Monday, September 29, 2008

Anniversary Dinners...

Last Thursday The H and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary. We decided to have dinner at home that night, and then head to Nine75 for dinner and drinks on Friday, when the work week was over and we could relax... (I will post a rundown of that at the end of this post)

Thursday night when I got home, The H headed into the kitchen and popped open some bubbly for us right away, and an anniversary toast was a great way to be greeted after a day at the office.. :)

I made (of all things) our favorite Costco find, Spinach and Cheese Ravioli from the freezer section!! I know it sounds like a lackluster celebratory dinner, but the secret to this stuff is in the little packets of seasoning they give you... the magic is in the simplicty of preparation, I promise.. You boil the ravioli gently for 8 minutes or so, then drain and return it to the pot, add a generous drizzle of olive oil and then sprinkle the contents of the seasoning packet over the pasta and stir it in with the oil to coat... The little packet of herbs, cheeses, and breadcrumbs mixes with the oil and starts to heat up and melt and get all yummy smelling ... it is sooo good...

I served that with some cheesy garlic bread, and some fresh tomatoes (just for me, The H is anti-tomato - pictured above)

It is a dish we both enjoy, with easy prep and clean up so we could just enjoy hanging out together with minimal fuss. (try the pasta if you shop at Costco - you will be hooked!)

For you Denverites -

Restaurant Review - Nine75:

I love the look of the place, dark and sleek and clean... The dining room is in the front of the restaurant, the bar is through a narrow hall on the back of the space. We got a great table in the window facing Lincoln...
Some will recall that when I left work on Friday, I was in serious want of a serious cocktail, and their specialty "the boss" didn't dissapoint.. it was kind of a take on a hard lemonade, but with a German liquor made from Elderberry flowers... it was boozy and sweet and GOOD!

For entrees we were semi-predictable, The H having the skirt steak with brazillian steak sauce, with a side of their herby fries, and me choosing the boneless white fried chicken with a side of mashed potatoes...
The H said his skirt steak was good but "kinda wierd" - which upon further conversation I learned meant it didn't really have much flavor going on at all (which can happen with skirt steak if you don't give it lots of flavorful love precooking..).. the fries were delish...
The chicken was basically panko breaded big chicken fingers, which is a-ok with me.. the meat was very juicy.. however, the breading had too much of whatever pepper flakes or dried peppers or whatever it was (it was so overpowering that it just stuck in the back of my throat and kind of made me feel like I needed to cough)... sort of like they tried to give it a little kick and went WAY overboard.. The mashed potatoes needed seasoning with plenty of S&P, but I liked the kind of "smashed, not whipped" texture.

We were stuffed and declined dessert, but our very sweet and attentive waiter brought us a plate of their house cotton candy, and I proceeded to GORGE myself.. this is no run-of-the-mill cotton candy.. it has a lime flavor to it, and the amount they bring would feed at least 6 people... it was freaking good!!

Bottom line is, I don't think we would go back for dinner - however I very much want to go back for drinks in their popular and cozy bar.. they have a small plates section on their menu, and the entire staff (right down to the valets) seem to LOVE the tacos... they have a lobster taco on there that I WILL be having sometime soon... and if I ever have a really bad day, I am gathering the girls for a few rounds of "The Boss" cocktails and a huge plate of that cotton candy!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stolen Moment - Cheesy goodness

It is no secret that I have an obsessive love of all liquid cheese products/concoctions...
So when I stumbled across this recipe at Diva in the Midwest for a simple cheddar ale dip, I couldn't resist posting a link...
Seriously, how perfect is that for a cold fall day watching foot ball?
mmmmmm, cheeeeeese...... :::droool:::

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stolen Moments - Comfort in a pocket..

