Friday, June 6, 2008

Potlatch-Seasoned Grilled Salmon on a Cedar Plank

Over the years I've had several opportunities to enjoy salmon grilled atop a cedar plank. Each time I remember thinking "Oh, this is easy. I can do this at home. No sweat." Mmm...not so much. My gas grill didn't allow for the flame down to be adjusted to a point low enough to keep from catching the cedar plank on fire (bad, because you may not realize it right away since the grill lid is closed for cooking). Also, I wasn't soaking the plank properly--you need to place something heavy on the plank and keep it fully submerged in water for several hours (I let it soak all day). Now that I have a charcoal grill (yep, still singing the praises and giggling at converting my parents who thought it was just a waste of time and energy) I decided to try again. It seems to work better because when you let the coals of charcoal burn down, there is no actual flame to ignite the board. This time I wanted to try a seasoning I've heard so much about. Get ye to Williams-Sonoma and buy some of this Potlatch Seasoning. They also carry the cedar planks, but some grocery stores even have these now. Make sure the wood is UNTREATED!

Potlatch-Seasoned Grilled Salmon on a Cedar Plank

1 cedar plank (soaked)
2 lbs. fresh salmon (with the skin still on)
2 heaping TEAspoons Potlatch Seasoning
enough olive oil to make a paste of the seasoning (but no more than that...stir the olive oil and seasoning together to make a thick paste)

Prepare your charcoal grill. Let the coals burn down until there is no more flame. The temperature will be between 350-400 degrees. While the coals are burning down, prepare the fish as follows:

Place the salmon (skin down) on the soaked cedar plank. Spread the paste evenly over top of the salmon filet. Rub it in gently, not tearing the flesh of the fish filet.

When the coals are ready, place the plank on the grill and close the lid. The salmon will take appx. 20 minutes to cook, but this can vary due to grill temperature and thickness of your salmon filets.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Remember Me? Summer Grilling (and a recipe for Cheater's Cajun Shrimp Alfredo)

So, I've been a little busy. OK, a lot of busy. I still cook...sometimes. I'm doing a good bit of chasing the kids around outside and reading for school.

We've been doing a lot of grilling on our new Char-Griller combination charcoal grill/smoker. I can honestly say that I don't think our propane gas grill will get any (or much) use this season (or ever again). Like many people, we shied away from charcoal thinking it was a pain, too dirty or too time-consuming. We're finding that none of that is really true. Now, my mom says it's carcinogenic, but after all the food hysteria (and packaging hysteria) that we've been inundated by, I just can't even bring myself to look. It appears that breathing air each day is carcinogenic, too. So, anyway, sidetracked... Jon has been begging for a charcoal grill and I found this great model on sale at Home Depot (if we ever go bankrupt, I hold them solely responsible). It was supposed to be his Father's Day gift, but I guess Father's Day came early this year.

Something to consider (it's worth the $10-15 or so) is a Charcoal Chimney Starter. This takes all the work out of getting your charcoal ready for grilling. We've been buying natural charcoal, too, instead of the briquettes with all of the chemical starters, etc. in them.

The taste difference in grilling over charcoal as opposed to on the gas grill is just unbelievable. We haven't used the smoker yet, but I'm sure we'll get to that (probably a pork loin with a cider-vinegar-based BBQ marinade so we can chop the meat and make Pulled Pork Sandwiches). today I have a flank steak marinating in a mixture of Pampered Chef's Southwest Seasoning, Olive Oil and Apple Cider Vinegar (yes, I love me some vinegar...what of it?!!?).

Happy Grilling!!!

Now, last night I made a quick "fake it don't make it" kind of dinner. Last weekend I went to fish market and got some Old Bay-seasoned steamed shrimp. We had some left over, so we peeled them and popped them in the freezer. I had an idea to make some kind of Cajun Shrimp Alfredo, but had no desire to make alfredo sauce from scratch (my only true cooking disaster was homemade alfredo sauce...the cats wouldn't even eat the shrimp from it). So, here's what I did.

