Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Menu for Tuesday, April 24

Since we were adding a kid to the mix, I decided to make a summer-centric meal that would appeal to everyone. Esteban cooked the hamburgers, so I don't know how he prepared them, but they were yummy. I know that he doused them with Chicago Steak Seasoning from The Spice House, but knowing him, there was probably more going on there.

Salads: Asian Coleslaw, creamed cucumbers, fresh cantaloupe and strawberries.

Dinner: oven fries, Turkey burgers and sirloin burgers on either wheat buns or regular buns, garnished with a variety of condiments, meunster cheese, sliced vine tomatoes and Boston Bib lettuce.

Dessert: We love our Sugar-Free Jell-o Pudding Cups on American Idol night! We sampled an assortment of Chocolate/Vanilla Swirl, Caramel and Double Chocolate.

Beverages: Simon Creek Untouchable Red Ruby Cabernet, Simon Creek Rose' for Mopie and Weet, Hecher (?) Trappist Ale for Esteban, and milk and sparkling cherry juice for Abby.

Creamed Cucumber Salad

My great grandmother made this all the time, and it is awesome. However, I made this and it turned out wiggety wack. I don't know what I did wrong, because I am making it exactly the way she did, but I think she forgot to tell me a vital ingredient or something. Anyway, here's the recipe and also a better one that I'm going to try next, because it looks like it would taste closer to my grandmother's version. She grew up in the Depression and probably started substituting Miracle Whip for the sour cream, since that would have been much cheaper and readily available to her in the city. I used Fat Free Miracle Whip, so that might have been the problem too.

My grandmother's version (maybe)

Three cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin
Splash of vinegar
Dash of salt
Miracle Whip
Dill weed
Thinly sliced white onion rings

Pour vinegar and salt over cucumbers and chill in the refrigerator. In another bowl, mix together a little sugar and a few spoonfuls of Miracle Whip and thin with the liquid that comes out of the cucumbers. Toss with cucumbers, onion and dill. Chill before serving.

The Next One I'm Trying

3 cucumbers
1 sm. onion
1 oz. cider vinegar (I'll probably use Rice, because I like it better)
10 oz. sour cream (I'll use creme fraiche or fat free sour cream)
1/2 tsp. sugar
Pinch salt
Pinch pepper

Peel and slice cucumbers into wheels. Cream and slice onions into small strips. Add vinegar, sour cream, sugar, salt and pepper together; mix well. Stir in cucumbers and onions. Let set for 2 hours prior to serving.

South Beach-modified Asian Cole Slaw

The popular version of this uses ramen noodles (yuck) and sugar, but I changed it up a little. I wanted to put some edamame and maybe some vegetables in it too, but I hadn't planned it out enough and didn't have time to steam the edamame, let them cool and then shuck them, and without them, it seemed pointless to jazz this up any further.

6 T rice wine vinegar
2 T Splenda
5 T Olive Oil
1 t Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 t Five Spice Powder
1/4 cup Ginger salad dressing

1 package of broccoli cole slaw mix

Any or all of the following are optional:
1 cup shelled edamame
1 diced Asian pear
Handful steamed snow peas
1/3 cup diced water chestnuts

Whisk together the dressing ingredients until the oil emulsifies and it looks like dressing. Pour over broccoli slaw mix and toss. Chill for at least four hours, but it's better to make it the night before you need it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Menu for Wednesday, April 19

Mopie's parents are in town, so tonight, we went out to dinner and then had wine and snacks during Idol when we got home. We both ended up ordering the same thing at the restaurant.

Dinner: Grilled chicken Ceasar salad

Dessert: Sugar Free Jell-O pudding cups with Sugar Free Cool Whip (classy!)

Snack: Wisconsin cheese

Wines: Simon Creek Untouchable Red 2002 (really yum) and Lakewood Red 2003 (very drinkable, with a big punch of berry).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Menu for Tuesday, April 18

A low key American Idol night for us. Weet wasn't feeling well and Pie has had a bad week. Esteban, the quintessential problem solver that he is, suggested take out. All were in favor and the motion was carried.

Appetizers: Wisconsin cheese

Main Course: chicken and shrimp pad thai, chicken satay salad. Esteban forgot to order the spring rolls, or we would have had those too.

