The Joy of Sunday Dinner

There is a small part of me that desperately wishes I could be a summer girl. This is the same part of me that was a failed cheerleader when she was 14. She suffers a lot of residual embarrassment for that.

A summer girl actually looks forward to swimsuit season, enjoys wearing shorts and instantly turns golden brown the minute she walks outside. The summer girl buys ripped jeans that are $100 and tells people she made them. She wears aviators and doesn’t tell everyone she feels like a cop. There is a strong chance she was the girl in the early ’00 who wore platform flip flops and never tripped once.

I however, am a fall girl. The kind of person that looks forward to wearing sweaters and boots and who suddenly falls prey to all the pumpkin marketing the minute October hits . The fall girl is desperately glad when she walks outside and she needs a jacket. The fall girl has even learned to like football (or at least learned to love reading books while her husband watches football. She stops to cheer at the important moments). The fall girl always has a new pumpkin candle in her house (because duh, they smell amazing). And, the final and most important thing a fall girl loves: cozy Sunday night dinners.

Is there any other meal more lovely than the Sunday night dinner? Weeknight meals always end up being rushed. No one feels like cooking on a Friday. Unless you are the Gilmore’s and have a personal chef, it’s basically take out night for most folks, right? Saturday is usually social outings or date night. But Sunday, glorious Sunday. That is the night when most people are usually at home, chilling and pretending that if they linger long enough, maybe Monday won’t come along after all.

Sunday also happens to be the one day a week I really feel like putting the effort in to cook a complicated meal. Last Sunday, I actually made Gordon Ramsay’s Beef Wellington which was pretty involving but was delicious and totally worth the effort. Tonight, it’s Irish Stew with soda bread.  I really wish you could smell my house right now, it’s like stew-y, bread-y heaven.

Because I’m generous and believe your house should smell like bread heaven too, I’m sharing the easiest Irish Soda Bread recipe ever.  Seriously, if you are one of those people who won’t eat bread because you think it makes you fat but you claim not to like it so you don’t seem vain, I think maybe you should stop reading my blog. Because bread is amazing and I’m never giving it up (Also, probably why I’m not a summer girl. Bam, blog post coming full circle!)

This recipe is seriously as amazingly easy as it claims to be and also super delicious. If you look at the original recipe you will notice it calls for margarine. And just so we are clear,  I really don’t think we can be friends if you use butter substitutes. It is a crime against nature.

Seriously, next Sunday you should make this bread. You can thank me now for this.

Amazingly Easy Irish Soda Bread

Step 1: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet

Step 2: In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and butter. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf

Step 3: Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Check for doneness after 30 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.

 

Super Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

3076576716b834d75e2ad7a27c18a86fI think peanut butter is high on the list of foods that I would be loathe to live without. There are so many options for deliciousness with peanut butter: the simple beauty of a  PB & J sandwich, the many desert variations (ice cream, cookies, pie, not to mention with chocolate!), and the savory options like in the sauce for a chicken satay.

That is why it is so sad to me that peanut butter has been all but outlawed from kids lives these days. I understand it’s necessary and would absolutely want to be sensitive to kids allergies but why the heck do we have so many these days? Nut allergies have risen 3 fold since the 1990’s and they still don’t know why. But, there is a theory that consuming nuts when you are pregnant can reduce your kids risk of developing an allergy. So, think of this post as a public awareness campaign for the expectant mamas out there. Making these cookies could help make sure your kid enjoys a life of peanut buttery goodness. And you can’t put a price on that.

This recipe comes from Betty Crocker, who was my first cooking teacher. My mom gave me that iconic red and white cook book when I went away to college and it is where I learned all the basics for cooking. Nothing fancy, but a great way to get started. If you are just learning how to cook, Betty won’t steer you wrong. These are the kind of cookies you can whip up in a few hours and are sure to please the peanut butter lovers in your lives. One thing  I would note, don’t skimp on refrigerating the dough, it makes all the difference.  Also, I know Betty says you can use margarine but seriously that stuff is disgusting and I thoroughly hope none of my readers would use it , ever.  #butterforever #margarinenever

Peanut Butter Cookies, via Betty Crocker

  • What you’ll need:
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup peanut butter
    • 1/4 cup shortening
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1 egg
    • 1 1/4 all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • How to make them:
    • Step 1: Mix sugars, peanut butter, shortening, butter and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm.
    • Step 2:  Heat oven to 375ºF.  Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten in crisscross pattern with fork dipped into sugar.
    • Step 3: Bake 9 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

 

Weeknight Meal: Peach Whiskey Chicken

I was in a funk this week about what to make for dinner.  It sounds minor but the burden of having to come up with new ideas for meals that are balanced and delicious can be daunting. That is, until I remembered this amazing chicken. Or should I say, this amazing sauce because the sauce!! Seriously, you guys, it is the best  thing ever. I absolutely would bathe in it, or at least baste myself in it. It is that good.

