that you are even attempting to buy these items.

When they don't know the number, they have to look it up. First on this clever little roller thing that is on their cash register. After they spin that around a few times, and fail to locate the vegetable, they must pull a book out from under the counter. This is always done with great sighs of weariness. They manage to look completely disgusted and totally bored at the same time. First, they don't know what leeks are, then shallots are a puzzle, by the time they get to the ginger root, you can tell they wish they could pull a lever and I would drop down into some convenient whole in the ground.

But you know what is really hard? What's really hard is when even the people who work in the produce department don't know what the produce is.

I know that most of you probably don't need another picture, but here is a full view.

When the cashier sees this, she is finally happy because it has a number on it. She doesn't have to look it up. She has no clue what it is (and neither apparently does the produce department). Unfortunately, it doesn't ring up. Why? Because my store doesn't carry celery root. It never has. She looks at me. I say "Um, that's not celery root, it's fennel." She looks up fennel, but she can't find it. She starts to pull out the book, but then I notice "anise" on her roll guide thing. I say "Oh, there, try anise. You see it's not celery root, it's fennel, but they have it listed under anise. Which it's not really anise either, but that's what you call it here. When you are not calling it celery root, that is." I give her all this information helpfully. I forgot, just for a moment, that she really, really, really doesn't care.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

More Thai Food Coming Soon!

Does your mall have one of those discount bookstores? I don't know their name, something like Book Warehouse, maybe. Anyway, I try to avoid going in there, it's not good for my wallet. I even go so far as to park on the other side of the mall, so that I don't walk by it. But today, my husband was driving, and he parked at the entrance right next to it!!! So, really, this is all his fault.

And this is also his fault.

But, look at the price! $5.99! How could I not buy them? I've actually had the Vatch's Thai Street Food on my wishlist at Amazon.

Expect a flurry of Thai recipes and posts coming soon.

Friday, November 23, 2007

WHB - Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus

I hope everyone who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday had a wonderful holiday! We were too busy cooking and eating for me to take many pictures, but I did manage to get a couple of pictures of the turkey, a before and after shot! It's a good thing too, because I can use it for this weeks Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by What's on My Plate.

I have used this turkey recipe from Giada for 3 years in a row now, and I love it! It's perfect for weekend herb blogging because it is loaded with herbs! The turkey is stuffed with citrus, an onion and fresh herb sprigs (I used rosemary, thyme, and sage). The outside of the turkey and under the skin is rubbed with a mixture of melted butter and Herbes de Provence. Herbes de Provence (according to Wikipedia) is a mixture of dried herbs from Provence invented in the 1970s. It typically contains rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme, and sometimes lavender. Mine from The Spice Hunter contained thyme, marjoram, rosemary, basil, fennel, sage, and lavender.

What I really love about this recipe, besides the fact that the turkey comes out perfect everytime is the fabulous gravy that it makes! As the turkey cooks, fresh herbs combine with the giblets and chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. While the turkey is resting, you strain the broth, add some butter and flour, a little salt and pepper, and you have the best turkey gravy ever!

Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

1 (14 to 15-pound) turkey, neck and giblets reserved
1 orange, cut into wedges
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 onion, cut into wedges
6 fresh rosemary sprigs 6 fresh sage sprigs
6 fresh oregano sprigs
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth (approximate amount)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

To make the turkey: Position the rack in the lowest third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the turkey on a rack set inside a large roasting pan. Place the orange and lemon wedges, onion, and 2 sprigs of each fresh herb in the main turkey cavity. Tie the legs together to hold the shape of the turkey. Stir 2 tablespoons of butter, the herbes de Provence, oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of each the salt and pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat just until the butter melts. Rub the butter mixture all over the turkey and between the turkey breast meat and skin. Place the turkey neck and giblets in roasting pan. (Recipe can be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before roasting.)