Dessert: assorted frozen novelties (Blue Bunny Carb Freedom ice cream bars, Klondike Reese's Peanut Butter and Oreo ice cream sandwiches)

Wines: Simon Creek Rose 2003 (lovely), Fetzer Merlot 2002 and Door County Winery's Port.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Menu for Wednesday, April 12

Appetizers: Nothing really, but we were nibbling on cheese and cucumbers as we prepped. I forgot to put out the tomatoes and edamame from last night.

Main Course: Crab-stuffed baby Portabello mushrooms and pesto eggplant slices

Planned but totally didn’t fit with the American Idol deadline looming: lemony sugar snap peas.

Dessert: Blueberry Unpie with low carb ice cream and sugar free Cool Whip

Wines: Some freaky white Bordeaux 2003, Evolution 2002, Umberto Fiore Moscato d’Asti 2003

Crab-stuffed mushrooms

12 Zesta Saltine Crackers OR 1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
¼ cup celery, finely chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 lb baby portabello mushrooms
1 egg
White cheddar cheese, sliced
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tsp Red Pepper flakes
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
6 ounces crab meat
1 tablespoon butter

Rinse mushrooms to remove any dirt, then twist and pop the stems out of the caps. There should be a little indent/divot in the cap, but if there isn’t, you can whittle it out with the tip of a knife. Finely dice removed stems and any stubborn caps that wouldn’t let go of their stems. Sautee diced mushroom stems along with butter, chopped red onion, celery until veggies are translucent. Add garlic until that starts to toast, then add cream cheese. Allow this mixture to cool.

In a largish bowl, combine crackers/bread crumbs, pepper flakes, pepper, romano cheese, eggs, crab meat and cream cheese/onion mixture. Mix this all together (it works best with your hands) until it’s very well combined and holds together. Butter a large baking dish (or, if you want, you can do individual small pans, like they do at Red Lobster). With a spatula, push the crab mixture into the indent of the mushroom cap and then heap a mound on top of it as well. Place mixture-side up in the buttered baking dish. Bake at 425 until mushrooms are starting to look done and release some of their liquid (about 20 minutes) then top with white cheddar. Bake until the cheese gets all goopy and then serve immediately.

You can do this with giant portabello caps too, but you might need to saute the mushrooms before stuffing them, since they won't really cook all the way. Personally I think this works best with many little caps versus impressive giant caps. Also, I started making this to replicate Red Lobster's Lobster and Crab stuffed mushrooms, and so far the cheese hasn't been quite right. I think the difference there is that I use actual cheese and they use some kind of plastic pretend processed cheese. I suspect it would taste more authentic if you used Kraft Swiss (R) singles, but then you might as well just give up and go to Red Lobster, you heathen.

Pesto Eggplant Slices

Two medium eggplants
Olive Oil
Kosher salt
Prepared pesto sauce
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
Pecorino Romano

Peel eggplants and cut into long, ½ inch thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and place in a colander to drain for at least half an hour, preferably longer. Preheat oven to 425. Line a large baking dish with parchment paper that has been spritzed with olive oil. Roll drained eggplant slices in paper towels to remove excess water and then place eggplant in a single layer in the baking dish. Spread pesto over each slice of eggplant and then top with slices of mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with romano and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until eggplant slices are tender and cheese is bubbly.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Menu for Tuesday, April 11

Menu for Tuesday, April 11

Appetizers: Shelled pistachios, Edamame

Salad: Baby spinach/spring greens with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and random vinaigrette

Main Course: Basil and Garlic stuffed chicken breasts with Orange Pepper Roasted Asparagus

Dessert: Jell-o Sugar Free Pudding Cups

Wines: Cosentina Meritage 1999 and Elderton Botrytis Semillon

Basil and Garlic stuffed Chicken Breasts

5 Tablespoons Butter, softened
2 Tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
3 Tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade fine
2 cloves of garlic
3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Flour or breadcrumbs (optional)
Olive Oil plus 1 tablespoon of butter

There’s a lot of butter in this recipe! Sheesh.

Crush garlic with the back of a chef’s knife and then smush together with the salt, making a paste. Combine with 5 Tablespoons butter, cheese, basil, parsley and black pepper, making a greenish spread. You could also use prepared pesto instead of the cheese and basil, if you wanted a short cut.

