Real Food for Real Life

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Birthday Sushi


Chris & Nicole before her birthday dinner

We went to dinner last night at SoHo Japanese Bistro in West Chester to celebrate Nicole's birthday. SoHo is one of our favorite restaurants for celebration meals, but we usually dine at a tepanyaki grill, finding that the antics of the chefs are nearly as enjoyable as the meal. Tonight however, we were seated next to the waterfall and the pond filled with koi. Nicole has been pestering me for some time to try sushi, and tonight was to be the night. Needless to say, I tried it, and I loved it, especially the spicy tuna and one with eel and salmon (the tried and true California Roll you ask, well, meh...).

Christipher was the real surprise of the evening. When he first looked at the menu he wanted chicken fingers, but on a second perusal he wanted to know what a bento box was. Much intrigued by the idea of little boxes of food contained witin a larger box, he decided to order one. We ordered sushi rolls to start the meal, and without any prodding what so ever, Chris (age 9) had sushi for the first time the same night as mom. He thought the Philly roll with cream cheese was okay, but was really enamored with the California roll and ate three pieces! Nicole orded wakame (seaweed) salad and I ordered steamed and salted edaname- Chris tried and loved both (and finished my leftovers with lunch today). Then Christopher's bento box arrived and what a happy boy he was. The breaded shrimp and chicken were both tried and trues, as was the steamed rice, but included in his box were three more kinds of sushi- nigiri rolls of shrimp, crab, and egg- and pickled ginger. Again the boy dived right in and declared evrything delicious, even the ginger.

The night was very enjoyableand we ended the evening with birthday cake at home. Now Chris wants two bento boxes of his own, a nice laqured one like he had at SoHo for use at home, and a plastic lidded one for packing his school lunch...AND he wants to know when we are getting sushi again- the budding gormand makes my mother's heart proud :)


A bento box much like the one at SoHo

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finally a Pretty Day



Finally, a pretty (and warm!) day. Knowing that I was going to be busy and out for much of the day, I was looking in the freezer this morn for something that would lend itself to quick and easy cooking. When I extracted a bag of shrimp, my little Christopher became very interested and tried his hardest to convince me that all we needed for dinner was the shrimp dipped in "tomato sauce." When I pointed out to him that he meant cocktail sauce, he pronounced that it was made with tomatoes so it was still a tomato sauce...point taken.

I love that at age 9 he is excited to eat shrimp. At that age I would never have even tried them, much less eat them with relish. But Chris eats very well for his age, and will usually try new things without too much hesitation. He even likes stinky bleu cheese, something I've only myself developed a taste for over the past ten years or so. If left to his own devices, the boy will eat a whole bowl of olives on his own, and I don't mean the little cheap green ones, but all the wonderful selections from the olive bar. I think our vacation time "cocktail hours" are some of his favorite times- he gets to eat all the different little nibbles and wash it all down with his little fruit juice mocktail. I think the boy is destined to be a foodie when he grows up, bless his little heart. In the picture above, Chris is cooking during one of our camping trips this past summer. He makes just about the best camp stove veggie soup and chili, and he loves doing it.

Once Chris heads off for school I dive into the fridge and pantry seeking inspiration. I find butter, broccoli, a jar of sundried tomatoes in olive oil, and a box of whole wheat spaghetti. Shrimp scampi with sundried tomatoes, and broccoli cooked for a few minutes with the pasta- super easy and delicious, who could ask for more?

Prepping the food before I leave for the day makes things even easier when I get home so I set about dicing tomatoes and peeling shrimp. Then I break open the broccoli package and discover that it has been in the fridge much, much too long- not a good smell at all. Into the trash bin goes the broccoli, but I need something green in this dish (I cook by color a lot too). Back to the fridge...avocado, no good.. .jalapenos, definitely no god...limes, ditto...green onions, that will work, so green onions it is. When I got home tonight I had dinner on the table in about 20 minutes, with requests for seconds (glad those green onions worked out :)

Shrimp Scampi with Sundried Tomatoes and Scallions

1 lb. raw, shell on shrimp (size is up to you & your budget)
1 box thin spaghetti or angel hair, reg. or whole wheat
6 oz. sundried tomatoes in olive oil
1 bunch scallions, green & white parts thinly sliced, or a small head of broccoli broken into small florets
1 stick of butter
minced garlic, to taste, but it should be generous in scampi
3 tbs. lemon juice
kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, red chili flakes
parsley, for serving

Prep the ingredients completely before turning on the stove as cooking does not take long. Drain the oil from the tomatoes into a large saute pan; also put the stick of butter in the pan. Dice the tomatoes and thinly slice the onions, or break up the broccoli if using. Peel and devein the shrimp (I find medium shrimp to be a nice compromise on price and ease of preparing). Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add the pasta with a splash of olive oil, and cook until al dente. Once the pasta goes into the boiling water, set the saute pan over med-high heat. Melt the butter and oil together, add the garlic, tomatoes, and pepper flakes to taste and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and saute until all have turned pink. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and onions; season with salt and pepper. If using broccoli, cook it with the pasta for the last few minutes. When the pasta is cooked, drain and without rinsing, pour over the shrimp in the saute pan. Toss to coat the pasta with the butter and oil. Sprinkle with parsley and serve (fresh parsley is best, but in a pich the dried stuff works too).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yet Another Dreary Day


Yet another dreary day found me still in need of comfort food so the scramble for ideas was on. In my freezer I found grilled chicken legs, the remains of a meal two weeks ago; in the fridge, a package of ready made pie crusts that tell me (yes. I can hear food talk :) that they want to dress a pot pie. So pot pie it is...

