Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Eats

My parents are in town for Easter. Much to our delight, the weather warmed up and was sunny on both Good Friday & Easter, so we were able to do lots of grilling. Good Friday was fish for dinner and Easter was a bit of a meat party with lamb, ham, and kielbasa on the table (Saturday was dinner at Park Bruges). Everything was delicious. We are surprised at how much of everything the four of us ate - there is not as much leftover as we figured there would be! Here's what our holiday eating looked like:
Easter Paska, with raisins, from Bethel Bakery. Two loaves purchased on Thursday morning, both loaves gone by Monday morning.

Moist, light, buttery, delicious paska interior. We had been thinking of making our own paska, but we figured we just didn't have enough time with everything else we were doing.

Good Friday dinner for me & dad: Scallops, grilled, with lemon juice, salt, and pepper

Scallops cooked just until done

Good Friday dinner for mom & SP: Salmon, grilled on cedar plank, lemon pepper seasoning

Salmon interior. We had a huge salad with the scallops & salmon and a French batard loaf. I also made a blue cheese dressing and a balsamic vinegar dressing for the salad.

Good Friday Dessert - Lady Lox from Bethel Bakery

More Good Friday dessert: Raspberry-Almond Tiramisu from Arlecchino

Easter leg of lamb, on the grill

Lamb after resting. We marinated it in the usual red wine-Dijon-oil-rosemary marinade
Mmmmm still pink inside and very juicy. Yum!



Small piece of ham glazed with whiskey-brown sugar-dry mustard-ground cloves-orange zest glaze

Ham, extra delicious when dipped in the glaze pooled in the bottom of the baking dish

Grilled kielbasa. Kielbasa from Market District Meat Counter. Tradition for SP's family. Very tasty kielbasa.

Weekday Scalloped Potatoes. Recipe from Cook's Illustrated. Delicious sliced russets in a chicken stock-cream-thyme-bay leaf-onion sauce with shredded cheddar on top.

The usual holiday sauteed green beans with onion and sliced portobella caps and sherry

My plate, after I wolfed down some yummy potatoes. A little bit of everything. And then a second plate of a little bit of everything.
Everything was washed down with a Chardonnay and a half bottle Pinot Noir on Good Friday and a Riesling, Merlot, and the end of the Pinot Noir on Easter. Lots of wine bottles in this week's recycling! SP did an excellent job of grilling and making the potatoes. Mom did an excellent job sauteing the green beans. I think I did a great job chopping all the veggies and making salad and salad dressing! And of course washing dishes!

Hope your past weekend was as delicious as ours was.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday Thoughts - Anniversaries

My wedding bouquet, a few days after the wedding
1. Today is our wedding anniversary! I cannot believe it has been 4 years - it has gone by so fast! I am so grateful that we are still so very happy and have so much fun together. Lots of laughs and silliness (of course there are tears and seriousness, too, and sometimes spats, but very few, so...)!

We will be celebrating at Arlecchino tonight. One of our favorite places, but only for special occasions, like last year's anniversary and my birthday a couple of years ago. Yum!

2. I missed my Blog Anniversary! It was this past Monday. Whoops. No special post to mark 5 years of blogging. No special dessert or dinner to mark the anniversary. Maybe I'll remember next year...

3. My parents are here! I haven't seen them since August 2013, so it's been  7-8 months.

4. The one day a year that my family does the 'no meat on Friday' thing is Good Friday. Needless to say, SP is deliriously happy that we will be having fish tomorrow. He can't wait to go pick out the fish, even offering to go to Whole Foods for fish. I am less excited. Not only is dinner fish, but it looks like lunch will be tuna salad.