Lay the chicken on a cutting board, topside down. If it still has the tenderloin attached to it, cut it off and save for another use. Look for any gross tendony things and nip them off too. Then, find the thickest part of the breast and cut into it from the side, making essentially a pocket or pouch in the chicken. Try not to slice all the way through: It’s easier to make little slicing motions with the tip of your knife than to try to do this with one or two slices, which almost always ends up cutting too much away.

Spread a fourth of the greenish spread into the pocket, staying away from the opening if possible so that the slit stays more or less closed. Dredge chicken breasts in flour or breadcrumbs, if desired.

Heat a swirl of olive oil with a pat of butter in a large heavy skillet on Medium High. When the oil is looking ready, place chicken breasts in pan and cook until one side is done, then flip. Try to poke or squeeze the chicken as little as possible because that butter mixture will have melted and you’ll lose it into to the pan. Cook until chicken feels firm and a peek inside shows that it’s done.

Cutting the pockets and touching all the raw chicken is sort of a pain in the ass, but this so smells awesome when it's cooking and I always kick myself for not making a double batch, because there are never any leftovers to enjoy the next day.


This is the easiest thing in the world to make, and super yummy.

1 lb frozen Edamame
Kosher Salt
Soy Sauce for dipping

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Dump in frozen edamame pods and boil for 5-6 minutes. The pods will start to split. Pull them out, drain in a strainer, and then serve, sprinkled with additional kosher salt. Stand around the kitchen eating edamame while you talk about your day and finish cooking the rest of dinner.

Orange Pepper Roasted Asparagus

1 lb fresh asparagus
Orange Pepper Seasoning (from The Spice House)
Olive Oil

Wash asparagus and chop off the woody bottom ends (usually about an inch or two off the bottom). Arrange the asparagus in a single layer in a baking dish, with the ends facing out and the tips in the center. Spritz with Olive Oil (I use a Misto sprayer but if you don’t have one, you could toss the spears in olive oil before arranging them in the pan) and then sprinkle with seasoning. Roast in oven at 450 until the spears are tender (about 8 minutes).

Random Vinaigrette

3 parts vinegar (I usually use Rice Wine or Red Wine but sometimes White or Champagne or Balsamic) OR 2 parts vinegar plus 1 parts freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
2 parts extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of kosher salt
1 part some assortment of herbs (I like to use herb blends from The Spice House, such as their Fox Point Seasoning and their random Marinara blend, followed by a good pinch of parsley. If the herb blend has salt in it, then omit the pinch of kosher salt above)
A few grinds of fresh black pepper

Combine these ingredients together in a sealable container (I like the cup-sized Glad fake Tupperware things) and shake it up. Adjust proportions as needed. We like more vinegar than oil, but traditionally it's the other way around.


When Mopie started the South Beach diet, I stopped making pies for our weekly Amazing Race nights. The absence of pie was very sad, and when she began Phase 2 of South Beach, she informed me that some fruits, such as blueberries were ok. I started thinking about pie and realized that with some modification, a crustless pie would be very good and also South Beach friendly. I don't really measure this stuff, so the amounts are approximations.

Recipe for Unpie

3 cups frozen blueberries
3 Tablespoons Splenda
1 tsp kosher salt (a pinch?)
2 tsp lemon juice (I throw in a splash)
1/4 cup of flour (maybe less) or corn starch
1 tsp cinnamon
A splash of almond extract
1/4 water (if needed)

Dump blueberries into a largish heavy sauce pan. Stir in the dry ingredients, fully coat the blueberries, then add lemon juice and extract. Cook over low heat until blueberries are thawed. I usually throw it into the pan right before I serve dinner and then let it slowly warm up while we're eating. The blueberries will start to release juice as they thaw. If you're using store-bought frozen blueberries, you'll probably need the water, since they seem to be smaller and less juicy than farmer's market berries.

Shortly before serving, turn up the heat and stir, which will thicken the juice into a sauce. If the sauce isn't thick enough, whisk together a few tablespoons of flour with an equal amount of water, then add a little at a time until the sauce is the consistency of pie filling (it solidly coats the back of a spoon).

Serve warm with low carb ice cream.