You know how you have those few meals where every time you make it, you’re like, seriously why don’t we make this every week? That is how I feel about this sauce. I could write a few hundred more words about how much I love it but I’m sure that would get old. So instead, I will get to the good stuff and share the recipe. It is from the Pioneer Woman, a blogger lady who I liked long before she became TV famous.

A few notes about the recipe. The Texan requested chicken breast instead of chicken thighs so I lessened the cooking time considerably lest our breasts turn to mush (and no one wants that). It turned out so great he was still talking about the chicken right before we went to sleep. I live somewhere that has seriously the worst peaches ever so I didn’t add the fresh peaches and it still turned out great (though I did miss them). I also cut the recipe in half because it’s just us two. And, because I’m a jerk, I will point out that I spell whiskey with an “e” because I used American whiskey, not Scotch or Irish whisky.

Peach Whiskey Chicken, via the Food Network 

  • What you’ll need: 312627ec-5db3-4cfb-84e8-7223caacb90f
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 12 chicken legs or thighs, bone in, skin on
    • 1 yellow onion, diced
    • 1 1/2 cups whisky
    • 4 cups barbecue sauce
    • 1 cup peach preserves
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 4 peaches, pitted and sliced into 8 slices each
    • Mashed potatoes, for serving
    • 3 green onions, sliced thin, for serving
    • Chopped fresh parsley, for serving
  • How to make it:
    • Step 1: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
    • Step 2: Add the onions to the skillet and stir and cook over medium heat until translucent, about 3 minutes. Pour in the whisky, taking care if you are cooking over an open flame. Cook for 3 minutes or so, allowing the whisky to cook and reduce.
    • Step 3: Grab your favorite bottled barbecue sauce and pour it into the pan. Add the peach preserves, Worcestershire sauce and 1/2 cup water to the sauce, then whisk to combine. Add the chicken back to the pan. Then throw in the peaches.
    • Step 4: Cover the skillet with a lid or aluminium foil, and then roast in the oven until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone the sauce is beautiful and rich and the peaches are soft (about 1 1/2 hours). That’s how you know it’s done!

Weeknight Dinner: Lemon Thyme Chicken

I distinctly remember a time, when I was a particularly angsty teenager, and  I turned to my mother and said, “are we having chicken for dinner againnn?”(Holding the “n” for whiny emphasis because my life was so dang difficult). Now, as with most things, I absolutely understand her wisdom in cooking us chicken so much. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to feed your family and the possible modifications are seemingly endless. But still, it can be a challenge to constantly come up with new ideas for dinner, especially if you have an ungrateful teenager in your house who is impossible to please (sorry, mom).

The desire to try something new brought me to this recipe for lemon thyme chicken that is actually super basic but also super delicious. Plus, it gave me an excuse to use my cast iron skillet and I’m basically always looking for those. I don’t know what it is about that skillet but I feel like everything I make in it tastes better. Plus, I feel like my arms get a work out just lifting that thing (I kid. Kind of.)

This is a super easy weeknight meal that you should absolutely add into your chicken rotation. Plus, it will give you an excuse to the lovely fresh thyme that I’m sure is just waiting to be picked in your garden.

Lemon Thyme Chicken via The Kitchn bc5f4f34-aca9-4876-9589-cc32b7dc0805

  • What you’ll need:
    • 2 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on (about 4 to 6 thighs)
    • Olive oil
    • Kosher salt
    • Black pepper
    • 1 lemon, sliced thin
    • 5 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • How to make it:
    • Step 1: Preheat your oven to 400° F. Drizzle the chicken thighs with olive oil and season them well with pinches of salt and pepper.
    • Step 2: Place the thighs in a large, cold cast iron skillet, skin-side down. Place the skillet on a burner over medium heat. Let them cook, undisturbed, for 14 to 15 minutes.
    • Step 3: When a lot of the fat has rendered out and the skin is crispy and brown, flip the thighs so the crispy skin is up. Dot the cast iron skillet with lemon slices and thyme sprigs and stick it in the hot oven. Let the thighs finish cooking in the oven for 13 to 15 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 165° F. If you’re in doubt, leave them in for another few minutes.

