Monday, April 19, 2010

The infamous Garlic Cheeseball

Seriously, this Garlic Cheeseball is the reason I get invited to parties. My former hair stylist told me about it when I was lamenting what to make at an upcoming New Year's Eve party, and it was a hit and has since become a staple.

Well, unless I'm going to a party with a bunch of singles who I want to hook up. Warning: It's only good if EVERYBODY has some, otherwise it's a good way to unmake a few friends.

Garlic Cheeseball
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 oz. crumbled bleu cheese
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
Dash freshly ground pepper
About 1/4 c. sliced almonds

Mix cream cheese, bleu cheese, garlic, pepper and Worcestershire sauce and form into a ball. Roll in the sliced almonds, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Let sit at room temperature for about a half-hour before serving or your crackers will end up in shards.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The search for Greek pork chops

To this day, Stephen likes to bring up my youthful obsession with orange foods. Orange-colored foods, I should say. As a latch-key kid during my elementary-school years (back when that wasn't frowned upon), I spent many a night making my own supper, and apparently, Stephen tells me, my favorite meal consisted of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, generic orange pop and Cheetos.

OK, Stephen doesn't have to tell me that. I know it's true. But I also know that despite the fact Mom bought me these foods to keep me from burning the house down, she also raised me better than to eat monocolored meals. But sometimes I just can't help myself.

This time, it just sort of happened. I had pork chops and I had cauliflower, and since I was taking all of the health out of the veggies by making Cauliflower Gratin, the only acceptable "carb" was quinoa. Of course, since we were drenching the quinoa with the heavy cream from the gratin, I think we canceled out all of its health benefits, too.

But the part of the meal I was anticipating the most was the pork chops. When Bryan and our Coug crew first moved to the neighborhood, we found one of Seattle's many gems: Olympic Pizza & Pasta (sorry, Web page doesn't seem to be working). It's a family-run Greek restaurant that has spectacular food and prices, and weekend specials that start every Thursday that are simply unbeatable.

But one of the biggest stars of the "specials" board is the pork steak, which is usually available not only for dinner, but also as a breakfast that'll put you right back to sleep by noon. And I need to learn their secret.

I can't ask, of course, but I will search high and low online until I find something that matches the tender, salty goodness that Olympic serves. Alas, this recipe I found for Greek-Seasoned Grilled Pork Chops with Lemon and Oregano did not fit the bill, but it wasn't too shabby either. It probably would have been better had I actually grilled the pork chops instead of pan-frying them, but they still were no Olympic pork chops.

Anybody know of a great Greek pork chop recipe? Better yet, do you know Olympic's secret?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shepherd's Pie on a snowy spring day

Another frequent dish that makes the rounds in our kitchen is pot pie. Usually, it consists of a store-bought crust, a can of cream of chicken soup, an onion, a couple of carrots, 1 c. of frozen peas and potatoes to fill it up.

But as I've said before and I'll say again, I do not like crust. So after I made this absolutely delicious Tailgaters' Favorite Stew last week (sorry no photos, but I guarantee you will love it!), then bought enough potatoes to feed an army, I decided it was time to throw these recipes together with the Shepherd's Pie recipe from "One Potato Two Potato" to make my own rendition.

It sure didn't hurt that "snow" was falling off and on all day. In April! On a day like that, nothing's better than a bit of comfort food.

Shepherd's Pie
4 slices bacon, diced
1 lb. stew meat, cut in 1-inch chunks
1/4 c. flour
1 t. kosher salt, divided
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper, divided
1/4 c. cayenne pepper
2 yellow onions, sliced
4 carrots, cut in chunks
4 stalks celery, cut in chunks
1 bay leaf
1 c. red wine
2 c. beef broth
2 T. corn starch
1 c. frozen peas
3 lb. potatoes
3 T. unsalted butter
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. sour cream

Cook bacon in a large stock pot over medium-high heat until brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Combine flour, 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper and cayenne pepper in a plastic bag. Add beef chunks and shake until evenly covered. Brown beef in batches to bacon fat, about 4-5 minutes per batch. Set aside.