5. This past week I managed to read The Goldfinch in 3 days. Yes, it took me a long time (2.5 weeks) to get started. I think the 784 pages and small print deterred me for a while, plus some mixed reviews, plus it's not my usual kind of book. I finally started reading and I got pulled in and then it was due so I *gasp* kept it one day past the due date and accrued a 15 cent fine. It's a wonderful book. A little slow to start, and then it picks up. When I think about it, none of the characters is particularly lovable or admirable, they all seem to do bad things and hurt each other and themselves, and yet you feel for them and just want to reassure them that everything will be OK. It is long, I am 'lucky' I am a fast reader, but even so, I found myself skimming some portions. I would recommend it. After all, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
6. Signs of spring in our yard - the daylilies are starting to grow and a small purple flower bloomed.
7. SP spent some time last Sunday putting fresh dirt and compost and such into the herb pots, preparing them for when we transplant the herbs that are currently growing in the dining room. Last year's chives are regenerating:
8. I've been busy trying to figure out vacation. Again. All that we've determined is that we are not going to take a 2 week vacation because that's pretty long (that's what we planned last year). We have a credit on an airline from the tickets we didn't use last year, but this year, those same exact flights are 3 times as much on the airline, and that's a lot of extra airfare cost. Even just a round trip to one city (not multi city like last year) is at least twice as much if not more. We need to use the credit by the end of the month. So we're still trying to figure out where to go - the airline we have the credit with seems to have ridiculously inflated airfares compared to other airlines so we are very unhappy with them.

9. I'm excited for some warmer, if not super sunny, weather this Easter weekend. I wonder if the bunny is going to bring me chocolate eggs? Of course the bunny knows I still have cappuccino meltaway egg from last year, so...!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Honey-Soy Sauce Marinated Skirt Steak

In yesterday's Coffee Marinated Skirt Steak post, I mentioned that we marinated just one steak in the coffee marinade but that we had purchased 2 (1 lb) steaks. The second 1 lb steak turned out to be 2 small pieces of skirt steak, not one big piece. We decided to also marinate those to try to keep the meat tender. We opted for this marinade from Simply Recipes: Grilled Marinated Flank Steak.
Coffee Marinated on left. Honey-Soy-Red Wine Vinegar on right.
The marinade is olive oil~red wine vinegar~honey~soy sauce. We omitted the garlic.

This, too, is a tasty marinade, but we both preferred the coffee marinade, possibly because due to the smaller size, these honey~soy marinade ones were grilled a wee bit too long and turned out a bit too well done. Or maybe because the coffee is such a strong flavor. This marinade was a bit more mellow. There was a lovely char on top:
But they were just a bit too well done.
I'd definitely try this marinade again. It tasted really good the next day when we ate the steak cold in a salad. Hopefully, the next time we buy skirt steak packaged like this we'll be able to tell if inside the package is one 1 lb piece or two 1/2 lb pieces - the bigger pieces are much easier to cook to a desired doneness. 

This marinade would be tasty on pork, too. 

Recipe here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Coffee Marinated Skirt Steak

Once again we spent way too much time on Friday evening trying to figure out what to buy on Saturday and then cook on Sunday. Grrr! We finally decided on steaks. I left it up to SP to figure out what specific cut of meat (steak) to buy, but not to spend too much, especially since it would definitely be organic beef which is already a bit on the pricey side, and to not buy too much. I didn't want an entire 1 lb steak on my plate. He ended up purchasing 2 skirt steaks at Sunny Bridge.
He bought 2 approximately 1 pound each skirt steaks from Logan Family Farms. I was a little worried about these turning out dry and leathery. Skirt steak isn't known for its tenderness and often it is marinated/braised and used in fajitas or stir fry. Also, they are on the thin side. So I started thinking about a marinade. A quick search found a Bon Appetit recipe for Coffee Marinated Skirt Steak.
It sounded tasty and I've always wanted to try a coffee flavored/coffee rubbed meat, but at the same time, we both were a little apprehensive about how exactly a combination of strong brewed coffee-balsamic vinegar-Dijon mustard-brown sugar-oil-shallot would taste so we decided to marinate just one steak.
After about 4 hours of marinating, a quick sear on the grill, and 5-10 minutes rest, we cut into it and tasted it. The verdict: delicious! Really tasty marinade, definitely one we would use again. SP did a great job of keeping it rare-ish inside so the meat wasn't dried out or leathery. I ate the ends, which were more well done, and he ate the rarer center. I also dipped a few of my steak bites in the juice than ran out on the cutting board.
Alongside the steak, we ate grilled potatoes. We had some regular baking potatoes in the pantry and they were starting to look old, so we peeled and sliced them, tossed them with chopped onions, butter, parsley, salt, and pepper, wrapped them tightly in foil, and grilled them for about an hour.
We also made a salad of arugula, tomato, cucumber, carrot, and green olives. SP made himself an Italian vinaigrette. Since there was a package of crumbled blue cheese in the cheese drawer and it expires soon, I made homemade blue cheese dressing for myself.
It was so nice to be able to use the grill and to sit outside on the deck. I can't wait for more grilling days.