Weeknight Dinner: Homemade Falafel

One of the many things I miss about Los Angeles is the food. I haven’t had a decent taco in a coons age (as the Texan would say) and I can’t remember the last time I had salsa that didn’t closely resemble, in both taste and appearance, chunky ketchup.

My food longings aren’t limited to Mexican food. I desperately miss decent sushi (shockingly, living in land locked, slot machine hell deprives one of sushi)and I most ardently miss Zankou Chicken, a Lebanese chicken place that is so amazing I’m not sure I can put it to words.  Suffice it to say, any Angeleanos reading this will understand immediately the intense depression that would follow being deprived regular access to that garlic sauce.  This place is so iconic there was an episode about it in Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David joked that the giphychicken was so good it could have ended the rift in the middle east.  And, it’s not just the chicken and garlic sauce that I miss. It’s the shwarma, the pita bread, the falafel. I even miss those little peppers I was usually too scared to eat.

Given that I am 466 miles from the nearest Zankou Chicken (yes, I actually looked it up) I had to take matters into my own hands last night and made some delicious falafel, chicken and rice. I didn’t even attempt to make the garlic sauce because that would be  sacrilege. While my version was nothing close to the real thing, it was pretty awesome. So good, in fact, that I didn’t remember to take a picture before it was too late. Apologies to those of you that enjoy my sub-par photography skills (seriously, I need help).

Since there are at least a few of you who are also sadly deprived of a Zankou Chicken within driving distance, I thought I’d share the recipe for falafel here. I modified it from this recipe I found from some quick googling.

A few of my changes: For the falafel, I switched out the parsley for cilantro because I like the flavor better. I increased the caynne pepper and cumin slightly because the Texan loves spice. For the yogurt sauce, I added some lemon juice to the yogurt sauce. I didn’t use mayo (because gross) but I did use plain greek yogurt because that is my jam these days. I added more cucumber too. For the falafel prep,  I made it all in the food processor and the consistency was fine.

This is a healthy, easy and delicious weeknight meal that I highly recommend.

Falafel and Yogurt Sauce, from AllRecipes.com (with my modifications) 

  • For the yogurt sauce:
  • For the Falafel:
    • 1 egg
    • 1 dash pepper
    • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • How to make it:
    • Step 1: In a small bowl combine yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, dill, salt, pepper  and mix well. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
    • Step 2: Mix chickpeas, onion, garlic and cilantro in  food processor–about 5 pulses should do it. In a small bowl combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder. Add to chickpea mixture along with olive oil. Slowly add bread crumbs until mixture is not sticky but will hold together; add more or less bread crumbs, as needed. Form 8 balls and then flatten into patties.
    • Step 3: Heat 1 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry patties in hot oil until brown on both sides. Serve two falafels in each pita half topped with chopped tomatoes and cucumber sauce.

 

Super Easy Potato Leek Soup

Yesterday, I was jolted awake by thinking I heard the Texan say, “whoa, it’s super smelly outside”. I jumped up immediately, half believing that I had transported back in time to when I lived in a very smelly part of the East Village (thanks to the college kids who liked to think of our street as their personal vomitorium.) New York is great for a lot of reasons but smells are not one of them. The other day I saw a candle called “New York” at Bath and Body Works and I’ve never been more terrified to smell a candle in my life. There is only 1 day that I can recall actually liking the smell of New York and it was so remarkable that the New York Times ran an article titled “Good Smell Perplexes New Yorkers.”  (I still think it was syrup).

As it turns out, my sleep addled brain wasn’t working properly. He said it was super snowy outside. Seriously? I probably would have preferred smelly (okay, maybe not.) For real though, it’s almost April! And also, since when do we live somewhere that is snowy? I’m still in denial that I don’t wake up at the beach everyday. And, I fully realize that is not a healthy place be.

Okay, I guess snow isn’t all bad.  It’s an excuse to cuddle up and watch a movie or read a book. It’s also an excuse to make soup which I am pretty much always down for. Isn’t there something incredibly reassuring about a nice bowl of soup? You can thank the snow for inspiring  me to share my recipe for Potato Leek Soup. This is a classic and super simple soup full of flavor that will be sure to please your whole family and warm you down to your toes.