Cheater's Cajun Shrimp Alfredo

1 lb. cooked shrimp (frozen or thawed, doesn't matter) peeled and deveined
powdered cajun seasoning (I use something called Cajun Dust...found it at TJMaxx)
3 small containers refrigerated alfredo sauce (I used Buitoni)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 portabello mushroom, chopped
1 box whole wheat linguini

Place first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan and allow to heat through. DO NOT ALLOW CREAM SAUCES TO BOIL. Prepare pasta and serve. It tastes so good that no one could ever guess how lazy you are ;-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

RAMPS, Y'all!!!

It's that time of year again. We just harvested our first batch of ramps on Sunday. We have a hillside full of them. For those who know and love ramps, no, I'm not telling you where I live. We're greedy and selfish folks. Unless we like you. And you're brave. And you like to be a little stinky. This post will be continued, with photos and a recipe or two (or ten). But, I needed to get started with the post as I lose my train of thought a lot these days (Since bringing our daughter Sophia home from Guatemala late last month, we now have two kids under the age of two in the house). Go forth, click these links, and learn about ramps. Appalachian brain food. Read about "The Feast of the Ramson".

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing

because as my husband say, "Everything is better with BACON!". Undo all that healthy, vegetable goodness.

Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing

1 bag baby spinach
1 small red onion, sliced into very thin rings
sliced, hard-boiled eggs
cherry/grape tomatoes
sliced mushrooms
walnuts (toasted in a dry skillet, if you wish)

(I found this recipe on Allrecipes and it is the best and easiest that I have tried at this point--and it doesn't call for using bacon grease)
8 slices cooked bacon, drained and chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt (I omitted this)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar

Place chopped bacon in skillet over medium heat, and allow to reheat and start to sizzle. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Slowly pour in water and vinegar, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture into the skillet with the heated bacon and stir constantly, until mixture heats and thickens. Dress salads and serve immediately.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I Love Bread and Dipping Oils.

What could be better than bread? Bread and butter? Mmm...sometimes, I guess, but this is even better than that. BREAD AND DIPPING OIL! You know the go to that little Italian place and here comes your server, arms laden with a cutting board of crusty bread and a bottle of olive-oil-y goodness tucked in the crook of his/her arm. It's coming to your table, and barring your dedication to to some low-carb eating plan, you'd better eat it. Not only should you eat it, you should make your own at home when the spirit moves you. It's easy!!! I have a basic throw-together recipe that I use. We'll call it my 'winter version', because in the summer I always add bits and pieces of fresh herbs from my garden. You can start with this basic grouping of ingredients and add most anything you want, depending on your meal or just what you have a taste for in general.

Dipping Oil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (use the good stuff, it really makes a huge difference in taste...stronger extra virgin olive oils will have a definite green hue to them)
4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
pinch of salt
pinch of hot pepper flakes
dash of balsalmic vinegar (maybe 1/2 teaspoon)

Whisk it all together and break bread! Recipe is easily doubled, tripled, etc. It can be stored, but I prefer to make it fresh when we're going to eat it. It's nice to let the flavors meld for an hour or so before serving, but not necessary.

This is where I'll admit that I'm not really a baker of bread. I prefer to pick up a loaf or two of whatever artisan bread is fresh at the grocery that day. If you baked your own bread, well, people would probably love you even more. I will just have to live with less love coming in due to my lack of love for baking.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Fettucini with Italian Sausage and Peppers

There is nothing revolutionary about this dish, but it's easy, quick and good. Here is the way I do it...

Fettucini with Italian Sausage and Peppers

2 tbsp. + 1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 lb. Italian sausage--loose pack if you can find it, otherwise sliced or removed from link casings and crumbled (hot or mild)
4 Cubanelle or Hungarian Wax peppers, cut into small pieces (depending on the level of 'heat' you'd like; the Cubanelles are a little milder in my opinion)
1 lb. fettucini
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan or Romano cheese to sprinkle after cooking

Boil a pot of water and cook pasta as directed. As the water boils/pasta cooks, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil and garlic over medium-high heat. Allow garlic to just start to brown, and add sausage. Cook until done. Add pepper chunksand stir together. Saute until peppers are JUST done (don't let it all get mushy and colorless). Add enough olive oil to skillet to make this into a good 'sauce' for your pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drain pasta and toss with sauce. Add cheese to taste and serve!