Cover the turkey breast with foil. Roast for 20 minutes. Pour 3 cups of broth into the pan and stir to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining sprigs of fresh herbs to the pan. Roast the turkey for 40 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the foil from the turkey; pour 1 more cup of broth into the pan. Continue roasting the turkey until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F to 175 degrees F or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a skewer, basting occasionally with pan juices, about 1 hour and 30 minutes longer. Transfer the turkey to a platter and tent with foil. Let stand 30 minutes while preparing the gravy.

To make the gravy: Strain the turkey pan juices from the roasting pan through a sieve and into a 4-cup glass measuring cup; discard the solids. Spoon off the fat from atop the pan juices. Add enough chicken broth, about 1 to 2 cups, to the pan juices to measure 4 cups total. Melt the remaining butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the broth. Simmer until the gravy thickens slightly, whisking often, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the turkey with the gravy.

I know the photo is not all that great, the turkey was just resting on the cutting board. I wanted you to see how wonderfully golden and brown it gets, and all of the crusty, roasted herbs.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Flour + Water + Salt + Yeast = Bread

Those of you that read my blog with any regularity (and thank you so much!), know that I make my own bread. I use the bread machine to mix my dough, but then I shape it, let it rise and bake it my oven. So, it's a little bit of cheating, but still I make my own. My everyday bread recipe has 4 ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. That's it.

A couple of Saturdays ago, instead of baking bread, I had to have a mother/daughter talk with my 22 year old daughter. I would probably have been more productive baking bread, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Since, I didn't have time to bake bread, I bought a loaf of Italian bread from my local grocery store. I figured, Italian bread, it's pretty basic. This is the list of ingredients in my bread:

Unbleached enriched flour, water, yeast, salt, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oils, sugar, wheat cluten, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, ascorbic acid, enzymes, diacetly tartatic acid esters of monodigyderides, soyflour, lechitin, azodicarbonamide, calcium propionate). High fructose corn syrup, leaving (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda), datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, dextrose, malt, calcium, pyrophosphate, carrageenin, soybean oil, lechithin, color (annatto/turmeric). Quick shine - water, sodium caseinate (milk protein), propylene glycol, canola oil, methylparaben & propylparaben (preservatives), diacetyl acid esters of mono and diglicerides (emulsifier), sodium polyphosphate, artificial flavor for aroma enhancement, carroggenan, mixed tocopherols added to protect flavor, and nitrogen (propellant).

I am not kidding. I am so thankful that I cook and that I bake using simple, fresh ingredients. I have one question, well, actually this raises lots of questions, but lets just focus on one. Bread has one of the best and most loved aromas of all time, why then does this loaf of bread need "artificial flavor for aroma enhancement"???? They had to make this bread - smell like bread.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Things to not do on the Saturday before Thanksgiving

As some of you may know from my post here, my dishwasher broke two weeks ago and today was the big delivery day. What I didn't tell you (I didn't want to appear boastful and greedy) was that I also am getting a new refrigerator! My refrigerator has been making funny noises for the last few months and it's about 15 years old. We decided that it was better to be proactive and just go ahead and get a new one, than to have it suddenly break and possibly ruin lots of food. So, we picked out a dishwasher and a refrigerator that pretty much match. Imagine a matching dishwasher and refrigerator! I've never bought 2 major appliances together at the same time, and I'm feeling rather pampered. But as I said before about my dishwasher, I was concerned with everything being delivered today, The Saturday Before Thanksgiving.

First of all, I have lots to do today. Grocery shopping, make rolls, maybe make and freeze the pie, etc. etc. etc. Our delivery time was set for between 10 and 12, so right after breakfast, I started emptying the refrigerator. Oh. My. Gosh. Do you know how much stuff a side-by-side refrigerator freezer holds? And how did it get so disgusting? This was probably the first time I've seen the bottom of my produce drawer in years, and it was not a pretty sight! The whole time, I'm vowing to never, ever, ever let my beautiful new refrigerator get this nasty. The shelves that line the door where the worst, and the kitchen was filled with the sucking sound of jars as they came unstuck from some unknown, congealed, sticky goo. I filled cooler after cooler, and even after throwing away 2 trashbags full (why did I have 5 jars filled with bacon grease), there was still tons of stuff.