Super Easy Potato Leek Soup

  • indexWhat you’ll need:
    • 4 russet potatoes
    • 2-3 leeks
    • 2 Tb butter
    • 1 Tb olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 2 cups broth (I usually use chicken but any will do)
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup milk or  cream
    • bacon (optional but delicious)
  • How to make it:
    • Step 1: Make sure you wash your leeks thoroughly as dirt tends to get up under the leaves of those buggers. Then chop the white part and about half of the greens. Chop garlic. Melt butter in a medium size soup pot, add leeks, garlic and cook for a bit until leeks are soft. If you are adding bacon, this is a good time to cook the bacon with the leeks.
    • Step 2: While your leeks are cooking, peel potatoes and chop into similarly sized pieces, I usually quarter my potatoes.  If you are using bacon, remove from the leeks and set aside (if you leave it in, you get super watery bacon, no bueno)
    • Step 3: Add potatoes to leeks, broth and water until it just covers potatoes. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are nice and soft. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
    • Step 4: Using a slotted spoon, remove some potatoes and lightly smash about half of them, I usually use a fork or spoon to do this. This is a good way to thicken the soup and make it extra potato good.
    • Step 5: Add cream to soup and salt and pepper to taste. If you are adding bacon, now is the time to add it, taking care to crumble it before adding to soup.

 

Weeknight Dinner: Chicken Piccata with Roasted Brussels Sprouts

6357370366521545252146295249_55922652Like any aspiring home chef, I tend to watch a bit of the Food Network. As previously mentioned, my loyalty forever will lie with Ina Garten who is a food goddess. She is the best and maybe if I blog about her enough I will get invited to dinner at her house and then I can die a happy woman. However, some of the other hosts, (okay, most of the other hosts) are quite possibly some of the most annoying people on the planet. But, being annoying doesn’t mean they are incapable of cooking good food as is evidenced by the meal I am about to share with you all.

I made this dinner last night and it received hearty praise from the Texan. I consider every meal that he likes that isn’t steak and potato a significant victory. He’s a man of stereotypical tastes. The chicken is light and delicious and I pretty much haven’t met a Brussels sprouts I didn’t like. (I learned from writing this that “Brussels sprouts” are always plural, it looks weird but is apparently correct ). Paired with bacon and potato? Oh so good.

The recipe for Chicken Picatta comes from Giada de Laurentiis. I think my extreme dislike for her can be boiled down to 2 very immature (but none the less real) reasons: one, she always cooks tons of pastas and cakes and she still manages to be a size 0.  There is no way she actually eats what she makes. I’m convinced she may have either a serious eating disorder or a tape worm. And two, her head is freakishly large, probably due in part to her tiny body and it’s distracting.   Along with the chicken I made roasted Brussels sprouts from Bobby Flay, who just seems like a jerk. (There is even a book that verifies this so it must be true).

A few notes about these recipes. First, I used way less butter than Miss-I’m-super-skinny-but-cook-with-6-tablespoons-of-butter Giada.  Like half. Replaced it with olive oil and it tasted fine. I also pounded out the chicken so it was a little flatter because I think it fries up nicer. Also, I didn’t have any lemons so I used bottled lemon juice and it worked great. For the Brussels sprouts, I halfed this recipe for the two of us. I also didn’t have any pancetta (which seems like fancy bacon to me) so I used bacon and it worked. I also roasted the bacon with the veggies because I wanted it to be more bacon-y and it was. Annoyingly (like that jerk Bobby has to be), the recipe doesn’t say how long to roast it for and so I did it for 30 minutes and it was perfect.

This is a great, easy weeknight meal. Go forth and cook!

Chicken Piccata via Food Network 
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  • What you’ll need: 
    • 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • All-purpose flour, for dredging
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 1/2 cup chicken stock
    • 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
    • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • How to make it: 
    • Step 1: Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.
    • Step 2 : In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.
    • Step 3: Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts via Food Network

  • What you’ll need: 
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/2 pound sliced pancetta, diced
    • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
    • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
    • 8 baby Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 lemon, juice
  • How to make it: 
    • Step 1: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
    • Step 2: Heat oil over medium heat in a roasting pan or large skillet. Add the pancetta and cook until golden brown and crisp. Remove the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until soft. Add the Brussels sprouts and potatoes and toss to combine.
    • Step 3: Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until the vegetables are cooked through and golden brown. Remove the vegetables from the oven and stir in the butter and lemon juice. Transfer to a platter and top with the reserved pancetta.

