Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Macaroni Salad

Last week, we had a party at work. I won't go into the geeky, librarian-ish, too-much-information details about librarians throw parties. Suffice to say we had a Very Good Reason.

So one of the bosses sprung for 9 slabs of ribs. Before he turned away to allow me to make politely silent gagging noises at the thought of our entire ROOM smelling like bbq for hours (I hate barbeque), he told me that there would be ribs sans-sauce in case anyone would prefer that. I knew from the tone that I'd get a couple of cracks about the idea of someone eating ribs without sauce, but I didn't care. I love ribs.

However, I knew what the pot-luck part of our lunch would feature. Standard bbq fare - cole slaw, potato salad, greens, beans, cornbread. Here we go again with my crazy food preferences, but yuck, yuck yuck yuck.

So I made a macaroni salad that I would like. And I hoped that if I didn't tell anyone that there wasn't a lick of mayo in it, no one would ask.

They didn't.

Macaroni Salad Without A Lick of Mayonaisse.

1 lb elbow macaroni, uncooked
3/4 cup low-fat three-cheese ranch salad dressing, divided
3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell pepper

Cook pasta, drain and cool.

Whisk together 1/2 cup of the sald dressing and 1/2 cup of the sour cream.

Mix pasta, dressing and vegetables together until everything is well coated.

Refrigerate overnight, or until just before serving. Whisk remaining salad dressing and sour cream together; stir into pasta.

There's an endless variety of vegetables that would go in this. I went with the green stuff I had in my fridge, but be creative!

I HATE HATE HATE ranch dressing, ranch flavored chips, and the very idea of a "ranch" flavor in general. This dressing tastes NOTHING like ranch - I think they just put that on the label to make it more marketable. And so this has taken the place of my beloved Parmesan-Romano salad dressing which is no longer to be found.

At the time, I really wished I had put some boiled egg in here, but I had three separate people tell me they were glad they finally had some macaroni salad without eggs. I guess everyone's crazy in their own little way, huh?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Veal Saltimbocca

For Valentine's Day, I was on a mission.

Now, in principle, I'm not a huge Valentine's Day fan. I dislike the "give me diamonds or I'll think you don't love me" mentality that the jewelry stores go hog-wild with, and I don't think that how The Professor treats me for one 24 hour period is indicative of his feelings more than any other 24 hour period.

I'm also a hopeless romantic.

And lately, I've been over-scrutinizing every penny I spend on food.

So for Valentine's Day, I decided to make up for my recent "we will save money at all costs" mentality with a meal I know he loves. And that I've never attempted.

It's not perfect. I have a hard time with sauces, and this didn't come out perfectly. But I told him I would keep trying - only on special occassions - until I get it right. He agreed to keep eating the results.

And that, my friends, is romance.

Veal Saltimbocca

  • 5 pieces Veal Scallopini
  • 2 tsp rubbed sage
  • 3 oz Prosciutto
  • Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp oilive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • fresh ground pepper

Lay the veal out on a flat service. Season lightly with freshly ground pepper, then rub a sprinkle of the (ahem) rubbed sage into the top of each piece. Lay a piece of Prosciutto over each piece of veal and fold in half. Secure with a toothpick or metal skewer. Lightly dredge veal in bread crumbs.

Heat about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a skillet, and add veal to pan. Cook for about two minutes per side, and remove to a plate.

Honestly, I don't think these need a sauce. But the Professor does, so:

Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan, and scrape up any bits on the bottom. Add another quick dash of pepper and then pour in a half cup of dry white wine. Simmer until reduced and spoon over the veal.

I served this with some wilted spinach and some angel hair pasta tossed with butter and Parmesan. The Prosciutto and Parmesan combination made for a slightly salty explosion - but the garlic bread made that heavenly.

I'm going to try a thicker cut of veal next time. The saltiness of the Prosciutto overwhelmed the delicacy of the veal a bit too much for me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Angel Hair Pasta with Spinach

The Professor and I both had "engagements" at work today that I needed to make a dish for. Recipes for Macaroni Salad and Asian Slaw will be forthcoming. But I also had to feed us, since I was out of refrigerated Tupperware containers full of tasty morsels to tide over our stomachs. I had some spinach and shredded cheese mix (a blend of Parmesan, Romana and Asiago) that needed to be used, and a half a box of angel hair pasta.

Waiting for two pounds of macaroni to boil never tasted so good.

Pasta? Did someone say pasta?

This is for Presto Pasta Nights - again, a last minute thing. And if you've never clicked through my little linky love to check these recipes out (sis, I'm talking to you), man are you missing out. But that's ok. I'm not missing out on anything.

Angel Hair Pasta

  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, large dice
  • 1/2 green bell peper, large dice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, Romano and Asiago cheeses (or any combination thereof)
  • 2 tsp dried basil

Cook pasta.

While pasta is cooking, sautee onion and bell pepper in olive oil for about 5 minutes, or until it's done the way you like it. Reduce heat to low and add garlic. Cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, remove from heat.