Chicken Pot Pie

2 to 3 cups cooked chicken (or turkey, or beef)
1 large onion, chopped
4 to 5 cups mixed veg, chopped (whatever you have)
2 tbs. olive oil
pie crust for 2 crusts, homemade or purchased
scant 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups chicken (or beef) broth
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. dried rosemary (or 1 tbs. fresh)
1 tsp. thyme
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425; make crust or set the package of purchased crust on the counter to come to room temperature. Dice or shred the chicken and dice the veggies you are going to use (make everything roughly the same size). If using potatoes or carrots, cook until tender in a small amount of water on the stove or in the microwave. If using frozen veg, there is no need to cook, just let thaw.

Dice the onion and place in a saute pan with the olive oil. If using bell pepper or celery, dice and put this in the pan as well. Crumble the rosemary over the veggies, season liberally with salt and pepper. Saute over med-high heat until just softened and beginning to turn golden. Add the scant 1/2 cup of flour and toss to coat all the veggies and incorporate the flour into the oil in the pan. Cook for a minute or two to ensure that the flour does not have a raw taste. Stir in the thyme, stock and milk (cream is nice here if you have it, but I used all of mine yesterday); stir until thickened and the veggies are all coated- this should be thick, not soupy. Stir in your diced chicken and reserved veggies; cook until just heated through, taste and adjust the seasoning; set aside. Place one pie crust into a pie plate, letting the excess hang over the sides. Now pile in the chicken and veggie mix- it will look like a lot but that is what you want.
Place the second crust over the top. Rotating the plate as yo do so, fold the two edges of crust under so that they are even with the edge of the plate. Seal the edge of the crust by fluting (I could never get the hang of this), or by pressing a fork an alternating diagonals around the edge of the crust. Poke the fork through the top of the crust, or cut slits, to release steam while baking. Place on a study baking sheet to catch any drips that may occur, plus it makes getting the pie in and out of the oven so much easier. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned to your liking. Remove from the oven and let rest at least 1/2 hour before serving (we had it with a green salad). This makes 6 very generous slices.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On This Dreary Late October Day

On this dreary late October day, with Chris and I still not completely well from our bout with the flu, I needed something comforting and warm for dinner, something from the oven. In the pantry I spied a bag of baby Yukon Gold potatoes, and in the freezer, some smoked sausage links. I knew then we would be having homemade scalloped potatoes, flavored with browned sausage,onions, and garlic, hot and bubbly from the oven. Served with a green salad, this is all we need.

Scalloped Potatoes with Smoked Sausage

3 lbs. (approximate) small, thin skinned potatoes
1 large onion
garlic loves- to taste (I use a lot)
12 to 16 oz. pkg. smoked sausage (kielbasa is fine)
8 to 12 oz. cheese of choice, grated
1 pint cream
milk, approximately 1/4 cup
kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, ground nutmeg
* Many amounts are approximate- use however much you have or like- it will all come together beautifully in the end.

Preheat oven to 400. Wash and thinly slice potatoes, Either simmer in water on the stove top until tender, or do as I did and cook in the microwave for 15-20 minutes (just invert a microwave safe dinner plate over the bowl to cover).
Grate your cheese of choice. In this instance I used up ends and pieces from my fridge- white cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, and cotija.

Thinly slice the sausage and brown over medium high heat. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon, reserving drippings in the pan.
Quarter and thinly slice the onions. Peel and thinly slice the garlic cloves. Brown the onions over med-high heat, until golden, add the garlic and saute another minute or two, until the garlic is softened and fragrant (don't let it brown, it can become bitter).
Oil a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Layer a little more than 1/2 the potatoes in the bottom. Sprinkle evenly over the potatoes all the sausage and onions, as well as a little more than 1/2 the cheese. Season liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Evenly spread the remaining potatoes over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Pour 1 pint of cream over the top, tilting the dish to ensure equal distribution. If the cream does not come half way up the dish, add a little milk to reach this point (this should not have to be very much). Sprinkle again liberally with kosher salt and ground pepper. Sprinkle on a light dusting of ground nutmeg (if you have any whole nutmeg and a grater or microplane, now is the perfect time to use it).
Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes; uncover and bake an additional 15, or until the top is browned and bubbly. Let rest for 10 minutes or so before serving.

Makes a generous 6 main dish servings, or many side dish servings.

Why am I here?

After years of saying "not me" to Facebook , I succumbed this past summer and became one of its many millions of users. This was cool as I found myself not only easily communicating with people I saw regularly anyway, but also reconnecting with people from a long ago past. I even found old friends from Scotland from when I had been an exchange student there, people I otherwise would have not easily been able to find after this many years. Then I discovered that I could share my love of cooking through a "food album" of sorts, where I could put not only photos, but share my thoughts about them, and also enjoy the kind comments of friends. Then some dear friends started requesting recipes to go with the photos and I was on a roll.

Alas, just a few short months later I find myself dissatisfied- it seems every time I add a new photo Facebook has lost an older one- and posting a recipe requires a separate "note." I lamented to my husband (as well as on Facebook) about my frustration and decided I wanted to do a food blog instead. I queried my husband Ben, "How do I blog?" and "Where do I start?" His answer-"Look it up." So here I am. Please be patient as I learn my way and enjoy the journey with me.
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