The whole time I'm thinking, no one in their right mind, empties and cleans out their refrigerator The Saturday Before Thanksgiving, you're supposed to be filling it with food, not emptying it. But we finally get it emptied, and I attempt to clean it and make it look like we are not the disgusting pigs that we are. And the delivery men show up. They know where to stop, because I'm standing on the porch flagging them down. And everything is good. Except it's not. Because all they have is the dishwasher!!!! On their clipboard, on their sheet of items to be delivered today (which I've learned is called a manifest), there is my dishwasher, but no refrigerator! I stare at them in horror. I show them the coolers full of food. I show them the turned off refrigerator, doors hanging open. I say it's The Saturday Before Thanksgiving. But none of this makes my refrigerator appear.

Phone calls are made. It's a mystery. Yes, we did purchase the refrigerator, and yes it was scheduled for delivery today. No one knows what happened. While one guy is talking with the manager on the phone, the other guy starts telling me about how they just tried to deliver a washer and dryer to a house. When they got there, the woman explained to them that yes she had bought the washer and dryer, but they were not supposed to be delivered until next year!! Her house was still being built! So, they had to load the set back on the truck. He said that if I was looking for a new washer and dryer that these would be put out on sale because they had been opened for installation. I stared at him, and said, "you mean to tell me that today you delivered a washer and dryer that you weren't supposed to, and you didn't deliver a refrigerator that you were supposed to". He just shrugged and said they deliver what is on their manifest.

Now, I'm not going to name any names, but let's just say that even though you may get a Best Buy, good luck on getting your items delivered. To make matters worse, apparently they just deliver the dishwasher. The installer is coming Monday. So sitting in my kitchen is my new dishwasher. Still in it's box.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

WHB - Roasted Chicken with Mediterranean Vegetables

Several years ago, when my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas, I said a Mediterranean cookbook. That's kind of a scary thing, sending someone else on a quest to get a cookbook, because I think cookbooks are such a personal thing. What I like in a cookbook (inspiring pictures and a casual writing style), might not be what you like in a cookbook. So, I made my request, not really expecting much, or actually, expecting to have to return it. But my husband came through, he occasionally does that, and bought me Mediterranean: Food of the Sun: A Culinary Tour of Sun-Drenched Shores with Evocative Dishes from Southern Europe. This is a gorgeous, big, hard cover book, with the most incredible photographs ever. It has step-by-step photos and beautifully presented finished shots. It almost feels like a coffee table book, but unlike most (The French Laundry comes to mind), this one is so usable!

One of the first recipes I made from the book was Olive Oil-Roasted Chicken with Mediterranean Vegetables. I've adapted it slightly.

Olive Oil-Roasted Chicken with Mediteranean Vegetables
Serves 4

4 1/2 lb roasting chicken
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon
1 pound small new potatoes
1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and quartered
8 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
coarse salt and ground black pepper
fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 400. Rub the chicken all over with olive oil and season with pepper. Place the lemon half inside the bird with a sprig or two of fresh thyme (I used lemon thyme). Put the chicken breast side down in a large roasting pan. Roast for about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven and season with the salt. Turn the chicken right side up and baste with the drippings from the pan. Surround the bird with the potatoes, eggplant, red pepper, fennel and garlic cloves. Roll them around in the pan to coat with the pan drippings. Season with salt and pepper and add any remaining thyme. Roast for 50 more minutes, basting occasionally (I didn't baste).

Check the chicken for doneness using your favorite way. Serve with the vegetables and pan juices.