Weeknight Dinner: Bacon wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Most of you probably know I beaf410ad442e991b230c9406925c461used to be a vegetarian.  But, then two things happened; one, I married a Texan who would just as soon wear a tube top as become a vegetarian and two, bacon. Because seriously, is there anything more delicious and worth possibly shortening your life over? No one has ever said that about tofu, I guarantee that.

One of the things I’d like for this blog to be is a place to share ideas for weeknight meals. Because seriously, I know this is probably the most boring, domesticated thought ever but coming up with ideas for dinner is hard, man. I feel like I’m constantly scouring cook books, blogs and my brain and I still stand in front of an open fridge some nights and think, cheese totally counts as dinner, right? When I was a single lady, it absolutely would have. But, being married makes me feel like I need to provide proper nutrition for us both and actually attempt to be an adult.

So, because I am a very generous blog-tress, I will share with you all one of my favorite week night meals that will seriously make your family the happiest ever. Because it involves pork wrapped in bacon, need I say more?

A few tips  on this recipe. One, don’t skip the chutney. I know it isn’t something most Americans consume regularly but it is the best and you should totally have it in your pantry at all times. I’ve made this recipe with Major Grey’s as the author recommends which is great and last night I tried Mrs. H Balls (the Texan bought this one because he thought the name was funny. I married a very mature man) and it was delicious. Your local grocery store should have it and if not then World Market most certainly will.   I love that store for so many reasons including imported sauces. My second tip, place the toothpicks carefully or you will end up with floppy bacon and no one wants that. And third, seriously sear that loin before putting in the oven or you’ll live to regret it like I did last night.

Bacon-Brown Sugar Wrapped Pork Tenderloin via The Kitchn 

ba93f37f-d2a2-4185-ac78-bd2b2dfa718eWhat you’ll need: 

  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular can be substituted)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 to 6 slices good-quality bacon
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral high-heat oil)
  • 1/4 cup Major Grey’s Chutney
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain or Dijon mustard
  • How to make it: 
    • Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the tenderloin by removing the silverskin (the silvery-white connective tissue running along the top) with a sharp knife. Pat it dry with paper towels and set aside.
    • Step 2: Combine the brown sugar, salt, paprika, and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub all of the mixture into the pork tenderloin. Wrap the tenderloin with the strips of bacon, securing along the sides with toothpicks.
    • Step 3: Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron skillet, or other oven-proof skillet, over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the bacon-wrapped tenderloin and sear — do not disturb it while it’s searing — until deep caramel brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the tenderloin and continue searing until the other side is browned.
    • Step 4: Mix the chutney and mustard in a small bowl and brush generously over the top of the tenderloin. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the tenderloin until a probe thermometer reads 140°F, approximately 10 to 14 minutes.
    • Step 5: Remove from the oven and loosely tent with foil. Rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the tenderloin to finish cooking and for the juices to redistribute into the meat. Remove toothpicks and slice into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces for serving. Serve with any leftover chutney on the side.

 

 

The Challenges Week Night Meals & Beef Stroganoff

whats-for-dinnerI grew up in the kind of family that had a home cooked meal every night. I thought that this was just “normal” and didn’t realize until much later in life  that for a lot of kids dinner was a frozen pizza or McDonald’s or for some, nothing at all.

Sure, I sometimes cringe at the amount of hamburger helper I consumed as a child but it was the 80’s. There were a lot of errors in judgement. This was a time for overly processed foods, acid washed jeans, side ponies and  TV shows about alien life forms with a hunger for cats.  It was a weirdly wonderful time. And, who could forget the cute shake n’ bake girl?  We were brainwashed toward the processed.

Looking back, I marvel at how my mother managed to work, take care of 3 kids (and our various pets), keep the house spotless and cook dinner every night.  To all the mom’s out there, I am in awe of you. Seriously, you are the heroines of our lives (sorry we don’t tell you until much later).

Coming up with an idea for dinner can be a serious burden added into everything else we deal with during the week.  Anyone who has been to my place has seen (and likely mocked) my dinner0687c4a0-6f2a-48bd-b642-efc818a2cc2e chalk board in my kitchen but I am convinced good dinners are the result of good planning.

At the beginning of every week, I scour my cook books, blogs and my brain to come up with meals for the week. Then I make a list (critical to make a list), shop and chalk up what I’m making for the week. This helps organize my brain when I walk into the kitchen at dinnertime and think, what the heck am I going to make tonight?  True confession: this is something I’ve perfected in my accidental housewife-dom. When I worked all the time, I’d be lucky if I thought ahead to buy raviolis. So, no judgement.