**my dad likes to add crushed red pepper flakes to this recipe

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Convenience Food RAVE!!!

I'm not a big fan of convenience foods. They don't taste good, they're terribly unhealthy and the overabundance of packaging fills up my garbage can and our landfills far too quickly. However, our friends at Kroger strategically placed the display of this wonderful product next to the milk cooler in the natural foods section, so I decided to give it a try. The product is Annie Chun's Noodle Bowls (comes in various flavors). No artificial ingredients, it really is delicious and cooks up quickly in the microwave, and...the packaging is not only biodegradable, but it's compostable! Take that, petroleum giants! Good for me, and my planet. Cool. Note too, that it requires no refrigeration, so you can keep it in your pantry or even your desk at work.

I had the Pad Thai flavor today and topped it with leftover flank steak and pickled veggies from the Banh Mi sandwiches we had last night. Absolutely delicious!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Open-Faced Cream Cheese Crockpot Chicken Sandwiches

Say that really fast six times. Anyway, a fellow mom and internet friend posted this recipe and I decided to make it for dinner last night. The original recipe can be found here. I used Jenn's changes and made a couple of my own. Thanks again, Jenn!!!

Cream Cheese Crockpot Chicken

4 chicken breasts
Olive oil
1 can chicken broth (divided in half)
½ cup white wine
1 package of dry Italian dressing/seasoning mix
1 small package sliced mushrooms
Handful chopped celery
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 8 oz brick of cream cheese, cut up in cubes
1 large onion, minced
crushed garlic to taste

Brush chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with the dry Italian seasoning mix. Add ½ can chicken broth and wine to crockpot and place chicken breasts in the wine/broth. Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours.

About 45 minutes before done, brown the onion in the butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the cream cheese, soup, and chicken broth to the pan (and a splash more wine if you wish). Add the crushed garlic and whisk all ingredients in saucepan until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour sauce mixture over chicken in crockpot and cook an additional 30-45 minutes. Remove chicken to platter and stir sauce before serving.

I served the chicken and gravy atop slices of whole-grain bread, as you would an open-faced turkey sandwich.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Banh Mi - Vietnamese Steak Sandwich

This recipe is from the August 2004 issue of Real Simple magazine. It's a favorite in our house. My only real deviation from this recipe is to marinate the flank steak overnight or from morning until cooking at dinnertime. Don't be afraid of the mayo, it broils off in the oven and serves only to soften the bread surface. You cannot taste it and the recipe just isn't the same without it. Being weird about mayo, I have made it both ways. Enjoy (Michelle, I know you've been waiting for this)! Also, I double or triple the marinade to make more meat and also use an entire bottle of rice vinegar and make a lot more pickled veggies so there are lunchtime leftovers for Jon.

Vietnamese Steak Sandwiches (Banh Mi)

1/2 lb. piece of flank steak, about 1 inch thick
1 TEAspoon sriracha chili sauce (found in the international aisle of most supermarkets...heck, I can even find it here in Wheeling!)
4 TEAspoons sugar
1 1/2 TABLEspoons nuoc nam (fish sauce...once again, head for the international foods aisle)
1 TEAspoon minced garlic
1 cup rice wine vinegar
3 radishes thinly sliced (daikon if you can find them, but regular radishes are just fine)
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/2 medium bell pepper, cut into thin rings
4 TABLEspoons mayonnaise (don't even think of using Miracle Whip)
1 small loaf (appx. 8") baguette or french bread, halved and cut horizontally
6 sprigs fresh cilantro

Place chili sauce, sugar, fish sauce and garlic into a gallon ziploc bag. Mix together and add meat to marinate. Heat oven (or toaster oven) to 450 degrees. Heat an outdoor grill or stovetop grill pan to medium-hot. Place vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Toss the radishes, carrots and pepper into the vinegar. Remove from heat, cover and set aside. Place the marinated steak on the grill and cook to medium, 4-6 minutes per side and allow to rest before cutting into thin slices. Meanwhile, spread mayo on the baguette. Heat the open baguette, mayo-side up until the mayo melts and the bread begins to get crispy. Fill the baguette with the vegetables and steak, and top with cilantro.

serves 2

A New Cookbook!