This is so good, and I don't even like eggplant! When I made this, I followed the original instructions which has you put the potatoes in after the first 30 minutes, roast for 30 minutes, then add the rest of the vegetables. I did that this time, but afterwards I remembered that I liked it better when all of the vegetables roasted for the longer time. It seemed to caramelize them better. I like to serve this over polenta, it's earthy flavor seems to go so well with the other flavors in this dish.

And today is your lucky day, people! You get a bonus recipe! Well, it's not actually a recipe, but I've got a suggestion for what to do with the leftovers. I shredded the chicken and mixed it with the roasted vegetables and spread in the bottom of a baking dish. I added a little chicken broth, but that probably wasn't necessary. I spread the polenta over the top, peppered it generously and grated a little parmesan reggiano cheese on top. I baked it at a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes. Sort of a rustic pot pie. It was so good!!! I almost liked it more than the original recipe!

This is going to be my post for Weekend Herb Blogging created Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. It is hosted this week by Vanessa at What Geeks Eat. I'm so proud of myself, my herb this week is thyme...not cilantro or basil!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Things you find in a microwave

The other night I was getting ready to melt some butter to pour over my healthy air popped popcorn. When I opened the microwave door, I was greeted by the sight you see in the above picture. What do you think it is? If you are thinking, "Gee, Pam it looks like your husbands first wife's corning ware in the 1970's popular, Spice of Life, pattern." You would be correct. And yes, I don't really care for this pattern, my style is more 50's vintage, not 70's, but it's perfectly good corning ware, and the stuff will not break! I swear at the end of the world there will be cockroaches and corning ware. If you are thinking...ewww...why would you still be using your husbands ex-wife's dishes from 25 years ago, well, I'm very frugal. When we first got married, I didn't see any sense in getting rid of perfectly good dishes, just because they belonged to HER, and now after being married for 20 years, I'd just kind of like to see how long they last. But, I'm digressing. I did not take a photograph of this dish in the microwave to discuss my frugal dish keeping quirks.

Look again. Those of you who are very astute might be thinking, "Gee, Pam that looks suspiciously like a 1/4 cup of melted butter called for the pear pie that you so boastfully displayed and discussed here." Alas, dear people, you are correct. It is indeed the melted butter (though now it has solidified a bit after being at room temperature for several days) for the pie recipe. Do you believe it??? Do you see now why I don't bake???

I have come to 2 conclusions:
1. I will make this pie again. With butter.
2. Apparently I only use my microwave to melt butter.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dishwasher Woes!

My dishwasher broke a week and a half ago. The very next day, we went to look at dishwashers, I found one I liked and bought it. That was on a Friday night, I thought that I would have to wait till maybe Tuesday to have it delivered, but no, on the following Monday, they called and set up a delivery date of 11/17!!! 2 weeks later!!!! That is the Saturday before Thanksgiving and that it is cutting it way too close in my opinion. What if something goes wrong with the installation??

Washing dishes was one of the first chores I remember doing as a child. As an only child, that meant it was me, every single night. There was no sibling to take a turn. I hated it. I hated it in winter because by the time I finished it was too dark to go outside. I hated it in summer because it took up prime evening playing time. To me, knowing that there is going to be a huge sink full of dirty dishes waiting for you at the end of the meal, totally ruins dinner. And it's no different now. I don't have much counter space, so I do the breakfast and lunch dishes up to make room for dinner preparation, then I do dishes as I cook, and then again after dinner. My dish drainer, while cute and stylish, is completely worthless. It appears to hold around 4 dishes. So, I spend half my time putting the dishes in it for a quick rest, while I wash another batch, then I move those to a towel and load the drainer up again. By then end, I have towels scattered all over the counter with dishes draining on them. Apparently, I dirty a lot of dishes while cooking, and I've even stopped mis en place because just think of all of the little bowls!!!

Another consequence of doing the dishes is less time to blog. I used to write up the days entry right after loading the dishwasher and giving the kitchen a quick wipe-up. So, if you don't see as many entries, you know it's because I'm doing dishes!