How great an idea is this chicken cresent pocket recipe from Stephanie's blog, Maccaroni and Cheesecake? (Credit for the pic belongs to her as well)...
And while the orginal recipe sounds delish - it is the idea of using the cresent dough to create all kinds of yummy pocket dinners that excites me... A perfect cold-weather comfort food, with minimal fuss, AND The H would get excited about even the most simple fillings... Ham and Cheese for example, would go from boring to BAM prepared this way.. and sneaking in some veggies would be easy as pie!!
Love the idea, love it - feel kind of silly that I never thought of it... And further, the next time I make beef wellington, I am SO using cresents...
Oh pilsbury dough boy, so cute and so dependable...bless your ticklish little heart...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Carbonara, only lighter....

We had friends over last night for dinner, something I love to do on a Sunday to kind of stretch the weekend out a little longer.. (besides, I doubt we will get much entertaining time at our place with the elevator out.. "Sure, come on over for drinks, don't mind the 6 flights of steep, dimly lit stairs...")
I finally had an excuse to make the roasted brussel sprouts I featured in a Stolen Moments post Sept 15th, but to satisfy The H (who doesn't dig them) I roasted a mix of veggies, including brussel sprouts, carrots, squash, califlower, and whole tomatoes, and just let everyone pick whatever they wanted out of the mix..

I wanted to make pasta Carbonara, because I craved some bacony goodness, but let's face it - traditionally made Carbonara is a calorie and fat bomb!! (Look at queen Paula Deen's rendition as an example... YIKES!!!

So I decided to take some of the traditional ingredients and see if I could just get the flavors associated with the dish, but in a less heavy version..

I poached a few chicken breasts in white wine to up the protein as well. Then I chopped that into large chunks and added it, along with crumbled turkey bacon, a splash of olive oil, some black pepper, and around a cup of shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano to some cooked and drained Spagetti and let everything heat through so the cheese got all nice and melty.
We had the pasta and the roasted veggies, plus some crusty bread with the ever-delish Garlic Basil Blast spread- warm and gooey from the oven..
Here is a shot of my lunch today (oh leftovers, how I love thee!)

I really liked the way everything turned out.. I could eat roasted veggies every night of the week, I think - the are just so yummy! The pasta was great - next time I make it, I think I would add a bit of garlic paste to the pot with the cheese, etc, and let that mingle in there too, but everyone seemed to enjoy it. We watched the Green Bay/Dallas game, had some drinks and just relaxed... Perfect Sunday night after a hearty Sunday dinner...

:::sigh::: I miss the weekend already....

Beef Brainstorm

So starting today the elevator in our building is out of order for 6 to 8 weeks for a retrofit, leaving us living in a 6th floor walk up for the next two months (ugh). In preparation I made a trip to Costco and packed in a huge supply of steak, ground turkey, chicken breast, and anything else that freezes or lives in the pantry cabinet, and plan to only hit the grocery for fresh fruits and veggies (easy to carry up the stairs) as needed for the duration of the elevator project.

Costco had a great price on packages of strip steak, and that is a pretty versatile cut of beef, so I grabbed a couple packages and divided them out into freezer bags to pull out of the freezer as needed.

What, prey-tell, will Keri do with all of this beef? Start a new segment here, of course... The Brainstorm!

Today's subject is said steak, so what is a girl to whip up? Here's some of my yummy ideas:

-Salad with steak and blue cheese
-Grilled tacos
-Cheese steaks
-Steak Frites
-BFD -Steak and eggs with green chilli
-Beef and Horseradish sauce (I've made this one before)
-Beef Stew and crusty bread
-Stuffed beef (with a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs and blue cheese)
-Beef and Broccoli
-Beef Stroganoff
-Toasted steak sammies on garlic bread
-Beef Goulash
-This tangerine beef (sounds yum!)
-Steak with merlot sauce
-Beef Wellington
-Beef Lo Mein
-BBQ Beef Sammies
-Good old Steak and baked potatoes (always a fave!)
-Beef Empanadas (the ones I made for my b-day using canned biscut dough were so easy!)
-This Thai grilled beef salad from Ellie Krieger
-Sheppard's Pie
-Ceasar Salad with grilled steak strips

What brillant and yummy ideas am I missing? The H likes variety, and buying one type of main ingredient in bulk means that I have to mix it up and keep things fresh, or he is going to get bored with that ingredient... (Obviously chicken breasts can present this issue as well, but that's another list...)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Show your gadgets some love

I had to post a link to this fabulous post over at My Husband Hates Veggies because I, too have a love affair with my crock pot, especially in the hustle and bustle of the chilly fall months..