When pasta is done, drain and return to pot. Add onions and bell pepper, butter and spinach. Put the pot back on the stove with it turned off - I have an electric oven, so it stays warm for a little while. Toss the pasta until the butter is melted and the spinach is wilted. Add the basil and most of the cheese, and toss to combine. Serve with a little cheese sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Professor's Burnt Mushrooms

{I simply cannot get a good picture of sauteed mushrooms - all they do is reflect a sheen that does not in any way make them appear appealing.}

After handing over The Best Friend's scrum-diddly-umptious apple crisp recipe the other day, I thought I might as well go ahead and unveil The Professor's dish of choice when he gets to cook something. Anytime I come home with mushrooms, his eyes light up; the hope that I will let him blackify and crispify them in a skillet of butter and wine will never die in his heart.

Surpsingly, these mushrooms don't just taste like charred fungus of an unidentifiable sort. They're almost finger food by the time you're done cooking them.

Alas, this is one of the few things that he tells me I don't know how to cook. Any time I try, I get the same answer: "They're good, but they could have been burned a little more".

File this under: "The Professor, Cute Idiosyncracies".

Burnt Mushrooms, a la El Profesor

  • 2 pounds button mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1 stick of butter (yes, you read that right)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup red wine (that's a complete guess, as I've never tried to measure - or even pay attention to - how much wine he uses)
Put the stick of butter in a large skillet, and turn the heat on medium. When the butter is half melted, add the mushrooms and stir to coat them in butter. They will soak it all up like a sponge, and I have more than a suspicion that The Professor throws some more butter in at some point.

Sprinkle the garlic powder and mustared over the mushrooms and stir to incorporate.

Turn the heat up to medium high and cook mushrooms in butter for about 10-15 minutes, until they've released their water and then are starting to dry out and blacken.

Pour in the wine, and indulge yourself in the steam bath that follows. Stir the mushrooms constantly for a few minutes, using the wine to deglaze the pan.

Turn the heat back to just under medium and keep cooking until all the wine has been soaked up/evaporated. Then cook some more. And when you think you're done, turn the heat down to low and cook for a few more minutes. You don't want the mushrooms to be completely dried and crispy, but you want the edges to definitely be black.

This is an acquired taste, so I won't feel bad if you don't rush out to burn up two pounds of mushrooms. We won't tell The Professor, though, ok?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Wanna Talk About Me*

*Kudos to the people that get the song reference. :)

Erika, over at one of my favorite blogs Tummy Treasures, tagged me for a meme. And it's the best kind: the kind where I get to tell you a lot of little useless trivia about me. Since I have a tendency to change the rules at will, I'm going to make this all useless trivia about me and food. Well, it's useless unless you're The Professor and occassionally feed me. OR unless you're a stalker who's been waiting for a tell-all post on the in-depth details of my food likes and dislikes. But that's disturbing, so let's move on.

So, here goes: 7 Things About Me And Food

  1. I love peanuts. I hate peanut butter. I have often heard the argument that peanuts, unless swallowed whole, become peanut butter as you chew them. To these people I say "HA!" and "Oh no it doesn't!" The maturity level around here is soaring.
  2. The above makes me very sad, because I love chocolate and it immediately removes about 49% of the world's chocolate from the list of "Things I Will Put In My Mouth".
  3. I love fresh strawberries, but I hate any kind of strawberry syrup or strawberry-flavor-infused thing. Like the fake topping on frozen cheesecakes. It should be banned.
  4. The exception to this strawberry-flavor-ban are those little strawberry candies wrapped to look like strawberries that have soft centers. I love them so much that they almost need to have a restraining order against me. If fake-strawberry candy could do such a thing, that is.
  5. I love salads. I hate 99.9% of salad dressings, which means that the vast majority of the time I only use pepper to flavor my salads.
  6. I have spent all of my 30 years in the Deep South, but I cannot stand the most Southern of foods: BBQ sauce, cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans, iced tea!! If it weren't for the Southern accent I throw out occasionally, I'd get my Southern Citizenship revoked.
  7. I don't do any kind of bean - black, navy, lima, kidney, white, garbanzo...yuck, yuck and yuck. I do, however, love a pot of lentils. You can tell me all day long that they're all legumes, but I don't care. I'm ornery that way.
  8. Bonus: I love chili, but because of number 7, I only eat it beanless. The Professor tells me this is not chili. I tell him to be quiet.

So there you go. If you read this far, you must be related to me. Or have way too much time on your hands. But I have to tag a few people so this train doesn't stop with me. Here goes:

Go forth and meme!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Apple Cinnamon Cobbler-ish Dessert

A month or so ago, I had an IM conversation with The Best Friend:

TBF: Oh, I completely experimented with desert
Me: :)
TBF: I baked some apples
and mixed some of the cereal you gave me with blackberry yogurt and an egg
and put it on top and baked it some more
Me: mmm
very good
TBF: yes, I had an inspirational moment
TBF: it was as if you had come in and taken over my body
me: lol
that would be frightening

As you can see, I am even wittier in person than I am around here.

A few weeks later, after many evenings of me yelling after her as she left to go home "Hey! I didn't get my apple dessert yet!", we finally remembered that she was supposed to teach me how to cook something. After opening and consulting with a bottle of red, we remembered what it was.