I'll leave you with a parting shot of my herb garden. It's got it's fall look to it. For those of you that might not recognize it, the little yellow flowers are tarragon. It blooms in the fall.

Friday, November 9, 2007

WHB - Shrimp Pad Thai

I read somewhere, either in a magazine, or a book, or maybe even a blog, of a person who judged Thai restaurants by their Pad Thai. Whenever they went to a Thai restaurant they always ordered the Pad Thai and then based on that, decided if it was a good Thai restaurant or not. I am so easily moved by the written word, really, write it down, and I will do it. So, I also began ordering Pad Thai at Thai restaurants. I do not exactly live in the restaurant mecca of the United States, so I've only actually done this 3 times. But all 3 times, I did not like the Pad Thai. The delima is that I don't know if I just don't like Pad Thai, or if it was not prepared well in these restaurants. Every order of Pad Thai came in a sweetened clump. Really, I could stick a fork in it and pick up the whole congealed mass off of the plate. When I ordered it with shrimp, the shrimp was placed on top, almost like an after thought. In one restaurant the shrimp had obviously been cooked, cooked again, and probably cooked a third time, before being artfully arranged on the sweetened mass of noodles.

While looking through Everyday Food: Great Food Fast, I stopped at the Shrimp Pad Thai recipe. It sounded fresh and clean.

Shrimp Pad Thai
adapted from Great Food Fast
serves 6

8 ounces rice-stick noodles
1/4 cup tomato-based chile sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (I used juice from 2 limes)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cups bean sprouts (plus more for garnish)
8 scallions, halved lengthwise and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten

garnishes (optional)
1/3 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
lime wedges

Cook noodles per package directions, drain and rinse under cool water.

In a small bowl, whisk together the chile sauce, lime juice, fish sauce, and brown sugar. In a nonstick skillet or wok, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until just opaque throughout, about 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the wok, along with the noodles and chile sauce mixture. Cook, stir frying until combined about a minute or two. Add the bean sprouts, scallions and the shrimp. Pour in the egg; toss until the noodles are coated and cooked through, about 2 minutes. Serve topped with garnishes.

This was really good. The flavors were fresh. I wasn't to sure about the raw egg going in over all the all ready cooked noodles, so I cooked it a few extra minutes. Next time, I might cook the egg as a separate step, more like you would do for fried rice. The other thing I was not sure about was the tomato-based chile sauce. I had 2 kinds of chile sauce in my fridge, the hot and spicy chile garlic paste and this sweet kind shown below. I used the sweetened kind, which even though it says it's for chicken, seemed to work really well.

I don't know how authentic this recipe is. I searched on the net and found some that seem a whole lot more interesting, like this one from Wolfgang Puck and this one from Thai Table. I'll probably try some of these more complicated recipes, but for an easy weeknight dinner, you can't beat the one posted above!

This will be my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by The Expatriate's Kitchen. And, I know, I am showing no creativity when it comes to my herbs, it's either cilantro or basil, but school is wearing me out, and I'm afraid there is going to be no creativity here until summer vacation!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Okay...okay...I know that I said I would not subject you to book reviews written by moi. But I've just finished this book and it was so absolutely fabulous and so perfect that I had to share. You know that feeling when you've read the perfect book, well, maybe not the perfect book, per se, but the perfect book for your specific time and mood at the moment..well, do you...don't you love it!

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is a wonderful book. It's a gothic type tale, which is written so beautifully. It's one of those books that I keep marking passages to write down, so that I'll remember them. I go searching to find other people so that I can read certain bits to them. Because something this good, just has to be shared, like when you want to give someone a bite of your chocolate cake.

As far as the tale goes, it has a bit of everything...murder, madness, babies left at doorsteps, and of course, no self respecting gothic would be complete without an efficient governess.