Couldn't have said it better myself, Kitty - and your pulled pork looks full-proof and yummy too!

Garlic basil blast is the answer to everything

Another of the MANY little bits of helpful culinary genius to be found at Whole Foods is the magical concoction known as Garlic Basil Blast. Tucked in a fridge case next to all of their wonderful prepared food bars along with a myriad of other equally-inspiring prepared sauces and spreads, this seemingly simple mixture has proven itself worthy of "always have on hand" status...

Not only was it great for adding something different, fresh, and tasty to our MANY assorted antipasto nights during the kitchen reno, but spreading it on a split loaf of crusty French bread and broiling open-faced for a couple minutes produces garlic bread that turns cheap and simple pasta nights into something worthy of guests - a hearty salad, a big plate of spagetti, and a generous hunk of warm, bubbly garlic basil blast bread - now that is a meal that welcomes everyone to the table!

Last night produced another simple-yet-delicious idea for the heavenly goo: Ham and Cheddar paninis with a shmear of garlic basil blast on each piece of bread... soooo goooood.. :::drooling on keyboard at sight of picture:::

A pressed sammie is never a bad thing, all hot and crusty and cheesy and melty - but the basil in the spread gave it a kind of freshness, the garlic added a tiny bit of kick, and the consistancy of the spread and the cheese melting together all warm and delish was a perfect contrast to the crusty outer layer.
Piled next to some shoestring fries, it was a super-simple hit with The H.
Score one for the folks at Whole Foods for another yummy time-saving find in the prepared food section.. Love it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Perfect for fall Stolen Moment...

I don't know how The H is going to feel about this one, but I must try this simple recipe from Liz's Cooking Blog... I love oven roasted veggies in the fall, and these look amazing.. (kudos for the mouth-watering pic!) It might have to be on a Solo dining night, but this dish with some prosciutto and a glass of white wine would be a perfect dinner for me to come home and cuddle up on the sofa with for a cozy evening watching new episodes of my favorite TV programs!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thanks troop 1062!

There are things that we used to make for meals when camping with the Girl Scouts that my assistant troop leader mother then started making at home, that are things I will probably cook for the rest of my life... One of my true faves is "Campfire Stew," which we had last night in response to the cold and rainy weather.

It is super easy to up the amounts on all of the ingredients and make this for a crowd (say 25 hungry camping scouts, for example..) but for The H and me to have a good dinner and some leftovers, I would make the classic recipe like this:

-in a large dutch oven or similar pot, brown 1 lb of ground beef and drain fat as needed.
-add 1 large potato, cubed (smaller cubes = quicker cooking potatoes!) and brown potatoes to crisp as desired
- pour in 1 family-sized can of condensed veggie beef soup, and add 1/4-1/2 a can of water (depending on desired thickness).
-heat through and until potatoes are done to your liking.. serve with biscuts, rolls, or crusty bread for mopping up the yummy stew..

Now granted, I have taken a lot of licence with this recipe over the years... At home I use a small can of soup, add the full can of water and then thicken with corn starch.. I also use canned potatoes, or omit them and add leftover kernels of corn (or whatever I have around). In addition, sometimes in scouts we made meat balls instead of just having ground beef throughout the stew, browning them first and then letting the stew simmer to cook them until done.
The H likes this recipe when I use pre-cut stew meat from the meat dept of the grocery, I have made it with beef and also with lamb and had great results!!

It is a quick, hearty, one-pot meal with a minimum of ingredients - so in the cold months I tend to keep a few cans of veggie beef soup in the cabinet all the time, ready for use in this recipe on busy, chilly days..

Thanks troop 1062!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Stolen Moments, Football fiesta treat...