This has been out for a while, but I finally remembered to buy it while at BooksAMillion yesterday. I don't know if you would enjoy it if you're not a Sedaris fan, but if you are, please go get it. Now. I'm a lover of all things Sedaris, though moreso David than Amy. I honestly thought this would just be a spoof of a cookbook/entertaining guide, but it doesn't appear to be. It looks to be very real, just twisted in that snide, nonPC Sedaris way. There are several recipes for Greek dishes that look to be good and not overdone (has anyone else noticed that recipes for a lot of Ethnic foods end up getting glammed up and the simplicity of the original dish is lost, or is it just me?). Now, I have to admit that I keep opening this up and flipping through it to look at the photos. It's like a demented scrapbook. this book because nothing says "I Like You" like planning your dinner party using a book containing photos of Amy Sedaris in dayglo-nude pantyhouse and a '60s housedress...holding a bong.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sloppy Joe Pizzas

This is a quick dinner. It's a nice little twist on an ordinary standby. Kids seem to love it, too. I like the little bit of sweetness the carrots add, not to mention the fact that you're sneaking a vegetable in somewhere. How can that be bad? I served these with 3-bean salad.

Sloppy Joe Pizzas

1 lb. ground chicken (can subsitute ground beef or meatless crumbles)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced onion
1 can Manwich Bold sloppy joe sauce
1 cup shredded carrots (Yes, I'm channeling my inner Jessica Seinfeld here, just go with it)
4 personal-sized pizza crusts (or one regular-sized)
shredded cheddar cheese

Brown ground meat, garlic and onion. Add Manwich sauce and shredded carrots. Simmer as directed. Preheat oven according to pizza crust directions. Spoon sloppy joe mixture onto pizza crust/s. Top with shredded cheese. Bake as directed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Artichoke Dip Pasta Bake

I was inspired by this recipe. I decided to make a few started with my aversion to mayonnaise. I use mayo in dips and such, but couldn't bring myself to use 1.5 cups in a main dish. It's not a dietary thing, oh's an...I'm weird thing. So, off to tinker in the kitchen I went. I am thrilled with how this turned out, and I hope anyone else who tries it loves it too! Oh, a disclaimer...this recipe is not for the diet conscious. I mean, the title should probably give that away, huh? Also, this would be very easily vegetarian-ized; just omit the chicken!

Artichoke Dip Pasta Bake

1 cooked rotisserie chicken, shredded
2-13.75 oz. cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 lb. penne, cooked and drained
3 tbsp. olive oil
¼ stick of butter
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 8 oz. brick of cream cheese, cut into small chunks
¼ cup lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream (half and half would work, too)
2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet (I use my wok so I have room to mix the pasta and ‘sauce’ together later), heat olive oil and butter over high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and starting to brown. Add artichoke hearts to skillet. Allow to warm through. Stir in cream cheese chunks and allow to melt completely. Add lemon juice and cream separately, stirring into skillet mixture. Add chicken and 1 cup of Parmesan. Stir until well-mixed. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the penne pasta. Spoon mixture into baking dish (appx. 13x9”). Sprinkle remaining Parmesan over top of pasta. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese on top of pasta begins to brown.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Italian Stuffed Peppers

This isn't a standard recipe of hamburger, rice, tomato sauce and green peppers, though it does still have rice and tomato sauce. It's a blend of ground chicken, grated zucchini, brown rice, tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. Nothing drastic, just something a little bit different.

***Please note, these are easily reheated in the crockpot. I place 1 can tomato sauce in the bottom of the crockpot, then allow the peppers to simmer on the warming setting (low if you don't have a 'keep warm' setting) through the day for an easy dinner.