It was worth the wait.

Apple Cinnamon Cobbler-ish Dessert


  • 3 fairly good sized apples (of whatever flavor/variety you prefer. I want to try it again with some really tart-y green-y ones)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 oz yogurt*
  • 3 cups of cereal (any kind of flake and/or nut cereal will work, Think Nut N Honey, or Oat Clusters)
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter, divided

Preheat oven to 350F.
Lightly grease a 9x9 baking pan.

Peel and thinly slice apples. Arrange in the bottom pan.
Melt 3 Tbsp butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and yogurt. Whisk in melted butter. Add cereal and brown sugar, and stir to combine.

Spread over the apple mixture and sprinle with cinnamon sugar. Cut remaining 3 tbsp butter into pieces and sprinkle on top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes*, or until golden and bubbly.


We used vanilla yogurt at my house; as mentioned above, TBF used blackberry the first time. She's firmly on the side of using fruit-flavored yogurt. I adored the vanilla. Toss a coin.

The baking time is approximate, as we were too busy laughing and carrying on with our plans of world domination for me to remember to look at a clock.
We were both firmly on the side of "more topping less apple" here, but you could easily add a couple more apples to make it a more equal ratio. If you're into that kind of thing.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Stuffed Mushroom - you can never fix enough

I needed an appetizer.
Mushrooms were on sale, buy one get one free.

Please, whatever you do, don't tell me that something involving fate, higher powers, and/or a universal plan had nothing to do with this coincidence. Because those mushrooms - those exact mushrooms that wound up in my kitchen and no other mushrooms - were destined to become Stuffed Mushrooms.

And I was determined to use whatever I had in my kitchen to make the filling inside them. What did I happen to have in my fridge? A half a cup of leftover queso dip from my local Mexican restaurant.

It's like fate moved into my kitchen and set up permanent residency.

Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 1 pound white mushrooms, washed and stems removed (I saved them for something else)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup queso dip
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • About 3 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut in tiny little cubes - small enough to fit in the bottom of the mushrooms
Cook your onions in your oil slowly, but let them get the beautiful brown carmeliz-y look that makes you almost forget about the mushrooms patiently waiting to be stuffed. Add the bell pepper and cook until it's starting to get soft.

Zap the queso in the microwave for about 20 seconds so it's softer. Stir in the sour cream. Add the onions/garlic/bell peppers, salt, pepper and bread crumbs and thoroughly combine.

Put a piece of cheese in the bottom of the mushroms, and spoon the filling on top, mounding it up a little high. The stuffing is the best part, so don't skimp!

Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 20-25 minutes.


You could easily add the mushroom stems to the stuffing - I'd probably cook them a little with the onions and peppers. But I wanted to save them for a pasta dish the next night.

I wanted the peppers to be a little crisp, to have a little bit of crunch. But feel free to make them as soft and smooth as the onions.

If you don't happen to have leftover queso, you can use softened cream cheese, more sour cream, mayo or whatever tickles your fancy. Queso, as always, tickled mine.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Teriyaki Chicken Wings

In addition to some other rather strong dislikes, I cannot abide barbecue sace. This goes hand in hand with my dislike of hot wings. I've tried vinegar sauces, tomato based sauces, sauces that seem to have nothing but pureed chili peppers. And I dislike them all.

But I love me some chicken wings.

So for the Superbowl (yeah, old news, but The Professor is still recovering from the loss of his beloved Patriots), I wanted some good wings. I couldn't let it rest with some kind of plain old chicken, though. Oh no. This girl has to go all out, and flavor stuff.

And by all out, I mean about 5 minutes worth of prep. I'm giving like that.

These are so incredibly easy. And thanks to the 4 pounds of wings I found on sale, they were unbelievably cheap. Which makes for a touchdown in my book.


I know, it was a bad joke.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 pounds chicken wings
Combine all ingredients except chicken in a small saucepan and simmer for five minutes.

Rinse chicken wings, pat dry, and put them in a gallon size zipper bag or a large sealable container. Pour marinade over wings, seal and refrigerate overnight. In the morning either turn the bag over or shake your container around (note: if I had thought about how much fun shaking some tupperware with marinating chicken in it would be, I would've gone this route). Refrigerate until ready to bake (in my case, about another 8 hours, for almost 24 hours of marinade time).

Preheat oven to 375.

Lightly grease a baking sheet and place wings on it.

Brush wings with the marinade and put them in the oven.

Boil the marinade.

Bake wings for about 30 minutes, basting every ten minutes or so, or until they are completely done.

Notes: My wings were huge. I only had 9 wings - but since only three of us eat meat, that meant three wings apiece, which was a very happy number.

Every time I basted the wings, I made sure to move them around a little so that they didn't stick too much. There's quite a bit of sugar in this, so they'll stick. And your pan will be very dark when you're done. So I think I'd recommend lining the pan with foil and putting a rack on it, then cooking the chicken on top of that. But I never do things the easy way the first time around, so I had a hell of a mess to clean up.