Football season is upon us, people... For our house this means that it is time to break out the Scarlet and Gray, dust off the Bobble-head Brutus, and root for THE Ohio State University Buckeyes (come on boys, you are killing me with these impossible-to-watch trainwreck championship games... ugh).

While I wholeheartedly root for the Bucks, what I love most about football viewing is the social aspect, and of course, making tons of yummy game-time snacks... In that vein, I give you today's Stolen Moment from Food Blogga; Chicken, Jalepeno, Cheddar Quesadillas with a yummy chipoltle BBQ sauce... oh yeah, something spicy for the chilly fall days... The H is going to love these!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thank you, Rotisserie chicken...

...From the bottom of my overworked little bod...

I can always depend on one of these beauties, picked up fresh and hot from my local deli counter, when I just want to go home and eat RIGHT NOW!
Last night I picked one up, carved everything off the bone, packing the dark meat away for yummy chicken salad sammies to enjoy in my lunchbox this week, and cubed the breasts over a huge chopped salad with mixed greens, roasted bell peppers, baby artichoke hearts, garlic roasted potatoes, sliced carrots, and crumbled blue cheese (most left over from antipasto night while the kitchen was out of commission... )
I dressed the salad with a simple mixture of Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Fresh Basil and plenty of S&P. Tons of good veggies victoriously fed to The H, a quick, easy dinner that had us eating in no time, and yummy lunches to come - all for 6 bucks and a stop at the store on the way home from work.. Not bad at all...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stolen Moments, a new feature...

I LOVE looking around other cooking blogs and finding yummy ideas... So, in honor of all my favorite fellow foodies, I am starting a new Tag - "Stolen Moments," which will feature great recipes I can't wait to try...

Today's is PERFECT for fall, an amazing salad with hearty, strong flavors and the crunchy-sweet snap of fall apples... yum..
Looks like Liz has done it again -check it out.

Flat-iron Steak with Chimichurri Butter

So for you Denverites (or visitors) who love comfort food from all over the country (and the world), Steuben's in Uptown is the place to go for everything from AMAZING fried chicken, to lobster rolls (with lobster flown in fresh) with HUGE Chunks of meat in a tangy-but-light sauce on split buttered buns, to chocolate cake that will take you back to your favorite country diner from your fondest childhood memories.... this place has it all...

And the cream of the crop, as far as The H is concerned, is their flank steak with Chimichurri butter..... They grill a huge cut of flank steak to perfection, stack it on a pile of crispy shoestring french fries and top it with a generous pat of butter mixed with yummy chimichurri seasonings... the butter melts down the meat and into the fries creating heaven on a plate....

So last night I decided to try my hand at a re-creation, using my new favorite cut of beef, the flat-iron steak....

I pan-fried the steak and topped it with my own chimichurri butter concoction, butter mixed with chili-powder, garlic salt, and some extra cumin...
HUGE SUCCESS - The H was impressed and cleaned his plate, using the fries to mop up every last bit of buttery goodness...
I could break my arm patting myself on the back for this experiment. A perfect remedy for the gray and chilly day we had yesterday... yum.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What's up in the Kitchen?

Ok, Ok, so I haven't been cooking much... The kitchen is a construction zone!!
BUT - The painter has been hard at work, and it really starting to look great:

Not bad, eh? (Picture it with the black granite countertops we will be getting later this fall.. oo la la)

Dinners have been primarily take out - last night we had "antipasto night," which means I raided Whole Foods fabulous ready-made section, grabbing baby artichokes and roasted peppers from the Olive bar, some Ceasar salad from the salad bar, an asortment of little cheese wedges from the "try something new for under 3 bucks" section of the cheese counter, a tub of their fabulous garlic basil blast spread, and a fresh loaf of crusty bread, which we spread out in the living room (our table is full of all the things from the kitchen) and chowed down on... It isn't fancy, but it was hearty...

Still, I can't wait to have my kitchen operational again... Fall is starting to creep into the air, and I am excited for soups and stews and slow-cooker meals to come...