Skirt Steak Marinade recipe here.

Notes:

  • We did not use garlic or shallot; we used onion
  • Our one skirt steak was about 1 lb, but we made the full marinade recipe
  • We did not cut our steak into 4 pieces
  • We marinated it in the refrigerator for 3.5~4 hours then let it sit on the counter for about 45 minutes before grilling it

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

 1. Last Saturday we tried to go to a late breakfast/early lunch at DeLuca's in Robinson, but there was a wait and we were really, really hungry. So we went to Burgatory where, since they had been open only about a half an hour, there was no wait. I custom ordered my usual crab burger on brioche with gouda & bacon BUT we discovered they now offer bacon jam as a topping! We haven't been to Burgatory in a while, maybe since last August or September, so this was a new topping to us. Of course I had to try it (on the side). It's delicious!

SP also convinced me to try an appetizer even though it was lunch time and even though the burgers are so big and filling that my belly doesn't really have room for an appetizer: Just Fork It, pictured above. It's fries topped with braised short ribs, cheddar cheese curds, and pan gravy. Oh my gosh these were really tasty. The shorts ribs were so moist and flavorful. Definitely an order again dish - but that means no milkshake because I am super stuffed. Good thing it was a cold day so I didn't really want a milkshake.
2. Otis the Groundhog is back. He showed up this past Sunday. Hanging out in our backyard, wondering where the grass clippings and daylilies are. I've got news for you Mr. Groundhog - the calendar might say spring but the weather says otherwise and nothing is yet growing/blooming in our yard. Brown and bare, that's what it looks like. I felt sort of sorry for him - he looked so sad that the usual tasty treats were not available for munching. He also looked skinny. Usually he's so fat he waddles.

3. OK. The weather finally might be saying spring this week. It's supposed to be 70 degrees today. But this past Saturday, April 5 was freezing cold and windy and I was miserably cold even though I was wearing a turtleneck sweater, scarf, winter coat, earmuffs, and gloves.
4. Last Sunday, in addition to the Chocolate Hazelnut Pizzelles, we made some regular vanilla-anise pizzelles. I think we made way too many pizzelles for 2 people! I'll probably give some to my friend tomorrow when she visits. Her kids like them. Good thing pizzelles keep for a while.

5. My parents are coming for a visit over Easter. I haven't seen them since the end of August, so it's been almost 8 months. They arrive next Wednesday so we're busy trying to plan dinners and activities. And by activities I mean mom & I going shopping at the malls and me making a list of some house chores/projects for dad to think about possibly doing while he relaxes on the couch in the sunroom.

6. Speaking of the sunroom, we were in there for about 10 minutes last night. Despite the sunshine and the warmer temps, that room is still quite chilly (it's not on the main heating system though it does have it's own electric baseboard heat). I'm anxious to be able to spend some afternoons in there, reading or doing cross-stitch. But it still has a way to go to warm up.