The Texan has taken to ranking my meals (out of a possible 4 stars) which some might find annoying but I’ve always appreciated feedback. I’m going to share one what I made last night, Beef Stroganoff, (3 star meal).  This is a childhood comfort favorite of mine that we ate often like the good Russians Americans that we are. I made up the recipe after consulting various versions online and my ultimate chef (my mom) who admitted she probably used a seasoning packet when we were kids (gasp! the 80’s strike again.)

Beef Stroganoff 

a4196a95-ee3f-4991-a757-73b37dd00559Makes about 4 servings.

  • What you’ll need:
    • 1 lb Beef sirloin tips
    • 2 Tb Flour
    • 2 Tb olive oil
    • 1 Tb butter
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • 1 yellow onion
    • 1/2 quart white mushrooms and 1/2 quart baby bella mushrooms
    • 1 cup dry red wine
    • 1 1/2 cup broth (I used beef but I’m sure chicken would work too. I’m a big fan of better than bouillon)
    • 1 Tb Worcester sauce
    • 1 Tb Tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1 t thyme
    • 1 t fresh parsley
    • Salt and pepper (to taste)
    • Serve over Egg noodles or rice–whichever you prefer.
  • How to make it: 
    • Chop mushrooms, garlic and onion. Heat 1 Tb of olive oil and saute over medium until brown. Reserve 1/2 of the onion for later.
    • While mushrooms are cooking, sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Then slice and dredge in flour being sure to coat evenly.
    • Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside in a bowl. Add 1 Tb of olive oil and cook the meat flipping until browned, about 5 minutes.
    • Once meat is done, place in bowl with mushrooms and set aside. Deglaze pan with wine cooking until wine is reduced by 1/3. Then pour wine over meat/mushrooms and set aside.
    • Heat butter and remaining 1/2 of the onion on medium high until they are clear, about 2 minutes. Then, add bowl with meat/mushroom/wine into pan and add broth, Worcester sauce, thyme, tomato paste. Stir and simmer for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    • I like my sauce to come together a bit so at this one I let it simmer on low and put the water for the noodles, boiled them and cooked until done.
    • The last step of the sauce is to add the sour cream which gives it a creamy deliciousness. Add cooked noodles, place some chopped parsley on top and serve.

 

Tea and Lovely Lemon Cake

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, it was easy to fall in love with coffee at an early age. I had what many would call a Lorelai Gilmore obsession withanigif_enhanced-1888-1413499367-2 coffee as a youth. Tea was something I found  later in life. It wasn’t until I lived in England where most coffee is instant, (as in little crystals you stir into hot water and pretend its coffee), that I began to truly embrace a love for tea. Specifically, for high tea which is tea with little sandwiches, cakes and scones.

5b763568-ad27-4d5e-9dcd-a9dbd5662509I experienced my first high tea when I was studying at Oxford and took a break from the books to stay with some little old ladies in Kent. How I know them is a little confusing (my then boyfriend’s, mother’s, boyfriend’s, mother) but they were seriously delightful ladies. Their husbands had all passed away and so they were all living in the same town home community and met for tea every afternoon.  It was like they were living as I was as a college student surrounded by my friends and it immediately became my life ambition to someday become them (Assuming Texan goes before me. Ugh now this became morbid and sad, sorry, it was supposed to be a happy thought). The ladies pulled out all the stops for our tea including the most delicious lemon cake ever. The other day I was craving that lemon cake and decided I would try to make one.

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Seriously–cake so good I didn’t even take a picture until it was almost gone

When faced with a cooking challenge I always ask myself W.W.B.C.D? (What Would the Barefoot Contessa Do?) Seriously, is there anything she makes that isn’t the most delicious thing you could ever dream of? I’m jealous of her husband in every episode I watch and also wish I could be her best friend/sister/official taster.  My enduring devotion is what led me to Ina Garten’s Lemon Cake.

A few notes: I halfed the recipe because there is just the 2 of us and this makes 2 loaf pan size cakes. (We like cake but we also like being able to see our shoes). It is a pretty straight forward recipe, the hardest part is waiting for the cake to cool before glazing because as soon as you smell it you will want to eat it all up. I don’t have a paddle attachment for my mixer so I just used regular whisk mixer and it turned out fine. For the lemon zest, I zested only 2 lemons and the cake was perfectly zest-y enough.

Seriously: Bake this, make a pot of tea, eat, and enjoy life, you won’t regret it.

What you will need: 
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

How to make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

How to make the glaze:  Combine the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.