Another note, this is another recipe easily adapted for vegetarian diets. Either eliminate the ground chicken, or substitute a ground soy/vegetable product in place of the chicken. I like Morningstar Farms Ground Meatless Crumbles.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

12 red, yellow or orange bell peppers (tops and seeds removed, blanched in boiling water for about 1 minute)
8 cups cooked brown rice
1 can tomato sauce
1 packet powdered Italian salad dressing
1 tablespoon oilive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced
1 lb. ground chicken
8 oz. pkg. of mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 small-medium zucchini, grated
Kosher salt
Garlic salt
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a very large skillet (I use my wok so it's easy to mix the rice in later), heat olive oil. Cook garlic and onion until lightly browned.
  • Add ground chicken. Season with Kosher and garlic salt.
  • Cook until nearly done, then add zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes. Allow to cook for a few minutes.
  • Add tomato sauce and powdered dressing. Allow to simmer over low heat until flavors combine.
  • Mix in cooked rice and Parmesan cheese, stirring until combined. Season mixture with salts and red pepper flakes to taste.
  • Coat the inside of a dutch oven or other deep baking dish with olive oil, then stand peppers in pan. Fill peppers with rice mixture and bake for 30-45 minutes. Serve with Parmesan cheese (or sprinkle more on top towards end of baking time).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reconstructing Recipes...

Has this ever happened to you? You find a recipe that you think you'll love in a magazine, so you tear the page out, cook it, love it, and pencil in whatever modifications you have made. Then you make it some's in your regular rotation, but you don't make it enough that you have memorized the recipe. Then you flake out, or move, or someone breaks into your house and steals your recipe box...and *poof*'s GONE. That is me right now. I'm reconstructing a recipe for Banh Mi sandwiches of the beef variety. I am hoping this weekend to finish the project. I will post it here, save it to my hard drive, thumb drive, and perhaps I'll even print a copy and put it in our safe-deposit box. Yes, it's that good, and it's that important to me. And yes, I've printed out many other versions of this recipe, and they're just not the same as the one I found 3-5 years ago in, of all places, Real Simple Magazine. I've even emailed the magazine in hopes of recovering this little prize I've lost from my recipe repertoire. Aside from GA Pig pulled/chopped BBQ pork sandwich, it's my favorite, and I'm just lost without it. Wish me luck, and watch for some re-creation of Banh Mi soon!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Drunken Tuscan Pasta

This recipe was taken from Rachel Ray's 'Express Lane Meals' cookbook. I have made a few modifications, just to suit my personal taste better. I wasn't sure my husband would be thrilled with it, because he's not a huge fan of mushrooms, but surprisingly he loved this dish. I love the subtle flavor added by the nutmeg! Look how pretty the pasta is after cooking in the wine-filled water! Cooking pasta in wine (be sure to fill the rest of the pan with water though...I tried to just cook pasta in wine once and it was too strong...just...yuck!) adds great flavor that isn't too strong, but really adds to a dish. I joke that I'd like to change the name of this dish to 'Plastered Pasta'.

Drunken Tuscan Pasta

1 bottle Tuscan red table wine (I used Chianti--thanks Annie & Greg)
Kosher salt
1 lb. Fettucine Rigate (or regular fettucine if you can't fine the Rigate)
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. sliced pancetta, chopped
1 lb. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Red pepper flakes (pinch, to taste)
1 bag/box fresh baby spinach (about 4 oz.)
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Parmesan cheese, grated
Handful of pine nuts (you can toast these in a dry skillet; in this case I was in a hurry and did not)

Pour bottle of wine (minus one glass for the chef, of course) into a pasta pot. Fill the rest of the way with water and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water/wine boils, add pasta and a few pinches of salt. Cook as directed on pasta package to al dente. Please note you will be using some of the pasta liquid for the sauce later.

Heat a large skillet (I used my stainless wok) and add 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add the chopped pancetta. Cook until browned, stirring constantly, then place on paper-towel lined plate. Toss mushrooms into oil left in the pan, and add rosemary. Cook mushrooms until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Move mushrooms to the sides of the skillet, and put 1 tbsp. olive oil, garlic and a couple pinches each of red pepper flakes and salt to the center. Stir to cook newly added ingredients, then mix together with the mushrooms. Add the spinach to the pan and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow greens to wilt, then add a couple ladles of cooking water/wine. Stir all ingredients together and allow liquid to reduce.

Drain the pasta well and add it, the pancetta and pine nuts to the skillet. Mix together, top with Parmesan to taste and serve.

Serve with rustic bread. For dipping, mix olive oil, red pepper flakes, a few drops of balsalmic vinegar, some crushed garlic cloves. This is better if you let it sit a little while to allow the flavors to blend. All bread dipping oil ingredients are to taste. You know what tastes good!!!