7. We're trying to figure out what to grill this Sunday. It's going to be warm and sunny and we really should inspect/use the grill before we try to use it when my parents are here. You know, make sure there's actually gas in the tank. Make sure no critters have made little homes. Clean off the grates.

8. Have a great finally like spring weekend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Panko-Crusted Chicken with Mustard-Maple Pan Sauce

We eat a lot of chicken and are always looking for new ideas, new inspiration, something a little different, even if it's just a little tweak to an existing recipe. Like this recipe: Panko-Crusted Chicken with Mustard-Maple Pan Sauce. It's simply breaded and fried chicken with a sauce.
Usually when we make breaded chicken tenders/chicken breasts, we eat them plain or dipped in a blue cheese sauce, or ranch dressing, or in mustard. This sauce is really, really tasty - I think it's my favorite. It's a maple-mustard-chicken stock sauce.
Oh my gosh. Did I mention that this sauce is really tasty?! We were spooning it over the asparagus and dipping our biscuits in it, too. In the past we have often substituted Dijon mustard for whole grain mustard, and that works perfectly fine, but lately we've been using more & more whole grain mustard when we cook. There is something extra mustardy delicious about whole grain mustard with all those mustard seeds.
This is a quick weeknight meal, which is nice, and it's simple. I think this might be our new go-to breaded chicken with dipping sauce recipe.

Recipe here.

*We used chicken tenders because that's what we had in the freezer
*You could use Dijon mustard or whole grain mustard
*We had panko, but you could use regular plain or Italian bread crumbs
*We didn't make the biscuits, we used frozen biscuits
*The asparagus was roasted

Monday, April 7, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Pizzelles

It seems like we haven't baked cookies in a really long time. I definitely have not made pizzelles in a really long time. We didn't even make them at Christmas time, the first time in 6 or 7 years that we haven't made pizzelles at Christmas time. Suddenly this past weekend, I wanted, I needed pizzelles. But not just ordinary pizzelles. Special pizzelles. A new flavor of pizzelle. Chocolate Hazelnut Pizzelles.
The last time we made chocolate pizzelles, it was a disaster. The recipe called for chopped chocolate in addition to cocoa powder, but the chopped chocolate wasn't melted, it went into the dough as little bits of chocolate. Those little bits got all melty and sticky and gooey in the pizzelle maker. The pizzelles stuck. It was a mess of stuck pizzelle, pried off bits flying around the kitchen, melty chocolate smears everywhere... I've never seen SP so annoyed in the kitchen. What was salvaged tasted horrible. Not at all pizzelle like.
The advantage here: no chocolate bits, just cocoa powder. But there are finely ground hazelnuts. I was a little worried about how the nuts would fare in the pizzelle maker.
You can see the little hazelnut bits in the dough. We ground them in the food processor, but they still weren't super fine. We definitely coated the pizzelle maker with oil - one time I skipped that initial brushing of oil step and regretted it. This time, instead of brushing on vegetable oil, we sprayed Pam cooking spray onto the maker.
Success! No sticking! These are yummy. In addition to the cocoa powder and hazelnuts, there is a bit of cinnamon in the dough. You can taste all three flavors and the nut bits blend right in - there's not a discernible crunch of nut even though the ground hazelnuts were not as fine as almonds when we grind them in the food processor.
In our experience, pizzelles taste better as they age. One Christmas we made Cappuccino Pizzelles and for the first 1-2 days, I was kind of disappointed in the weak flavors. But then, they started to 'age' and all the flavors started to shine through and they were amazing. I am hoping the same thing happens with these pizzelles. They were really good yesterday, the day we made them, and they're still really good today (of course I had to have one after lunch!), lots of hazelnut flavor, a hint of cinnamon, nice pizzelle texture and crispness, a wee hint of cocoa. But since I remember how much those Cappuccino Pizzelles improved with age I can't help but hope these get even better after a couple of days!

Also, they're really good with some Nutella spread on top, which is how I ate one last night.
Recipe here. Scroll down to Pizzelle with Hazelnuts.