Add onions, carrots and celery to the pot and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper and bay leaf and stir. Then add wine and beef broth, turn up heat and bring to a boil.

Place corn starch in a small bowl, and add a ladleful of hot liquid from the stock pot. Stir with a fork until smooth, then add slurry to stock pot. Stir until liquid has thickened, then add peas, bacon and beef and stir. Transfer contents of pot into a 13-by-9-inch glass pan.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and make mashed potatoes by boiling and then mashing potatoes, preferably with a ricer. Stir in butter and sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste, then slowly add milk as needed and smooth mashed potatoes over the top of the casserole

Cook in the oven for about 1 hour, until the top is browned. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Welcome spring with morel quiche

Even if Nicole does make fun of me for getting Sunset magazine and says it reminds her of her mother, I can't help but like reading it. Besides, I don't want it to go the wayside like Gourmet did last year, and the only way to keep that from happening is to buy the print edition.

If I'd just let the Internet work its magic, I probably never would have stumbled across this recipe for Asparagus and Morel Quiche that was part of Sunset's Easter package. However, as scrumptious as it all looked, I think I'll have to pass on the Baked Ham with Meyer Lemon-Spice Glaze because there is just no way I'm squeezing five of those tiny little lemons.

It would have made a lovely Easter meal, though. Quiche is always an Easter hit around our house, even if it is crustless like the one we had over the weekend. I am simply not a fan of crust. But this one I would definitely make again. Ten tbsp. butter, 1-1/2 c. flour and an egg, you just can't go wrong with a recipe like that.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Yes I can can Spicy Pickled Carrots!

Another great achievement on Easter was the pickled carrots that I brought.

Remember back in August when I went to a canning party? After that, Mom gave me her pressure canner and I got all excited to get in touch with my canning roots, but it just never happened.

But then, a couple of weeks ago, I saw that asparagus was on sale and I was suddenly determined to do some canning. I looked up a couple of recipes, and decided to just buy whatever was on sale and to give it a try.

I started out small, hoping for just two Mason jars full of pickled carrots, but one of them broke because I think I was boiling rather than simmering the jars. Live and learn, right? But one survived, and the contents were marvelous after just three weeks. Next time I'll be sure to wait longer, I just wanted to share the bounty with my family for the first test.

Spicy Pickled Carrots
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut in matchsticks
1 t. kosher salt
3 c. vinegar
3 c. water
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 jalepeno, cut in half
1 t. peppercorns

Sterilize two Mason jars (or whatever you like) and their lids.

Meanwhile, heat salt, vinegar and water over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer until you're ready to use.

In each sterilized jar, place half the carrots, four garlic cloves, 1/2 t. peppercorns, 1 bay leaf (ripped in half) and half the jalepeno. Pour the vinegar mixture in each jar until it's about 1/2 inch from the top. Seal with the sterilized, two-piece lid and simmer, completely covered, in a canner or large stockpot for 15 minutes.

Remove jars carefully then cool at room temperature overnight. Store it in a cool place for about a month before opening.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy yummy Easter!

As much as I miss the paycheck, there are definitely some bonuses to my new un-schedule, such as not working Sundays.

It's been a while since the family has gathered to celebrate Easter together, but we had the pleasure this weekend of spending the holiday at my brother's new house, and even better that his roommate made an uncooked ham that was sweet and savory, juice and delicious.

I brought a few necessary side dishes, including the above Baked Spinach and Gruyere, shown at right uncooked. I've made this for a few holiday occasions, and it's always a hit. It's basically a quiche without the crust, but I think it's just as delicious and a lot easier to make.

My favorite part of the meal, though was the dessert. No, the photo at left is not just a simple potted plant -- it's a delicious twist on cookies and cream. I don't mind eating a little dirt if it's actually crumbled cookies, especially when mixed with vanilla pudding.

Worms, not so bad either. I'd like to say that Koshare assured us the pot and trowel weren't simply taken from her gardening shed and quickly rinsed off, but we got nothing of the sort. A little mystery never hurt anybody.