But the things that I remember the most are the quotes about reading. As an avid reader, I am always looking for someone who shares my passion, who knows the feeling of being lost in a book. Diane Setterfield, besides being a writer, is obviously a reader. Are all writers, avid readers? I don't know, but I like it when I can recognize one who is. My favorite quote "Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes--characters even---caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you."

See what I mean..."membrane of the last one"...."caught in the fibers of your clothes". I love this author! This is her debut novel and I anxiously await to see what see writes next.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Chili-roasted acorn squash

I am not a big fan of acorn squash. The only way that I have ever eaten it, or prepared it, is halved and filled with some sort of brown sugar concoction. Then roasted until it taste more like a dessert than a vegetable side dish. I am also not real fond of sweet potatoes with the marshmallow toppings that will grace a gazillion tables here in the US in a few short weeks, so you kind of know where my tastebuds are coming from. So, while glancing through this months issue of Everyday Food magazine, I was delighted and intrigued to find a recipe for chili-roasted acorn squash. If you're wondering why my squash does not have the traditional green skin, it's because mine was a golden acorn squash.

Chili-Roasted Acorn Squash
Serves 4

2 acorn squash (I used only one), halved lenghtwise, seeds removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450. Cut each squash half into several wedges, then halve wedges crosswise.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss squash with oil, chili powder, and salt and pepper. Roast until tender and starting to brown, 20 to 30 minutes, stirring half way through.

This was excellent. It did not have that cloying sweetness that I associate with acorn squash. I also didn't stir it halfway (I never do), and it still came out wonderful. When I was finished roasting them, I used the same pan, tossed the seeds with a little more olive oil, chili powder, and a dash of cayenne pepper, and roasted the seeds at 350 for about 10 minutes. They were good, sort of like pumpkin seeds, but just a little different. I'm going to try all of my different squash seeds roasted instead of always throwing them on the compost bin.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fall Means Pansy Planting

Fall in Tennessee means it's time for pansy planting! These cheerful flowers stay blooming through most of the winter. They slow down a bit when it gets really cold (if it gets really cold here), but then perk back up once it warms up for a few days.

When I first moved here, I used to plant them in my flower beds. When spring came, however, I hated to pull them up, because they still looked so good, but I had to make room for other flowers that were starting to pop up. I've since come up with a solution. I plant them in pots, which hang off of my front porch. This way, when they are starting to look at little tired from the spring heat, I can replace them with annuals.

Don't they make you smile, just looking at them?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

WHB - Carrabbas Bread Dip

Carrabbas is an Italian restaurant in the United States. It is one of my favorite restaurants to eat at. This link shows their menu. The Chicken Bryan is my favorite, which is described as grilled chicken breast, topped with goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and a basil lemon butter sauce. It is every bit as good as it sounds. They even have a gluten-free menu!

But today, I am not talking about gluten-free. I am talking about my second favorite thing at Carrabbas and that is their bread dip. They bring you a little plate with a spoon of seasoning on it, and then pour a little olive oil in the plate. It is for dipping your bread into. My whole family are big bread eaters and with this dip, we could practically make a meal of the bread. They usually have to bring us a second basket before our salad even arrives.

After leaving the restaurant one evening, we were talking about how fantastic the bread dip was. I bake bread every week, but we didn't have anything this good to dip it in. Imagine if we could dip our own homemade bread into this..anytime we seemed almost too good to be true. When I got home, I searched on the internet (how did we survive before the internet???), and found copycat recipes, here and here. I used the second one because it is a little easier, without fresh basil and parsley and also because it was the first one I found!

Carrabba's Italian Grill Bread Dip Mix

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt

Mix together.

To use, put 1 tablespoon of mixture in a small bowl. Pour extra virgin olive oil over and mix together. Dip warm sourdough French bread into the mixture.

I store this in the refrigerator and use it all week long.

This is my entry for this weeks Weekend Herb Blogging , which is being hosted by it's esteemed founder Kalyn of Kalyns Kitchen.